The FSSAI has published a guidance note related to gluten free products to ensure food safety of those people who suffer from celiac disease. Recognising that people with celiac disease face food challenges the FSSAI has established the standards for “GLUTEN FREE FOODS” and their labelling requirements under the Food Safety and Standards Regulations 2011. This guidance note also contains guidance for Food Business Operators that manufacture food products, hotel and restaurant owners and consumers so they are aware about gluten-free foods.
(The article below contains the highlights of the full guidance document)
Foods that typically contain gluten include chapattis, breads, cakes, breakfast cereals, pastas, and many other grain-based foods. Gluten is the main storage protein found in wheat and certain other cerealgrains including rye, barley, oats, triticale, spelt, kamut,
Grains that have been produced by breeding wheat, rye, or barley with eachother orwith different grains can also contain gluten. Triticale isproduced by breeding wheat with rye, and so it is a gluten-containing grain. Gluten adds elasticity, volume and texture to manyfood products. However, gluten can cause damage to the intestines of people who have celiac disease and they need to avoid such foods. People who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity also need to avoid gluten containing foods.
Globally, one in 140 individuals has Celiac disease. In India, it was thought to bevery uncommon about two decades back. But now Celiac disease is wellrecognized and it affects one in 140 Indians (0.6%). Celiac disease is morecommon in Northern part of India.
Various myths about Gluten
- Myth:Rice contains gluten.
Rice has glutinous part. This is starch and not gluten.
- Myth:Ice cream contains gluten.
Most ice creams do not contain gluten except if biscuit, cake, cone orwafers are added.
- Myth:Only those with Celiac Disease can have gluten sensitivity.
Wheat sensitivities can manifest as celiac disease, non-celiac wheatsensitivity (NCWS) or Dermatitis Herpetiformis (Itchy blistery rash) or wheatallergies. The symptoms and manifestations are similar. Treatment of strictlifelong avoidance to gluten is common to all.
- Myth:Gluten-free diet is a diet for weight loss.
Gluten free diets need not be weight loss diets. However, many who arewheat sensitive respond well but this is only if a healthy gluten free diet isfollowed. Unhealthy gluten free diets can be high on starch and low in nutrients.
- Myth:Gluten-free diets are healthier.
Not true. They can be highly processed, loaded with chemical additivesand high on starch and sugars. Gluten free diets need to be planned well.
- Myth: Once symptoms improve one can restart gluten.
Most people with Celiac disease, wheat sensitivity or Dermatitis need tobe on a lifelong gluten free diet.
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
The spectrum of symptoms of celiac disease is vast and comprises of symptoms as summarized below:
- Chronic/recurrent diarrhoea
- Failure to gain weight
- Failure to gain height
- Generalized weakness
- Delayed puberty
- Irritability and behavioural issues
- Metabolic bone disease
What is the treatment of Celiac disease?
The only available treatment for patients with Celiac disease is strict and lifelong avoidance of gluten containing food. Once gluten is withdrawn from thediet, the flattened villi in the lining of the small intestine gradually return tonormal. Individuals diagnosed with celiac disease and their families shouldconsult a qualified nutritionist/dietician for dietary counselling. Repeatedcounselling and discussion on the barrier for maintaining gluten-free life is veryhelpful. The management of this condition requires:
- Adequate knowledge about gluten- free ingredients and foods.
- Focus on healthy eating of variety of foods, not just a gluten-free diet.
- A lifelong, strict adherence to a gluten- free diet.
Regulatory aspects of gluten- free food
International Standards:Provisions related to Gluten free food in Codex and European Union (EU)provides that the product shall not have more than 20 mg/kg of gluten.
Provisions under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006Standards of ‘Gluten Free Food’ isnotified in the Sub Regulation 2.14 of FoodSafety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives),Regulations, 2011, wherein, it is mentioned that gluten levels shall be below 20mg/kg and it shall bear the label declaration referred to in sub-regulation 2.4.5
(50) of Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011
i.e., the term “Gluten free” shall be printed in the immediate proximity of the
name of the product.These regulations are available on FSSAI website www.fssai.gov.in
FSSAI is also in the process of removing the provisions relating to the standard of“Food specially processed to reduce gluten content to a level 20-100 mg/kg”from the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and FoodAdditives) Regulations, 2011 and ‘Low Gluten and warning for low gluten’,respectively under Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling)Regulations, 2011.
Further, FSSAI is in the process of adding labelling provisions for addressing the
issue of cross contamination.
Provision for approval of Rapid Analytical Food Testing (RAFT) kit/Equipment/ Method:
‘Strip based rapid test methods’ are present for testing of gluten free foods.FSSAI has not so far validated these methods. Manufacturers of such kits areencouraged to apply for confirmation / approval of kit.’Details are available on the FSSAI website (www.fssai.gov.in).
Information on gluten free ingredients/foods for people suffering from celiac disease
Grains to be avoided:
- Wheat (wheat germ, wheat bran, wheat starch, bulgar, durum, kibbled
- Semolina (a derivative of wheat)
- Barley (barley malt, barley extract)
- Vermicelli (a derivative of wheat)
- Pure Oats (Oats bran and oat germ)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
- Einkorn (wild species of wheat)
- Farina (cream of wheat)
- Couscous (a derivative of wheat)
- Rye, Spelt, Kamut (a variety of wheat)
Grains that can be consumed
- Brown rice
- Corn, Maize, Cornmeal
- Sorghum (Jowar)
- Chestnut lour (singhara)
- Carob lour
- Wild rice
- Millets [Bajra, ragi)
- Amaranth (ramdana)
- Buckwheat (kasha/kuttu)
- Tapioca Sago (Sabudana)
- All pulses, legumes
Processed food to be avoided:
Patients suffering from celiac disease should check ingredients details on thelabel before buying any packaged food products since it may contain gluten e.g.,(Instant Noodles, Macaroni, Pasta, Bread, Compounded asafoetida or BandhaniHing etc.)
Key Points for Food Business Operators (FBOs)
For Manufacturers/ Processors
- Must comply with the provision of Gluten free food standard prescribed by FSSAI
- Only foods that contain 20 mg gluten/kg or less can be labelled as ‘gluten-free’.In case, any gluten free product is manufactured in a plant where glutencontaining products are also manufactured this shall be declared on the label as“Processed in a plant where gluten containing products are manufactured.”
- Should avoid cross contamination of gluten free food.
- Ingredients must be handled properly, if there is a common facility for gluten –free and gluten – containing ingredients to prevent cross contamination.
- Should establish separate storage and preparation/ staging areas for gluten-free and gluten-containing ingredients.
- Should have separate production area and equipment with controlled air-lowbetween the two production areas. This practice will minimize the potential forair borne flour dust contamination.
- Equipment should be dedicated to each area for use on gluten-free or non-glutenfree production.
- Should have separate equipment that is clearly marked and used for eithergluten free or gluten containing products. This includes measuring tools, mixingbowls, pans, utensils, etc.
- Should provide training to all the employees to have clean garments and handswhen handling gluten-free products.
- Manufacturing, processing and packaging of gluten free food should be doneseparately to avoid cross contamination.
For Storage and Transportation
- Should avoid cross contamination of gluten free food products with glutencontaining products.
- Ingredients and finished products should be stored properly to avoid crosscontamination.
For Hotel and Restaurants
- Are encouraged to keep gluten free food option at their outlets.
- May provide gluten free food on demand to the customer.
- If gluten free food options are available, then they should have separate counterand kitchen for avoiding cross contamination of gluten free food.
- Should use clean utensils for preparing gluten free food.
- Should provide training to the workers for handling/ preparing gluten free foodand personal hygiene such as; washing of hands between use of glutencontaining and gluten free ingredients, wearing of clean cloths and apron etc.
- Should provide training to all staff on all aspects of sourcing, preparation andserving of gluten-free food.
- Should do internal audit to ensure ‘practice is maintained and staff is efficient intheir knowledge and working behaviour’.
- Should use clean oil for frying, clean water for boiling/ preparation etc.
- In the buffet, Gluten free food should be labelled properly.
- Menu card should contain the option for Gluten free foods.
For Consumers (How to read label?)
Consumers should read the label carefully. Label reading is always done to checkthe nutritional content of food items. But it is one of the key success factors inmaintaining good adherence to gluten free diet. The following points need to bechecked while checking out a food label for gluten free safety.
- Gluten free certification mark
- Ingredients – These need to be checked regularly since food companies keepchanging them.
- Allergen warning – If a product does not mention about being gluten free, it isalways advisable to read the allergen warning.
- Precautionary statements – Other than allergen warning, some productsmention precautionary statements like “Manufactured in the same line withwheat” or “Processed in the same unit that also processes wheat”.
- If the label doesn’t make it clear about its gluten free safety, you can call or contactthe manufacturers to confirm.
- Lastly, if in doubt, leave it out.
- Beware of foods labelled “Wheat-free” as they may contain grains such as barley,rye, spelt or kamut which are not gluten-free.
How to report the sale of misleading products
- Consumers should inform the Food Safety Department about any illegal sale ofadulterated foodstuff in their areas. Anyone can report the problem relating tosafety of food to the concerned State Food Safety Commissioners. Contactdetails of Food Safety Commissioners are available on FSSAI websitewww.fssai.gov.in.
- Consumers can also share their concerns through Food Safety Connect Portalhttps://foodlicensing.fssai.gov.in/cmsweb/) or may register theircomplaint on FSSAI App available at Google Play store.
- Consumers can also visit on (http://foodsmart.fssai.gov.in/home.html) tobecome aware of other food safety/labelling provisions.