The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially laid down rules for what can and cannot be labeled "gluten-free." According to the Federal Register, in order to be labeled with the term, the item must contain less than 20 parts of gluten per million. The FDA clarified that the maximum was set at 20 ppm because there are not yet any analytical methods that can "reliably detect gluten" at lower levels. Also, "some celiac disease researchers" suggest that even those with celiac "can tolerate…trace amounts" of gluten.
To be sold as "gluten-free," the item also cannot list any grains containing gluten among its ingredients — such as spelt or barley — or grains that have been crossbred with those grains. A press release notes that the new rule also applies to labels like "no gluten," "free of gluten," and "without gluten." All food products, including dietary supplements, must abide by the guidelines set out by the FDA. The rules, however, do not apply to liquor and beer, which are regulated by a different agency. And, when it comes to gluten-free foods served at restaurants, the FDA asks that eateries are "consistent" with the guidelines, but don't require that they follow the rules.
Gluten-free eating has been a hot topic of late with chefs like Marc Vetri airing their annoyances at its popularity. Other chefs, however, have embraced the idea: Del Posto's Mark Ladner is launching a quick service gluten-free pasta concept called Pasta Flyer. Emeril Lagasse has launched a line of gluten-free items like chips, and chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry) has been selling a gluten-free flour for several years.