So, do those commercially available gluten free test kits actually work? If so, how accurate are they in detecting all the gluten in your beer, food etc? And why is this even a question worth asking?
Australia imports a substantial amount of food and beverages from all over the world every year. Importantly, standards differ across the world for what can be classified as gluten free. In Australia there must be ‘nil detected’ gluten for any product to be classified as gluten free. It’s different in Europe and the USA, where anything below 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten can be classified as gluten free. Food and beverages imported into Australia that are marked as gluten free from their country of origin, but do not meet Australian standards, must reflect this on their labelling when sold in Australia. My experience is that very few are adhering to this policy (Peroni Senza Gutine anyone?).
As a consequence, an increasing number of coeliac’s are resorting to gluten free test kits to identify whether gluten is present in their imported beer, and then using these results to make decisions as to whether or not it’s safe to consume. Some are even using them to detect levels of gluten in regular (barley, wheat) locally brewed beer. But are the results valid and reliable?
The problem is, even though the tests used by reputable manufacturers such as ELISA are very sensitive, they may not detect all the gluten in beer etc. Dr Michelle Colgrave from CSIRO explains "They're good at measuring intact gluten, and they are specifically good at measuring intact wheat gluten, but they are not good at detecting protein that has been degraded into fragments by the brewing process. Our research, and research that has occurred in the US, has shown that for the most part a lot of those protein pieces remain, but the tests can't see them.” It is unclear whether or not those protein fragments are still toxic.
So, whilst not conclusive, it does seem we coeliac’s should be cautious when relying on gluten free testing kits to decide whether a beer is gluten free or not and suitable for consumption. Hope this helps in your decision making. Stay safe folks.
This article was derived from an article published by ABC News. Click the link If you’d like to read the full article “Looking for a low-gluten beer? Here's what you need to know”