New Gluten Labelling Guidance has been published today by the Food & Drink Federation — in partnership with Coeliac UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign, and others — the aim of which is to “achieve greater consistency in how the presence of cereals containing gluten and gluten-free claims are labelled on pre-packed foods”.
It’s well worth a read. Readers used to gluten-related labelling will be familiar with a lot of it, but some of the more complex issues which periodically arise on this subject are addressed and explained very plainly and clearly. Here are some of my highlights.
No ‘free from gluten’
The claim ‘free from gluten’ is not permitted, and never has been, since gluten-free labelling legislation came into force, a subject I’ve written about previously on this site. I’m glad that this new guidance sets this out explicitly in the opening paragraph in Section 3. Many brands continue to make this claim. They should instead use ‘gluten free’. Those two words. In that order. No exceptions.
Spelt is wheat — and labels should state so
Ditto Khorasan / Kamut and other wheat varieties and hybrids. Here’s the relevant extract from the document:
… where “spelt” and “khorasan wheat” varieties are present in a food product a specific reference to “wheat” in an emphasised format is required (e.g. bold)
Last time I reviewed this, there were still some products failing to declare spelt as wheat, even though Biona updated their labelling when I reported it. See here for more.
Gluten is not the allergen
I’ve also written about this previously. Essentially, the cereal containing gluten must always be declared, and highlighted.
As ‘cereal containing gluten’ is listed as the regulated allergen in Annex II of the FIC Regulation (and not ‘gluten’ itself); it is not permitted to declare and emphasise only “gluten” for allergen labelling purposes. Therefore, an emphasised reference to the specific cereal in the ingredients list is needed. This is also the case when gluten is used as an ingredient in its own right (e.g. “wheat gluten”).
Labelling gluten-free oats (and wheat starch)
This a subject I’ve been addressing for years (see here for instance).
In a nutshell, even gluten free oats are a ‘top 14’ allergen. Many brands fail to highlight oats in their lists of ingredients, and some wrongly claim to be ‘allergen free’ or a ’14 free’ brand when they in fact use gluten free oats.
A similar situation arises with Codex wheat starch. The wheat still needs to be highlighted to alert people who don’t have coeliac disease, but do have wheat allergy, and who may react to non-gluten wheat proteins.
It’s easier to screen-grab the segment (pictured above right).
Precautionary allergen labelling (PAL)
I found this very interesting. The guidance states:
It is not recommended practice for a food label to declare a generic “May contain cereals containing gluten” precautionary allergen labeling (PAL) statement whilst also claiming ‘gluten-free’. As ‘gluten-free’ is perceived as an absolute claim, there is potential for consumer confusion.
However, the guidance does make an allowance for a specific PAL claim when the risk is not to a coeliac, but to an individual with cereal grain allergy, providing it doesn’t compromise a GF claim.
I’m reminded of the case described in this previous post of mine about Goody Good Stuff sweets, which are gluten free, but carry a ‘may contain traces of wheat’ warning, which turns out to concern Codex wheat starch — no risk to coeliacs, but potentially to those with wheat IgE allergy.
It’s a handy reminder, I think, that the labelling of wheat, gluten and cereals more generally is not just designed for coeliacs, but people with other food hypersensitivities too.