Certified Gluten-Free Products

certified gluten-free logo
The Gluten-Free Certification Organization

For people with celiac disease, not eating gluten is a must. Any ingestion of the protein found in wheat, barley, and oats leads to damage of the small intestine. This makes gluten-free certification crucial for those with celiac disease. People with documented or suspected gluten sensitivity also benefit from foods that are properly labeled.

Manufacturers that cater to the growing gluten-free consumer market are increasingly pursuing gluten-free certification for their products. This certification can provide the seal of approval some consumers want when selecting gluten-free food.

Three organizations—the Gluten Intolerance Group's Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), the Allergen Control Group/Canadian Celiac Association (ACG/CCA), and NSF International—currently certify products and companies as gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Labeling

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires gluten-free labeled foods to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Independent, third-party certification programs set their own standards at or below 20 ppm and also test for different levels of trace gluten in the foods and facilities they certify.

  • GFCO is a top certification program for the verification of quality, integrity, and purity of gluten-free products. A program of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), it inspects both products and manufacturing facilities for gluten GFCO tests foods to make sure they contain less than 10 ppm of gluten. Most GFCO certified foods test much lower, however, with many having zero detectable gluten.
  • ACG/CCA's Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) has different standards for American and Canadian products. In Canada, food must test less than 20 ppm. In America, however, 10 ppm is the maximum level allowed for GFCP certification.
  • NSF is a third-party organization that provides certification for a number of different products. It's gluten-free certification process inspects facilities and products to ensure they contain less than 15 ppm of gluten.

Inspections, Ingredient Reviews

Manufacturers need to clear various other hurdles before receiving a program's seal of approval. This is where gluten-free certification goes well beyond the FDA's legal requirements for something to carry a "gluten-free" designation.

For example, the GFCO requires yearly certification, a process that includes a review of ingredients, product testing, and a plant inspection. It also requires product reviews, onsite inspections, testing and ongoing compliance activities, including random testing. Once a manufacturer receives certification, the programs allow the products in question to display a seal of approval.

Applying for and receiving gluten-free certification from one of the organizations can cost a manufacturer significant money since they are billed for the audits, facility inspections, and testing required. Therefore, companies that seek this certification tend to be quite committed to serving the gluten-free market.

Trusting Certified Gluten-Free Foods

If a food carries a "Certified Gluten-Free" seal on its label, by law it need to have less that 20 part per million of gluten. For most people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten this usually means it can be eaten safely.

If a manufacturer has gone to the trouble and expense of having its products certified gluten-free, it's very likely that the manufacturer will adhere strictly to those gluten-free standards once the inspectors have gone home, but it is not a 100% certainty.

Many manufacturers who go through the process and receive certification tend to be smaller organizations that cater specifically to those who cannot eat gluten, and are often owned by people with celiac disease or who have people with celiac or gluten sensitivity in their families, and so they're extremely motivated to provide safe food.

However, some people are extremely sensitive to even minuscule traces of gluten, and even foods with the official GFCO logo—"Certified Gluten-Free" with a GF in a circle—may not be perfectly safe.

What Does This Mean for You?

In practice, you should use certification as a guideline—another tool by which you can judge potential new products. But in the end, always use your own body's reaction to the product as the final verdict on something new.

For people who are easily "glutened" by foods labeled gluten-free, sticking with foods that are naturally gluten-free, like whole vegetables, fresh fruits, legumes, proteins, and non-glutenous grains processed in a gluten-free facility, is the safest bet. You can also make your own baked goods using gluten-free flours milled in a gluten-free facility.

Was this page helpful?