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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

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People Want Gluten-Free Products

By Michael McBurney

Researchers confirm the food system is primarily an economic enterprise. Food choices are affected by price, demand, cost, and trade regulations. Our food supply is complex with over 85,000 uniquely formulated food and beverage products which are often changing. New products enter the market, old ones leave, and others are reformulated.

Miller and colleagues examined the US food supply in relation to the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) 2010 which was applied to 40 years of food supply data (1970-2010). Food supply was calculated by subtracting exports and current-year food storage from the sum of agricultural production, food imports, and past-year food storage. Trends in HEI were disappointingly few. With the exception of total protein intake (which remained near dietary recommendations), there weren’t any sustained trends in HEI scores for fruit, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and sodium. Improvements were seen in seafood and plant protein, empty calories, and fatty acids.

An emerging ingredient of interest to consumers is gluten. In 2013, gluten was the 5th most common search term when people typed “what is….”in Google. Recent estimates are that ~10% of new food and beverage product introductions are gluten-free.

What is driving demand? Approximately1% of the world’s population may have celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune disorder sensitive to a protein, gluten, found in grains – rye, barley, and wheat. A much greater number are seeking products devoid of gluten for other reasons. Because gluten labeling is important for individuals with celiac disease, consumer interest in gluten-free products is growing, and the food and beverage industry wants to meet demand, the FDA defined ‘gluten-free’ labeling in 2013. A recent study finds 98.9% of ‘gluten-free’ food products adhere to FDA labeling requirements.  

As Slining and colleagues write, expect to see more nutrient databases containing information on ingredients, e.g. gluten, allergens, and additives, in the future.

Main Citations

Miller PE, Reedy J, Kirkpatrick SI, Krebs-Smith SM. The United States food supply is not consistent with dietary guidance: Evidence from an evaluation using the Healthy Eating Index 2010. 2014 JAND doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.08.030

Slining MM, Yoon EF, Davis J, Hollingsworth B, Miles D, Ng SW. An approach to monitor food and nutrition from “factory to fork”. 2014 JAND doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.09.002

Other Citation

Sharma GM, Pereira M, Williams KM. Gluten detection in foods available in the United States – A market survey. 2014 Food Chem doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.07.134


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