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How to check food labels

Allergen labelling

How to check food labelling

All foods sold in the UK are covered by EU allergen labelling law. This law states that any allergen contained within a food (however small the amount) should be clearly labelled in bold, highlighted or italic font within the ingredients list for that product. As all gluten containing cereals are known allergens you can expect these to be clearly labelled if they are present; look out for wheat, oats, rye and barley within the ingredients list and avoid any foods that contain these ingredients. This law applies to all food including pre-packed, unpacked and food sold in restaurants / cafes and delis.

Look out for ‘may contain’ warnings on packaging, these are intended to alert customers to any potential cross-contamination risks. For example, a food that contains no gluten-containing ingredients but has been produced in a factory where gluten is also handled might carry a ‘may contain gluten/wheat/oats/rye/barley’ warning.


How else can I tell if a product is gluten free?

How do i check if food is gluten free?You may have seen these labels on your food purchases:

  1. Gluten free
  2. No gluten-containing ingredients
  3. suitable for coeliacs

Manufacturers can only use these claims in the labels when the following applies:

  1. Gluten free - only applies to food which has 20 ppm
  2. No gluten-containing ingredients - this term is not covered by law but is an important option to give you more choice. It applies to foods that are made with ingredients that don’t contain gluten and where good cross contamination controls are in place.  Manufacturers can decide whether or not to use this to provide additional information for their customers, therefore its absence doesn’t necessarily mean a food is unsuitable.
  3. Suitable for coeliacs  - this term may be used only on gluten free foods (ie food that contain 20 ppm or less of gluten.

The Coeliac UK Food and Drink Directory and mobile phone app provide a comprehensive list of gluten free products. It’s worth having easy access to one or both of these resources in case you are unsure if a food is safe to consume.


Read about helpful food allergen resources here

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