Gluten free oats: labelled an allergen or not?

Two years ago I wrote about why all oats — be they gluten free oats or ordinary oats — are considered allergens in law and must be highlighted on ingredients labels. If you need a refresher, click here.

Back then, some brands were highlighting their GF oats; some brands weren’t.

I recently checked some brands again, and the problem persists. When will something be done? I doubt it will. Anyway, among the offenders are brands I think are terrific, or have done excellent work in free from, but which I can’t escape from naming:

Nairn’s are not highlighting their GF oats …

Genius are not highlighting their GF oats …

Nature’s Path are not highlighting their GF oats.

And neither are many others. But …

Well done Delicious Alchemy …

and nice one for highlighting and CAPS-ing, Eat Natural …

and all the supermarkets, like Morrisons, who seem to be on the ball.

Is this really a problem worth bothering about?
Yes, because some brands claim to be ’14 allergens free’ — but use gluten-free oats. This is wrong.

It is wrong because it is important to recognise that while gluten-free labelling law makes provision for gluten-uncontaminated oats to be labelled gluten free, it does not make a provision for them to be exempt from being highlighted as an allergen within one of the ‘big 14’ (grouped with wheat, barley and rye).

Among them have been BFreeFoods …

And Nom Foods ….

But there are many others, mainly smaller brands, who are potentially risking the health of those with oat allergy (yes, it exists, and is common in FPIES) and coeliacs who cannot consume even gluten-free oats (commonly estimated to be around 5% of the 1% with CD).

I think this is my last post on this subject. I’m not responsible for policing or enforcing EU labelling laws.

My last words: inconsistency in labelling is confusing to the public. People with oat hypersensitivity or coeliacs who react / feel they react to oats should be as easily able to identify their allergens on a label as anyone else. Hearing once from a small GF-oat-using brand that their trading standards advisor told them not to highlight their oats begs the question: who is training the advisors? And lastly, brands cannot be held solely accountable here: the Food Standards Agency have to shoulder some responsibility for lingering errors. And perhaps arguably Coeliac UK, as much as I hate to say it, because they certify some of the mislabelled products.

2 Comments

  1. Gavin Ayling

    The restaurant labelling laws are a mess too. Trading standards enforce the rules, but Environmental Health are the ones going into the restaurants.

    Reply
    1. Alex G (Post author)

      Which labelling laws in particular did you have in mind? Regarding allergens only? The allergens don’t have to be displayed – but the source of the allergen information does have to be displayed to the consumer in some form (be it menu / blackboard).

      Reply

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