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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

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

      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.

    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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    Any of the articles pointing out that gluten free labeled products might actually contain gluten are not helpful unless they can list the products and brands that were discovered as unsafe. At the very least, please provide readers with links to the actual studies so that we have something to work with. Also, it would be helpful to know if some labeling is more reliable than others, such as the “certified gluten free” label or GIG labeling, etc.

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    I’m sorry, but these articles are not helpful without providing a proper list of companies or restaurants to avoid. It’s really hard to follow this diet already, we don’t need fear mongering articles like this on a CELIAC website. 

    This is unfair and scary to people who suffer from a real autoimmune disease. 

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    This is a good reminder that the only save bet is researching products and companies yourself and if you don't trust them don't use them.  As much as we want flexibility and freedom, the reality is were getting poisoned slowly by a much larger percentage of products than we know.

    I think that it is important to realize how many companies are jumping on the Gluten free bandwagon without doing it carefully or considerately.  I live in a large city where I have found that after careful questioning there is only one truly dedicated gluten free restaurant and about 5 restaurants safe enough to eat at if you know how to order and these are the top of the top and you still have to take other measures above what they do automatically (using disposable cups, plates, forks is a big one).  There is nothing safe at this point without being a self advocate.  Companies like General Mills (Cheerios) use the same wheat filled oat providers and simply use a process to filter out the wheat, I mean are you kidding me, if that oat particle ever touched a wheat particle, its not safe just to clean it off.  Companies like Walmart with self declared gluten free labeling on their store brands that have no third party testing are notorious for having high gluten content due to their intention really being "made without gluten."  Labelling like "naturally gluten free," is outrageous, like are you kidding me, I'm not worried if a grape is a gluten free organism, I am worried if you contaminated it.  gluten-free certification going on many products that "may contain wheat" because wheat isn't technically gluten, a lot of examples in whole foods 365 brand, and there is a certified (gluten-free) juice at Costco with wheat grass in it.  

    We are discovering that wheat is complex and there may be more than just gluten protein causing problems but that fact is not being discussed because its hard enough to talk about gluten, now all these companies are on the bandwagon and if we say oh your buzzword may not be accurate, that will cost people money and trust.

    Reminds me of how gastroenterologists swore up and down that oats contained gluten, then when they found out oops no it doesn't, the fda made up a statement that there are other protein's in oats that may cause a percentage of Celiacs issues.  For 10 years though, most gastroenterologists didn't get the message and said the same thing.  I think most of them learned from bobs red mill on shelves in stores before they learned from the fda and even when it was commonplace there was no statement or apology of wrongdoing because that would cost peoples trust and maybe even lawsuits, in fact I read statements like we've been saying that all along only weeks after I had an argument with a nationally renowned surgeon that didn't know.

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    I have tried Progresso Gluten Free Chicken Corn Chowder with bacon a couple of times. It tasted wonderful going down, but not so wonderful coming up.  Full celiac reaction.  I'm wondering if their cream soups can be tested?

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    I hold to "certified gluten-free" products. I view the "Allergen Warning" on all labels because many read; "Made in a facility that also processes wheat, milk...etc." 

    The Soups e.g. Chowders contain:

    1. Modified food starch (usually made from wheat)

    2. Yeast (yeast extract) = a gluten cross-reactor

    3. Egg = a gluten cross-reactor

    The life of a celiac is one of high risk. That is likely why many of us live in a "State of High Anxiety" each and every time we ingest food.

    I heard one man's adage years ago & understand it well.  He told his daughter; "If I don't fix it, I don't eat it."

    I have trouble also with:

    Oats: Possibly due to a high "gliadin" level even in the product is certified gluten-free.

    Quinoa: It's like eating steel wool. It so happens that the outer coating of quinoa contains a toxin called saponin that foams in water and is used in some impoverished nations for clothes washing.

    Chemical/heat extracted oils: The FDA does NOT require testing for residual toxins (hexane, bleach, deodorizers (used to mask putrification odors) defoaming agents, pesticides. I only use cold pressed peanut oil and California brand olive oil due to the company's "stringent" testing guidelines.

    Good luck everyone.

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    I'm not going to look at this as a fear mongering article, but a reminder to take control and responsibility for my own diet and push for responsibility on the part of companies producing these 'gluten free' products.  We live in a society that's constantly seeking to place blame on others shoulders and so much of this rests with the individual... UNTIL someone starts lying/committing fraud/practicing blatant misrepresentation.  Then we still need to make these companies accountable in a meaningful manner.  We need to remind them that they affect people with serious medical issues and not just fad dieters.  Some accountability would be terrific, but I don't know that there is anything out there that would impact these companies in a significant way.

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    10 hours ago, Ging said:

    a reminder to take control and responsibility for my own diet

    Well said.

    We are all responsible for ourselves and the only way we can be guaranteed to have no gluten in our diets is to grow and raise our own food, although very few people have or can have this lifestyle.

    The best the rest of us can do is read labels and steer clear of the obvious dangers i.e. proven gluten-containing foods or foods prepared in factories also handling gluten products and hope that testing (and certification) becomes more stringent.

    Once you start eating out you are inviting trouble, your food may start out as gluten-free, but is it going to still be that way once it reaches your table? We went for something to eat while waiting for a plane at Glasgow airport, waitress took our order (mine from the gluten-free menu) and went to get our drinks. She was back within a couple of minutes and asked if we minded waiting 40 minutes for our food as someone would have to be taken from the regular staff to wipe down surfaces in a separate part of the kitchen to then prepare my meal, unfortunately that was going to be cutting it fine for our flight but I thanked the waitress for the fact that they took it so seriously. Next time you eat out ask yourself how gluten-free your meal is if it arrives as quickly as the regular food (unless you pre-ordered it). 

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    I don't tend to be a fearmonger, but I stand on the premise that any UN-DECLARED starch is un-safe. 

    And really, is it so hard to simply declare the source of your starch?  EVERYONE deserves to know what they are putting in their bodies.

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    1 hour ago, sc'Que? said:

    I don't tend to be a fearmonger, but I stand on the premise that any UN-DECLARED starch is un-safe. 

    And really, is it so hard to simply declare the source of your starch?  EVERYONE deserves to know what they are putting in their bodies.

    In many countries, the US and Canada included, if the starch is wheat, they must declare that the product has wheat.  Usually it is “ wheat starch” or starch ( wheat).  But it can also say “‘contains wheat”’at the end of the ingredients.  I did see that once on some candy made by a small company .  the bigger companies, like Kraft, will be very clearly declare in several places that a food has wheat in any form. 

    I see  no reason  to make our lives more complicated than they need to be.

    Edited by kareng

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    5 hours ago, Guest Neil Mackay said:

    The best the rest of us can do is read labels and steer clear of the obvious dangers i.e. proven gluten-containing foods or foods prepared in factories also handling gluten products and hope that testing (and certification) becomes more stringent.

    Kind of sums it up right there.  Here's to a more certain future for us all!  :D

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    19 hours ago, kareng said:

    In many countries, the US and Canada included, if the starch is wheat, they must declare that the product has wheat.  Usually it is “ wheat starch” or starch ( wheat).  But it can also say “‘contains wheat”’at the end of the ingredients.  I did see that once on some candy made by a small company .  the bigger companies, like Kraft, will be very clearly declare in several places that a food has wheat in any form. 

    I see  no reason  to make our lives more complicated than they need to be.

    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. 

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams 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 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.

  • Related Articles

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 05/06/2015 - Gluten is a common ingredient in many commercial food products. Less commonly known, however, is that many manufacturers use gluten as an inert ingredient in such products as medications, supplements, and vitamins. For people with celiac disease, exposure to as little as 30 to 50 mg of gluten per day can damage the mucosa of the small intestine. So, it is important to know the gluten content of prescription and nonprescription medications, even though a lack of labeling laws can make it challenging to find products that are gluten-free.
    Given the lack of resources to verify the gluten content of prescription and non-prescription medications, it is best to check with the manufacturer. Your pharmacist can help make the process a bit simpler than doing it yourself. There are three things you and/or your pharmacist can do to determine the gluten status of any prescription drug. First is the use of a package insert (PI). You or your pharmacist can use the PI to review drug formulations, and find contact information for pharmaceutical manufacturers.
    Gluten is used in numerous medications, supplements, and vitamins, often as an inert ingredient known as an excipient. For prescription medications, the PI should include a detailed listing of excipients; however, if this information is not readily available, the FDA provides drug labeling information for prescription and some OTC medications at DailyMed (dailymed.nlm.nih.gov). 
    For non-prescription products, there often is nothing in the PI regarding gluten content, which means you will likely need to check with the manufacturer to be sure.
    Second, you or your pharmacist can visit company websites to help determine whether a medication potentially contains gluten.
    Third, you can find manufacturer contact information on the product or its packaging, by conducting an Internet search using the manufacturer's name, or by accessing online drug-information resources such as Clinical Pharmacology, Facts & Comparisons, and Martindale. When requesting information from a manufacturer, it is helpful to provide the lot number.
    Recent research by Mangione and colleagues showed that information about the gluten content of non-prescription products is usually available and easy to access through the manufacturer.
    Fourth, there are some third-party websites, such as GlutenFreeDrugs.com, which is maintained by a clinical pharmacist, contains a detailed chart listing selected brand and generic medications that are gluten-free, as well as those free of lactose or soy. However, this is not a comprehensive or definitive list of products, as ingredients and formulations can change from lot to lot in the manufacturing process.
    Lastly, Celiac.org, the Celiac Disease Foundation offers a variety of resources and provides information on the treatment of celiac disease, tips on living gluten-free, and support-group contact information.
    Source:
    US Pharmacist. 2014;39(12):44-48.

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/08/2015 - Many people with celiac disease take probiotic supplements to aid with digestion and improve gut health.
    However, a new study reveals that many popular probiotics actually contain traces of gluten, which is worrying for people who may have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
    Researchers at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center used a detection technique called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze 22 popular, high-selling probiotics and measure gluten content. The team found that more than half of them (55%) contained gluten, including products labeled "gluten-free," according to research presented on May 16 at Digestive and Disease Week in Washington DC.
    For reasons doubtless including liability, the team did not list the names of the brands or products they tested. It is safe to assume that these would include major, easily accessible brands.
    These revelations may be unsurprising, given recent reports about gluten contamination in dietary supplements.
    So, if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and take probiotic supplements, be sure to double-check your products; they may contain traces of gluten.

    Source:
    Time Magazine

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/04/2018 - Rates of contamination in commercial food advertised as gluten-free are improving, but nearly one in ten still show unacceptable levels of gluten. As part of a government mandated food sampling program, the city of Melbourne, Australia recently conducted a survey of 127 food businesses advertising gluten-free options. 
    For the tests, government officers conduct unannounced site visits and take a sample of at least one food item declared to be gluten-free.  Ridascreen Gliadin R5 ELISA analysis showed that 14 of 158 samples (9%) contained detectable gluten in excess of the official Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) definition of gluten-free.
    Nine of the 14 samples (6% overall) registered gluten above 20 parts per million, which exceeds the official threshold for foods labeled gluten-free in Europe and the United States. At one business, food labeled gluten-free registered above 80 ppm, even though they were asked directly for a gluten-free sample. These findings confirm the lack of understanding reported by many people with celiac disease.
    The good news is that rates of gluten non-compliance has improved over earlier audits, from 20% of samples in 2014 to 15% of samples in 2015. The survey team notes that one-third of the businesses in this study had previously been audited) and education seems to be paying off. 
    In one burger chain alone, four of five venues which were non-compliant in 2014, were fully compliant in 2015 and 2016.  The survey results showed that businesses that provided gluten-free training for staff showed 75% better odds of compliance. The overall good news here is that gluten-free compliance in commercial food businesses has improved steadily since the first surveys in 2014.
    One in ten odds of getting gluten contamination from food labeled gluten-free is still to high, but even though there is room for improvement more and more businesses are providing gluten-free training for their staff, and those that do are reaping benefits. Look for this trend to continue as more businesses offer training, gluten-free and celiac disease awareness increases, and more consumers demand safe gluten-free foods.
    Read more at: The Medical Journal of Australia

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 10/15/2018 - If you’re on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, then you’re probably already cautious about eating out. A new study tells us exactly why people with celiac disease and other gluten-sensitive conditions have reason to be very careful about eating out.
    According to the latest research, one in three foods sold as "gluten-free" in U.S. restaurants actually contain trace levels of gluten.
    This is partly due to the fact that the gluten-free diet has become popular with many non-celiacs and others who have no medical need for the diet. That has led many restaurants to offer gluten-free foods to their customers, says study author Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, of Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center. 
    But, if this research is any indication, too many restaurants don’t do a good job with gluten-free. For the study, more than 800 investigators set out to assess the true gluten content of dishes listed as "gluten-free" on menus. Armed with portable gluten sensors, they tested for gluten levels that met or exceeded 20 parts per million, the standard cutoff for any gluten-free claim.
    Based on more than 5,600 gluten tests over 18 months, the investigators determined that 27 percent of gluten-free breakfast meals actually contained gluten. At dinner time, this figure hit 34 percent. The rise could reflect a steady increase in gluten contamination risk as the day unfolds, the researchers said.
    Off course, the risk is not all equal. Some restaurants are riskier than others. Unsurprisingly, the biggest culprit seems to be restaurants that offer gluten-free pastas and pizzas. Nearly half of the pizza and pasta dishes from those establishments contained gluten, according to the study.
    Why is that? Well, as most folks with celiac disease know all too well,  kitchens aren’t really set up to segregate gluten, and "sharing an oven with gluten-containing pizza is a prime setting for cross-contamination," says Lebwohl. Also, too many restaurants use the same water to cook gluten-free pasta as they do for regular pasta, which contaminates the gluten-free pasta and defeats the purpose.
    Moreover, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates gluten-free labels on packaged food products, there is currently no federal oversight of gluten-free claims in restaurants. 
    The results of the study will be presented today at a meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, in Philadelphia. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
    In the absence of federal enforcement at the restaurant level, the burden for making sure food is gluten-free falls to the person doing the ordering. So, gluten-free eaters beware!
    These results are probably not surprising to many of you. Do you have celiac disease? Do you eat in restaurants? Do you avoid restaurants? Do you have special tactics?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.
    Read more at UPI.com

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