Aussie-gfIn the US, Canada and Europe, the standard for labeling a food product gluten free is that it must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.

But that is not the case in Australia, where the gluten free standards are “no detectable gluten” in a GF product.  Coeliac Australia, a non-profit organization that supports celiacs in that country, is arguing to change to the more common standard as Europe, Canada and the US.  “CA’s position is that any change to labeling laws must ensure that the presence of gluten at any level is disclosed on a product label. This will ensure that the people can choose whether to consume products with ‘no detectable gluten’ or products that have minute traces of gluten present at levels well below the prescribed safe level,” the organization states on its position statement on its website.

A recent article from EmaxHealth.com reports celiacs are concerned that Coeliac Australia is caving into pressure from food manufacturers who say the current standard is unrealistic for gluten-free products.  A 2013 letter to the editor in the Medical Journal of Australia supported celiac patients’ concerns, stating that the proposed change “may not be safe for patients with CD.”  The MJA letter suggested an alternative proposal, “it may be prudent to allow GF foods an increase in ‘measurable’ gluten (eg, from undetectable to <1–3 ppm). By contrast, increasing the ‘permissible’ level of gluten (from undetectable to <20 ppm) will increase overall gluten ingestion in a GF diet.”

Coeliac Australia is concerned the “no detectable gluten” level is unsustainable for food manufacturers as gluten testing is getting better and more precise.  Basically, it sounds like they are saying current tests detect 5 ppm or 3 ppm of gluten.  What if tests eventually are able to detect levels in the parts per billion–still a lesser amount of gluten but technically detectable because the technology improved.  How does a manufacturer maintain a standard that is a more difficult, moving target?

In an interview last summer with Foodmag.com.au, the Australian Food and Grocery Council was working on an application to get the standard changed to less than 20 ppm.  To do this, the article says it will “include comprehensive consumer research addressing any potential issues that may arise as a consequence of the change.”   The EmaxHealth article which published on December 26th, says the application for this change has now been submitted.

How will this end, remains to be seen.  But it could be a very interesting gluten-free news story to watch.

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