By Lance Hill, Food Policy Liaison Officer – Health Canada, BC Region
in response to Ellen Bayens‘ investigation regarding Wheat & Barley Grass
Wheat Grass (Photo: Wikipedia)
“With the coming in to effect on August 4, 2012 of the enhanced labeling regulations for allergens and gluten sources and sulphites, and the resulting modification of section B.24.018 of the Food Regulation it became permissible for a food that contains no gluten protein, modified gluten protein or protein fraction, to be labelled gluten free. See here for full details on the amendments: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/index-eng.php
It is understood that gluten protein is found in the seed portion of barley and wheat, and is absent in the grass portion. If harvest of wheat and barley grass is done prior to formation of seed, expectations are that no gluten should be present. Concerns have been expressed in the past with respect to how does one ensure this is always the case and that no seeds have formed prior to harvest and no opportunity has been provided for cross-contamination between grass and seeds at the producer level and through handling and processing.
Recognizing that prior to August 4th, labeling products containing wheat or barley grass as ‘gluten-free’ would not have been permissible, we are very much still breaking new ground as we move forward in this area. I am not aware of any guidelines at this point that would assist or stipulate the design of controls or a program to ensure these products are always gluten-free. It would however be prudent to have some program in place that would provide for regular monitoring of ingredient until such time as a satisfactory history is developed and which might provide for less frequent checks on an ongoing basis for supplier verification.
In short, from my contact with Food Directorate at Health Canada and program staff with CFIA, I can advise that when barley grass and/or wheat grass, contain less than 20 ppm gluten and are used ingredients in a food that contains no gluten protein, modified gluten protein or protein fraction, then the food is permitted to be labelled gluten free.
Readers should also be aware of the following documents:
Health Canada’s Position on Gluten-Free Claims
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Compliance and Enforcement of Gluten-Free Claims