What is Gluten-Free?
A definitive answer to this question appears to be coming soon, with the Food and Drug Administration announcing last week that it plans to regulate gluten-free labeling on food products that contain wheat, rye and barley.
This move is particularly important for those 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, which is when the body's immune system attacks gluten, the protein found in the above-listed grains, causing damage to the small intestine and other health problems.
Others also avoid the protein, as many are gluten-intolerant, or believe that doing so helps with weight loss and increases energy.
The FDA first considered a proposal to regulate gluten-free labels in 2007, but according to Consumer Reports, the agency failed to make a move, allowing manufacturers to create their own standards.
This has resulted in manufacturers using a vast array of measures when defining a product as gluten-free, causing confusion and placing consumers in dangerous situations.
The proposed regulations seek to standardize the term, requiring all products labeled as gluten-free to contain no more than 20 parts per million of the protein, which the Boston Globe reports is the standard currently used in the European Union.
This level is undetectable, and is believed to be safe for celiacs.
As part of its move to regulate gluten-free claims, the FDA is seeking comments from consumers. If you want to chime in on the new regulations, and help the FDA answer the "what is gluten-free?" question, you can do so electronically or by snail mail until October 3, 2011.