Mystery Grain in Edison Grainery Lentils Tests “Low Gluten” Using Nima
This post is an update to the blog posted on December 13th entitled “General Product Warning: Check Your Lentils (including certified gluten-free lentils) for Foreign Grain” available at https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/general-product-warning-check-your-lentils-including-certified-gluten-free-lentils-for-foreign-grain/
Long story short: A consumer found a single errant grain in each of two bags of Edison Grainery certified gluten-free lentils. Photos of the grain were sent to Edison Grainery. The consumer was advised that the grain was likely wild oat, oat, or rice. Gluten Free Watchdog sent one of the photos to a farmer well versed in grains. We were advised that the grain in question was likely barley.
The consumer agreed to send the grains to Gluten Free Watchdog for testing using the Nima (the sample size was too small to test with the fully validated R5 ELISA).
Testing: The grains were sent in separate Ziploc bags. The plan was to grind each grain into a “powder” before testing. The grains were very hard and in the end they had to be smashed with a mallet. The resulting grain “powder” from each grain was tested separately.
Both grains tested “low gluten” using the Nima.*
Recommendations for lentils and other legumes
- Buy legumes that are labeled gluten-free.
- Regardless of labeling (including certified gluten-free claims), pour all legumes onto a cookie sheet or other large surface and pick through them very carefully.
- Rinse thoroughly under running water.
*Note: Low gluten is defined by the Nima website as 5 ppm gluten to 15,000 ppm gluten (not a typo). In case you are curious the definitions of the various test results that may appear on Nima are:
Smiley Face: 0 to 20 ppm gluten
Low Gluten: 5 ppm to 15,000 ppm gluten
High Gluten: At least 100 ppm gluten
This is quite the ppm range and quite the ppm overlap between categories. What this means in practical terms is that products in compliance with the gluten-free labeling rule (i.e., < 20 ppm gluten) and/or certified gluten-free by GFCO (i.e., no more than 10 ppm gluten) could have the same result using Nima (i.e., low gluten) as a product highly contaminated with gluten or, as we discovered today, barley grain. In the opinion of Gluten Free Watchdog, this is highly problematic.
Thoughts on Nima:
- If you have a Nima, testing errant grain from a bag of legumes may be a good use of this device BUT you must be able to grind/smash the grain into a powder to test.
- The “low gluten” reading used by Nima is concerning. Under Codex there is a provision for foods specially processed to reduce gluten content to above 20 ppm gluten but no more than 100 ppm gluten. The European Union terms this category as “very low gluten.” Under Codex “gluten-free” is defined as no more than 20 ppm gluten. The US does not have a definition for low gluten or very low gluten. But the Nima team defines low gluten as 5 ppm to 15,000 ppm gluten.
- It is curious why the barley grain powder tested low gluten and a few crumbs of mixed grain wheat bread tested high gluten (bread was tested as a check). This is an area Gluten Free Watchdog will be exploring further.