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Not so gluten-free: One in 40 ‘gluten-free’ foods fail to meet Australian standards


Paul Hayes


12/11/2018 1:28:27 PM

A new study has found that close to 3% of ‘gluten-free’ foods could be harmful to people with coeliac disease.

The MJA study found that 256 of the most commonly purchased ‘gluten-free’ manufactured foods in Australia did not comply with the national standard.
The MJA study found that 256 of the most commonly purchased ‘gluten-free’ manufactured foods in Australia did not comply with the national standard.

In many walks of life, one in 40 may sound like pretty good odds. That is a gamble a lot of people might take.
 
However, when you are living coeliac disease and the consequences of ‘losing’ that gamble include issues ranging from diarrhoea, constipation, nausea and vomiting, to fatigue, weakness and lethargy, it could represent too big a risk for many.
 
But that choice is being taken out of their hands, according to new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) that has found about one in 40 manufactured foods promoted as ‘gluten-free’ contain amounts of gluten that could be harmful for people with coeliac disease.
 
According to lead researcher, gastroenterologist Dr Jason Tye-Din, the findings are of particular concern to people who must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet and who are trying to do the right thing.
 
‘It’s troubling to think that these foods could be hindering the careful efforts of patients trying their best to avoid gluten,’ he told Fairfax. ‘Patients who require a strict gluten-free diet for their treatment should be able to trust that food labelled as “gluten-free” is what it says it is.’
 
This latest news comes after earlier 2018 research that found close to 10% of gluten-free food in cafes and restaurants throughout Melbourne contained gluten.

Jason-Tye-Din-hero.jpgGastroenterologist Dr Jason Tye-Din says the findings are of particular concern to people who must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet.
 
While coeliac disease affects approximately one in 70 Australians, making it one of the most common autoimmune diseases likely to be encountered in general practice, it has been found that about 80% of people experiencing it remain undiagnosed.
 
Dr Tye-Din has previously told newsGP that GPs have a central role in detecting this common disease.
 
‘As the first port of call, GPs are actually the most crucial player in this whole interaction,’ he said. ‘GPs who are mindful of the at-risk features that could prompt testing for the disease can play a really important role in this process by detecting it early.’
 
In the latest study, Dr Tye-Din and his research team identified 300 of the most commonly purchased ‘gluten-free’ foods in Australia, including noodles, crackers, rice snacks and pasta. After 256 of these foods, the researchers found close to 3% did not comply with the national standard.
 
While the study showed the gluten levels is these foods to be relatively low, one type of pasta was found to contain 3 mg of gluten per serve, which could be harmful if consumed frequently.
 
‘The findings indicate that gluten contamination does occur in packaged food available in Australia, and is generally not restricted to a single batch of food,’ Dr Tye-Din said.
 
‘In addition, many of the items that failed the test were produced in dedicated gluten-free factories, so gluten contamination of externally sourced ingredients may be a factor and should be carefully examined.’



coeliac disease gluten free Medical Journal of Australia



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