Behind The Scenes

Gluten Free Claims: 6 Key Behind the Scenes Insights about Gluten Free Products in Australia

Gluten Free Claims: 6 Key Behind the Scenes Insights about Gluten Free Products in Australia

An array for gluten free meals in separate containers with the title of the article on the side.

Table of Contents

Discover the real story behind gluten free claims on products in Australia. With 6 critical insights, this article uncovers testing methods, cross-contamination challenges, and Tasteville's unwavering commitment behind the gluten free claim that ensures you enjoy top-quality gluten-free meals.

Understanding Nutrition Claims

Nutrition claims serve as a vital communication tool between a product’s manufacturers and its consumers. They provide essential information about a product’s nutritional content, ingredients, and assertions like ‘gluten free’, ‘low fat’, or ‘organic’. However, these claims are not just informative; they help filter the products effortlessly, especially for those with dietary restrictions, allergies, or specific health goals.

A consumer examining nutrition claims on a food product.
Understanding what nutrition claims really mean is vital for informed dietary choices.

To the untrained eye, nutrition claims might seem clear-cut and self-explanatory. Still, they often represent complex regulatory standards and detailed testing and verification processes. For example, let’s take a look at the ‘gluten free’ claim. At first glance, it might give the impression that the product and its production process are entirely devoid of gluten. In reality, it signifies that the specific product has undergone rigorous testing to ensure the absence of detectable gluten.

This doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the product is made in a completely ‘gluten free’ kitchen. The nuances that surround nutrition claims are complex and intricate, and it’s essential for customers to understand what each claim truly means to make informed dietary choices.

At Tasteville, we put great emphasis on clarity and accuracy in making nutrition claims. We understand how crucial it is for our customers, particularly those with dietary restrictions like coeliac disease, to have transparent and correct information provided to them. This recognition prompts us to provide you with comprehensive insights into what our claims signify and the stringent standards we adhere to in creating our products.

In the sections that follow, we will delve deeper into the specifics of nutrition claim regulations, our compliance with them, how we address potential cross-contamination risks, and our commitment to exceeding standards, all with the aim of enhancing transparency and trust between Tasteville and you, our valued customer.

#1 Unpacking ‘Gluten Free’ Claims

The term ‘gluten free’ has gained significant traction over the years. It’s an essential designation for those with coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, and it has become increasingly popular among people looking to make specific dietary choices. At Tasteville, we take a holistic approach towards understanding and consumption of gluten. Currently within the food industry, gluten is not just part of the main ingredient, but is also used across various products as an additive, thickener, and so on. Therefore, our approach is that, by enabling customers to make a conscious choice towards gluten free products, they will be able to make healthier choices across their day.

For a food product to bear the ‘gluten free’ claim in Australia and New Zealand, it must meet the requirements stipulated by the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code. This comprehensive set of standards, developed and maintained by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), provides regulations for various food claims, including the ‘gluten free’ designation.

At the heart of these requirements is the necessity for stringent testing. The product in question must undergo periodic testing to ensure it contains ‘no detectable gluten’.

There are two issues here:

#1: The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code doesn’t specify a numerical limit in ppm as to what is ‘no detectable gluten’.

At the time when Australia’s ”no detectable gluten’ requirement was set, in 1995, the Limit of Detection for most kits was 30ppm (part-per-million). Today, a few of the most elaborate (and obviously cost-intensive) tests can achieve detection less than 1ppm.

#2: The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code does not specify how frequently gluten free testing should occur.

The onus of responsibility lies with the food business to ensure that any claims made about their food are substantiated and can be validated. Consequently, the frequency of testing is often at the discretion of the businesses, taking into account factors such as the nature of their products, production processes, and risk management approach.

Some organisations like Coeliac Australia require products to be tested for their annual endorsement program. For example, for a product that sells 50 million units in a year, say a packet of gluten free cookies, a few negative tests that shows no detectable gluten per 50 million units in a year doesn’t spell confidence in terms of gluten free claim and endorsement for all 50 million units of that product to be gluten free.

#3: The term ‘no detectable gluten’ is determined by the sensitivity of the test methods used, and also determined by the exact test kit available in the market to be used for testing.

We will dwell deeper into different types of test methods that are available in the market, later in this article.

But let’s stop here and ask, what does ‘gluten free’ really mean in the context of production? It’s important to note that this claim does not imply that the kitchen or manufacturing facility is entirely free of gluten. It merely signifies that the specific product tested does not contain detectable levels of gluten. This subtlety is often overlooked, leading to misconceptions about what ‘gluten free’ truly represents. It’s not a blanket statement about the manufacturing environment, but a focused assertion about the product itself. We will discuss about this as well, further in this article.

At Tasteville, we strive to ensure our ‘gluten free’ claims are not just accurate but also transparent. Our adherence to FSANZ guidelines is unwavering, and we are committed to ongoing testing and strict quality control measures. As we venture further into the intricacies of ‘gluten free’ and other food claims, our goal remains clear: to provide our customers with reliable, quality products that cater to their dietary needs and preferences.

#2 Compliance with Regulations

Compliance and transparency are the foundations upon which Tasteville is built. As a part of our commitment to these principles, we strictly adhere to the mandatory regulations laid out by the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code for making ‘gluten free’ claims.

The Code states that for a product to be claimed as ‘gluten free,’ it must contain ‘no detectable gluten.’ Our compliance process starts with testing our products regularly for the presence of gluten. Based on this testing our team ensures that each product we claim as ‘gluten free’ meets this stringent requirement.

We want to reassure our customers that when we say ‘no detectable gluten,’ we mean exactly that. Our products are meticulously analysed and tested to confirm they align with the ‘no detectable gluten’ standard. This testing is the backbone of our ‘gluten free’ promise.

Even beyond testing, our commitment to compliance is reflected in every aspect of our operations. Our approach to potential cross-contamination risks is a prime example. Despite no regulations stipulating the declaration of unintentional allergen presence, we choose to disclose this information voluntarily. Our customers deserve to make informed choices, and we’re here to ensure they can.

At Tasteville, our promise of compliance isn’t just a set of rules to follow. It’s an integral part of our identity, underpinning our commitment to quality, transparency, and the health of our customers.

#3 Addressing Cross-Contamination Risks

Addressing cross-contamination risks is a topic of paramount importance when discussing ‘gluten free’ offerings. It speaks volumes about a company’s commitment to their consumers’ health and well-being.

At Tasteville, while our primary products are ‘gluten free‘, we recognise that our shared kitchen environment does handle gluten-containing ingredients. Amongst other things, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the independent statutory government agency, states very clearly that the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code doesn’t enforce specific regulations regarding the unintentional presence of food allergens such as gluten.

The Food Standards Code does not regulate for unintentional presence of food allergens.

FSANZ, 2023

Providing information on unintentional presence of food allergens therefore is voluntary, and it is called as ‘precautionary allergen labelling’. At Tasteville, we believe our customers deserve full transparency. Consequently, we voluntarily disclose potential allergen presence, going beyond mandatory regulations.

Our approach to addressing cross-contamination risks involves several proactive measures. These include dedicated preparation areas, separate equipment used only for preparation of Tasteville products, thorough cleaning of surfaces, and strict personnel training. Through these, we aim to minimise the risk of cross-contamination in our kitchen.

But we don’t stop there. We are continually refining our operations based on research and customer feedback. Our end goal is to serve our customers ‘gluten free’ meals without compromising on taste, quality, or safety.

#4 The Science Behind Gluten Testing

Delving deeper into how a product can be claimed as ‘gluten free’, let’s talk about the core of ‘gluten free’ claims – testing. There are several methods used to test for gluten in food products, including Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests.

Analysis of food samples for gluten content.
Delve into the various scientific methods used to test gluten levels in food products.

Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)

ELISA works by utilising antibodies that bind to specific molecules, in this case, gluten proteins. The test works by identifying the presence of proteins such as gluten in a sample. If gluten proteins are present, they will bind to specific antibodies in the test, indicating a positive result. A significant advantage of ELISA is its high sensitivity and ability to quantify gluten. However, it is not without its drawbacks. ELISA is a time-consuming process, requiring trained personnel in a lab setting and is cost-intensive. For food manufacturers who have sufficient resources, ELISA is an excellent choice. However, how often they actually perform ELISA testing is an entirely different area of discussion altogether.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

PCR is a powerful technique used for amplifying specific DNA sequences, and it can also be employed to detect gluten DNA. PCR offers high sensitivity and specificity, which makes it useful for testing products with very low gluten levels. One downside to PCR is that it measures gluten DNA, which may not correlate with the actual protein content in the food sample. This method also requires specialized equipment and trained personnel. PCR is particularly useful for detecting gluten in raw ingredients. For instance, a supplier of cornmeal, which should naturally be gluten free, could use PCR to test for gluten contamination.

Lateral Flow Devices (LFD)

Lateral flow devices are user-friendly testing kits designed for on-the-spot testing. These tests provide rapid results, making them suitable for environments where quick verification is necessary. They do not require any special training or equipment, increasing their accessibility. However, lateral flow tests are generally less sensitive than ELISA and PCR. In a food manufacturing setting, for instance, these tests could be employed to swiftly verify whether a dish prepared as ‘gluten free’ has been cross-contaminated with gluten from other food items.

It is crucial to note that no testing method is perfect. Each test method, has a limit of detection, meaning there’s a minimum concentration below which the test cannot reliably detect the presence of gluten.

At Tasteville, we understand the importance of employing the right testing methods for the right scenarios, ensuring the reliability and credibility of our gluten free claims. We perform tests periodically, ensuring that our gluten free products are as safe as possible for consumption. We continue to stay abreast of the latest developments in gluten testing, ever ready to implement more sensitive testing methods as they become affordably available.

As the Australia New Zealand Food Standards code does not specify which method to use, or a limit of detection, businesses have always been free to use any testing method to comply with the code. For example one test method may result in ‘no detectable gluten’, where the limit of detection is 5ppm, while another test method may result in ‘no detectable gluten’, where the limit of detection is less than 1ppm. Both are acceptable under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code!

Also, within a testing method, say the ELISA testing method, one brand of testing kit could have a limit of detection less than 1ppm, while another brand of testing kit could have a 5ppm limit of detection. A result of ‘no detectable gluten’ using either of these test kits is accepted under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. As such, a business is able to claim the product is gluten free, while still complying with the regulations.

Another question to ponder here, is that should a business test less frequently using the most sensitive testing method that quantifies the lowest amount of gluten, or should a business test more frequently using a lesser sensitive testing method that quantifies a higher amount of gluten?

Testing less frequently with a lower limit of detection using the most expensive testing methods means the probability of detecting unintentional presence of gluten would be low amongst multiple batches of products leading to less corrective actions in processes where needed, and the risk of high product recalls after the product reaches the consumers.

On the other hand, testing more frequently with a higher limit of detection using less expensive testing methods means higher probability of detection amongst multiple batches, leading to more corrective actions in processes where needed, and stopping a failed batch before it reaches the consumers.

#5 The Truth Behind the ‘Gluten Free’ Claims

A gluten free claim might appear straightforward, but the reality can be more complex. The presence of this claim on a product does not mean that the product has been produced in a 100% gluten free environment. It’s a testament to the fact that the product itself contains ‘no detectable gluten.’ The claim also does not require that the product ‘must’ be produced in a 100% gluten free environment.

At Tasteville, when you see the ‘gluten free’ claim, it’s a symbol of our compliance with the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code. This means we’ve tested the product and found no detectable gluten. However, it’s important to clarify that our kitchen is a shared space, also used for preparing meals that contain gluten. Despite stringent safety measures, the risk, although minimal, for cross-contamination exists.

Even with Coeliac Australia endorsed products, whose criteria for endorsement includes that there be no cross contact statements, the risk of unintentional presence of allergen is not completely eliminated. For example, a staff might consume a lunch containing gluten, and despite best efforts may accidentally pass micrograms of gluten on to the manufactured product unintentionally even within a 100% gluten free kitchen, even after implementing best practices possible.

While we strive to minimize this risk with robust allergen management procedures, we can’t claim to completely eliminate it. This is a reality shared across the food industry – a fully gluten free environment is an ideal we strive towards, but it’s difficult to achieve in practice.

If we consider the Coeliac Australia Endorsement as a benchmark, testing a few times in a year using ELISA testing method for 1ppm, irrespective of the number of units being sold, means a business can claim their product is gluten free while selling millions of units. Similarly, if we were to test more frequently using an LFD testing method for 5ppm, a business can claim their product as gluten free as well. Often increased frequency of testing provides for higher confidence for any such claims. Ultimately, it is up to the businesses to decide how to test and how frequently to test.

Yet, what sets Tasteville apart is our commitment to transparency and dedication to allergen management. We test our products for gluten, above and beyond the minimum requirements for endorsements and guidelines within our industry. Our ‘gluten free’ claim is more than a claim. It’s a promise of our commitment to the highest safety standards, a testament to our rigorous testing procedures, and an assurance that we prioritize our customers’ wellbeing.

#6 The Importance of Company Culture in Allergen Management

Creating a safe, allergen-conscious food environment requires more than just following regulations and implementing safety procedures. It necessitates a culture that places the wellbeing of its customers at its heart. At Tasteville, this culture permeates every facet of our operations, instilling a commitment to allergen management at every level.

Our company culture starts with a shared understanding and acknowledgment of the seriousness of food allergies and intolerances. We recognise that for individuals with conditions like coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, our vigilance can mean the difference between health and severe discomfort or worse.

This understanding fuels our commitment to comprehensive allergen management. It’s why we implement stringent allergen control measures, such as separate storage and preparation areas for gluten free ingredients and regular, rigorous cleaning protocols in our kitchen.

Training is an essential component of our culture. We don’t merely train our staff in allergen management procedures – we ensure they understand the ‘why’ behind these protocols. This comprehension fosters a deep sense of responsibility, motivating our team to adhere to these processes meticulously.

Open communication is another cornerstone of our culture. We strive to be transparent about our practices, our kitchen environment, and our products’ gluten free claim. We believe in empowering our customers with knowledge so they can make informed decisions about their food.

We’re also committed to continual improvement, always looking for ways to better our allergen management practices. Whether it’s by staying abreast of the latest research, exploring improved testing methods, or incorporating customer feedback, we’re dedicated to making Tasteville a trustworthy source of gluten free meals.

Our Promise and Conclusion

A chef preparing gluten free meals
Our promise to you: unwavering dedication to transparency and quality in our gluten free offerings.

In conclusion, our commitment at Tasteville goes beyond simply creating portion-controlled meals. We promise unwavering dedication to transparency, quality, and safety. These principles underline every gluten free claim we make.

Our commitment to transparency is evident in our open discussion about allergens. We disclose the fact that, while our gluten free meals are prepared with no detectable gluten, they are produced in a shared kitchen that handles gluten-containing ingredients. This is no different than the risk of unintentional introduction of allergen into a 100% gluten free manufacturing environment by a staff. Such risk of unintentional presence of allergen remain despite different manufacturing scenarios.

Our promise of quality extends beyond taste. It’s embodied in the safety standards we uphold when preparing our meals. Our gluten free products undergo regular and rigorous testing, exceeding the requirements of the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Lastly, our promise is our commitment to you, our valued customer. We understand the challenges of dietary restrictions. That’s why we continuously strive to enhance our allergen management practices and diversify our product range to accommodate your dietary needs.

When you see the gluten free claim on our meals, know that it symbolises more than just a claim. It’s a representation of our values as a company. It demonstrates our dedication to your health, and our ongoing commitment to elevating your dining experience.

Have we helped you to understand gluten free claims in Australia better? Spread the knowledge and help others make informed choices too. Help us in our mission to educate and empower by sharing this article.

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