Q: Why is testing important?
A: The only way to truly be sure that a food doesn’t contain gluten is to test every batch, every time. Even when all the raw ingredients are naturally gluten free and the product is produced in a dedicated gluten free facility, there may be inadvertent contamination at other points in the supply chain or manufacturing process. It is nearly impossible for any manufacturer to control the ingredient and packaging supply chain from farm to table. Therefore, the only way to ever ensure a product is gluten free is to test it after it has been packaged for retail sale.
Many manufacturers and certification agencies do not require testing for gluten of every production batch. Instead, each manufacturer undergoes a risk assessment and based upon this it is determined how often products must be tested. The risk profile is then checked via random testing during the year. We find this practice to be a serious flaw in the certification system and one of the many reasons we do not participate in third party certification systems. Instead, we have determined that the only way to always know a product is safe is to test the final packed product via third party.
Q: How often do you test your products?
A: We test every production batch of all of our products. Every single product is tested every single time it is produced. Every Product, Every Time!
Q: Who does your testing?
A: We use The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Allergy Research & Resource Program (UNL-FARRP) [http://farrp.unl.edu/].
Q: Why do you use the UNL-FARRP Lab to test your products?
A: The FARRP Lab is a recognized leader in gluten free testing and used by numerous manufacturer’s, certification organizations and ingredient suppliers. They are experts at testing and do so in an environment that is designed for optimal performance and reliability in results. Further, the FARRP Lab has no vested interest in a positive or negative result. They are an unbiased third party. In-house testing by a manufacturer can be a vital step in ensuring a product is gluten free, but using an outside, expert organization ensures test results that are above reproach.
Q: What kind of test is performed?
A: The FARRP Lab tests the products to 5 ppm using the R-Biopharm RIDASCREEN®. This test results in a qualitative reading of the parts per million of gluten in the product. Any amount of gluten above 5 parts per million will be reported with a number, and below 5 ppm will result in a reading of Below Level of Quantification (BLQ).
Q: How is Tested Gluten Free different from other certification organizations?
A: All of the certification organizations provide some level of educational programs, research support, market awareness and insight to the Celiac community and consumers at large. The testing and certification of products as gluten free is just one of the many valuable resources they provide to consumers. However, none of the organizations require manufacturers to inform consumers of the levels of gluten in a product.
Tested Gluten Free is only dedicated to the testing of every production batch of gluten free products, AND informing consumers of the exact level of gluten in the product. It is the only place in the world to find a 100% transparent program for revealing gluten levels in every batch of a product.
This differs from the certification organizations as they typically perform a risk assessment on the likelihood of gluten in a particular product. Then, the certification organization enters into a contract with the manufacturer (or brand) that requires varying levels of spot-testing, record keeping, compliance and financial payments. No certification organization that we know of requires manufacturers to test every batch, every time. Furthermore, some certification organizations require only internal tests, not independent, third-party testing.
Q: What levels of gluten do you consider “gluten-free”?
A: We follow advice from medical experts, and the medical community has accepted levels less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten to be “gluten free” and not harmful to Celiacs. This is the standard that is expected to be approved by the FDA, and that is currently used in the European Union and many other countries.
However, we strive to have undetectable levels of gluten in every product we sell. This means below 5 ppm. We also believe that consumers know their bodies better than anyone, and they know when they do not feel well from gluten. By identifying the level of gluten in every one of our products consumers can better educate them on what level of gluten they can handle, and if a product is right for them.
You can find more information on the safe levels of gluten at the following links:
Here’s more information on the FDA’s proposal for a maximum allowable level of 20 ppm:
Q: What is your testing protocol?
A: The test results you see on this site are the capstone of a comprehensive quality control program. The quality control program can include, but is not limited to, internal and/or third party tests on equipment, raw ingredients and in-production batch testing. Additionally, as part of a comprehensive HACCP program we have other procedures in place to control the risk of cross-contamination during the manufacturing process.
The tests results shown on Tested Gluten Free are from random samples pulled from each lot of finished production. These random samples are then sent to the UNL-FARRP Lab for testing. The results of these tests are then posted on the site. The product tested is the actual finished product as sold to consumers.
Q: Are the products on this site made in a facility (shared facility) or production line that also handles gluten?
A: Depends on the product, and the concept of a dedicated facility is a bit misleading. Few, if any, producers of gluten free products control the supply chain from farm to table. Even when all the raw ingredients are naturally gluten free and the product is produced in a dedicated gluten free facility, there may be inadvertent contamination at other points in the supply chain or manufacturing process. Therefore, the only way to ever ensure a product is gluten free is to test the finished product as packaged for retail sales.
Q: How can products made in a shared facility or production line be gluten free?
A: Quality food production is done in a very controlled environment where contaminants are kept to a minimum. A shared facility can produce gluten free products; it just depends on the production environment, the products being manufactured, the raw materials, storage of raw materials, setup of manufacturing lines, finished product storage and many other conditions. Again, every facility is different and the only way to ever know if any product is gluten free is to test every production lot after it has been packaged for consumer sales.
Q: Are products made in dedicated gluten free facilities always gluten free?
A: Many producers and consumers assume they are. However, the supply chain can be compromised and the only way to ever know if any product is gluten free is to test the finished packaged product.
Q: Why would a product made in a dedicated gluten free production facility not be gluten free?
A: Because the production/packaging facility is typically the final stop in a long supply chain and there are many instances where raw materials can become contaminated. While a dedicated facility does lower the chance at cross contamination during production, it does not ensure a final product will be gluten free. The only way to ever ensure a final product is gluten free is to test final production.
Q: Why is the Tested Gluten Free web site so basic?
A: The site is about getting the information to the consumer quickly. We could have spent more time designing a beautiful and highly complex web site. What we have done instead is make the simplest site we can, that conveys the test results quickly. We prefer to spend our time making wonderful tasting and safe products.