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The challenge

Grains to meet the demand for low gluten products

There is a large and growing global demand for food and beverage products to meet the needs of people with coeliac disease and people who are gluten intolerant.

Co-inventor Dr Greg Tanner (retired) in a field of Kebari® barley

People with these conditions need to follow a life-long gluten free diet. These diets are often expensive, high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre, minerals and vitamins, which in turn can contribute to adverse health conditions.

There is a challenge to provide consumers who require a gluten free diet with new healthy alternatives that can add diversity to their diets.

Our response

Kebari® barley with low levels of gluten

Kebari® is the trade mark for CSIRO-bred barley varieties Ohalo and Ohalo2.

Using conventional plant breeding methods, our researchers have developed Kebari® barley, a world-first barley grain that has 10,000 times less hordeins (the type of gluten found in barley) than regular barley.

We chose to work on barley as it is genetically simpler than wheat and therefore easier and quicker to achieve a barley variety with a reduced gluten content. Barley is not currently a large component of the standard Australian diet but products from barley such as malt and beer are common. Barley is a nutritious and adaptable grain suitable for breakfast cereals and other foods.

A logo: stylised text spelling 'Kebari', with a grain head image forming part of the K
Kebari® logo

We named our barley Kebari®, in honour of an archaeological discovery at the Sea of Galilee, where evidence of the Kebaran people growing, harvesting and processing barley 23,000 years ago has been found.

The gluten content of Kebari® barley is less than five parts per million (ppm), well below the limit of 20 ppm recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for classification as gluten-free.

While it is 'ultra-low' in gluten, and does meet the WHO recommendation for classification as gluten-free, Kebari® barley cannot be called 'gluten-free' in Australia or New Zealand under the current Food Standards Code as it is a barley grain. Regulations in Europe will allow products containing Kebari® grain to be called gluten-free.

Kebari® barley was developed through the Coeliac Friendly Cereals project, a partnership between CSIRO and The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and The Royal Melbourne Hospital were involved in the early stages of the ultra-low gluten barley project.

The results

Pionier beer: the first of many products

The first commercially-produced product made with Kebari® grain is German brewer Radeberger’s Pionier gluten-free beer, which was launched in 2016.

German brewer Radeberger's Pionier gluten free beer, brewed using Kebari® barley

In Germany the production of beer is regulated by the German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) which allows only water, barley, yeast and hops to be used in beer making. By using Kebari® grain, Radeberger have been able to release the first ever gluten-free beer marketed in Germany.

Our researchers have achieved ultra-low gluten levels in hulled barley, typically used in malt products and brewed beverages, such as beer. We have now managed to reduce the gluten levels in hulless barley, which is more typically used in foods. This will offer a range of opportunities for food with gluten levels below the acceptable limit for coeliacs, providing a greater variety of healthy foods for consumers.

[Music plays, CSIRO logo appears on bottom right hand corner of screen and text appears: Kebari®M barley, A CSIRO innovation]

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt and text appears on screen: Dr Crispin Howitt]

Dr Crispin Howitt: One in five people in the Western world avoid gluten in their diet, some by choice, and some through necessity, such as Coeliac’s. Their diets are often nutritionally poor, high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre. To help solve this problem we’ve developed the world’s first gluten free barley.

[Image changes to show a man inspecting barley plants]

Using conventional breeding we’ve reduced the gluten content in this grain over 10,000 fold, such that it more than meets the World Health Organisation’s recommendation for classification as gluten free.

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt standing in a field]

This field behind me came from a single barley grain that we developed in 2009.

[Image changes as camera pans across the field]

[Image changes to show Dr Phil Larkin and text appears on screen: Dr Phil Larkin]

Dr Phil Larkin: We’ve called this barley Kebari®, and that’s, too, in recognition of quite a remarkable archaeological discovery not so long ago at the Sea of Galilee. There was a community there called the Kebaran, 23,000 years ago they were growing and harvesting and processing barley, so we call it Kebari® in honour of that very ancient use.

The first version of Kebari® we’ve produced is a hulled version, that’s got the husk still on it, and that’s used for malting and making beer, and stuff like Milo as well.

[Image changes to show Kebari® grains in the palm of a person’s hand]

We’ve got naked grain versions coming on behind that, which will be used for food.

[Image changes back to Dr Phil Larkin]

Kebari® has been used by a German brewer called Radeberger, who have made the world’s first commercially brewed, full flavoured barley beer labelled gluten free.

[Image changes to show a beer bottle appearing to the right of the screen]

And that’s now available in Germany. We’re excited about that.

[Image changes back to Dr Crispin Howitt]

Dr Crispin Howitt: From a single seed came all of this.

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt holding up a seed in his hand, then spreading out his arms, and the camera pans out to show the barley crop growing in the field behind him]

[Image changes to show beer being poured into a glass from a bottle labelled Pionier Glutenfrei Pilsener]

[Text appears on screen:]

[CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here]

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CSIRO has licensed hulless Kebari® to The Healthy Grain.

Read more about the Kebari® barley: Frequently asked questions

Kebari® is a registered trade mark of CSIRO.

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