HealthDay News — In order for foods to carry the voluntary “gluten free” label they must meet new FDA guidelines that define the term as less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

The 20-parts per million standard is based in part on the current methods for gluten detection — validated methods cannot reliably detect lower amounts.

As many as 3 million Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be managed by eating a gluten-free diet, the agency said in a press release. Many consumers who do not have celiac disease, but who are gluten sensitive, have also reported benefits from eating a gluten-free diet.

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“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free,'” Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a statement.

Foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” will all be required to meet the definition of “gluten-free.” Food manufacturers have one year after publication of the rule to comply with the new requirements.

Gluten occurs naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of those grains. The protein can trigger antibody production in patients with celiac disease, which may attack the lining of the small intestine and impede patients’ ability to absorb nutrients, the agency said.

The proposed labeling rule is open for comment until October 31, 2013.