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What Does Gluten-Free Mean?

Pete Springer/OPB

In the past decade, the phrase gluten-free has gone from an obscure term to a household one. Supermarkets now devote entire sections to gluten-free products, and even beer makers have gotten into the act. But what exactly does it mean to say something is gluten-free?

The answer has significant health implications not just for those diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, but many others who experience gluten-intolerance.

The FDA defines gluten-free as a product containing no wheat, barley, rye or hybrids of any of these. However, the gluten-free label is a voluntary one, with the only directive that labels not be untruthful or misleading. Some legislators, including Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, have called for universal requirements for gluten-free labels.

The FDA has been working on labeling requirements for gluten-free foods since 2005. Recently, they sent recommended requirements to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Gluten-free advocates are anxiously awaiting OIRA’s approval now that the 90-day public comment period has expired.

Do you suffer from some form of gluten intolerance? What has been your experience shopping for gluten free products? What kind of labeling requirements would you like to see?


  • Terry Michaelson: CEO, Craft Brew Alliance
  • Marilyn Grunzweig Geller: CEO, Celiac Disease Foundation
celiac food labels gluten-free

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