Twenty Parts Per Million – What the FDA Gluten Free Ruling Means for You

The new FDA ruling is out. A product can be labeled gluten free if it contains fewer than twenty parts per million gluten.
What does this mean for someone with Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?
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Putting this in real world experience, this means that the FDA believes that your peanut butter is safe for you to eat if someone has contaminated it with crumbs.
It means your restaurant dinner is A-OK if the waitress took the garlic toast off your plate after accidentally putting it on.
It means that someone could stir the gluten-filled spaghetti water and then serve your sauce with the same spoon.

Twenty Parts Per Million

20ppm is not alot. (It’s actually deemed safe for celiacs in a study conducted on 49 biopsy confirmed celiacs. Unfortunately this very small sample is now the benchmark for all of us.)
But it might not take alot to get you (and I mean YOU) sick.
We’re super careful with the food we prepare at home, even buying Gluten-Free labels to protect our food and utensils from the smallest amount of gluten. We scrutinize our plates for crumbs in a restaurant and hover over extended family members when they’re making our dinner. Should we relax just because a government body has told us that we’re going to be okay?
Thank you FDA for your ruling. Now we can’t have just any Joe Blow fixing up cookies and calling them gluten free. But if you have celiac disease or some other condition and truly need to be gluten free, you are still safer eating naturally gluten free food, or buying packaged gluten-free food made in a dedicated gluten free facility.

A handy reference

If you’re not really sure how this ruling applies to you, and you want a handy chart on how to deal with products made in a gluten-shared facility based on your level of sensitivity, I suggest you read this article. Dedicated gluten-free facilities vs. shared facilities that handle gluten containing products… Does it matter?

The necessary disclaimer:

I’m not a health professional, just someone who reacts to a very tiny amount of gluten in my food. 20ppm is deemed to be safe for celiacs, but unfortunately, it still makes me sick. After many personal tests I only eat naturally gluten free food or, rarely, packaged food made in a dedicated gluten-free facility. Make sure you talk to a medical professional you trust  about your gluten free diet.

Weigh in!!

This is a controversial topic among gluten free and mine isn’t the only opinion out there. Make sure you fully research this and form your own opinion. Already have an opinion? Great! I’d love to read it in the comments!
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3 thoughts on “Twenty Parts Per Million – What the FDA Gluten Free Ruling Means for You

  1. I have been diagnosed with Celiac for 8-9 years. I am one of those people who is so sensitive I won’t touch anything with gluten if I can’t wash my hands immediately afterwards. One crumb can make me sick for well over a week. I think this shows the FDA has not done extensive enough research on this, because a few of my friends who are Celiac can handle much more gluten in their systems than me, and some people don’t even show symptoms. So it seems like the few people who were tested with this were not near enough to really understand the complexity of the different sensitivity levels and symptoms of the entire population of Celiac patients.

    With Celiac being a legal disability, saying that having crumbs around aren’t enough to make a person sick shows how little the FDA has looked into this and studied the effects of the gluten in a person with Celiac’s body. It sounds like there needs to be more research done before they can truly make this ruling with the 20 ppm to be a standard. Just because some people don’t get sick from it doesn’t mean that it won’t cause long term health problems since a Celiac patient’s digestive system is not designed to handle any gluten at all.

    Thank you for the article and information you have provided here.

    • Hey Kara, thanks for your comments. I’m the same. I can’t even have gluten-filled cereal in the house because I get sick from the dust in the air. The study that decided that 20ppm is safe for celiacs was done on 49 people and determined safety based on damage to the esophagus after 90 days. There’s no way to tell if prolonged exposure would have caused damage or if the doctors doing the study just missed the damage (as sometimes happens even when diagnosing someone with celiac disease, which is why a biopsy isn’t always accurate). What they don’t tell you is that one of the test subjects relapsed clinically with 20ppm. That means that they developed the “glutened” symptoms by eating the “safe” amount. So, something was going on with at least one subject’s immune system.

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