The use of the terms “gluten-free” and “very low gluten” on the label of pre-packaged food products suitable for people intolerant to gluten are defined in legislation. “Gluten-free” means that the food contains less than 20mg/kg gluten and “very low gluten” means the food contains between 20 and 100 mg/kg gluten.
The term “very low gluten” is used for foods which consist of or contain one or more ingredients made from wheat, rye, barley, oats or their crossbred varieties which have been specially processed to reduce gluten.
However, there is no requirement in legislation for restaurants and other catering establishments to indicate on a menu that food is “gluten-free” or “very-low gluten”. This is done on a voluntary basis by the individual food business operators.
If you are unhappy with a food label or feel that a food which is labelled “gluten-free” has made you ill, you should make a complaint – ideally to the food business at the time, and or to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). However, you should be aware that it is not necessary to include an allergen warning box on the label. The law requires that the allergens should be clearly indicated on the label and if it is clear from the list of ingredients that gluten is present then that is sufficient.
You may also notice statements like ‘May contain wheat’, on the label of a food that does not itself contain wheat. The use of this sort of statement is discouraged by the FSAI as manufacturers should endeavour to have good manufacturing practices in place that prevent the cross-contamination of non-allergen containing products by allergen containing products. However, the use of this type of statement is not illegal and may be necessary where a manufacturer, despite their best efforts, cannot guarantee that cross-contamination will not occur.
To make a complaint to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland you can:
- Call or email our Advice Line (1890 33 66 77; firstname.lastname@example.org), or
- Complete our online complaint form at www.fsai.ie
Complaints about food businesses or products will be investigated by inspectors. For Coeliac Society of Ireland to investigate a complaint on your behalf, we will ask for your name and contact details, so that the inspector can reach you if they need more information; and so that they can give you feedback on the investigation. Your name and contact details will not be given to the food businesses. By informing the Coeliac Society of Ireland and FSAI, you can help to improve dining out for all coeliacs.
If you are making a complaint about a food, it helps if you provide us with as much information as possible. For example, where you bought the food, the manufacturer’s name and address, the best-before or use-by date and the batch code.