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Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1603

(Question No. 533)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 11 September 1985:

(1) Do coeliac sufferers have to observe a strict gluten-free diet.

(2) Was a commercial food list of all gluten-free products produced by the Coeliac Society with assistance from the Department of Health; if so, did this task become too large for the modest means of the Coeliac Society and were two lists then compiled and printed entirely by the Department and has the Department now ceased compiling such a list; if so, for what reason.

(3) Are manufacturers required to indicate gluten content in their labelling; if not, how can consumers know if the product is safe for coeliac sufferers.

(4) Will the Minister for Health ensure that an up-to-date list is prepared and distributed in view of the effect that gluten has on coeliac sufferers.

Senator Grimes —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes, the primary treatment of coeliac disease is the avoidance of gluten in food. Foods containing wheat, rye, barley and oats must be eliminated.

(2) A ``List of Gluten Free Food Information'' has been published by my Department for more than twenty years. Apart from one issue, when the research of gluten-free foods was carried out by the New South Wales Coeliac Society, my Department has been solely responsible for obtaining, assessing, collating and finally publishing the data. My Department has not ceased to compile this list. However, because of a lack of resources, it was unable to revise the list in 1983 or 1984.

(3) Current food regulations throughout Australia do not require the declaration of the presence of gluten. The Model Food Standards Regulations of the National Health and Medical Research Council which form the basis of State and Territory food law do specify content and labelling requirements for foods marketed as gluten-free for the use of coeliac disease sufferers. This regulation has already been incorporated into law in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

The National Health and Medical Research Council's Food Standards Committee regularly reviews regulations regarding food labelling and concerns about the identification of gluten content of foods have been forwarded to the Committee.

(4) A ``List of Gluten Free Food Information'' is currently being compiled. I anticipate that it will be available for distribution to the appropriate people at the end of this year or early 1986.

The Federal Department of Health is not the sole source of information about gluten in foods. Dietitians working in specialist clinics caring for patients with coeliac disease and Coeliac Societies themselves provide supplementary information on local availability of foods.