The Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS) is pushing for stricter international standards on gluten contamination in gluten-free labelled products.
The number of people being diagnosed with gluten intolerance is on the rise with some estimates putting the number as high as one in 80. The market for gluten-free products has grown as a result.
The international food commission Codex Alimentarius has prepared a gluten-free standard for European food firms, based on a gluten contamination threshold of 200 parts/million (ppm), but it has not issued it because it claimed that there was no accurate way of checking compliance.
Some countries nevertheless already insist on lower levels -- Finland and Sweden work to 100ppm -- and the AOECS wants the international standard set at just 20ppm.
Andrew Ladds, chief executive of Coeliac UK and chairman of the AOECS, said it was now possible to carry out more sensitive tests.
Coeliac UK is to licence its Crossed Grain symbol for gluten-free products only to companies which comply with the 20ppm threshold. It will also encourage its members to buy only products with the lower threshold.
The AOECS has the support of some manufacturers. UK company Nutrition Point has just built a £50,000 test laboratory to enable it to meet the 20ppm threshold.