Pilot study: gluten-free grains contaminated

Gluten Contamination of Grains, Seeds, and Flours in the United States: A Pilot Study

Tricia Thompson, MS, RD; Anne Roland Lee, MSEd, RD, LD; Thomas Grace JADA June 2010 Vol. 110 No. 6.

Twenty-two samples of grains, seeds and flours which were not labelled gluten-free but are considered naturally gluten-free were analyzed for gluten content. These grains included com, rice, millet, buckwheat, flax, sorghum, soy, and amaranth. Each sample was ground and tested twice for gluten by a company that specializes in gluten-analysis. 13 of these samples contained less than 5 parts per million (ppm) (3 of these products included an allergy warning for wheat). Of the remaining 9 samples, 2 contained between 8.5 and 19 ppm; 7 contained gluten levels ranging from 20 to 2925.0 ppm and therefore would not be considered gluten-free, (only 4 of these samples included an allergy warning for wheat).

There is a big cost difference between product labelled gluten-free and those that are not. Consumers often choose naturally gluten-free grain products which do not carry a “gluten-free” label. This small study (22 samples) reveals a high level of contamination of naturally gluten-free grains. The authors recommend much larger studies of this type since contaminated grains are a health concern for people with celiac disease. They also suggest more research to determine if particular grains are more likely to be contaminated with gluten.

From this study, if symptoms of celiac disease return while using a naturally gluten-free grain, it may be wise to replace the suspected flour with a product that is labelled “gluten-free” to assess whether contamination may be a problem. This advise won’t benefit celiacs who have little or no symptoms.

Health Canada is in the process of collecting and testing 500 samples of naturally gluten-free flours across Canada to assess whether contamination of these flours is also an issue in Canada. Until the results are in, a position statement for celiacs on how to approach this issue can’t be made at this time.

Submitted by: Jacquelin Gates and Monique

Chambefort, members of the Professional Advisory Committee (PAC)

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About David E. Fowler

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