By PJ Rivera ( | First Posted: Aug 05, 2013 11:35 AM EDT

(Photo : Twitter)

Gluten is a protein naturally found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. When taken by people with celiac disease, this protein attacks the defense system, causing damages to the lining of the small intestine. Weak lining of the small intestine prevents the proper absorption of nutrients that the body needs to function well.

In 2004, the US Congress passed a law requiring the FDA to standardize the gluten-free labeling by specifying how much trace of gluten could be allowed in foods. The call for these standards heightened after a significant increase in the number of foods with "gluten-free" labels in the market.

Answering the call to protect the people from potentially life-threatening illnesses caused by gluten, FDA released the characteristics of foods that should be considered as gluten-free.

"As one of the criteria for using the claim gluten-free, FDA is setting a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards," the FDA said in their official press release.

Aside from the 20-ppm limit, the FDA also prohibits manufactures from labeling the food "gluten-free" if contains ingredients like rye, barley, and wheat, along with crossbreeds and ingredients derived from the said grains.

American Celiac Disease Alliance director Andrea Levario was elated by the move made by the FDA, saying that these standards are desperately needed in order to help people with celiac disease in managing their health, considering the fact that proper diet is the only way to manage the incurable disease.

"This is a tool that has been desperately needed. It keeps food safe for this population, gives them the tools they need to manage their health, and obviously has long-term benefits for them," Levario said.

Foods labeled as gluten-free as well as "free of gluten", "without gluten", and "no gluten", but do not meet the requirements set by the FDA will be considered as misbranded and will be subjected to regulatory actions.

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