The Codex Standard (118) dictates the standards for ‘gluten-free’ and ‘very low gluten’ labeling. The standards are dictated by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
The Codex Standard was revised in November 2008 and products in the current Food List all comply with this new standard. This revised standard forms the basis of the European Commission’s No. 41/2009 Labelling legislation.
A product labelled ‘gluten-free’ must contain less than 20mg gluten/kg (< 20 parts per million(ppm)). This level is suitable for the most sensitive of coeliacs.
This level will apply to specialist substitute gluten-free products such as gluten-free breads, cakes, flour mixes etc containing Codex wheat starch with less than 20mg gluten/kg. It will also include naturally gluten-free normal foodstuffs like soups, chocolate, baked beans, sauces, crisps etc.
A product labelled ‘very low gluten’ can contain between 20 and up to 100mg gluten/kg. This level is thought to be suitable for the vast majority of coeliacs.
This second level will be most relevant to specialist substitute gluten-free products such as bread and flour mixes that contain Codex wheat starch.
Under the previous standard, a product labelled ‘gluten-free’ could have contained up to ten times more than this (200mg gluten/kg). These new levels offer better protection to coeliacs.
The European Commission Regulation 41/2009/EC became mandatory in January 2012.
The term ‘gluten-free’ implies no gluten, but in practice, it is not possible to test for a zero level of gluten.