From time to time food fads emerge which is exploited by the processing industry. It was in 1974 when gluten free food concept emerged and such products were offered to those affected by the Celliac disease and by 1994 commercial products started finding a place in the regular markets. Beginning with a humble production during the previous millennium, the market reached an astonishing volume of production valued at $ 860 million in 2004 registering a compounded annual growth of 36%. To day global market is estimated at about $ 4 billion! What is intriguing is that such a production base can meet the needs of existing Celliac patients several times over, obviously highlighting the fad nature of the growing demand. Grains like wheat, Barley, Rye etc have significant amounts of the complex gluten protein which is an essential component for all bakery products including bread, biscuits, pasta, pastry products and many others. The demand for gluten free products has led to innovative efforts to develop technologies that can obviate the need for gluten. But making these flours gluten free is a laborious process involving aqueous process that separates the protein fraction leaving behind a practically gluten free flour. Recent claim by a company in the US that it has a magic mushroom variety which has a voracious appetite for gluten and this can be used to remove practically 100% of the gluten may help the growth of the industry further. Here is a take on this novel development which may have some relevance to the specialty industry that is raking in money through developing a number of gluten free products to the gullible public.
"A US food technology company has developed a magic mushroom with a twist. Rather than causing hallucinations,these mushrooms remove gluten from wheat - a mind-bending concept in itself. the mushroom reportedly consume the gluten protein, with third-party testing showing that they removed 99.9998% of the total gluten content. The technology is claimed to work by "harnessing the purification properties of mushrooms, which are trained to consume the protein gluten". "The challenge in the growing gluten-free movement is formulating products that have similar flavour profiles and mouth feel to products that are wheat based," said Alan Hahn, CEO and Founder of MycoTechnology, the company that developed the mushroom technology. "Our technology allows consumers the ability to introduce wheat back into their diets with great-tasting products." Several large manufacturers have reportedly begun using the technology to formulate gluten-free products based on wheat."
With only bare details of the process revealed, it is difficult to assess its efficacy or utility under commercial conditions, though the report suggests that several large players are using the technology in their product formulations. Also not clear is the quality of the end products made using the mushroom intervention route as mushrooms do have specific flavor not liked universally. Nonetheless this opens up another avenue to expand production of gluten free flours from grains like wheat to meet increasing demand by the industry for this critical raw material. An intake of less than 10 mg of gluten is normally allowed in products targeted at Celliac patients and the extraordinary efficiency of the magic mushroom in deglutenization of flours must be music to the ears of this specialty products industry.