Gluten-free wheat starch as an ingredient in a gluten-free diet?
There are voices that are skeptical about the use of gluten-free wheat starch for a gluten-free diet.
For several decades, people suffering from coeliac disease have been consuming food made from gluten-free wheat starch under medical supervision without any detriment to their health. A gluten-free diet predominantly based on gluten-free wheat starch has been commonplace in the Scandinavian countries for quite some time now.
The suitability of a diet containing gluten-free wheat starch for gluten intolerant consumers is supported by scientific evidence. Meanwhile the same strict limiting values apply to gluten-free wheat starch as for any other raw materials that are naturally free from gluten.
Coeliac disease, also called endemic sprue, is a lifelong sensitivity to gluten. If untreated it leads to severe health problems. Gluten is the term for certain protein components, the so-called storage proteins, that are found in some grain varieties. The most important grains in this context are wheat (including wheat species such as spelt, Kamut wheat, Einkorn wheat and Emmer), barley, rye and oats. Some patients may be able to tolerate uncontaminated oats. Gliadin and Glutenin are the two proteins in wheat found to be the toxic components to coeliac sufferers. Both fractions can be subdivided even further with the subunits displaying differing toxicity levels.
The disease can only be controlled by adhering to completely gluten-free nutrition.
What does "gluten-free" mean?
In the early 80s, gluten-free food was defined in the Codex Alimentarius as a food in which the commonly used gluten-containing ingredients had been replaced by non-gluten ingredients or as a food produced from or containing raw materials from which the gluten had been removed. For these ingredients/raw materials, a maximum value of 0.05% nitrogen in dry matter was defined as a guide value which corresponds to a protein content of approx. 0.3% in dry matter. At that time it was assumed that there was a close relationship between the protein content and the gluten content. A maximum protein content of 0.3% should guarantee a gluten content of 200 ppm (i.e. 20 mg gluten/100 g dried product) which at that time was considered to be a safe level. Due to improvements in analytical methods, it was soon proven that there is no direct correlation between these two values and that the decisive factor for people suffering from coeliac disease is the gluten content alone.
Since the early 1990s, additional recommendations for the gluten content in gluten-free products have been discussed. At that time, a differentiation was made between naturally gluten-free raw materials and products where the gluten had been removed by special processing methods. For naturally gluten-free products the recommendation was set to a maximum concentration of 20 ppm gluten and for products made gluten-free by processing, e.g. based on wheat starch, the recommendation was set to a maximum level of 200 ppm gluten. Under consideration of this maximum level, a successful and scientifically proven diet that includes gluten-free wheat starch has been practiced by coeliac patients for many years. However, the amount of gluten consumed can provoke reactions in highly sensitive persons depending of the consumption habits of the consumers. Thus for many years there have been ongoing discussions on the reduction of the gluten consumption by reducing the gluten content in products not naturally free from gluten to a safe level of 100 ppm. Despite the scientifically proven level of 100 ppm, some countries (e.g. the United States) requested a uniform threshold value of 20 ppm. As a consequence, in 2008, it was stated in the Codex Alimentarius that a gluten-free product labeled as such must not contain more than 20 ppm gluten [Stan-118-1979, revised 2008]. This value applies to finished products made from naturally gluten-free raw materials as well as to finished products made with raw materials from which the gluten has been removed (e.g. wheat starch). If raw materials are used from which the gluten has been removed, the product may even contain a maximum of 100 ppm gluten. However, products exceeding a content of 20 ppm gluten must not be labeled as "gluten-free" but rather with the term "very low gluten" [Commission Regulation (EC) No 41/2009]. These products are also suitable for a coeliac diet.
Due to the uniform threshold value for gluten-free products, there is no reason for the consumer to prefer naturally gluten-free food to gluten-free products made from specific wheat starch produced under controlled conditions and subjected to constant analysis.
Furthermore, naturally gluten-free products may be misleading by implying a safe absence from gluten and this may not necessarily be provided in practice. In fact, such products involve a high risk of contamination with gluten-containing products. Contamination could arise from crop rotation in the field or the cultivation of gluten-containing grains on adjoining fields. Another source of contamination can be the processing chain (harvesting, cleaning, storage, transport, milling, packing). Various results from the analyses of different naturally gluten-free products showed that these products may have such a high gluten content that they will even exceed the former high limiting value for wheat starch of 200 ppm. This means that the gluten content of naturally gluten-free products must be checked for their safe use in a coeliac diet.
Why gluten-free wheat starch?
Our high activity, gluten-free wheat starch SANOSTAR is perfectly suited for the production of gluten-free baked goods and other food products. It is preferred by the vast majority of people suffering from coeliac disease because of its taste and its texturizing properties.
The gluten-free wheat starch SANOSTAR must not be mixed up with other commercially available wheat starches. Our gluten-free wheat starch is produced under specific production conditions and constantly monitored analytically. The use of fresh spring water and a specific production process yield a safe product with optimum properties. As a result of our constantly optimized processes, our decades of experience in gluten-free wheat starch and our participation in scientific research projects, KRÖNER-STÄRKE produces the gluten-free wheat starch SANOSTAR with a maximum content of 20 ppm, even in organic quality. The gluten content of each batch is analyzed in-house and in external laboratories according to the R5-ELISA method (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay). The scientific society currently considers this as the method of choice for the determination of the gluten content.
Our gluten-free wheat starch SANOSTAR is produced on high-tech equipment from wheat flours with precisely defined properties and with the use of our own spring water. In our production, we apply strict quality standards including DIN EN ISO 9001:2008, IFS, and BRC. This guarantees product safety and consistent quality from the raw material to the product. The gluten content of each batch is analyzed in-house and in an external laboratory.
For more information about our gluten-free products please click here.