A global gluten-free standard is required, says celiac body

The demand for gluten-free foods is expected to dramatically rise, enhancing the need for a standardized global body. Pic: ©iStock/minoandriani

Canada’s celiac association has called for a global gluten-free definition following the success of a certification program in the North American nation.

Gluten-free is not a fad, states a new report released by The Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) and the Allergen Control Group (ACG).

However, the findings from the 2016 Gluten-Free Stakeholder Update & Planning Session that took place in September last year in Toronto also revealed that 90% of consumers still don’t trust labels.

This highlights the importance of recognized initiatives like the Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) that is administered by the Allergen Control Group, which, Anne Wragget, president of CCA told stakeholders, is “a fully accredited management system that is based on science”.

Since its first meeting in 2010, stakeholders in the Canadian gluten-free sector have established the GFCP and strictly adhered to the standard..

Don’t judge a book by its cover

“Since the advent of the Gluten-Free Certification Program, Canadian consumers have said that gluten-free products have been easier to find and purchase. The CCA GFCP logo, which attests to a product’s absence of gluten, has led to more consumer confidence,” said Wragget.

She added food production techniques have significantly improved the variety of food available for someone with a medical need for gluten-free food.

However, “there are still too many products where the gluten status is not clear. Manufacturers need better tools and cleaner source grains in order to produce these safe foods,” she maintained.

As more consumers become aware of and are diagnosed with celiac disease, the value of the sector will dramatically increase as more players jump on the bandwagon to meet the demand, said Wragget.

It has been reported by the Beyond Celiac advocacy group that 1% of Americans are thought to suffer from celiac disease, while nearly 83% of Americans still go undiagnosed. 

As such, a bigger onus will be on the industry to supply consumers with clear, accurate information.

According to the Update & Planning Session Report, more research is needed to align the scientific methods for testing gluten-free food, as there are still significant misdiagnoses.

Synchronise standards

One of the key findings from the 2016 Gluten-Free Stakeholder Update & Planning Session was that efforts should continue to harmonize gluten-free regulations across the world.

It was proposed by the stakeholders to establish a gluten-free information repository that facilitates coordination to build trust across the sectors, from suppliers to producers and to consumer.

Wragget has confirmed that the CCA will be working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Allergen Control Group to fill in these knowledge gaps.

The 2016 Gluten-Free Stakeholder Update & Planning Session was led and facilitated by the CCA, ACG and Agri-Food Canada. Key stakeholders included consumers, producers and processors like Maple Lodge Farms, Trophy Foods Inc, Avena Foods Limited; scientists from The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University; laboratory researchers (R-Biopharm Inc, and Food Allergy Research & Resource Program), and government regulatory bodies, among many others.

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