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.
The substance in a food that causes an allergic reaction in certain people is called an allergen. All pre-packed foods on sale in Ireland are covered by the EU Allergen Directive legislation.
This makes it a legal requirement to list all deliberate ingredients that contain allergens on the label of a packaged product regardless of the amount used. 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.
Some manufactures will also use an allergy box to highlight the presence of gluten in a product. 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 cross-contamination risk.
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.
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.