Good results for gluten-free labelling

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 22nd March 2011

Grocery AisleA NSW Food Authority survey of products from retail outlets across Sydney labelled as ‘gluten free’ has revealed a high level of compliance in gluten content labelling.

NSW Food Authority CEO Alan Coutts said this was good news for people living with coeliac disease, a condition which is currently being brought to public attention through Coeliac Awareness Week (13-20 March 2011).

“Of the samples tested there was 95% compliance with the labelling and content requirements of the Food Standards Code in relation to a gluten free claim,” Mr Coutts said.

“On the whole this is a pleasing result and provides assurance to consumers that they can have faith in the labels on the food they buy.

“They can be confident in making informed choices about the products they buy based on the information they read on the packet.”

The Authority tested 222 products claiming to be ‘gluten free’, including beverages, biscuits, bread and bread products, cakes, snack foods and lollies, dairy products, infant foods, meat, pasta, soups, sauces and spreads.

Of those sampled 11 contained detectable levels of gluten.

None of the products returning detectable levels contained gluten at a concentration that is deemed to present a health and safety issue for people with celiac disease.

Levels equal to or greater than 20 parts per million (ppm) and less than 100ppm are likely to affect some people with coeliac disease, levels equal to or greater than 100ppm present a health and safety issue for people with coeliac disease.

The 11 products with detectable levels included:

* Four samples of bread and bread mix
* Five samples of cereal and cereal products
* One biscuit sample
* One ready-to-eat mixed meal

The samples contained gluten ranging from 3ppm to 46ppm.

Regulatory action was taken by the Authority in keeping with the level of risk presented by the amount of gluten present in the products.

“In these instances this entailed a written notification to the manufacturers of those products advising them to take immediate remedial action to ensure their products were compliant,” Mr Coutts said.

“Follow-up samples of those products will be conducted to ensure that occurs.

“This is just one of many surveys of high risk foods conducted by the NSW Food Authority to ensure consumers are not at risk of compromising their health or being ripped off by inaccurate or misleading labelling.

“While only a small number of samples proved positive for gluten the NSW Food Authority will continue to undertake testing and monitoring of ‘gluten free’ products and ingredients in the interest of consumer safety.”

Gluten is a protein that is found naturally in some foods including wheat, rye, oats and barley and is added to a wide range of processed foods.

A proportion of the population is known to be intolerant to gluten, causing a condition known as celiac disease.

The Coeliac Society of Australia reports that approximately 1 in 100 Australians are affected by the condition.

The ‘gluten free’ labelling survey results are available at www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/science-and-research/market-analysis/gluten-free-products