top banner

Gluten Testing

Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains. Gluten is appreciated for its elastic properties in dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and usually gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten can be found in bread products, imitation meats, soy sauce, beer, ketchup, ice-cream, cosmetics, hair products, pet foods, skin preparations, etc. Gluten can also present itself in a food as a result of its manufacture using ingredients that are gluten sources themselves, such as wheat or barley. It may even be present in a food due to cross-contamination as a result of manufacturing or distribution practices.

Celiac disease is a lifelong medical condition observed in genetically susceptible individuals. Symptoms and complications occur in response to the ingestion of the gluten protein found in wheat and related grains. Exposure to gluten can lead to a series of immune-mediated adverse reactions and progressive deterioration of the lining of the small intestine. It is estimated that Celiac disease affects approximately 1% of the population, or 340,000 Canadians.

Leading a life-long gluten-free diet is the only way to avoid the symptoms and complications of celiac disease and people are advised to avoid the consumption of wheat, rye, barley, oats and triticale, as well as their hybridized strains. Grains containing gluten are widely used in the production of many pre-packaged foods. Therefore in order to avoid acute and chronic adverse health effects, careful review of food labels is essential for individuals with Celiac disease to determine if gluten-containing ingredients are present.

People can experience adverse effects of wheat as result of a wheat allergy. A wheat allergy causes the immune system to abnormally respond to a component of wheat that it treats as a threatening foreign body. This immune response is often time-limited and does not cause lasting harm to body tissues.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is described as a condition of multiple symptoms that improves when switching to a gluten-free diet, after celiac disease and wheat allergy are excluded. It is included among gluten-related disorders, but its origin and development are not yet well understood. NCGS is the most common syndrome of gluten intolerance, with a prevalence estimated to be 6?10 times higher than that of celiac disease. Patients with NCGS may develop gastrointestinal symptoms, which resemble those of irritable bowel syndrome or wheat allergy, and/or a wide variety of non-gastrointestinal symptoms, such as headache, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, atopic diseases, allergies, neurological diseases, or psychiatric disorders, among others.

Celiac disease and wheat allergies are different disorders. Gastrointestinal symptoms of wheat allergy are similar to those of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but there is a different interval between exposure to wheat and onset of symptoms. An allergic reaction to wheat has a fast onset (from minutes to hours) after the consumption of food containing wheat and could include anaphylaxis.

While no specific threshold is mentioned in the Health Canada regulations, "Based on the available scientific evidence, Health Canada considers that gluten-free foods, prepared under good manufacturing practices, which contain levels of gluten not exceeding 20 ppm as a result of cross-contamination, meet the health and safety intent of B.24.018 when a gluten-free claim is made."

Gluten Detection Methodologies

Currently, the most commonly used methods to detect the presence of gluten are ELISA-based methods, which use antibodies to detect proteins or specific parts of proteins. In general, these methods are sensitive and specific to the analytes they target and can detect gluten in a wide variety of foods.

The ELISA Gluten Test is an easy to use kit that will quickly detect the presence of gluten in foods and beverages. It is sensitive enough to detect levels of gluten as low as 5 ppm. This simple test is small and portable enough for use at restaurants or when travelling, and is sensitive and robust enough for use in industry and food manufacturing. It can be used to test individual ingredients in foods and beverages.

The ELISA Gluten Assay has been validated and certified as a Performance Tested Method (#051101) by the AOAC Research Institute as an effective method for the detection of gluten in a wide variety of foods and environmental surfaces.