What you should know about Gluten and Gluten-free products

“Gluten-free” was introduced by the Indian Food Authority, FSSAI, which set some ground rules on where and how it could be used for this Food Allergen

July 19, 2022

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What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein present naturally in certain cereal products like wheat, barley, rye etc. It is a group of proteins responsible for increasing the elasticity of the dough, which benefits in making bakery products like bread, cakes, biscuits etc. It is also listed as one of the main ‘Food allergens’ and hence, the International as well as national (FSSAI) food bodies have made it compulsory for food companies to declare them on the label.

It also took another step, by mandating, the products manufactured in a factory that also makes other products that contain gluten, to mention - “Manufactured in a plant that manufactures gluten products’ etc. In the end, consumers are informed if the allergen is present or remotely present in the food product.

A wheat-free product is not necessarily gluten-free, as it may contain other ingredients like barley, rye etc. that also contain gluten

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What are gluten-free products then?

Over the years it was observed that there was a slight increase in the number of people who were sensitive to ‘Gluten’. Although the reasons are not firmly known, a lot of food companies used this strategically to increase their sales output.

They started labelling products as ‘Low in gluten’ which can be misleading to Gluten Allergic people. A Gluten Allergic person cannot have this Food Allergen, sometimes even traces in the body can show a spontaneous allergic reaction too.

Hence, a new term - “Gluten-free” was introduced by the Indian Food Authority, FSSAI, which set some ground rules on where and how it could be used for this Food Allergen.

Let's look into them!

Ground rules/guidelines to label products as Gluten-free

  • The food product cannot contain any ingredients that have gluten

  • Only foods containing less than 20mg of gluten per kg of the product can be labelled - Gluten-free

  • There should be proper care taken in manufacturing plants where Gluten-free products are manufactured and shouldn’t have cross-contamination with other products in the plants. Preferably they should be stored carefully too.

  • If a gluten-free product is manufactured in a place where other gluten-containing products are manufactured, it has to be declared also

We have started a Choose Right blog series educating you on how to make the right choice! This series will guide you on things to look out for on food labels and how not to be misled and check your facts right on the same.

Also Read - The difference between Nutrition Claims and Health Claims

References:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/gluten/

https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/what-is-gluten/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318606

https://gluten.org/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28244676

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Rashida Vapiwala (Founder at LabelBlind®, Food Label Specialist, Ph.D (Food Science and Nutrition))

Rashida is passionate about solving problems for the food industry using technology. She loves creating tech-led solutions in the space of Nutrition.

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