In August, the FDA finalized its rule on voluntary “gluten-free” labeling, allowing California Almond handlers to label their products as gluten-free if the products qualify for the claim by complying with FDA’s legal definition of the term “gluten-free.”
Gluten is a storage protein naturally found in wheat, rye, barley and hybrids of these grains. Gluten is also found in ingredients derived from these grains and has very harmful health effects if ingested by individuals with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance. The new rule was issued under FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004), which initiated mandatory declaration of the eight major food allergens on labels, and sets a quantifiable standard for foods labeled as gluten-free.
Almonds are naturally gluten-free; however, processors must still ensure that their products have less than 20 ppm of gluten from cross-contact or from the addition of other ingredients. Processing that adds other ingredients (as may occur in the case of flavored almonds, for example), including gluten-containing grains or their derivatives, or that brings the almonds in contact with these ingredients (cross-contact) may result in gluten levels in excess of 20 ppm, disqualifying the product from using the gluten-free claim.