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What does ppm stand for? Gluten-free definition of 20 ppm

Lana Bandoim's picture
Gluten-Free Definition of 20 ppm

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, then you have probably found packages and online resources that mention 20 ppm. What does ppm stand for, and how does it relate to the gluten-free diet?


Whether you have being doing research on the gluten-free diet or have been wondering about how items are labeled as gluten-free, you will want to know what ppm means. The definition of ppm is parts per million, and the Food and Drug Administration requires that food products have less than 20 ppm to obtain the gluten-free label. However, many people struggle to imagine the actual size of 20 parts per million, so the following information should help.

What does ppm stand for?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ppm is parts per million and is a common measurement. Another way to think about ppm is to compare it to a year. One ppm is equal to one minute in two years. It is a tiny amount, but the FDA points out that those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance can react to small amounts of gluten present in food.

What is the gluten-free definition of 20 ppm?

The Food and Drug Administration defines gluten-free as a product that has less than 20 ppm of gluten. For example, this means that the item could potentially have 0 to 19 ppm of gluten and still carry the gluten-free label on the packaging. There have been ongoing debates about this FDA rule and the standards for labeling food.

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How much is 20 ppm?

Since most measurements people use on a daily basis are not on the ppm scale, it can be difficult to imagine how much 20 ppm represents. Once you understand what does ppm stand for, then you can use this information to make the amount easier to visualize.

Another way to think of 20 ppm is to view it as .002 percent. For example, 1 ounce of food is 0.0625 pounds or 28.35 grams. If this 1 ounce of food is bread, and it has 20 ppm of gluten, then the total amount of gluten would be 0.57 mg. This is a tiny amount. However, some people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance can become sick from a crumb.

Do restaurants have to meet the gluten-free definition of 20 ppm?

The FDA states that restaurants that use the gluten-free claim on their menus or other products should be complying with the definition. This means that the food you order from these establishments should have less than 20 ppm of gluten if it has the gluten-free label. Unfortunately, cross-contamination can occur in shared kitchens that serve both gluten and gluten-free food, so it is more difficult to control. It is also harder to regulate since ingredients can vary from meal to meal.

If you have been wondering what does ppm stand for and how it relates to the gluten-free diet, then it is important to remember the 20 ppm (parts per million) rule. Packaged food that is labeled as gluten-free should have less than 20 ppm of gluten.