Celiac Group Tackles Gluten Contamination at Source
A new phase of a joint project between the Canadian Celiac Association and Allergen Control Group, Inc., which promotes access to gluten-free foods, will help food manufacturers secure sources of these products.
For people with celiac disease or trying to avoid gluten, it can be difficult to find foods without a trace of wheat or other gluten-containing grain. The Canadian Celiac Association is now addressing the issue at the source.
CCA, with the help of its partner the Allergen Control Group (ACG), is looking into the growing and transportation of crops used in gluten-free flour products, like oats and lentils, to determine at what point in the manufacturing process they become contaminated by gluten products. The project will allow CCA to draw up best-practice guidelines for avoiding contamination between the field and the factory.
“The outcomes of the project will build on work previously supported by the stakeholder group and recommendations made by the CCA and industry partners to build improved standards, systems, and tools for manufacturers to reliably deliver safe gluten-free foods,” CCA Operations Manager Sue Newell said in a statement. “Sticking to a gluten-free diet, which is the only accepted treatment for celiac disease, can be challenging and costly because of limited food choices. Enhancing the availability of truly gluten-free food sources, particularly grain and cereal-type foods, will greatly assist people with diseases and conditions triggered by gluten.”
This growing season, the group will take samples from the naturally gluten-free products in the field, on the transport trucks, at the miller, and in the final packages to determine the extent of the issue. Following the implementation of the resulting guidelines next year, the same samples will be taken again to check effectiveness.
CCA will also support a group of experts to create a comprehensive document covering all means of testing for gluten contamination and how and when to use the different tests. Lastly, stakeholders—including farmers, manufacturers, retailers, millers, consumers, and regulators among other—will gather at a CCA-sponsored event to discuss their own best-practice recommendations.
“Our philosophy in terms of gluten-free manufacturing is ‘clean in and clean out,’ so you start with products that are gluten-free coming into your factory, then the goal is they go out of the factory also clean,” Newell told Associations Now.
The biggest challenge to this philosophy is finding the clean sources of naturally gluten-free crops. “Here’s a very healthy, nutritious gluten-free product, that’s naturally gluten free, that has been contaminated somewhere along the line,” Newell said. “So when you want to make a gluten-free product using lentil flour, for example, it can be very difficult to find safe sources of that flour as a food manufacturer.”
This project stems from a preexisting program between CCA and ACG that created an audited certification program. The credential gave manufacturers standards to follow to ensure their products were gluten-free as well as an official means to designate their gluten-free products.
While the expected outcomes will help get gluten-free products in the hands of those who need them, it will also give the manufacturers seeking to make these products greater access to the ingredients they need and will help farmers increase their revenue because gluten-free crops can be sold at a premium.
“We are excited to be working on this project with the CCA and are confident all stakeholders will receive huge value as we aim to gain consensus to shape the future of this important category and share in the anticipated outcomes and tools,” ACG President and CEO Paul Valder said in the release.