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How Much Gluten is in Gluten-Free Bread?

By February 21, 2010

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I received a note that's worth sharing with all of you. In my article "How Much Gluten Is Too Much?" I explain that even bread labeled gluten-free has a small amount of gluten in it. In most parts of the world, regulations say that to be labeled gluten-free, a product can contain up to 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten (equivalent to about 20 mg per kilo).

Here's where a reader -- registered dietitian Nanna Mossberg from the Scandinavian gluten-free bread company Fria Bröd AB -- pointed out an important fact. I had written that based on the 20 ppm limit, a slice of gluten-free bread contains slightly more than ½ milligram of gluten. Nanna says:

As I work for a company that produces gluten free bread I would like to let you know how we in the industry of gluten free foods think in this matter...

We (Fria) guarantee that our products (bread) do not contain more than 20 ppm gluten (20 mg/kg). If the assumption then is that the bread actually contains 20 ppm, then it is correct that a slice of bread would contain a little over mg of gluten. But we would never dare to have a product so close to 20 ppm. What if it would be 21 ppm when the authorities decides to do a control?? No, we have to be well below 20 ppm to dare to guarantee that our products do not contain more than maximum 20 ppm gluten, because there is always a variation that we have to take into account.

So I would say a slice of gluten free bread contains maximum a little over mg of gluten, but probably less!

Of course I cannot speak for other producers of gluten free foods, but I would be surprised if their thinking is much different from ours. It might be the end of a company if a control test would find more gluten than allowed in a gluten free product.

So to be more accurate, I've changed the text in my article to say that a slice of gluten-free bread can theoretically contain around ½ mg of gluten, if the manufacturer is close to the 20 ppm limit.

To learn more (and especially if you're tempted to cheat on your gluten-free diet), see How Much Gluten Is Too Much?

February 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm
(1) Peter says:

Great point that GF is not free-from gluten. But in fact, there is nothing here in the U.S. as formal as a “regulation”. The FDA promised to set a threshold for GF lableing that was to take effect in Aug 2008, but that still has not happened. So, what we have is a proposed threshold of less than 20 ppm, a suggestion of good practices, but no rule and certainly no regulation. And, in the absense of that, I suspect (rather I know) that products produced in accordance with the old conventional threshold of 200 ppm are still in the marketplace.

Labeling for Wheat is, however, another matter, as that is classified as a top-8 allegen and covered by the Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act. See the resources section of Free From Market for other loopholes to the FALCPA, prepared with the help of an attorney.


February 22, 2010 at 10:31 am
(2) Amy Ratner says:

At Gluten-Free Living magazine we have found this is one of the hardest concepts to explain.
Any test for gluten in food goes from zero to limit of the test, 20 ppm for example. A food with zero to 19 ppm would have the same negative result. That means the food could contain anywhere from 0-19 ppm. It does not mean the food has 20 ppm of gluten.
We have found that what Ms. Mossberg says about her company is true for others. In an extensive story on testing of gluten-free food in issue Number 3/2009, we report on many companies that are testing to 10 ppm and below to be sure they are well within the 20 ppm proposed by the FDA and set as a new international limit by the World Health Organization. But Peter is also correct in pointing out that in the US there is still no regulation of use of the gluten-free label outside of a general rule that says a label must be truthful and the allergen labeling law that says wheat must be noted when it is used in a food under the jurisdicition of the FDA. We keep hoping this will change soon.
Information about Gluten-Free Living is available at http://www.glutenfreeliving.com.

February 23, 2010 at 12:52 am
(3) jerjohn says:

So I would say a slice of gluten free bread contains maximum a little over mg of gluten, but probably less!

is it true??… i dont think so.. but your blog was exellently made!.,
great job!…!

February 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm
(4) Hajo (Custom Choice Cereal) says:

What a great article and interesting take from Ms. Mossberg, thank you very much! I also agree fully with Peter’s comment that it is somewhat disappointing that the FDA still has not passed its gluten-free labeling rule into effect.

However, a recent incident in North Carolina and an absolutely great approach from the NCDA&CS might set a precedent for de-facto gluten-free labeling enforcement. Sadly enough, the bread samples from Great Specialty Products tested above 5,000 ppm (!!!), but it gives hope…

We at Custom Choice Cereal test every incoming ingredient to 10ppm, which is to our knowledge the most accurate testing that can be done at this point.

March 28, 2010 at 11:37 am
(5) Christine says:

As a scientist, whenever I read these articles my first question is “What is the limit of detection for gluten?” I haven’t seen one story comparing the methods used to detect gluten in foodstuffs and their corresponding limits of detection. You can say ‘less than 10ppm’, but how much can the method detect? Can you help?

April 15, 2010 at 2:40 am
(6) Nanna Mossberg, reg dietitan says:

Codex Alimentarius Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme – recommends a certain method for detection of gluten in foodstuffs (Enzyme-linked immunoassay R5 Mendez Method) and the limit of detection is 5 ppm.

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