I am a label reader. I like to eat healthily and know what the long, confusing ingredients on the side of a package mean. Therefore, in the spirit of the holiday season, I dedicate this blog to all the gluten intolerant folks out there whose only wish is to eat a yummy cookie while also being absolutely positively sure it is gluten free.
First, a lesson in gluten – Gluten represents two proteins (glutenin and gliadin) formed when water is added to wheat, barley, and rye. The resulting dough maintains elasticity that gives baked goods their chewiness and gluten-sensitive eater’s stomach problems. As such, gluten-free products tend to have more density. Examples of gluten-free ingredients that can be substituted for all-purpose flour include rice flour, brown rice, fava beans, white beans, amaranth, potato, and oats. Sometimes, to make up for loss of elasticity and ensure your treats do not taste like cardboard, xanthan gum, and guar gum may be added to some pre-packaged products.
Gluten free tip –To be sure pre-packaged products are gluten free look for the following ingredients on a label: wheat, barley, rye, oats, malt, and brewer’s yeast.
How do you know your ingredients or pre-packaged goods truly are gluten free? Various lab tests such as ELISA technology (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are conducted to detect gluten proteins while adenosine triphosphate (ATP) swab is used for surface tests. Unfortunately, a degree of uncertainty exists which could put samples at risk for false negative or false positive reports.
Luckily science is always on the move. New research shows mass spectrometry is a more accurate tool for detecting allergens such as gluten in processed foods and ingredients. The science behind one study is laid out in this technical note where studies show how markers unique to each species of gluten reduces the risk of false positives and false negatives that can occur in ELISA assay. Food testing scientists are doing their best to make sure results are truly accurate so you can trust your gluten-free labels.
If all you want at the end of the day is to bake your holiday cookies, then please post your favorite gluten-free holiday cookie recipe. Many of us will thank you!