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Survey of Tea Shows Limits of Gluten-Screening Procedures

Celiac.com 09/30/2015 - In 2013, a team from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted a survey of white and green teas, commercially available in the northeastern United States, for the presence of gluten in the form of undeclared wheat.

Tea in bowls. Photo: CC--A Girl with TeaThe survey team included EA Garber, R Panda, and KF Shireen. They are variously affiliated with the Office of Regulatory Science, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the Office of Compliance, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in College Park, Maryland, USA.

Initially, none of the test results show the required concurrence between the RIDASCREEN gliadin (R5) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the Morinaga Institutes of Biological Science (MIoBS) wheat protein ELISA.

So, just based on that, it would appear that none of the 20 products included in the survey tested positive for wheat, rye, barley, or gluten.

Moreover, eight of the teas generated responses indicative of the presence of gluten with the RIDASCREEN gliadin (R5), AgraQuant gluten G12, and Aller-Tek (Skerritt) sandwich ELISAs. Five of the eight teas generated responses indicative of >20 ppm of gluten using the RIDASCREEN and AgraQuant ELISA test kits, and all eight had ≥ 20 ppm based on the Aller-Tek ELISA.

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Extracts prepared using the RIDASCREEN validated protocol and the MIoBS validated sodium dodecyl sulfate plus β-mercaptoethanol (overnight) protocol were analyzed using both test kits. The extracts prepared using the RIDASCREEN protocol tested positive for gluten with both test kits.

Western blot analyses of the two sets of extracts using the R5 and MIoBS antibodies to visualize the bands revealed the presence of antigenic proteins in both sets of extracts, although the profiles and band intensities were different and inconsistent with the ELISA results.

Right now, there's no need for alarm. The researchers are not saying that these types of tea contains gluten. Technically these teas are not failing a gluten test.

What the researchers are saying is that there needs to be a review of gluten screening procedures and how the observation of a homologous antigenic element is defined, so that the tests are accurate and reliable.


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