Consumption of gluten-free products: should the threshold value for trace amounts of gluten be at 20, 100 or 200 p.p.m.?

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ObjectiveThe threshold of gluten contamination in gluten-free products of both dietary and normal consumption is under debate. The objective of this study was to gather information on consumption of gluten-free products intended for dietary use of people under a gluten-free diet. This information is essential to ascertain the exposure of coeliac patients to gluten through their diet and deduce the maximum gluten content that these products should contain to guarantee a safe diet.MethodsA diet diary of consumption of gluten-free products intended for dietary use was distributed to the coeliac societies of two typical Mediterranean countries (Italy and Spain) and two Northern countries (Norway and Germany). The diet diary included a self-weigh table of the selected food items and a 10-day consumption table. Results were reported in percentiles as distributions were clearly right skewed.ResultsThe respondents included in the study accounted for 1359 in Italy, 273 in Spain, 226 in Norway and 56 in Germany. Gluten-free products intended for dietary use contributed significantly to the diet of coeliac patients in Italy, Germany and Norway and to a lesser degree in Spain. The most consumed gluten-free product in all countries was bread, and it was double consumed in the Northern countries (P<0.001). Mediterranean countries showed consumption of a wider variety of gluten-free foods and pasta was eaten to a large degree in Italy.ConclusionsThe differences between Northern and Mediterranean countries were not in the total amount of gluten-free products but in the type of products consumed. The observed daily consumption of gluten-free products results in the exposure to rather large amounts of gluten, thus the limit of 200 p.p.m. should be revised. A limit of 20 p.p.m. for products naturally gluten-free and of 100 p.p.m. for products rendered gluten-free is proposed to guarantee a safe diet and to enable coeliac patients to make an informed choice. These limits should be revised as new data become available.

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