In November 2007, the Draft Revised Codex Standard for Gluten-Free Foods underwent some big changes, including a name change. This standard is now called, “The Draft Revised Standard for Foods for Special Dietary Use for Persons Intolerant to Gluten.” This standard is scheduled to be adopted at the 31st session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in July 2008.
History of the Codex standard for gluten-free foods
The Codex standard for gluten-free foods was adopted in 1979 by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. According to this original standard, foods labeled “gluten-free” could be made either from naturally gluten-free grains, such as corn or rice or gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, rye) that had been rendered gluten free through processing. An example of a rendered gluten-free ingredient is wheat starch. If a rendered gluten-free grain was used in a gluten-free food product it could contain no more than 50 milligrams of nitrogen per 100 grams of grain. Nitrogen was used as an indirect measure of gluten because at the time this standard was written there was no available means to directly measure gluten.
In 1998 changes were made to the Codex standard and the Draft Revised Standard for Gluten-Free Foods was published. In the draft standard it was proposed that foods made from naturally gluten-free ingredients could contain no more than 20 parts per million gluten. Foods made from rendered gluten-free ingredients, such as wheat starch could contain no more than 200 parts per million gluten.
Important changes were again made to the draft standard in 2006, including the amount of gluten allowed in a gluten-free food containing rendered gluten-free ingredients. Foods made from naturally gluten-free ingredients could still contain no more than 20 parts per million gluten but foods made from rendered gluten-free ingredients could now contain no more than 100 parts per million gluten.
Draft Revised Codex Standard for Foods for Special Dietary Use for Persons Intolerant to Gluten
In 2007 further changes were made to the draft standard and it is now ready to be finalized and published as an official Codex standard. The current draft standard states that gluten-free foods can be made from naturally gluten-free ingredients and/or ingredients containing wheat, barley, rye, or crossbred varieties of these grains that have been specially processed to remove gluten with a gluten level not exceeding 20 milligrams per kilogram (20 parts per million).
In addition to gluten-free foods, this standard includes another category of foods called, “foods specially processed to reduce gluten to a level above 20 up to 100 milligrams per kilogram.” This category includes foods made from wheat, barley, rye, and crossbred varieties of these grains that have been processed to remove gluten and contain above 20 to 100 milligrams of gluten per kilogram (above 20 up to 100 parts per million gluten).
What this means
If you are traveling in many European countries and come across food labeled “gluten-free” these products, including those made from wheat starch will contain no more than 20 parts per million gluten. For wheat starch containing gluten-free foods this is a much lower amount than the 200 and 100 parts per million gluten previously allowed.
To read the Draft Revised Codex Standard for Foods for Special Dietary Use for Persons Intolerant to Gluten in its entirety go to
To read committee notes on the draft standard scroll down to page 6 of the report. To read the draft standard scroll down to page 50.
If you would like to know how the Codex standard compares to the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule for the voluntary use of “gluten-free” on food labels click on “FDA Gluten-Free Labeling” on the newsletter page at www.glutenfreedietitian.com.
July 16, 2008: According to information received by the FDA, the Codex draft standard was adopted unchanged as the official Codex standard. The new gluten-free standard has not yet been posted on the Codex website. When it is, I will post the link here.
The Codex Standard for Foods for Special Dietary Use for Persons Intolerant to Gluten is available from the Codex website at (scroll down until you come to Codex Standard 118)