The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final rule to establish compliance requirements for fermented and hydrolyzed foods, or foods that contain fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients, and that bear the “gluten-free” claim. The rule pertains to foods such as soy sauce, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, and green olives. Distilled foods, such as distilled vinegars, are also included in the final rule.

“These new compliance requirements for labeling a product ‘gluten-free’ will protect individuals with celiac disease, an incurable, hereditary disorder that millions of Americans, including myself, live with,” says U. S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. “The FDA’s final rule helps to ensure common products labeled ‘gluten-free’ really are gluten-free, equipping consumers to make the best choices for their health and their families.”

The final rule adds compliance requirements for hydrolyzed or fermented foods that use the “gluten-free” labeling claim, since gluten breaks down during these processes and currently available analytical methods cannot be used to determine if these products meet the “gluten-free” definition. The rule requires manufacturers of these food products to make and keep records providing adequate assurance that:

  • the food meets the definition of “gluten-free” before fermentation or hydrolysis;
  • the manufacturer has adequately evaluated the potential for cross-contact with gluten during the manufacturing process;
  • and if necessary, measures are in place to prevent the introduction of gluten into the food during the manufacturing process.

The rule also discusses how FDA will verify compliance for distilled products. 

“The FDA continues to work to protect people with celiac disease, which impacts at least 3 million Americans,” says FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. “The agency has taken a number of steps on this front by first establishing a standardized definition of ‘gluten-free,’ and now by continuing to work to ensure manufacturers are keeping the products that are labeled with this claim gluten-free.”

The definition of “gluten-free,” established in 2013, is not changed by this new final rule.