The Canadian Celiac Association plans to use a $500,000 grant from the federal government to work on reducing gluten cross-contact in crops and developing clear standards for shipping and processing gluten-free foods.
“There is still contamination in all sorts of products where there shouldn’t be any,” said Sue Newell, the CCA’s operations manager. “Look at lentils. There should be no gluten in lentils but packages often claim ‘may contain wheat.'”
The effort to reduce cross-contact has already begun, says Newell. Working with experts from the Gluten-Free Certification Program, the CCA is sampling everything along the chain of food production, from the field to transport and on the to processing plants.
A two-day conference with stakeholders will be held in September to pinpoint areas that need to be worked on further. Over the winter, the CCA will then work with groups such as the Canadian Grain Commission, feed manufacturers and pulse (pea and bean) producers to develop specific procedures – such as ways to segregate crops and clean trucks to eliminate the potential for gluten in products. The plan is to start implementing the new, more stringent procedures during next year’s growing season.
“Our goal is to increase the supply of gluten-free grains, from amaranth to buckwheat, hemp and flax,” Newell said. Once the changes are implemented, there should be fewer labels that state “may contain wheat” and more that state with assurance, “certified gluten-free”.