Gluten-free certification is a process designed to protect consumers with gluten-related disorders by confirming that a food, drink or supplement meets strict standards for gluten-free safety. It assures consumers that there is third-party oversight confirming the legitimacy of the manufacturer’s gluten-free claims.
There are several certifying bodies that offer gluten-free certification, and each has its own criteria to ensure safety for consumers. Typically, the criteria includes testing the gluten content of the finished product. The current systems for gluten-free certification require gluten-free products to contain less than 10 parts per million (ppm) (NFCA/GFCP, GFCO, QAI/NSF International) or less than 5 ppm of gluten (CSA Seal of Recognition). These requirements go above and beyond the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s threshold of less than 20 ppm of gluten, adding an extra level of assurance for consumers and an extra point of distinction for manufacturers.
It’s important to note that the federal regulations for gluten-free labeling cover FDA-regulated foods only (this includes dietary supplements). Some gluten-free certifications, on the other hand, will allow for non-food products like lotions to be certified gluten-free. Again, this depends on the certifying body and its criteria.
In the grocery store, gluten-free certification makes it easier to identify safe and trusted products. Products that have been certified gluten-free will typically bear a symbol on the label, so customers with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders can quickly and easily recognize the symbol and know that the product has earned approval.
NFCA endorsed Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP)
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness endorses the Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP), a certifying body created by the Canadian Celiac Association that NFCA now brings to the U.S. This alliance makes the GFCP the first North American program endorsed by leading celiac disease organizations in both the U.S. and Canada.
As the food industry becomes increasingly globalized, NFCA believes that international alliances such as this partnership with the GFCP will play a critical role in ensuring that our gluten-free food supply is safe and trusted.
The GFCP is a management system based certification. What this means is that the program does not rely solely on end-product testing to ensure safety, but examines the entire production process of the facility - from ingredient sourcing to employee training, cleaning practices, cross-contamination controls, operational management and, finally, an effective end-to-end testing plan.
The GFCP approves only those facilities and their products that continually meet strict, good manufacturing practices for gluten-free production. Certification audits are conducted annually by trained and approved, independent International Standard for Organization (ISO) accredited auditing companies. Products that earn certification bear NFCA’s clear and easy-to-recognize certification trademark on their packaging.
By having a different entity involved in each major step of the certification process, the GFCP creates a system of checks and balances that eliminates any conflict of interest between the manufacturer’s relationship with the program, its certifying bodies and/or the NFCA.
Learn more about the NFCA endorsed GFCP at www.gf-cert.org.
Other organizations that offer a brand label signifying that a gluten-free product has been tested, certified and/or approved include:
- Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)
- Celiac Sprue Association (CSA)
- QAI/NSF International
- NFCA endorsed Gluten-Free Certification Program, www.gf-cert.org
- Grace, T. Gluten-Free Certification in North America. The Manufacturing Confectioner. June 2013; 59-67.