Goody Good Stuff sweeties, to be precise.
They tick lots of free from / restricted diet boxes.
They’re vegan and halal, and make free from claims for gluten, lactose and gelatine.
(‘free from gluten’ is technically a labelling infringement — it should be ‘gluten free’ — but we’ll let that one slide).
They’re also free from most of the 14 allergens, so I imagine would be safe for lots of food allergy kids.
(Or indeed non-food allergy adults. Ahem.)
So far, so sweet — or so sour, in my case.
But — hello — what’s this on the back, under the ingredients?
‘May contain traces of wheat‘?
MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF WHEAT?
How can a product be both ‘free from gluten’ and yet ‘may contain traces of wheat’?
Well, because wheat and gluten are two different things.
Wheat is a grain, which happens to contain gluten, a mix of proteins — but wheat contains other stuff too, such as fibre, starch, vitamins and non-gluten proteins.
These non-gluten parts of wheat are still wheat.
Might it be a non-gluten part of wheat which is at risk of cross-contaminating this product?
No prizes for guessing — yes.
This from Goody Good Stuff:
Goody Good Stuff is completely safe for gluten-free diets. The declaration is precautionary as within manufacturing processes wheat starch (free from gluten proteins) is used as a processing aid. The gluten content within our products is below 20ppm so following EU regulation our products are safe to consume for coeliac diets.
Why the precautionary warning, then?
it’s for people with wheat allergy, who may still react to non-gluten proteins in wheat starch — potentially quite severely.
Remember, gluten is not the declarable allergen. ‘Cereals containing gluten’ is the group name for the declarable allergen — namely wheat, rye, barley, oats (including gluten-free oats).
So ingredients derived from cereals containing gluten, but no longer containing gluten, or which have been treated to remove the gluten, or protected from cross-contamination from gluten (as with oats), still have to be declared as allergens, to help protect those with allergies to them.
It’s helpful for coeliacs to bear in mind that food allergen labelling laws and messages are there for other people, besides them.
Goody Good Stuff are labelling responsibly. I’ve suggested they change that warning to ‘may contain traces of gluten-free wheat starch’ — if only to curb the grumpy queries they regularly get on Twitter about it.
Incidentally, a related situation arises with gluten-free beers made from barley — and some other foods — which I wrote about here.
I ate the whole bag in one sitting.
Interesting blog and yes, confusing for some. As someone with a wheat allergy, albeit a fairly mild one compared to my other allergies, I would previously have ignored a message like that on a product like sweets. I do eat this sweeties with no problems, so I wonder how high the likelihood of wheat being present actually is. Thanks for flagging.
I imagine the risk is low, and also imagine that the amount of protein (non-gluten) in wheat starch is low anyway, but because there’s no threshold for wheat free as there is for gluten free, they err on the side of caution.
Good points Alex, no doubt this subtlety will be confusing to many and I think your suggestion to Goody Good Stuff is a great one. Do you think it might help if I also wrote them to suggest it?
This valid combination of Gluten-Free (once fixed) and May Contain Wheat is of course very different from the completely invalid combination of Gluten-Free and May Contain Gluten. I have seen that latter combination occasionally!
I notice that Coconut Collaborative products now combine a “Free From Gluten” label with “Made in a factory that handles Nuts, Wheat, Soya, Dairy, Sulphites and Eggs”. I wonder if the same explanation is applicable and will write them to ask.
Well it used to be the case that GF and ‘may contain traces of gluten’ was permitted but ‘not good practice’ (because provided those traces didn’t amount to more than 20ppm, it wasn’t a contradiction) but my understanding now is that this has now been changed due to 2014 FIR, but yes, I see it too. Would be interesting to hear what CC’s explanation is.
I used to love these but now with wheat I had to stop. Such a shame. Tyrrells are now with “May contain Milk” for their crisps. Breakfast cereals are a main issue – the majority of supermarket “free from” ones are all with traces of. The majority of other brands also are with traces of allergens. As someone buying for someone with autism (GF/CF/SF) it’s getting more difficult to purchase ready made products that are truly free from and not “free from”. Something you could look into?
Hi Kara. I could ask on Twitter for you, for suggestions? So it’s GF, WF, casein free, soya (?) free ready meals and cereals you need?