The world of gluten free eating can be very confusing for consumers – and it’s very confusing for businesses too. There is little regulation of the industry, allowing companies to self-certify their products as gluten free. You might see things labeled as GF and even see pretty GF seals that look official, but most of them are not. Food companies want you to see those seals because they think it will instill instant trust in their brands among the GF community; however, as a skeptical consumer, it’s important that we look at things a little more closely.
In August 2014, the U.S. FDA set a gluten limit of 20 parts per million (ppm) in foods labeled as “gluten-free,” “without gluten,” “free of gluten” or “no gluten.” Food manufacturers had one year from the date the rule was published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements. The caveat is who is now enforcing whether food manufacturers are following this requirement – the FDA only gets involved when there is a complaint, as there was in the case of General Mill’s Cheerios, which resulted in 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios recalled (a cautionary tale to manufacturers and consumers alike!).
When shopping for gluten free products, I encourage you to look for these four seals and support brands that bear these seals. If you don’t see these seals on your favorite gluten free products, write the companies and ask them to get it. Don’t settle for excuses like, “We got this covered.” If they really act in the best interest of consumers, getting an official third-party certification would be a no-brainer.
Here are the four official certified gluten free seals to look for on packaging – these organizations work hard to ensure the quality, purity, safety and legitimacy of manufacturer’s “gluten-free” claims.
The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) from the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG)
Now take a look at common brands around your house? What do you see? I’m certain you don’t see one of these seals on many of the flours you have – perhaps you should wonder why you don’t see them there.
I find myself using a lot of products that don’t have one of the official seals – I often have to dig deeper and take pause about my choices. It’s not easy being gluten free and I admit I am often just as confused as the next guy. I still choose to use Bob Red Mill’s flour even though they are self “certified” – I do trust the company, but honestly wish it would have a third party certification and lead the industry in this direction.
The world of gluten free eating is confusing and unfortunately isn’t regulated as well as it should be. Progress is being made by some awesome GF advocates who have been here longer than me – but it’s important that you, the consumer, take the time to learn and decode the truth about gluten free products and decipher whether they’re safe for consumption by the GF community or if it’s all just marketing hoopla. Buyer beware.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on GF certifications and seals – please make sure you do your homework to decipher the truth about your favorite brands. Also make sure you check for yourself what the seal on your favorite products exactly means and how each agency’s GF certification process works. I will update this article as I learn new information.