Gluten-Free Food Testing
How do they measure gluten and why do they?
What does ‘Gluten Free’ Mean?
Gluten-free is a term used to measure a combination of proteins that exist in a few grains we commonly eat each day. Gluten is predominately found in wheat. It is the combination of these proteins that give a product like wheat that unique alibility to stick together, to bend, to be light and fluffy. Mmmmm, I bet your mouth is watering.
Gluten-Free Food Testing
Ok, so what does the gluten-free testing or gluten-free claim mean exactly on a label. So, if you see the words “Gluten Free” on a packet, then you would be right to assume that the company has tested the product and that it contains zero gluten. However, this is not quite the story, there is a slight threshold that allows for any traces of gluten. The additional tricky part is, each country has different threshold requirements.
Gluten-Free Labelling is not straight forward
Here in Australia our testing threshold utilising current testing methods means we can detect gluten content down to <3ppm which stands for parts per million. If a product tests between 3–200ppm, this means we can label a product ‘low gluten’. In the US, Europe and UK, their gluten-free threshold is <20ppm. Effectively this is also the same as 20 milligrams of gluten per 1 kilogram of food or 20 milligrams of gluten per 35.27 ounces of food. To put this amount into further context, a 1-ounce (28.35 grams) slice of gluten-free bread containing 20 parts per million gluten would contain 0.57 milligrams of gluten. So, if you are purchasing food that is labelled ‘gluten-free’ and it is imported from any of these countries, you can assume it is only tested to 20ppm. So please be aware of this, unless the company importing them has tested each batch and displays that somewhere on the label or their website.
Pressure from Food Labelling Standards
There is continued pressure from the Food Labelling Standards Australia and New Zealand to streamline their definitions in line with the rest of the world. In Australia, because our laws are so stringent, we have a lot fewer foods available than the rest of the world and therefore gluten-free food is considerably more expensive for manufacturers and of course consumers.
How much gluten can a coeliac safely consume?
The answer came in a report appropriately named “Systematic Review of Safe Level of Gluten for People with Coeliac Disease”. Systematic Review of Safe Level of Gluten for People with Coeliac Disease (2016) Authors sifted through in access of 197 report papers. The compilation of this resulted in short, that the safe level of gluten for people with coeliac disease is… unknown. According to their work, there still aren’t enough quality studies to know if small amounts of gluten harm a coeliac health.
Read the details here. (https://www.coeliac.org.au/uploads/65701/ufiles/Research/Final_Report_SLG.pdf)