Background: A strict and lifelong gluten-free diet is the only treatment of celiac disease. Gluten contamination has been frequently reported in nominally gluten-free products. The aim of this study was to test the level of gluten contamination in gluten-free products currently available in the Italian market.
Method: A total of 200 commercially available gluten-free products (including both naturally and certified gluten-free products) were randomly collected from different Italian supermarkets. The gluten content was determined by the R5 ELISA Kit approved by EU regulations.
Results: Gluten level was lower than 10 part per million (ppm) in 173 products (86.5%), between 10 and 20 ppm in 9 (4.5%), and higher than 20 ppm in 18 (9%), respectively. In contaminated foodstuff (gluten > 20 ppm) the amount of gluten was almost exclusively in the range of a very low gluten content. Contaminated products most commonly belonged to oats-, buckwheat-, and lentils-based items. Certified and higher cost gluten-free products were less commonly contaminated by gluten.
Conclusion: Gluten contamination in either naturally or labeled gluten-free products marketed in Italy is nowadays uncommon and usually mild on a quantitative basis. A program of systematic sampling of gluten-free food is needed to promptly disclose at-risk products.
Keywords: R5 ELISA; buckwheat; celiac disease; gluten-free products; lentils; naturally gluten-free; oats.