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  • Jefferson Adams

    Is Australia's Gluten-free Standard Unworkable?

    Jefferson Adams


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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.   eNewsletter: Get our eNewsletter

      Is Australia's zero tolerance gluten-free standard too strict?


    Caption: Photo: CC--Marko Mikkonen

    Celiac.com 11/24/2016 - When Australia set it's gluten-content standards at zero ppm for gluten-free labeling, many people in the gluten-free community hailed the action as revolutionary for people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity.

    Sensitivity to gluten varies among celiac patients, so, in theory, restricting levels in food to under one part per million (ppm) would protect the maximum number of patients.



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    International gluten-free standards require that foods labelled "gluten-free" (gluten-free) contain less than 20 ppm gluten. In Australia and New Zealand, however, a "no detectable gluten" standard applies.

    Now, a pair of researchers say product testing shows that 14% of imported products were non-compliant with the current Australian standard, but none contained more than 1.1 ppm gluten.

    Geoffrey M Forbes and Kenneth Dods are calling those standards "not practical or reasonable," and urging authorities revise the current Australian gluten-free standard of "no detectable gluten" to "≤ 1 ppm."

    Read the full story at: Med J Aust 2016; 205 (7): 316. doi: 10.5694/mja16.00485

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    Guest Lucille Cholerton

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    I fully endorse the Australian stand-point. I have had a gluten sufferer contact me with the problem that his anemia was not improving after a few years on the gluten free diet. When I queried what he was eating he said he was still eating oats. Oats appears to be the least problematic of the 4 specific gluten-containing grains, but it still causes problems. I think people must be aware that it is a build-up of gluten in the body that eventually leads to symptoms. So even small amounts eaten on a regular basis can lead to problems over days, weeks, or months. Zero tolerance is the way to go if sufferers are aiming for 100% health.

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    I agree with Australia. I've been "poisoned" by products labeled "gluten free" in the US. Of course I can't prove it, but I suspect this is why. Perhaps a ppm number on the label would give us the information each of us needs to make a decision based on our own level of intolerance. Thank you for publishing this.

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    I'm with Australia! 20 ppm is 20 ppm too much for me. I get sick from items "distilled" and "removed". In fact, I have gotten sick from most of the foods that were removed from the "unsafe foods" list and moved to the "safe foods" list. My doctor told me I was the lucky one because at least I knew the damage was occurring. How many people making the decisions as to what can be labeled gluten-free have experienced the consequences of eating gluten. I work hard to be on a very strict gluten free diet and I do not need my efforts to be flushed down the toilet because of unreliable and incorrect gluten-free labeling. Gluten free should mean free of gluten. Sugar free foods for diabetics are sugar free, why shouldn't we expect the same for our foods?

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    When the US made their requirements more stringent manufacturers, restaurants, etc. decided the risk was too high and the effort to meet the requirements far exceeded the income they got from the gluten-free community. They will no longer make efforts to even check their products as it is easier to just say they are not gluten-free than to pay to have the products checked. Even businesses who are dealing with all fresh ingredients that are naturally gluten-free will say they cannot accommodate gluten-free and send me away. I feel bad for the manufacturers and business owners. We can't just hand out requirements without some way for them to afford to stay in business. People have the idea that just because they own a business they have tons of money. That's wrong! Especially the small businesses (who are generally the ones to truly care)! Somehow we need to make it profitable for these businesses to go gluten-free! I still say education is the real issue. If people who do not NEED to be gluten-free would get educated on exactly what that means, perhaps they wouldn't be so scared of it! They think that just because something has a gluten-free label on it that it is going to taste terrible! Amazing the number of people I've had over for dinner who've thoroughly enjoyed a delightful dinner and were completely shocked to hear at the end of the meal that the entire thing was Gluten Free! Including the dinner rolls!

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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 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. 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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