How Trustworthy are Gluten Free Labeled Foods?

This is not an easy question to answer and the answer is neither yes nor no. you should be very careful while buying a food labeled gluten free. The term gluten free may indicate different meaning in different countries. A food item labeled gluten free may actually contain gluten in trace amount, which may not be possible to detect with standard available techniques available at present to the manufacturer. Another aspect also need consideration, e.g. in many countries a food item will be considered gluten free (legally) if the particular food item contains less than legally acceptable quantity of gluten in that particular food item and it is not free from gluten in true sense (as traces and undetectable amount of gluten may be present).

An important aspect to be considered about gluten free foods (grains or cereals), is the risk of contamination of naturally gluten free foods (such as rice, corn etc) with gluten containing foods such as wheat. Unless strict quality control is practiced, the risk of contamination of gluten free foods with gluten containing foods is high. Gluten free cereals/grains may be contaminated by use of same mill, same farm etc.

The standards of “gluten free” labeling are set up by “codex alimentarius” but these standards are not used for naturally gluten free grains/foods such as corn, rice, potato, sweet potato etc.

The legal term of “gluten free” may vary from country to country, e.g. in Australia this term can be used in food items containing less than 5 PPM (part per million) of gluten, which is at present the lowest detectable amount of gluten in foods, although current research on “celiac disease” suggest that 20 PPM to 200 PPM of gluten in food can be presumed safe for patients.

Wheat contain as much as 12% gluten and contamination of gluten free (natural or artificial) food items with even minute amount of wheat flour may enough gluten to cause problem to patients of celiac disease.

So, if you are buying (including online purchase) natural gluten free foods or manufactured gluten free foods, you should always keep in mind the risk of contamination and be careful about it.

NB: Non-food items such as medications may also contain gluten in them, as most of the tablets contain sugar and other adjuvant (binding agent or excipient of tablets), which may contain gluten in it and trouble the patients of celiac disease. If you have to take any medication, especially in tablet form, remember to inform your doctor that you have “celiac disease”.

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