New label guidance aims to help consumers learn sources of gluten
Small food producers are being urged to adopt new best-practice guidelines for gluten-free products designed to make labelling clearer for consumers and more consistent across the industry.
The advice in the new Gluten Labelling Best Practice guidelines intends to help consumers understand sources of gluten better.
It was developed by the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), which represents larger manufacturers, with support from specialist free-from charities Coeliac UK and Anaphylaxis Campaign and the British Retail Consortium.
The advice covers a range of issues, from catch-all allergen warnings to ingredients that must be flagged up as allergens, and reflects the EU’s Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation, which came into force last December.
For example the word ‘gluten’ should not be used on its own without reference to a specific cereal, unless gluten has been added to the products as an ingredient in its own right.
Flagging up the name of allergen-causing cereals will prompt consumers to understand ingredients better, the FDF believes. This will encourage them to check ingredients lists for the presence of specific gluten-containing cereals rather than just looking for the word ‘gluten’, which may not be listed.
Similarly, the statement ‘contains X allergen’ should no longer be used unless there is no other ingredients list. Producers are encouraged to refer consumers to specific ingredients that may be allergens in the ingredients list – including gluten-free oats – and to emphasise these in bold text.
Where there is a risk of cross-contamination, or the unintentional presence of gluten-containing cereals, precautionary allergen advice should be included, it adds.
FDF’s director of regulation, science & health Barbara Gallani said it was important not only to be compliant with the FIC Regulations but to give consumers clear information that allows them to make an informed choice.
“Consumers are increasingly seeking clear information about various allergenic ingredients within the foods they purchase,” she said.
“It is important that food manufacturers provide labels that are legally compliant and make it easier for consumers to find and understand allergen information so they can make safer food choices.”
Sarah Sleet, CEO of Coeliac UK, welcomed the move. “The introduction of an approach to limit the use of ‘may contain gluten’ statements on packaged foods which will be welcomed by everyone with coeliac disease,” she said.