UK Gluten Free Food Labelling Laws Really Help
August 17th, 2011
No matter how little is used as an ingredient; any cereal containing gluten must be listed on the ingredients list.
Manufacturers have to name on the ingredients list the specific grains used, such as: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or indeed any grain which has been made through breeding these together.
But be aware there are a few exemptions to the labels regulations.
Some ingredients may be made from cereals that contain gluten, but they have been processed in a way that removes the gluten. Because this makes the ingredients safe for people with coeliac disease so it’s not necessary for the manufacturers to list the cereal they first came from.
The European Commission has been working closely with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to develop a list of ingredients which are safe for coeliac disease sufferers. The following ingredients are deemed safe for those with coeliac disease:
- Glucose syrups which are derived from wheat or barley including dextrose
- Wheat-based maltodextrins
- Distilled ingredients made from cereals that contain gluten, such as alcoholic spirits.
So as mentioned above, even though these ingredients can be made from cereals containing gluten, manufacturers do not have to label them as such.
Some manufacturers may still list these, such as ‘glucose syrup from wheat’ or ‘wheat dextrose’, even though these ingredients are in fact gluten-free and safe for those with coeliac disease.
Even though using an allergy box is a recommendation, it’s NOT compulsory so not all manufacturers use them. So it’s still essential that you still check the ingredients list.
Then of course we have the ‘may contain’ labelling.
The Food Standards Agency give manufacturers advice on when to label a product with a ‘may contain’ statement.
This includes labelling such as ‘may contain traces of gluten’, ‘made on a line handling wheat’, ‘made in factory also handling wheat’.
Manufacturers use of this varies but when these statements are used on a product, the manufacturer has decided that there is in fact a risk that the product could be contaminated with gluten. And some manufacturers actually use this label even when the risk is very small.
Don’t forget you can and should contact the manufacturer directly, if you feel you need more information on the suitability of the product.
The good news is that there is a new law on gluten free foods.
You may start or have started seeing statements on products specially marketed for people with coeliac disease, such as, gluten-free, very low gluten and suitable for coeliacs.
These terms are now covered by a new law for the labelling of gluten-free foods published in January 2009. And manufacturers only have until January 2012 to ensure they are complying with this legislation.
- Only foods which contain 20ppm or less of gluten can be labelled ‘gluten-free’. This includes naturally gluten-free foods, specialist substitute products which may contain Codex wheat starch (products mainly on prescription) and pure, uncontaminated oats.
- Products which contain between 21 and 100ppm gluten can be labelled ‘very low gluten’. This will include specialist substitute products which contain Codex wheat starch.
This should make it much easier to spot foods that are likely to cause you problems and make shopping much less stressful!
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