Checking Food Labels

How To Check Food Labels

Allergen labelling

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Foods labelled as ‘Gluten free’

  1. By law, the term ‘gluten free’ may only be used on food products that contain 20 parts per million of gluten, or less. This is considered to be a safe level for people with coeliac disease.
  2. You may find this terms on specialist substitute gluten free foods, e.g flour mixes, breads and pasta. You could also see it used on uncontaminated oat products and processed foods that contain naturally gluten free ingredients, such as sauces and ready meals.

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.

*Only oats specifically labelled as ‘gluten free oats’ are safe for people with coeliac disease to consume. Oats that are not gluten free are likely to have been contaminated with gluten during growing and processing.

Helpful food allergen resources
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