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. 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.” So, “gluten-free” does not necessarily mean free of gluten.

What is a part per million any way?

I found this on the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) website, some of the information is dated material so I cut it out for the purpose of this post but you can see the PDF in its entirety by clicking on the following link:
A Part Per Million (PPM) Primer

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


  • 0.001 milligram per 1.0 gram


  • 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)

Canada sets a definition of less than 20 ppm for foods that make label claims of gluten

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.

Wheat flour is anywhere from 8 – 14 % protein depending on whether it is cake flour, all
purpose flour, or bread flour. High gluten flour is specifically milled to be high in protein
and low in starch. It is about 40- 45 % protein. According to Don Kasarda, former
research chemist with the USDA, about 80 % of the protein in wheat flour is gluten.]

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