Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats, barley and rye. It helps with the structure of bread and other baked goods. Some people have a problem with digesting this protein and it can lead to significant health issues in these individuals, including flatulence, loss of part of the gut, constipation and potentially death. The condition is called Coeliac Disease.
Gluten is the number one food allergen in Australia and all food manufacturers and hospitality businesses are now targeting this market. Gluten free is now acknowledged as mainstream due to the large number of people who either are, or claim to be, allergic to gluten.
Currently the Food Standards Code defines “gluten free” as “no detectable gluten” and “no ingredient derived from oats or malt”. The problem at the moment is that this definition is making it difficult for manufacturers to meet consistently because the limit of detection has now gone as low as 3ppm due to advances in technology.
Coeliac Australia, is the group that represents those suffering this disease, has just made a submission to alter the definition in the Code to bring it into line with the internationally accepted definition in Codex Alimentarius. Both Europe and the United States have both also accepted that less than 20ppm be the official international definition.
A recall in Victoria recently because of a gluten content of 8ppm highlighted that the costs and inconvenience of the current definition is prohibitive to business in this country.
The other problem is that currently a product labelled as Gluten Free in Europe will not necessarily be gluten free in Australia and this is making Australia appear to be the odd one out when there is no medical reason for doing so.
If the group that represents those who are most impacted by gluten are asking for the definition to be changed to make it easier for people and businesses, it should be a good reason to seriously consider making that change.