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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Gluten in Foods Labeled 'Gluten-Free' an Ongoing Problem

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Can supermarkets, retailers and manufacturers deliver reliable gluten-free foods? Recent studies indicate that they have a ways to go. And not just in America.


    Caption: Image: CC--New York National Guard

    Celiac.com 12/06/2018 - The growing popularity of gluten-free foods has led to numerous new products for consumers, but it has also led to some problems. One recent study showed that up to one-third of foods sold as gluten-free contain gluten above 20ppm allowed by federal law. Other studies have shown that restaurant food labeled as “gluten-free” is often contaminated with gluten.

    The problem of gluten in commercial food labeled gluten-free is not isolated to the United States. Recent studies abroad show that the problem exists in nearly every gluten-free market in every country.


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    In Australia, for example, researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne found detectable gluten in almost 3% of 256 commonly purchased “gluten-free” manufactured foods, a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday says. Furthermore, the study shows that nearly 10% of restaurant dishes sold as "gluten-free" contain unacceptable levels of gluten.

    Now, the Australians have a stricter standard than nearly anyone else, so look for them to be on top of potential problems with gluten contamination in gluten-free products.

    The study did not name the food manufacturers responsible for the contaminated products, but did note that better, more frequent gluten testing by manufacturers would make gluten-free foods safer for people with celiac disease.

    In a related study, the same researchers found in May that nearly one in ten samples of “gluten-free” dishes from restaurants within the City of Melbourne contained gluten levels in excess of the official Food Standards Australia New Zealand definition of gluten-free.

    “It’s troubling to think that these foods could be hindering the careful efforts of patients trying their best to avoid gluten,” an author of the study, Dr Jason Tye-Din, said. A spokeswoman from Coeliac Australia said the organization was taking the findings seriously. “The research team that conducted this study has liaised with the food companies and is following up the positive samples with further retesting to ensure the issue is resolved,” she said.

    In addition to urging consumers to be diligent in reading labels, and to report any suspect products, “Coeliac Australia advises all people with coeliac disease to have regular medical check-ups as they do have a serious autoimmune condition and medical assessment is important to determine that their gluten-free diet is going well and no complications are developing.”

    Read more at: TheGuardian.com


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    3 hours ago, sc'Que? said:

    Have you ever purchased something from your neighborhood Asian grocery?  Yeah, no one follows those rules. And it sucks, because Asian foods are so EASY to be gluten-free if they just get their s$#& together on the labeling. The more consistency on an international scale, the better EVERYONE will be. 

    Thing about Asian prep and cooking....they use wheat based soy sauce like most Americans use salt and pepper. It is used so often that it is a afterthought and most of the cooking and prep areas are precontaminated with it.
    But thankfully we can buy whole foods and make our own quite easy, coconut secret makes teriyaki sauce, coconut aminos, and garlic sauce that makes for good substitutions. I have found various seasonings to make work also, and even found some Korean sauces that are gluten free. If soy is not a issue or other things then there are even more options for gluten free alternatives. Heck Jarrow Makes a spicy beef ramen bone broth powder that you just mix with hot water and put your noodles of choice and other ingredients in and simmer.

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    4 hours ago, sc'Que? said:

    Have you ever purchased something from your neighborhood Asian grocery?  Yeah, no one follows those rules. And it sucks, because Asian foods are so EASY to be gluten-free if they just get their s$#& together on the labeling. The more consistency on an international scale, the better EVERYONE will be. 

    If a food is sold in the US, then it must follow the US food labeling laws.  I have been to Asian groceries in the US and they do have a label with ingredients written in English.  However, never buy anything you aren’t sure of.  So, if you believe that Asian food producers are not truthful- don’t shop in Asian groceries.  There is still plenty of food in th US to purchase 

    Edited by kareng

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    KarenG, I think you're missing my distinction between what you're saying (the way things *should* work) and what I'm saying, the reality that poor translation and what often times amounts to simply slapping a sticker on something to say it has an English-language sticker. 

    I work in an Asian restaurant in a university town with more Asian restaurants and groeries than any other ethnicity (including Americana).  So there's a huge market for Asian foods here. I cook Chinese-, Indian- and Thai-fusion quite frequently.   Most of the beverages at our Asian markets do not have English ingredient lists. And so many of the food labels are bad Engrish.  Whenever I find a product I can trust, those brands are not seen in the store again for sometimes an entire year or more--and requesting specific brands seems to get you nowhere. Bottom line is that the Chinatown trucks and local store owners seem to have zero brand loyalty.  And that makes shopping for *trusted products* nearly impossible.  

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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