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Presumably Gluten-Free Products Contain Gluten, FDA Study Finds

Nov 10, 2014

Individuals with a wheat allergy or who have celiac disease should be cautious of processed foods that are not explicitly labeled as gluten-free, a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found. Products that do not have wheat, rye or barley listed on the ingredient list are often assumed to be gluten-free. However, the FDA found that gluten may be present in these products.

The study, which was published in the journal Food Chemistry, looked at 461 products. Among those that had a gluten-free label, 98.9 percent met the legal definition of “gluten-free”, which is less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Among products that did not carry that label, however, 19.4 percent contained more than 20 ppm of gluten. None of these products listed any gluten-containing ingredients. There was more than 100 ppm gluten in about half of these products.

Breakfast cereals were the most likely to be contaminated with gluten, the FDA study showed. Oats are an ingredient in many cereals, and although they do not contain gluten by nature they are easily contaminated.

Even if a food does not contain gluten, the product may still come into contact with it due to manufacturing operations, such as shared surfaces, gluten particles in the air and other conditions. In these instances, manufacturers can label their products to reflect that it has been produced in a facility that also uses wheat. No such warning label existed in half of the foods that contained more than 20 ppm gluten, the study showed.

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