Gluten labelling practices called into question

Gluten Free Watchdog is a USA-based company that charges monthly subscription fees for gluten testing reports on foods. The founder of Gluten Free Watchdog, Tricia Thompson, is the lead-author on an article that presents results from gluten testing of 101 foods sold in the U.S., on which the ingredient lists did not include gluten-containing cereals.

The products had each been tested for gluten content through Gluten Free Watchdog and for this study the results were retrospectively reviewed for an allergen advisory statement for wheat, gluten or both. The products comprised samples from several food categories, including cereals, spices, teas, candy, beverages and baked goods.

While some of the products featured precautionary labels suggesting they may contain gluten, 87 products did not. Of these, 74 contained little or no gluten. Another nine items contained gluten in amounts ranging from at least 5 ppm but less than 20 ppm, and four foods had at least 20 ppm of gluten.

In the U.S., FDA guidelines currently require packaged foods labelled ‘gluten-free’ to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

Of the 14 items that did include allergy advisory statements for wheat or gluten on the label, only one tested positive for gluten.

The study results and a summary of the authors’ recommendations have been presented in a one-page format on the Gluten Free Watchdog website, and a link to a read-only copy of the full paper is also available there.

Reference: Thompson et al. 2016. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.155

Please note, in Australia and New Zealand, no detectable gluten is allowed to be present in a food labelled ‘gluten free’.