TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Coliseum in St. Petersburg recently played host to the Gluten Free for Life Expo. From wine to makeup, the venue was packed with all things gluten free.
The Hart family was in attendance because being gluten free is absolutely necessary for their health. Melanie Hart and her mom, Phyllis have celiac disease. It's a medical condition where eating gluten damages the gut. Eating food with even trace amounts can cause symptoms.
"I vomit and I have stomach pains," Melanie explained.
Phyllis added, “It’s just miserable, you know? It's like having the flu."
There were also plenty of non-celiacs at the expo, with problems too. Pati Cark has a thyroid condition. She's part of a growing group of people choosing to go gluten free.
"Most people don't even know there is hidden gluten in so many things, from hair products to anything you put on your skin, to soy sauce," Pati said.
That hidden gluten is boosting business for companies like ELISA technologies. Chief Executive Officer Natalie Rosskopf said, for the past 25 years, workers in her lab have been testing for gluten in samples sent by manufacturers, scientists and the government.
However, it's ELISA's tiny, hand-packed EZ Gluten test kit bringing that technology home.
"We don't have any other products that we sell to the public. It's been really easy for people to use, easy to understand,” explained Rosskopf.
ELISA Scientific Director Justin Bickford said EZ Gluten is so easy because it's similar to a pregnancy test.
"It's just taking a sample and crushing it up. If it's a solid or liquid, putting it in the extraction solution and putting a strip in that."
The strip changes color when it senses about a half dozen proteins present in gluten.
Federal guidelines allow manufacturer's packaging to claim they're gluten free if the concentration is less than 20 parts per million. Bickford said EZ Gluten is sensitive enough to pick up half that amount.
It's a test that could help celiac sufferers become more confident when eating out.
"To me, it's kind of hard to find gluten free in restaurants because there's always a chance of contamination," Melanie Hart explained.
Her mother, Phyllis is optimistic about trying the test.
"I think it's a great concept and I look forward to trying it," she said.