The term “gluten free” has been a growing trend in food and snacks recently. Gluten is basically protein found in foods processed from wheat and some other grains like barley and rye. It’s what makes dough elastic, helps it rise while maintaining its shape and sometimes gives the product a chewy texture.
So why the seemingly sudden popularity of gluten-free foods? An intolerance to gluten is the root cause of celiac disease, which affects “[m]ore than 2 million people in the United States… or about 1 in 133 people,” according to the National Institutes of Health. An even greater number of people suffer from sensitivity to gluten, which can cause similar but less severe symptoms than celiac disease. The more that scientists and consumers learn about food and how our bodies digest it, the better we can formulate alternatives to mainstream ingredients.
FDA has paid attention the food industry and consumers’ call for information on the foods that we eat. Six years ago, they issued a proposed rule on gluten free labeling for food, and just last month, FDA issued a final rule defining the term “gluten free” on food packaging. The threshold for making the gluten free claim is 20 ppm gluten. In the final rule foods or beverages that are inherently gluten free (e.g., water) do not have to add disclaimer language qualifying that it is an inherently gluten free food. Additionally, foods that contain wheat that have been modified to have the gluten removed (e.g., wheat starch) must have an allergy statement that the product contains wheat.
The confectionery industry’s number one priority is the health and safety of consumers and we welcome this final rule. Companies not in compliance have until August 2014 to update their packaging. With three million Americans suffering from celiac disease, according to FDA, and some 18 million more having gluten sensitivity, we want everyone to be able to have their candy and eat it, too.
Do you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity? What gluten free candies do you enjoy eating that do not impact your health?