Helpline: 09 820 5157

Confusion over research methodology & claims

13 October 2016

The research study, ‘Gluten content of imported gluten-free foods: national and international implications’, featured in the Medical Journal of Australia on 3rd October 2016. Written by Dr Geoffrey Forbes from the Royal Perth Hospital, the article has recently gained media attention in both Australia and New Zealand. The study tested 169 gluten free (GF) labelled food items which were manufactured overseas to assess their compliance with local GF standards.

Dr Forbes states that “Gluten was detected in 24 of the 169 products” and recommended “that authorities revise the current Australian GF standard of ‘no detectable gluten’ to ‘≤ 1ppm [part per million]’, as it is not practical or reasonable for industry to comply with the stricter standard”.

MJA Gluten Free Article Dr G Forbes 3 Oct 2016 MJA Gluten Free Article Dr G Forbes 3 Oct 2016 (99 KB)

SMH Gluten Free 03/10/2016 SMH Gluten Free 03/10/2016 (243 KB)

In response,

Coeliac NZ do not support this research. Through advice from our medical advisory, we believe the research methodology and testing methods used which led to these recommendations, are not credible and therefore provide misleading information for the GF consumer and manufacturer.

In summary,

  • The ESGLISS-48 test used in this research performs less well that the R5 RIDASCREEN test in detecting the toxic prolamins in wheat, barley & rye
  • The detection limit of 0.5ppm reference to “gluten” is the detection limit of gliadin, a protein component of gluten
  • The detection limit of gluten is typically double the detection level of gliadin
  • There is no reference made to the distinction between ‘Limit of Detection (LOD)’ and ‘Limit of Quantification (LOQ)’. LOQ is typically double the LOD and most labs are confident to only test down to the LOQ
  • The RIDASCREEN company are only happy to overtly state their products provide accurate quantification to 3ppm
  • It is therefore, unclear how this research established the low ppm levels claimed
  • This was a single study. Without replication, the validity is extremely compromised

Over the last few years, Coeliac NZ have been reviewing the existing Australian and New Zealand (FSANZ) standard to establish clear and consistent GF labelling which provides coeliac consumers with an educated choice when purchasing food products.

Coeliac NZ 

  • recommend that GF consumers read the 2016 Cochrane Institute report ‘Systematic Review of Safe Level of Gluten for People with Coeliac Disease (2016)’ initiated by Coeliac Australia and,
  • assure GF consumers that we will continue to work with FSANZ to improve GF labelling in Australian and New Zealand and will provide regular, informed updates via our website, Coeliac Link magazine, member newsletter and social media               

For further information or discussion please contact Coeliac NZ General Manager Carl Sunderland at or 09 414 7467.