What is a Part Per Million Anyway?

When I was first diagnosed with CD in May of 2005, the Codex Alimentarius standard for “gluten-free” was 200 ppm (ppm stands for Parts Per Million).  It is now 20 ppm.  I even read on Celiac.com that at one point (article was written in 2000), anything lower than 500 ppm was considered “safe.”

As you can see, the term “gluten-free” does not necessarily mean “free of gluten!”

What is a part per million anyway?

1 part per million is equal to:

One penny in $10,000

One minute in two years

One dime in a one-mile-high stack of pennies

Four drops of ink in a 55-gallon barrel of water

1 milligram per 1000 grams Or 0.001 milligram per 1.0 gram Or 0.000001 gram per 1.0 gram (1000 mg = 1 gram; One roasted peanut weighs about 1 gram.  Now imagine dividing that into 1000 equal pieces. One of those pieces would weigh 1 mg)

The proposed FDA standard in the United States is less than 20 ppm for foods that make label claims of “gluten free.”

The Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) for the CSA Recognition Seal Program: assures to less than 3 ppm gluten.

The Gluten Free Certification Organization (a program of GIG):  assures to less than 10 ppm gluten.

Less than 10 ppm = less than 0.01 milligram per 1.0 gram

Less than 20 ppm = less than 0.02 milligram per 1.0 gram

Less than 200 ppm = less than 0.20 milligram per 1.0 gram

Note that 1/8th teaspoon of all purpose wheat flour contains about 25 – 30 mg of gluten.

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