There are two main types of labelling that are legal requirements. Allergen labelling and Codex Standard labelling which governs the rules around ‘gluten-free’ and ‘very low gluten’ labelling. You can also take advantage of using the crossed grain symbol to make it obvious that your products are gluten-free.
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 European Allergen Labelling Legislation. This makes it a legal requirement to list all ingredients and identify all alergens in the ingredients list, including gluten. The name of the gluten containing grain must be declared, eg wheat starch, barley protein, rye flour, oat bran.
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
Codex Standard Labelling
The Codex Standard dictates the standards for ‘gluten-free’ and ‘very low gluten’ labelling. The standards are dictated by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. A New Codex Standard was revised in November 2008.
- 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 mostly relevant to specialist substitute gluten-free products such as breads 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.
Manufacturers can use the new labelling standard immediately, but it will not become mandatory until January 2012 providing a grace period for manufactures to reformulate products or change existing packaging. Only products that comply with the new standard will be included in the Gluten-Free Food Lists.