Is There Gluten In My Food?
Laura Allred, President of ELISA Technologies, Inc., weighs in with her expertise on at-home gluten test kits.
With the advent of Celiac Awareness Month, it is a good time to let people know about the options they have for accessing the latest technologies in gluten testing. When you know you cannot tolerate gluten, the most important aspect of keeping yourself healthy is eating foods that you trust to be gluten-free, but how do you know when a new product is safe to add to your diet?
Or what product are you currently eating that may be making you sick? There are options available that allow consumers to test foods to determine their safety before introducing them into their diet.In addition, there are at-home methods for determining if your gluten intolerance is a sign of celiac disease. Let’s take a look at these testing options, their limitations, and how you can access them.
The first option for food testing is the simplest, and this is the home test kit for gluten. A variety of them can be found by simply searching for “gluten test kit” on the internet. These tests are based on the same technology used in home pregnancy tests and are very easy to use and reliable. The test will require you to take a small amount of the food in question and mix it with a solution provided with the kit. This solution is then used with a testing device that reads the liquid to determine if gluten is present, usually in the form of a spot or a line at a specific location on the device. These types of kits are single-use and provide everything you would need to test a sample in any environment, provided it is a clean area.
Used routinely in manufacturing and food production facilities, these tests are also used by consumers in the home or when traveling because they are so portable.
One of the most common questions about this kind of device is the cost. At an average of around $10 per test, they can seem a bit expensive for everyday use. The best way to make use of these kits is to perform a single test when trying out a new product, or a product manufactured by a new company, to verify any gluten-free claims. Make sure that the kit you use is sufficiently validated by an independent organization, such as AOAC (www.aoac. org), that specializes in food safety. Ask to see any certifications before using the test.
These home test kits will give you a positive or negative result for gluten, typically with a threshold of 10 parts per million (ppm). Anything above this amount will be positive and anything below it will be negative. But what if
you are interested in knowing the exact amount of gluten present in a product? There are multiple food testing laboratories in the country that perform quantitative gluten testing, and unlike medical testing, no prescription or doctor’s request is needed to take advantage of these services. The cost of a single test may be around $100, so this is not an option for everyone, but quantitative testing is an important way to verify a positive result from a home test kit. In addition, quantitative tests are often more sensitive than home kits, with detection limits near 5 ppm.
In most cases, you can call the laboratory or go on their website to get a sample request form that you fill out and submit along with your sample, telling them what the sample is and what test you would like to have performed. The lab can also tell you how much sample you will need to submit, and what the turn-around time is for results.
The lab you select should be accredited to an international standard called ISO 17025, which governs the management and technical aspects of laboratory testing. An internet search for “ISO 17025 allergen testing” will provide a number of labs to choose from. Ask to see a copy of the lab’s latest accreditation to make sure that it is up to date and that it includes gluten testing.
Another option that consumers regularly ask for, outside of food testing, is the ability to determine if they have celiac disease. While any such diagnosis must ultimately be made by a physician, home tests do exist. One available test for celiac disease takes a small blood sample and looks for the presence of antibodies in the bloodstream that react to tissue transglutaminase. Tissue transglutaminase (tTG) is a normally occurring enzyme in human tissue, but people with celiac disease often develop antibodies against this protein. This type of antibody that reacts to one’s own proteins is referred to as an autoantibody. While this blood test is also used by physicians in diagnosing celiac disease, not every celiac patient develops anti-tTG autoantibodies, so a negative result from this test does not definitively rule out celiac disease. A positive result, however, should be followed up by a doctor visit.
The science of gluten testing is continually evolving and consumers have direct access to a number of available test methods, whether they are for food or for the diagnosis of celiac disease. Developing an awareness of these testing options will help you to be better informed of the basis of your gluten intolerance and help in managing your gluten-free diet as well.
Written By: Laura Allred Find her at: www.elisa-tek.com