Developed by UK firm Hallmark Analytical Ventures, the test is designed to be used by small food companies that do not have the resources or expertise to conduct complex laboratory analyses.
The Haven Gluten FlowThrough Test (GFT), which works much in the same way as a home pregnancy kit, consists of a test card onto which a sample solution is applied before a coloured spot appears indicating the presence of gluten.
Indeed, the market for gluten-free products has increased significantly in recent years as a result of an increased incidence of diagnosed gluten intolerance, together with a growing number of consumers who choose to avoid wheat.
Estimates by market researcher Mintel reveal the overall free-from food market in the UK was worth around £90m (€131m) in 2005, with gluten-/wheat-free products forming the largest sector, accounting for 54 per cent of value sales. According to Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD), 216 new gluten-free products were launched in Europe in 2005.
Coeliac disease, caused by an intolerance to gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, currently affects an average of one in 300 people in Europe and the US. In Germany the figure is higher at one in 200, while the UK reports a figure of one in 100.
According to director of Hallmark AV's Phil Goodwin, the new GFT test is easier to use and gives clearer results than other on-site tests currently available.
"Other tests are either not sensitive enough to detect low levels of gluten, or they are too sensitive and complicate the analysis process as everything comes up and it is difficult to ascertain if there is really a problem," he told BakeryAndSnacks.com.
The GFT test is positioned in between the two, and claims to be able to cope easily with extreme ranges of gluten. It was designed to detect levels as low as 10 parts per million (ppm), in line with Codex guidelines for non-cereal derived foods, as well as higher levels of 200ppm found in cereal-derived foods.
The test can also be used to identify gluten contamination on surfaces or processing equipment, detecting 0.25ppm gluten in environmental swabbing solutions.
In order to use the test, which takes a total of around 15 minutes, a homogenous solid or liquid sample must be placed into an extraction tube. Flours, liquids or swabs can be used directly, whereas samples of finished baked goods must first be broken up into an even crumb-like structure.
The extraction solution is diluted and placed onto the test card, where any gluten present binds with an antibody present in the device. A further solution is applied, which then revels a pink to red spot in the presence of gluten. The more gluten present, the stronger the colour of the spot, said the company.
Each test can only be used once, and costs around £5-6 (€7-9).
The company, which has specialized in food testing methods for over 20 years, aims to distribute its new product to the US, Australia and countries throughout Europe.
It is currently working on developing a milk allergen test- for both casein and whey proteins, as well as a peanut and almond test.
Indeed, with the implementation of EU allergen labelling regulations, more and more companies are producing testing kits to meet the demand from food processors.
The allergen labelling regulations came into force on 25 November last year, and require companies to label all pre-packed foods if they contain any of the 12 most common food allergen ingredients, including gluten, fish, egg, peanut, soybeans and milk.
Under previous legislation food makers did not have to declare allergens on the label if they were present in an added ingredient that makes up less than 25 per cent of the final food - for example, pepperoni on pizza.