Although gluten intolerance is different from a food allergy, it can cause serious symptoms. Gluten causes serious health problems in people who have celiac disease, a chronic digestive disorder. Gluten is a protein that occurs in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. It's found in many foods and food ingredients.
The FDA has established initial guidelines for use of the term "gluten-free" on food labels. Currently, the "gluten-free" label is voluntary — it's up to the manufacturer whether to include it. Many foods are naturally gluten-free and may or may not be labeled as such. The FDA is in the process of refining guidelines for gluten-free labeling.
The bottom line: Be cautious
Always double-check labels to be sure you know what you're eating and drinking. Even though a food product may have been safe the last time you purchased or consumed it, it's possible that the ingredients have changed or the label has been updated. If you have any doubt about food ingredients, contact the manufacturer about whether the food possibly contains a food allergen.
Feb. 06, 2014
See more In-depth
- Food allergy quick facts. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/understanding/pages/quickfacts.aspx. Accessed June 27, 2013.
- Food allergen labeling and consumer protection act of 2004. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm106187.htm. Accessed June 27, 2013.
- Get the facts: New allergen labeling laws. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://usdasearch.usda.gov/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=usda&query=food+labeling+fact+sheet&x=0&y=0&commit=Search. Accessed June 27, 2013.
- Guidance for food industry: Questions and answers regarding food allergens, including Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (edition 4); final guidance. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://google2.fda.gov/search?q=Guidance+for+Industry%3A+Questions+and+Answers+Regarding+Food+Allergens%2C+including+the+Food+Allergen+Labeling+and+Consumer+Protection+Act+of+2004+%28Edition+4%29%3B+Final+Guidance&client=FDAgov&site=FDAgov&lr=&proxystylesheet=FDAgov&output=xml_no_dtd&getfields=*&requiredfields=-archive%3Ayes. Accessed June 27, 2013.
- Questions and answers on the gluten-free labeling proposed rule. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm111487.htm#q11. Accessed July 2, 2013.