What’s the Legal Limit of Gluten in a Gluten-Free Product?

I will be shunned by all the Celiac Associations over this article, but since when was progress ever made by following the pack? I am more than happy to stand out on the ledge by myself and loudly disagree with what the government agencies are doing and make clear that I disagree with Celiac Associations that are all just endorsing the “legal limits” instead of questioning something that is really a health hazard for their members.

How Much Gluten Is too Much?

What amount of gluten is safe for a Celiac? Legally in most countries it is presently 10-20ppm. In Australia it used to be 20ppm, legal amount is now 5, and for a product to be labeled GF it must be less than 3. The Codex standard in the UK was 200ppm in 1981, changed to 20ppm in 2008. Finland is still at 100ppm. In America it has been lowered to 20ppm, Canada is introducing new laws in 2012 and so it goes from country to country, ranging from 3 to 500ppm. They keep modifying to lower & lower quantities… meanwhile what about the people who have been digesting the old “legal” amounts all these years? Good question, to which there is no answer – they are clearly on their own, destined to become the statistics of the coming decades.

Here are my issues with all these “legal amounts” of gluten:

1) There has been no extensive long-term research done on Celiac Disease because most research is funded by pharmaceutical companies. These companies have no interest in funding research for a condition that requires only a change in diet and that they can’t sell any drugs to, not to mention limits their cu$tomer base to 1% of the population. I am not convinced of data that is released when the topic hasn’t been exhaustively and objectively studied with double-blind tests and end outcome not pre-determined by the sponsors of the study.

2) Of the few studies that have been done, look at the wording closely and you will see that there are always words like “preliminary”, “inconclusive”, and other words that offer escape hatches. If the results are inconclusive, why use those numbers to instate laws? Why not wait until we know what we are talking about conclusively and without a doubt?

3) The agencies that set the laws, such as the FDA and their counterparts worldwide, are under major pressure from manufacturers to set the legal amounts to high levels; they do this so that it won’t require the manufacturers to go the expensive route of creating entirely GF lines in their plants. Canada’s new laws for 2012 state that consideration of any and all cross-contamination is omitted – which means regardless of the 20ppm legal limit (which is already questionable), using the cross-contamination loophole, a product can contain any amount of gluten and still be labeled GF legally. Wow. A loophole the size of Texas on a subject that shuts down the consumer’s intestines. Great job Canada. I seem to be the only person in the country who read the not-so-fine print while everyone else is applauding the headline.

4) These government agencies are the same ones that told us smoking was safe for 60 years, are now allowing lethally harmful laws for GMO’s to go into effect, said arsenic based pesticides were safe for 40 years, allowed use of DDT since the 50’s, allow Atrazine to still be legal in the Americas today (yet illegal in its country of origin and banned in Europe), legalize and even enforce administration of highly harmful vaccines that have killed and irreversibly damaged hundreds of thousands of people – these are all big deals affecting 100% of the population and they knew/know what they are doing. Do you trust these very same agencies with the safety limits they set on gluten when it is relatively minor, affecting only 1% of the population, and they have no idea what they are doing… and I might add, with no way to immediately measure the harm done to the body with these “safe trace amounts of contamination”??? It’s not like gluten contamination is causing anaphylactic shocks and would raise immediate flags; it’s a slow silent killer that eats away at a person’s health and impossible to measure in the short-term for most.

5) We know that the smallest amount of just one contamination can create harmful antibodies that remain in a Celiac for up to 6 months – how could small constant trace amounts be safe? Is the cumulative effect even being considered?

6) Every country and university on earth has conflicting amounts they deem as safe, all studies outright admit their conclusions as inconclusive and premature, all these studies show people were forced to drop out of the study midway due to harmful complications while they were testing the “trace amounts” – yet we are accepting 20ppm as safe?

7) If we take a clear very large pitcher of water and put one tiny drop of red ink into it, it changes the chemical make-up of the water. Wouldn’t common sense conclude that ANY amount of gluten is unsafe? (the non-lament’s conclusions, a.k.a. medical studies, quoted on the extended version of this article at: http://www.nakedfood.ca/legal.php)

Now here’s what to watch out for in coming years: now that there are several million potential lifetime cu$tomer$, the lifelong magic pills will hit the shelves and prescription pads, as they have already begun to do. Do not allow yourself to become a victim by trusting your doctor and government – we only need to look at the corruption of psychotropic drugs to know that we need to use our own judgment and do our own research.

My bottom line: as a Celiac, I refuse to play Celiac Roulette with my health while the medical world keeps changing its findings and the pharma world slowly places its commercial arm on the matter. I don’t believe in telling people what to do, but I strongly believe in informed choices. I think people should be aware of what is really happening with studies and all the discrepancies in them and we should have a right to know whether food that is marked as GF is truly 100% GF or if there may be trace amounts – and allow each individual to decide for themselves whether they will consume that product or not. I am against government setting a legal limit that is unconfirmed without any conclusive & extensive long-term studies and allowing companies to use the gluten-free labels under ambiguous numbers.

Just mark 20ppm on the box and specify if the facility is 100% dedicated GF and let me decide if I will risk it or not.

Informed choices. Transparency. Freedom to choose. These are what I feel are every person’s right.

Jaqui Karr

Gluten and Nutrition Expert, Bestselling Author, Jaqui Karr is the authority on gluten - Visit Jaqui's website now for information about how gluten is destroying your health JaquiKarr.com

5 thoughts on “What’s the Legal Limit of Gluten in a Gluten-Free Product?

  • April 20, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I couldn’t agree much. There is really importance in labeling to know that exact content of gluten or any other food content of commodities.

  • April 18, 2011 at 4:22 am

    Totally agree! Such a good informative article on gluten free foods.

  • April 15, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Interesting points. While I agree with most of what you say I think it is time to have specific rules on gluten-free labeling in the US.

    The FDA’s “proposed” rule is simply not enough; even though it defines <20ppm as gluten-free, since it's not a rule, manufacturers could theoretically write gluten-free on the label – and list wheat in the ingredients. By doing this they would not violate any rules.

    Careful reading of ingredient statements will for the time being continue to be required for an informed decision but consistent standards would make things easier for celiac and gluten-intolerant consumers. That's why I support http://www.1in133.org, an initiative to pass gluten-free labeling rules.

  • April 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Totally agree! Would you label something peanut free and still allow 20ppm peanuts in it? There should be a distinction between “mostly gluten-free” and “gluten-free”!

  • April 14, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Such a good informative article on gluten free foods. I totally agree with the author. For a person suffering from celiac disease, legal limit of gluten means nothing, what is important for him/her is the safe limit of gluten in food and not what is legal.


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