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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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It took me 20 years or more Barry so I wouldn't claim any great insight on this I had a 'eureka' moment, up until then I was walking around with multiple symptoms and not connecting any dots whatsoever. It is very, very difficult to diagnose and that's something that's reflected in so many of the experiences detailed here. A food diary may help in your case. It helped me to connect the gaps between eating and onset. It could help you to track any gluten sources should you go gluten free. It is possible for your reactions to change over time. As to whether its celiac, that's something you could explore with your doctor, stay on gluten if you choose to go that way. best of luck! Matt

I took Zoloft once. Loved it until it triggered microscopic colitis (colonoscopy diagnosed it). Lexapro did the same. However, I have a family member who is fiagnosed celiac and tolerates Celexa well.

Thanks for the update and welcome to the club you never wanted to join! ?

Jmg, I am glad you were able to come to the realisation that the culprit was in fact gluten. For me its not so simple. IBS runs in the family, as do several food intolerances. Its just in the last while that I can finally reach the conclusion that for me its gluten. The fact that it is a delayed effect-several hours after, made it harder. Friday I had some KFC, felt great. Saturday evening felt sleepy, Sunday felt awful and my belly was huge. I think I have gone from mildly sensitive to full blown celiac over the course of five years-if that possible. Thanks for all your help.

I thought I'd take a moment to provide an update, given how much lurking I've done on these forums the last year. It took a long time, but I've since had another gastroenterologist visit, many months of eating tons of bread, and an endoscopy where they took several biopsies. I have to say, the endoscopy was a super quick and efficient experience. During the procedure they let me know that it looked somewhat suspicious, causing them to take many biopsies, and then did comprehensive blood work. About a month later, I received a call telling me that the TTG came back positive a second time, and that the biopsies were a mix of negative (normal) results and some that were positive (showing blunting of the villi). As a result, I've been given a celiac diagnosis. It's been about a month now that I've been eating gluten free. Not sure if I'm really feeling all that different yet. It's a bit twisted to say, but in some way I was hoping for this diagnosis ? thinking how nice it would be to have an explanation, a plan of action, and feeling better. It's certainly no small change to be totally gluten free, but I'm hopeful.