Pie Face goes ‘low gluten’, but are Australian food labelling laws too strict?

Fast-food chain Pie Face has launched a ‘low gluten’ pie to add to its range, as Australian food labelling laws remain unnecessarily strict compared to global standards.

In Australia, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code dictates the amount of gluten in a product labelled ‘gluten free’ must be undetectable, while in other western nations foods with less than 20ppm (20mg of gluten per kilogram) of gluten can fit under this classification.

Under British, American and European standards, the new Pie Face pie would be considered ‘gluten free’.

“In terms of the ‘low gluten’ label, Australia holds some of the strictest labelling laws in the world, and although the ingredients are gluten free, we produce many other products which contain gluten, so due to that exposure, it must be labelled as ‘low gluten’,” Pie Face said in a statement.

Last year the Australian Food and Grocery Council embarked on a push for Australian standards to be brought in line with the rest of the world.

The AFGC proposed products containing minute traces of gluten below 20ppm be able to be considered ‘gluten free’.

Some food scientists have raised concerns even ‘low’ amounts of gluten could cause harm to people with coeliac disease, however Coeliac Australia approved the push of the AFGC, saying 20ppm is safe for coeliacs.

In a statement, Coeliac Australia said it’s unrealistic to maintain Australia’s current labelling standards.

“In an ideal world, gluten free should mean exactly that. However, there is every chance that the term ‘gluten free’ will disappear, as manufacturers struggle to meet the more sensitive testing methods being developed,” Coeliac Australia says.

“Tests that can measure gluten at ‘parts per billion’ are currently being utilised in scientific research and may soon be the norm in commercial laboratories. When this occurs even the most staunch opponents of the change to <20ppm, some of whom are current manufacturers of gluten free products, will struggle to maintain their gluten free status.”

Australia’s legislation was developed around 13 years ago and, according to Coeliac Australia, technological developments mean Australian standards are out of date.

“This standard was introduced … when testing methods could only detect gluten at levels above 30ppm and above,” Coeliac Australia says.

“Coeliac Australia supports the AFGC proposal … Our position is based on the advice of leading medical experts. The weight of scientific evidence supports 20ppm as a safe threshold of gluten intake for people with coeliac disease.”

In an article for Australian Food News, FoodLegal managing principal Joe Lederman said Australian regulators take a “strict view” in terms of allergen regulations.

“Both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the New South Wales Food Authority have maintained a strict interpretation of ‘gluten-free’ and require that it must be absolutely non-detectable. The consequence of a false claim for ‘gluten-free’ can be a food recall,” he says.

Lederman says as technology has developed, smaller and smaller amounts of gluten have been able to be detected.

“As food analysis technologies are constantly evolving, the levels of detection and quantitation are becoming more finite.

“On the one hand, this allows more certainty in measuring the presence of smaller quantities of a substance in a food product. However on the other hand, testing methodologies have been known to be so finely tuned that the presence of gluten in the air of a testing facility may be picked up as being present in the food product when in fact that might not be the case.”


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