In Canada, wheat flour must be enriched with vitamin B1, B2, B3, folic acid and iron, and may be enriched with vitamin B5, B6, and magnesium. These rules do not apply to gluten –free flour. As a result, many gluten-free flours, breads, pasta products, breakfast cereals and baked goods are much lower in vitamins, mineral nutrients and fibre than the gluten-containing products they replace. People with celiac disease, who must consume a strict gluten-free diet for life, may not be receiving optimum nutrition from their diets.
The Good News
Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations allow the enrichment of gluten-free foods sold in Canada. The Regulation [D.03.003] states that in order to qualify for enrichment, all three of the following conditions must be met:
- The food must be a gluten-free food.
- No standard is prescribed in the Regulations for the food.
- The food is not advertised to the general public.
Gluten-free foods do not have prescribed standards in the Food and Drug Regulations, so this requirement is already met. For the purpose of these Regulations, individuals with celiac disease are not regarded as the “general public”. Therefore, gluten-free foods may be advertised in magazines, newsletters, and other media that is targeted to people with celiac disease or requiring a gluten-free diet.
Health Canada recommends that if cereal-based gluten-free foods are enriched, they should be enriched to the same levels as similar non-gluten-free products, e.g., gluten-free flours be enriched to the same levels as enriched flour; gluten-free breads to the same levels as enriched bread, etc. Bakery products and snack foods should have levels of enrichment corresponding to the amount of flour replaced.
Gluten-free products that have been enriched must be labelled “gluten-free”. This statement must appear on the main display panel as part of or near the common name of the food: “gluten-free enriched bread” or “gluten-free bread, enriched”. If rice flour is the fortified product then “gluten-free enriched rice flour” would be an acceptable common name.
All vitamin and mineral nutrient preparations added to gluten-free products must be identified by their correct common names in the ingredient list, and all of the nutrients must be declared in the nutrition panel as a percentage of the Recommended Daily Intake.
What does this mean for you?
Check the nutrition panel on your favourite gluten-free products and compare them to other brands. Choose enriched products when possible.