difference between gluten-free claims and gluten-free certifications
Whether you’re familiar with the “CANS” label reading acronym, or you just want to know what difference is between seeing “gluten-free” and “certified gluten-free” on a food label, this post is for you. Today, we’ll be diving into the key differences between gluten-free claims and gluten-free certifications.
USA Gluten-Free labeling LAWS 101
In the United States, the FDA’s final ruling is that if you use the voluntary claim “gluten-free” on your food item, then it must have less than 20ppm of gluten in it.
Building on that, the FDA ruled that in order for a food item to be gluten-free it also must:
- not contain any gluten-containing grains
- not contain any gluten-derived ingredients that have not been processed to remove the gluten
- not contain a gluten-derived ingredients that has been processed to remove gluten but the gluten content does not <20ppm
This ruling applies to all gluten-free claims such as: “no gluten”, “free of gluten”, “without gluten”.
What is a gluten-free claim?
Basically, a gluten-free claim is when you see any of the following verbiage on a food label:
- no gluten
- free of gluten
- without gluten
If a food item has a gluten-free claim, the manufacturer must ensure it’s gluten content is <20ppm.
Usually, a gluten-free claim means the food is safe, EXCEPT when it comes to oats (we have General Mills in-part to thank for that).
What is a gluten-free certification?
A gluten-free certification is when a 3rd party tests a gluten-free food and confirms that food is gluten-free.
This is one of the key differences between a gluten-free claim and a gluten-free certification.
The gluten-free testing is not only being asserted by the manufacturer but is now being confirmed by a 3rd party.
Anything with a gluten-free claim (even if it has oats) should be safe.
There are a few 3rd party certifications on the market and each one has their own testing parameters. Let’s talk about how they apply to United States food labeling.
- NSF International Gluten-free Certification tests food items to be below 20ppm
- Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) is endorsed by Beyond Celiac, and tests food items t0 <20ppm of gluten and also looks at manufacturing processes.
- Gluten-Free Certification Organization of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America tests products <10ppm of gluten.
- Gluten-Free Certification Seal Program by the National Celiac Association tests to <5ppm of gluten.
Again, if you see any of these certifications on a food item, it’s safe. Very rarely are these products mislabeled.
If you do see something that does look mislabeled or has “facial misbranding”, file a complaint with the FDA.
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