Establishing Standards For What Is Gluten Free Establishing Standards For What Is Gluten Free | Thriving With Celiac

Establishing Standards For What Is Gluten Free

by Nancy Olson on August 1, 2012

Reasons to Go Gluten Free

The gluten free diet is attracting a growing number of people today and the reasons for this vary. Some people do it simply because it is the current trend and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Weisz and Victoria Beckham have gone “gluten free”. Some, particularly people with celiac disease, do it because it is the primary intervention needed to make the disease’s symptoms go away. Still some choose to follow this rather revolutionary regimen simply because of its benefits.

For people with gluten intolerance, a gluten free diet can result in better cholesterol levels, improved digestive health and higher energy levels. The removal of gluten from their daily intake often leads to the elimination of foods such as doughnuts, white bread or pastries which are laden with unhealthy oils and carbohydrates.  People who try to go gluten free find that they are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, a generally more healthy nutritional direction.

For all who embark on this revolutionary diet, however, a pressing question is: What is gluten free? A diet that is purportedly gluten free excludes all foods that contain gluten, a protein present in wheat, barley and rye. It is present as well in cereals and some grains. Basically, a gluten free diet means excluding food products that are wheat-based or include ingredients made of white flour, durum wheat, semolina, wheat germ, and wheat bran among others. A long list of foods where flour is a basic ingredient includes, as expected, pasta, cookies, flour tortilla, bread, cakes, muffins and crackers. It also names gravy, dressings, sauces and beer among the foods that definitely have gluten.

Over and above the list of foods obviously laden with gluten mixes for pasta or noodle dishes can contain gluten. It can be also found in hot dogs, sausages, luncheon meat, chips, candy, soy sauce, fried foods, breading, stuffing and even bouillon cubes. Stabilizing agents and thickeners for sauces, ice cream and ketchup usually contain gluten. Medicines, vitamins and cosmetics such as lipstick can also have it.

The list of products and foods with gluten not only seems endless, it presents a formidable amount of goods that may be extremely difficult to remove from any diet. In addition, while some grains are assumed to be gluten free, these grains are not exempt from gluten contamination. This can occur in fields where some wheat mixes with oats, for example. Or, this contamination can take place while the oats are being milled. This makes it important for all concerned to find out what “gluten free” in truth really means.

Is it really 100% gluten free?

What is gluten free with respect to buying processed foods? When labels and advertisements say that a product is “gluten free”, do they mean it is completely devoid of gluten?  No international legal standards have been set for such a claim but some efforts are moving towards it. In Australia and New Zealand, for example, allow  the term” gluten free” to be used when the gluten in a product  does not exceed 0.0005 or 5 parts per million.  In the United States, as early as 2006 the FDA proposed 20 parts per million as the maximum amount for gluten free labeling to be used.

Until standards for gluten free labeling are internationally accepted and enforced, people who decide to remove gluten from their diet must be conscious that there are ways to get around the question of how gluten free a product really is. Each person who is serious about following the regimen must therefore read labels carefully and be aware of how gluten can be present in ways that are not immediately evident to consumers.

Would love to hear why you went gluten free in the comments!

As the Founder and CEO of Thriving With Celiac, Nancy Olson is on a mission to educate, support and inspire those living a gluten free lifestyle. After many years of suffering and dealing with celiac disease day by day, Nancy has learned how to do more than simply survive. Through writing, speaking and coaching in the gluten free and healthy lifestyle areas, she now teaches everyone she comes in contact with how they too can begin thrivin’ rather than just survivin’.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherie August 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Nancy, I look forward to the day when there is an international standard for what is considered “gluten free”. Great post!


Steve Gamlin August 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I have several friends who are on gluten-free diets. I am so happy to see that it is becoming ‘cool’, and that companies are now creating many more healthy options! : )


Nancy Olson August 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Yes there are more options out there for those needing gluten free! Thankful on that!


Lisa Birnesser August 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Nancy, you really made understanding what gluten-free is so easy! I had no idea that gluten was an ingredient in so many foods. Thanks for this really informative article!


Nisha Naik August 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Reading food labels shouldn’t be such a challenge. When people want to make healthy changes to their diets, it sure would be helpful if the most important parts of the food’s health info were easy to find. Sometimes I have to review and re-check if what I’m understanding about the label is indeed accurate, and I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to reading them!

I hope soon enough when something is labeled as “gluten-free,” consumers will be able to trust that it is indeed 100% free.


Nancy Olson August 30, 2012 at 11:23 am

I am right with ya Nisha, If the it says gluten free I wish it was a 100% for sure.


Susan Preston September 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Thanks, Nancy for sharing such valuable information what is needed to become gluten free.


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