Food labelling confusion: is there a legal requirement to state that a product is made in a unit that handles gluten?

A friend who was preparing a meal for me asked me if I can have Scwartz spices - it doesn't say anything on their labels at all, but she had read the FAQs on their website which stated that they couldn't guarantee they were gluten-free. This was news to me, as I have a cupboard full of these spices. I had always thought this info had to be on the label.

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  • This is a complicated issue because there is food that is gluten free but shares a production line with food containing gluten. And so are prone to cross contamination.

    Then there are gf foods packaged and processed by companies that also package gluten foods. This is true of Doves farm who market a whole range of gf products and mill gluten free flours. Their mills are all in the same building so there is bound to be cross contamination issues sometimes which seems to affect their Buckwheat flour the most. They also test for gluten and their products have to be under the 20ppm threshold.

    Also look at coeliac own kitchens who live with non coeliac and the gf food is prepared in an environment that handles gluten. The same goes for restaurants that provide gf meals.

    As far as I am aware for a manufacturer to label something as gluten free it has to not only be made with gf ingredients but also be tested for gluten periodically and to be under 20ppm when tested.

    I also thought that a member of GFG posted that Scwartz spices were in fact gluten free so I'd email them to clarify this and I think that we have to be aware of what's what but also keep things in perspective.

  • i use the spices and never had any trouble with them

  • Sorry, I was not trying to make a big deal about the Schwartz spice thing (I'm sure they're reasonably safe). I really mentioned it as an example, because I'm trying to get a better understanding of labelling laws. This is the quote from their website, if anyone's interested:

    "In general, our pure Schwartz herbs and spices do not contain added gluten as they do not contain bulking agents such as flour. However, Schwartz products are produced in a production unit which handles gluten. So cross contamination, although unlikely, may occur."

    I was just a bit suprised that there is no similar warning on the product label.

    The Doves buckwheat flour is a really good example of what i'm thinking about. There is nothing on the label about gluten being processed in the same unit (I have a packet, so I had a look), and yet their contamination issues have been bad enough to have to recall that product on occasion - does that mean it was over 20ppm? Cos that's a lot of contamination (buckwheat contains zero gluten, right?)

    I would have assumed that buckwheat flour would be safe for a coeliac who can't tolerate codex wheat starch (I'm beginning to think I might be), but what if the cross-contamination brings the gluten content up to a similar level?

    It's just kinda confusing...

    I've been on the diet for about a year, and I'm still feeling pretty crappy. At the moment, I just want to be uber careful what I eat so I can start feeling better.

    Does anyone know what the law says about cross-contamination and labelling?

  • Hi Racquelle

    Your question is pretty much the same as mine I've been following a GF diet for 9 months and I'm still confused about food labelling.

    When I first went GF I tried to buy doves buckwheat flour and it was taken off the market due to contamination issues. I recently saw it in my local health food shop and it had been re-labelled on the front as not being GF. I think a company called infinity foods do some that is labelled as OK.

    The spice thing is another minefield I saw some spices the other day that said they contained wheat flour even though it was not on the ingredients list. I think since food labelling was tightened up in January some of the food companies are only just catching up with the labelling and some companies don't get it right.

    It does leave us in a muddle and hinders our decisions to choose what is safe. Schwartz is a good example: when I am shopping I want to be able to look at the label decide the product doesn't have gluten in it and buy it there and then. Not have to come home look at the manufacturers website and then decide whether I can buy it at a later date..........

    My understanding is that if a company thinks there is a risk of contamination with a product then they should say so in the form of a 'may contain statement' it is then up to us to decide if we want to risk it.

    I am currently looking for some crisps that are ok to eat aren't specialist expensive ones and don't contain gluten but I seem to have had it. I just love the statement in m and s that says 'not suitable for coeliacs due to manufacturing methods used' it is appearing on more and more things that i like.

    Jan

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