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In 2010 the estimated market for gluten-free foods in the United States topped $2.6 billion. This shows that there is more than just a small demand for gluten-free food.

The big question then arises, “What is the definition of gluten-free?”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration can’t seem to answer that question yet. While many are pushing for a definition accepted (and enforced) by the FDA, several private organizations have stepped in to offer their own gluten-free certifications.

If you are on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, you want to be absolutely certain that the foods are completely gluten-free too.

Below we will discuss the three different organizations that certify foods as gluten-free and the differences among their certifications.

These groups are:

  • GFCO: The Gluten-Free Certification Organization has very clearly established guidelines, and it sets the bar pretty high. They indicate that any food that gets their label of authenticity has to test at less than 10 parts per million (PPM). The GFCO recertifies food manufacturers’ products each year.


  • CSA: The Celiac Sprue Association has far more rigorous standards, which makes sense when you realize that they are a group dedicated to heightening awareness of celiac disease and offering support to those with the condition. To get their certification, a food must test at 5 PPM or less. The foods that receive their approval may not have any oats in them either, regardless of the type of oats used. They do not accept oats of any kind as a valid source of gluten-free food. This group does annual inspections and food testing each year.


  • NFCA: The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has nearly identical guidelines as the GFCO. They too have to see a food test at no greater than 10 PPM in order to clear it for gluten-free labeling. This organization does product testing and site inspections on a random basis.

Understanding these different certifications, it’s interesting to bring up the test we did on Domino’s gluten-free pizzas last year. The pizzas we tested from Boston and New Orleans tested at undetectable levels (less than 3 ppm) and the pizza from Washington, DC tested positive for gluten with a reading of 7 ppm. Therefore, the gluten-free pizza from Domino’s in Washington would be considered gluten-free by the GFCO and NFCA, but not the CSA.

With CeliAct, we test every single new batch. We test the ingredients before manufacturing, and we also test the completed product. It goes without saying that any detectable level of gluten would be unacceptable.


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