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Date: Tuesday 8th July 2014

Helping you to make safer food choices – reading food labels


Legislation introduced in 2008 (Codex Standard for Foods for Special Uses for Persons Intolerant to Gluten) sets out the standards that pre-packed food must meet in order to display the term ‘gluten free‘ on packaging. If a manufacturer wishes to label their product as gluten free, it must contain a maximum of 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Foods that contain gluten at level below this are considered safe for people with coeliac disease to eat freely. This standard applies to all mainstream products as well as specialist products and those containing codex wheat starch. You may occasionally see the additional statement ‘suitable for coeliacs‘ on foods labelled as gluten free.


Very low gluten

This term is not currently used in the UK. It can only be used on specialist substitute products with a gluten level between 21-100ppm


Always check the ingredients list!

From December 2014, new general food labelling legislation will come in to force (EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, sometimes shortened to the ‘FIC‘ regulation. This new legislation is designed to make food labelling easier for people to use. Some of the changes that manufacturers must make on pack are in relation to the way that allergens are labelled.


The 14 major allergens are:

Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or kamut), crustaceans (e.g prawns and crab), molluscs (e.g. clams or mussels), eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin and sulphur dioxide.

All 14 major allergens (listed above) must now be emphasised in the ingredients list. Where the allergen is not obvious from the name of the ingredient, there must be a clear reference to the name of the allergen next to the ingredient, e.g. casein (milk) or tofu (soya)

Food manufacturers can choose the method of emphasis that they would like to use, for example bold, italics, highlighting, contrasting colours, CAPITALS and underlining.


Allergy advice boxes

Summarised information on allergens will be phased out as part of the new FIC regulation. This information used to be given through a ‘contains ..x....‘ statement usually located in the allergy advice or allergy box section of the label. Consumers must now read the ingredients list to obtain this information.

An allergy advice statement can still be used but only to direct consumers to the ingredients list for allergen information.

Information on the potential risk of cross contamination with other allergens will not change, this will appear in the same way as before, in the form of ‘may contain‘ statements.


No more references to gluten!

Consumers wishing to avoid gluten will now have to look specifically for the presence of cereals containing gluten, (such as wheat, rye and barley etc) which will be emphasised in the ingredients list, e.g. wheat flour, rolled oats, malted barley. The only exception to this would be if gluten itself was present as an ingredient within a product, e.g. gluten (wheat)


Top tips:

• Always read the ingredients list to find out which allergens are contained within a food product

• Join Coeliac UK to obtain an up-to-date gluten free food directory

• Manufacturers can often supply more information about the potential allergen of foods

• If in doubt – leave it out!


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