What is the Gluten Codex Alimentarius?
The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 to develop food standards and guidelines to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair trade food practices.
Since creation, the Codex Alimentarius, also known as the food code, has become the global reference point for consumers, food producers and processors, food control agencies and the international food trade.
Codex Alimentarius origins
Assyrian tablets and Egyptian scrolls have been found describing methods to be used for correct weights, measures and labelling of foods. The Romans inspected their beer and wines for purity, having established a food control system to protect consumers in ancient Athens.
In the Middle Ages Europe also passed laws for quality of food and drink products, the German Reinheitsgebot of 1516 for beer purity being one such law.
During the latter part of the 19th Century food chemistry became recognised as a way of determining the purity of a food. This allowed detection of hazardous chemicals or other substances often used to adulterate food or drink.
By the early 20th Century there were many independent food quality standards existing with different countries adopting different standards. However it was desirable to have one constant standard that all countries could adopt and so the Codex Alimentarius Commission was established.
Gluten Codex Alimentarius
Codex Standard 118-1979 applies to foods for special dietary uses that have been formulated, processed or prepared to meet the special dietary needs of people intolerant to gluten.
Food labeled "gluten free" may not contain wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, or crossbreed varieties, and its gluten level may not exceed 20 parts per million (ppm). The gluten codex alimentarius initially adopted in 1981 was higher but revised in 2008 to a lower level of 20 ppm.
Also, foods containing wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, or crossbreed varieties that have been specifically processed to remove gluten to levels not exceeding 20 ppm can be considered "gluten free" according to the gluten codex. ( Read the full codex - STAN 118-1981, Standard for Gluten-Free Foods) (English version [PDF], other language versions are available from the main listing page.)
To put this into perspective, 20 ppm of gluten is equivalent to 20 milligrams (mg) of gluten per kilogram or per litre of product (or 0.0007 ounces per 2.2 pounds of product).
The current method for determination of gluten levels is the Enzyme-linked Immunoassay (ELISA) R5 Mendez Method.
For more information on the Codex Alimentarius Commission visit: www.codexalimentarius.org/