Meet the Researcher - Alysa Durbin

Breakout Room: 16

AlysaDurbin_HeadshotResearcher Name: Alysa Durbin
Co-Presenter: Sydney Skeie
Title of Research: Reliability of labeled gluten-free food products in the US: a risk for contamination
Division Representing: Health Sciences
Institution: Capital University 
Institution Location: Ohio
Home State: Ohio
District Number: 3
Advisor/Mentor: Kerry Cheesman
Funding Source: Robert M. Geist Endowed Chair in the Biological Sciences (Capital University)

Research Experience:  
Alysa is currently in the process of a research project regarding the presence of a trend between college student class year and symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, she has volunteered with the Ohio Department of Health and The Ohio State University in a study for more knowledge on COVID-19 data and awareness.

Presentation Experience: 
Alysa presented at the Capital University Symposium in 2018 and presented virtually for the 2020 NABT Biology Poster Session with co-author Sydney Skeie.

Significance of Research:       
Gluten is a protein complex that appears in wheat, barely, and rye, and even in foods that do not normally contain these grains. Those suffering from an intolerance to gluten, especially individuals that face Celiac disease, are careful to avoid gluten contamination in food products. It is necessary for afflicted individuals to know whether or not advertised gluten-free products contain the correct levels of gluten. The current study was designed to determine the reliability of gluten-free food labels in the consumer marketplace. Samples of gluten-free foods were collected from various locations in central Ohio, including restaurants, grocery stores, and health-food stores. A total of 222 samples were analyzed using a Nima Gluten Sensor (antibody-based colorimetric assay) to determine if gluten content was <20 ppm, the maximum allowed by US law for a product labeled gluten-free. Of the samples tested, 98 were certified as gluten-free (<10 ppm) by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO); only 13 of these (13.3% of samples) were found to exceed 20 ppm of gluten. By comparison, 115 samples were labeled gluten-free on the packaging but did not contain certification; of these, 33 (28.7%) were found to contain more gluten than allowed by law. While results reveal that certified gluten-free products may be more trusted in their claim of being gluten-free, contamination can still occur for those who receive an inflammatory response by gluten grains. It is imperative to test the reliability of the gluten-free label to protect the health of individuals with intolerance to gluten.

Uniqueness of Research: 
Regulation on the gluten-free claim was recently established (FDA 2013), so data collected from this project adds to the scarcity of prior studies. This study aimed to support the protection of the health of all individuals at a dietary disadvantage; a basic principle for students pursuing careers in health and medicine.