Gluten-free food choices offered in Melbourne restaurants have been found to contain gluten, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA).

The study was conducted in Melbourne by Environmental health officers (EHOs), who randomly selected 158 gluten-free food samples from 127 Melbourne restaurants.

It was undertaken as part of the City of Melbourne food sampling programme, required by the Food Act 1984.

Around 14 of the total samples were found to contain detectable gluten, of which nine contained more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten and were not compliant with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) definition of gluten-free.

“One restaurant offered wheat-based foods, which contain more than 80ppm gluten, when customers asked for a gluten-free meal.”

Gluten, a mixture of two proteins, can be harmful to people suffering from coeliac disease. The 20ppm gluten limit is considered as the upper threshold for safe gluten intake in Europe and the US.

One restaurant offered wheat-based foods, which contain more than 80ppm gluten, when customers asked for a gluten-free meal, reflecting the lack of understanding reported by many people with coeliac disease.

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The study also found that around 10% of foodservice staff had good knowledge of the FSANZ code.

The increasing community demand for gluten-free foods may increase awareness of the importance of avoiding gluten contamination among foodservice staff.

The study concluded by highlighting the need to improve training and knowledge about appropriate gluten-free food practices among staff to ensure the safe delivery of gluten-free food.