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Retailers React to Gluten-Free Standards

WASHINGTON – Now that the Food and Drug Administraiton has officially defined the term gluten-free, what can retailers expect in terms of immediate changes to product packaging and merchandising? Not many, according to several retailers SN interviewed.

That’s because most manufacturers already comply with the standards, noted Barbara Ruhs, dietitian at Bashas’, Chandler, Ariz.


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Likewise, manufacturers have one year to comply with the Aug. 2 ruling, which mandates that products labeled gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule applies to all FDA-regulated foods including dietary supplements.

Manufacturers have until Aug. 5, 2014, to bring package labels into compliance.

When asked about the impact of the standards, C.A. Diltz, who runs Dorothy Lane Market's DLM Gluten-Free Food Lovers' Club, said, "Ask me again when the year is up."

Diltz predicts that many small companies will remove gluten-free from their labels to avoid expensive testing, but that big manufacturers won’t be significantly affected.

Still, retailers and gluten-free awareness groups say having an official definition is positive because it will build consistency in food labeling.

“It will give consumers more confidence that a product meets a strict standard,” said Ruhs of Bashas’.

SN Quick Poll: Will you now alter the way you market gluten-free products?

The FDA standard is consistent with the Codex Alimentarius labeling guidelines set by the World Health Organization, and puts the U.S. in the ranks of several major countries around the world that have adopted similar standards, including the European Union and Canada, according to the Gluten Intolerance Group, Auburn, Wash., a nonprofit that provides outreach support and services.

“This ruling provides assurance to consumers that products labeled gluten-free are truly safe for persons requiring a gluten-free diet,” Cynthia Kupper, executive director of the GIG, said in a statement.

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