What Does Gluten Free Mean?

The gluten free trend has exploded since 2012 with the market growing 63% from 2012 to 2014 alone. Millions of Americans are going on gluten free diets because gluten has been deemed evil in America.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is simply the general name for the proteins that are found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale and others grains. These storage proteins include prolomains and glutelins and are stored together in the endosperm of these grains. Gluten accounts for around 80% of thegluten protein total protein in wheat that is generally used for bread. The word gluten is actually latin for glue. Gluten is responsible for the elasticity of dough while helping it keep it shape when rising and is responsible for the final chewy texture of many products. Gluten is formed when glutenin cross link to form a networked attached to gliadin, which increases the thickness of the mix. When that mixture has been leavened with yeast, the fermentation process, produces carbon dioxides bubbles which are trapped in the gluten matrix. Kneading the dough actually promotes the formation of gluten. This is what causes dough to rise, if that gluten is not there to hold onto the bubbles the dough will not rise correctly. When the product is baked the proteins coagulate and
 stabilize the shape of the bread.

So Why is Everyone Afraid of Gluten?

The driving factor of the fear of gluten rises from Celiac disease. Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder that mostly affects the small intestines. Celiac disease is not categorized as just a gastrointestinal disease because it appears to affect several organs, not just the small intestines. The general estimates of Celiac

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disease of the general population are usually put at 1%-2% with most of these cases diagnosed. There is a large part of this population that just lives through the symptoms of Celiac disease and go undiagnosed for long periods of time. The ones that are diagnosed usually have the worse symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, loss of appetite and impaired growth. The undiagnosed usually have less obvious symptoms such as non-intestinal issues which is why diagnosing becomes more difficult.

What Counts as Gluten Free?

In August of 2013 the FDA published an official definition of gluten free and how it can be used on food labels. The reason for establishing a rule was to help define gluten free to those with Celiac disease and to make labeling gluten free clear for manufacturers.  The FDA defines gluten free as…

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., spelt wheat); 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.

Essentially the FDAs rule for gluten free labeling is that the product contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Technically some gluten is allowed but at .002% there is not enough to trigger any negative reactions in those with Celiac.


Wheat is one of the 8 allergens that must be listed in the United States(and Canada). So the labeling of wheat is here to stay. The FDA has a nice clear definition of what is gluten free is, which helps everyone who is concerned about gluten. The best way to know if there is gluten in the product is to look for wheat or other grains on the label. There are certifying groups that will evaluate your product and facility to determine if you meet there requirements. Please note you do not have to be certified to label a product as gluten free.  The same way you don’t have to be certified to label a product “milk free” or “egg free”.