FAQ About Third Party Certification of Gluten-Free Foods
Third party gluten-free certification is a process designed to ensure that strict gluten-free standards are met in the testing and production process of labeled foods, beverages or supplements.
- Manufacturers can choose to hire a third-party to oversee and confirm the accuracy of their gluten-free processes and claims. This type of certification is voluntary.
- There are several organizations in North America that certify foods as gluten-free, including Beyond Celiac, Canadian Celiac Association, Gluten Intolerance Group and the National Celiac Association.
- These groups differ from one another in the criteria they use for certifying products.1,2,3,4
Do these groups have different criteria from the FDA labeling rule for gluten-free foods?
Certifying criteria of some groups may be stricter than the FDA’s rules for labeling food gluten-free1. Others may follow similar guidelines to the FDA. For example:
Beyond Celiac endorses the Gluten-Free Certification Program. Gluten-free products carrying the Beyond Celiac trademark should contain <20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.1
The Canadian Celiac Association endorses the Gluten-Free Certification Program. Gluten-free products carrying the Canadian Celiac Association trademark should contain <20ppm of gluten.2
Gluten-free products certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group should contain 10 ppm or less of gluten.3
Gluten-free products certified by the National Celiac Association should contain <5ppm of gluten.4
Are certified foods safer for me than other foods that are just labeled gluten-free? Which certification is best?
- Foods with specialty certification may provide you with added confidence in the gluten-free foods you buy. However, this does not mean that foods that do not have certifications are unsafe to eat.
- Foods certified by the Canadian Celiac Association, Gluten Intolerance Group or Beyond Celiac do not necessarily contain a higher proportion of gluten than foods certified by the National Celiac Association.
- In addition, a food that is NOT certified by any organization does not necessarily contain a higher proportion of gluten than foods that are certified.5
- Many labeled gluten-free products that do not have any specialty certification are testing below 5 ppm of gluten.5
- In short, it is not necessary to limit yourself to only certified gluten-free foods.
I read that some packages of naturally gluten-free grains and beans are contaminated with gluten. Is this true?
- Unless they are labeled gluten-free, lentils and other legumes (chick peas, soybeans, etc.) are allowed by law to contain a certain percentage of foreign grain, including wheat, barley, and/or rye.
- Wheat, barley, and rye have been appearing in some packages of naturally gluten-free grains, seeds, and legumes, including millet grain and dried lentils, per Gluten Free Watchdog, a gluten test reporting service. This cross-contact is likely occurring during harvest, storage, and transport. Unfortunately, gluten-containing grains have been found in some products labeled “gluten-free” as well as in some labeled “certified gluten-free.” Some of the food manufacturing plants are also dedicated gluten-free.5
- Please read this article about one strategy to address the problem and Gluten Free Watchdog’s opinion.
How can I be sure the beans or grains I’m buying are safe?
- Always buy naturally gluten-free grains labeled gluten-free (with the exception of plain rice). You may also choose to buy certified gluten-free grains.
- Whether the lentils and other legumes you buy are labeled gluten-free or not, rinse canned ones thoroughly under running water. Pour dry legumes onto a cookie sheet, pick through them, and then rinse thoroughly under running water.6
- Consider visiting Gluten Free Watchdog to stay updated on cross-contact and product testing.
- Beyond Celiac Gluten-Free Certification. Accessed July 23, 2018.
- Canadian Celiac Association. Gluten-Free Certification Program. Accessed January 23, 2018.
- Gluten Intolerance Group Gluten-Free Certification Organization. Accessed January 23, 2018.
- National Celiac Association Gluten-Free Recognition Seal Program. Accessed January 23, 2018.
- Gluten Free Watchdog. It isn’t just oats that have gluten cross-contact issues. June 7 2018. Accessed July 19, 2018.
- Gluten Free Watchdog. General Product Warning: check your lentils including certified gluten-free lentils for foreign grain. December 13, 2016. Accessed July 19, 2018.
Revised July 25, 2018
Author: Melinda Dennis, MS, RDN, LD
Editors: Amy Keller, MS, RDN, LD and Rupa Mukherjee, MD
Original Authors: Tricia Thompson
Editors: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS; 8-29-12