There are many reasons people who wish to lead a healthier lifestyle chose to avoid gluten in their diets. Those with gluten allergies and intolerances, however, don’t have a choice. For them, consuming undetected gluten poses a real health risk. The trouble is that traces of gluten can be found in foods that don’t naturally contain it, due to cross-contamination, cooking methods, food additives, etc. This is especially true when it comes to restaurant and commercially processed food.
Inside the box was two test kits, and I must admit I was a little surprised by the vials, pipettes, and sealed pouches. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but with labels like “extraction solution” and “dilution solution” I felt almost scientific. Clearly this was more involved than just plunking a chunk of food into a beaker and seeing what happens.
I decided to test the Whole Foods instant oatmeal I had in my pantry. Oats are bad for cross-contamination, and I knew that when I bought this oatmeal, but the certified gluten-free oats are considerably more expensive, and rarely do you find them in an instant or quick-cooking variety.
The test is easy to do, but it does require multiple steps, and everything must be clean. You’ll need a 1 gram sample (or 1 millimeter if it’s liquid) of whatever you’re testing, and it’s best if you can grind the sample up as much as possible. I don’t have a mortar and pestle, so I used the end of my small rolling pin. There’s a handy chart in the instructions to help you figure out how much to use if you don’t have a kitchen scale, but weighing the sample is best for accuracy. Also, really hard foods might need to be chopped into tiny pieces before attempting to grind them.
Once you have the sample ready, put it in the bottle with the yellow cap. This is the extraction liquid. Replace the lid and shake vigorously for at least 2 minutes. The word vigorously is actually underlined in the instructions, so I’d say it’s very important to shake the bottle really well. It counts as exercise, right?
After it’s all shook up, let the solids settle in the bottom. The instructions say this should take around 5 minutes, depending on the sample. Then, the fun begins! Using a clean dropper, the next step is to transfer sample liquid from the extraction jar to the vial with the blue cap, which is a dilution solution.
In order to be labeled “gluten free” foods must contain no more than 20 PPM (parts per million) of gluten. This handy kit can detect the 20 PPM threshold, OR it can also test down to just 5 PPM. That’s very useful for those who suffer severe gluten intolerances and allergies. I mention this now because in this next step you add 2 drops of the sample liquid to the dilution bottle if you want to test for 20 PPM. If you want to test to 5 PPM, add 8 drops. For both of my samples I tested for 20 PPM.
Once you have the sample liquid drops in the dilution solution, you need to shake the bottle gently for 15 seconds (make sure the blue cap is back on securely). Now it’s time to open up the sealed pouch, which contains a clean pipette and the test stick. Make sure you use the new pipette for this step. Place 5-6 drops of the dilution solution in the “S” cup on the test stick. Wait 10 minutes. That’s the only bummer. If you’re hungry and need to test your food before you eat it, it’s going to take you around 15-20 minutes to find out. By then you’re dinner is going to be cold.
The test should be read right at 10 minutes, as waiting longer could skew the results. As with other types of home tests, there should be a line under the “C” to indicate that the test was done correctly. If there’s no line there, then it’s an invalid result. If there are two lines, then that indicates a positive result for gluten to whichever threshold you tested. Any line under the T is a positive result, no matter how faint. As you can see above, the line isn’t all that dark, so while the concentration of gluten is higher than 20 PPM, if there had been a really high quantity of gluten in the sample then the line would be darker.
I actually took a lot of pictures when I was testing the oatmeal and fried rice (I keep mistyping that as friend rice for some reason, so if I missed a typo please let me know). There were too many photos to include them all on this blog post, so I have them posted on Photobucket, where you can view them as an album or slideshow.
Author Information: Darla, Franklin, TN
In addition to teaching cake decorating classes, Darla is a pastry chef wannabe determined to create healthier versions of favorite dessert and treat recipes.