What is Gluten?


Wikipedia’s definition: “Gluten is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. These exist, conjoined with starch, in the endosperms of some grass-related grains, notably wheat, rye, and barley. Gliadin and glutenin comprise about 80% of the protein contained in wheat seed. Being insoluble in water, they can be purified by washing away the associated starch. Worldwide, gluten is an important source of nutritional protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein.

The seeds of most flowering plants have endosperms with stored protein to nourish embryonic plants during germination, but true gluten, with gliadin and glutenin, is limited to certain members of the grass family. The stored proteins of maize and rice are sometimes called glutens, but their proteins differ from wheat gluten by lacking gliadin. The glutenin in wheat flour gives kneaded dough its elasticity, allows leavening and contributes chewiness to baked products like bagels.”


How Much Gluten Will Cause Small Intestinal Inflammation?

According to Carol Shilson, the Executive Director of The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center “For anyone with celiac disease, consuming gluten – even in small amounts – is detrimental. But is any amount of gluten acceptable? Studies have proven that every person with celiac disease has a different threshold for how much gluten he or she can tolerate before activating the disease, regardless of symptoms. For some that threshold is as little as 10 mg of gluten per day; others can tolerate up to 100 mg. In either case,10 mg or 100 mg, we are talking about a very small amount: the equivalent of an 1/8 of a teaspoon of flour. There are about 600 mg of flour in 1/8 of a teaspoon, and in it there are about 80 mg of gluten. Thus, 10 mg of gluten is just 1/64 of a teaspoon. In any case, zero consumption, or as close to zero as possible, is the best policy.”

So, basically Zero Consumption = a healthier, healing you!


Gluten-Free Defined (for the purpose of labeling of gluten-free products):

(Update 8.5.14: U.S. FDA “gluten-free” labeling law is now in full effect)

On 2 August 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling.  This will provide a uniform standard definition.

“Gluten-Free” is now defined in the rule as follows:
In general, foods may be labeled “gluten-free” if they meet the definition and otherwise comply with the final rule’s requirements. More specifically, the final rule defines “gluten-free” as meaning that the food either is inherently gluten free; or does not contain an ingredient that is:

 1) a gluten-containing grain (e.g., wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains)

2) derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour); or

3) derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food.

Also, any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food must be less than 20 ppm*. 

*Research indicates 20 ppm of gluten is safe for the majority of Celiacs to consume (see “How Much Gluten Can Make Me Sick” below)**

What about imported Foods?  According to the FDA “All foods imported into the United States must meet the same federal requirements as foods domestically produced. Therefore, if the label of an imported food subject to FDA regulations makes a gluten-free claim, that food must comply with the gluten-free labeling requirements.”

The above rule does not apply to medications, body products, alcohol products regulated by the TTB, or any food products regulated by the USDA (meats, poultry, eggs). The ruling DOES apply to Supplements. Read this summary from Trisha Thompson, Gluten-Free Dietitian.

To read the FDA Press Release and Questions and Answers please open HERE.

For a Summary of the FDA labeling law from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) open HERE

Also read FDA’s Guidance for Industry (GF Businesses): Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods; Small Entity Compliance Guide, published June 2014


(8.6.14) Additional resources on U.S. Gluten-Free Labeling law:  https://www.gluten.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Label-reading.pdf


For information on other countries’ gluten-free labeling requirements visit HERE.


The Codex Alimentarius, established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, in 2008 established standards for labeling a product gluten-free.  Their standard, also set at a limit of 20 parts per million, is the standard currently set for international trade. For more detailed information on the The Codex Alimentarius Commission’s standards for gluten-free food, please visit their website at:   http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/faq_gen.jsp#G1

The Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) has set up a Certification process for manufacturers to have their products certified with a “CSA Recognition Seal”– thus ensuring the product is safe for Celiacs. Their requirements are a little more stringent (no amount of gluten allowed!) than the proposed FDA requirements & the current Codex standards, so look for the CSA Seal while shopping for gluten-free products, if you want to be extra cautious with your choices.  The Celiac Sprue Association has broken down the differences between CSA, FDA, and Codex’s labeling requirements.  Visit their website HERE.

The Gluten-Free Certification Organization, a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) offers a Certification process for manufacturers as well.  Look for products carrying their “Certified GF Label”.  For more info, open HERE.


**How Much Gluten Can Make Me Sick? Many products labeled “gluten-free” still contain trace amounts of gluten, and some people may even react to those small amounts! Read all of About.com’s articles on PPM’s (Parts Per Million), starting here: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/PreventingCrossContamination/a/Gluten-Free-PPM-table.htm?nl=1


Definition of Parts Per Million (PPM): 

(from About.com) “Parts per Million is a way to quantify very low concentrations of substances. For example, 1 ppm is equivalent to 1 milligram of something per liter of liquid (abbreviated as mg/L) or 1 milligram of something per kilogram of solid substance (abbreviated as mg/kg).  In terms of percents, 1 ppm equals 0.0001 percent.

If a product has 20 ppm of gluten, that would mean it contains 20 milligrams of gluten (about 7 thousandths of an ounce, or 0.0007 ounces) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) or per liter.”

Why is 20 ppm considered a safe level for most people with Celiac Disease? Read below:

“In Defense of 20 Parts Per Million” by Dr. Alessio Fasano: http://www.glutenfreediet.ca/img/Fasano_letter.pdf

A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to establish a safe gluten threshold for patients with celiac disease”

Also view Reviewing medical literature: a primer for those living with Celiac disease, The safety, toxicity or otherwise of gluten” (from CSA)


Articles relating to “wheat/gluten”:

(Wheat Breeding) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/ipdf/10.1021/jf305122s