There are two main types of labelling that are important to get to grips with. Ingredients labelling where allergens are listed and the rules behind gluten-free labelling.
Gluten Free Food Legislation
Current European legislation sets out the conditions under which foods may be labelled as ‘gluten-free’ or ‘very-low gluten’. The purpose is to ensure the health and safety of consumers across the European Union and remove unnecessary barriers to trade.
Included in the legislation are the rules requiring the mandatory labelling for all foods of ingredients such as gluten-containing ingredients with a scientifically proven allergenic or intolerance effect.
Crossed Grain Trademark
The ‘Crossed Grain’ symbol is both nationally and internationally recognised by those who need to follow a gluten-free diet.
The substance in a food that causes an allergic reaction in certain people is called an allergen. Since 13th December 2014, all food on sale in Ireland, pre-packaged and unpackaged is covered by the EU Allergen Labelling Regulation.
It is a legal requirement to list all deliberate ingredients that contain allergens on the label of a packaged product regardless of the amount used. The allergenic foods must be emphasised in the ingredients list and a minimum font size of the amount sized. Manufacturers must declare the name of the gluten containing grain when used. For example, wheat starch, barley protein, rye flour or oat bran. If there is no mention of wheat, rye, barley or oats in the ingredients, then there is no deliberate gluten in the product.
Allergy advice boxes are no longer adequate, they can be used to highlight the presence of gluten contamination in a product or to direct consumers to the allergens highlighted in the ingredients list. This legislation does not cover cross-contamination where trace amounts of gluten accidently get into foods at some point during the manufacturing process. The good news is that all products on the Food List have been investigated with regard to the risk of cross-contamination.
Allergy information for unpackaged foods (loose food) means that caterers have to provide allergen information for dishes they serve. In Ireland, this information must be available in a written format and in a conspicuous place that is clearly visible to the consumer.
The following ingredients are currently exempt from allergen labelling as evidence has shown that the processing has removed the allergenic factor. They are therefore considered gluten-free.
- Glucose syrups derived from wheat
- Wheat-based maltodextrins
- Cereals used in distilled products e.g. spirits and vinegars
‘Wheat free’ does not mean that the product is gluten-free. The product may contain other gluten containing cereals. Always check the Food List.
'May Contain' Labelling
Sometimes you may see on a package ‘Made in a factory handling gluten’ or ‘May contain gluten’. This is not a legal requirement and not a recommended practice. Again, we recommend always checking the current Food List.