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The Gluten Free Label
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I'm seeing more and more products specifically labeled "gluten free," which is a good thing for us I am led to assume.

How exactly does a product get to have the "gluten free" label? I see this label in several forms...the "certified gluten-free" label, the words "gluten free" above a bar code, some Giant Eagle soups labeled "gluten free" right above the words "product of Canada."

I've seen "gluten free" with the wheat symbol, and the same symbol that says "naturally gluten free."

Some products say gluten free on their main label, like Bio-Tech protein powder that is "wheat and gluten free." Isn't that redundant?

Are all these products tested before they can label them like that? In another thread I asked about Choceur chocolates I found at Aldi's here (I was super thrilled...missing chocolate) but someone replied that cross-contamination could still be an issue.

I thought "Well that's crazy!" Then what IS safe to eat then if something can be labeled "gluten free" but could be cross-contaminated.

I'm confused now.

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I'm seeing more and more products specifically labeled "gluten free," which is a good thing for us I am led to assume.

How exactly does a product get to have the "gluten free" label? I see this label in several forms...the "certified gluten-free" label, the words "gluten free" above a bar code, some Giant Eagle soups labeled "gluten free" right above the words "product of Canada."

I've seen "gluten free" with the wheat symbol, and the same symbol that says "naturally gluten free."

Some products say gluten free on their main label, like Bio-Tech protein powder that is "wheat and gluten free." Isn't that redundant?

Are all these products tested before they can label them like that? In another thread I asked about Choceur chocolates I found at Aldi's here (I was super thrilled...missing chocolate) but someone replied that cross-contamination could still be an issue.

I thought "Well that's crazy!" Then what IS safe to eat then if something can be labeled "gluten free" but could be cross-contaminated.

I'm confused now.

In America, as far as I know there is no law and you can put whatever labels you want on your food as long as it isn't a blatant lie, e.g. putting "gluten-free" on a loaf of whole-wheat bread. But you don't have to actually test your products for the presence of gluten or declare possible cross-contamination or any of it. Very little regulation.

Here in Ireland and the UK, as of last January you have to actually test to < 20 ppm in order to label as gluten-free. If you don't test, but your food is supposedly naturally gluten free, you can put "no gluten ingredients". Also it seems like in the UK they have to list gluten as an allergen along with the other top 8, and declare cross-contamination with allergens as well. At least, stuff from Tesco is always well-labelled.

As for "wheat and gluten free": it isn't redundant, because wheat can be processed to be gluten free in some cases, such as wheat maltodextrin or gluten-free wheat starch, which is used in some breads and cakes around here (I still avoid it like the plague though). A wheat allergy person would still react to gluten-free processed wheat derivitives probably, whereas a celiac might not.

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I'm seeing more and more products specifically labeled "gluten free," which is a good thing for us I am led to assume.

How exactly does a product get to have the "gluten free" label? I see this label in several forms...the "certified gluten-free" label, the words "gluten free" above a bar code, some Giant Eagle soups labeled "gluten free" right above the words "product of Canada."

I've seen "gluten free" with the wheat symbol, and the same symbol that says "naturally gluten free."

Some products say gluten free on their main label, like Bio-Tech protein powder that is "wheat and gluten free." Isn't that redundant?

Are all these products tested before they can label them like that? In another thread I asked about Choceur chocolates I found at Aldi's here (I was super thrilled...missing chocolate) but someone replied that cross-contamination could still be an issue.

I thought "Well that's crazy!" Then what IS safe to eat then if something can be labeled "gluten free" but could be cross-contaminated.

I'm confused now.

Don't know about the law in us, but in Europe 20ppm of gluten can be labeled as gluten free, 0ppm is naturally gluten free, I think.

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Well I hate to ask the obvious stupid question but...

Then how are all the USA Celiacs staying gluten free if they're trusting gluten free labels on food that might be cross-contaminated or NOT gluten free because nobody tests it?

I thought the cross-contamination issue was for things NOT labeled gluten free, in which case you call the manufacturer.

I'm very confused by all this now.

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There is no gluten labeling required in the US. Also, there are NO labeling laws for "same equipment/shared line/same facility" for ANY food/allergens. There is current legislation to change this but there are FALCPA regulations that are still being hammered out over 6 years later.

It is about reputation and word of mouth and trusting your food if it isn't naturally gluten-free. Even calling may not be enough because there are plenty of companies that won't answer questions (which I won't buy from after that but that's just me!)

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I'm seeing more and more products specifically labeled "gluten free," which is a good thing for us I am led to assume.

How exactly does a product get to have the "gluten free" label? I see this label in several forms...the "certified gluten-free" label, the words "gluten free" above a bar code, some Giant Eagle soups labeled "gluten free" right above the words "product of Canada."

Let me clarify.....most of the companies that label their products as "certified" gluten free source their ingredients from suppliers to make sure they are gluten free as can be and they test voluntarily. They are not required by law to do so but many, many companies do test their products. Certified gluten free, from a dedicated facility, is as good as it gets for a Celiac. Is it perfect? No, but since the vast majority of people heal fine incorporating some degree of processed gluten-free food into their diet, it's safe to say most are getting it right. Some test to lower levels than 20ppms and will usually volunteer that information upon request.

I've seen "gluten free" with the wheat symbol, and the same symbol that says "naturally gluten free."

From my experience, labels with the wheat symbol usually are naturally gluten free or have no added gluten ingredients. It might be prudent to look at the label to see if it is manufactured with anything else that may contain wheat. It usually states so on the label, in the allergen statement.

Some products say gluten free on their main label, like Bio-Tech protein powder that is "wheat and gluten free." Isn't that redundant?

Wheat free and gluten free are not the same thing. Gluten free cannot contain barley or rye and sometimes oats, if those oats are not certified gluten-free. Wheat free only may contain these other things, usually barley.

Are all these products tested before they can label them like that? In another thread I asked about Choceur chocolates I found at Aldi's here (I was super thrilled...missing chocolate) but someone replied that cross-contamination could still be an issue.

I thought "Well that's crazy!" Then what IS safe to eat then if something can be labeled "gluten free" but could be cross-contaminated.

I'm confused now.

No, not everything is tested and it isn't necessary for everything to be tested. Label reading takes time to learn but everyone does.

If a product in question is manufactured in the same facilty as wheat/gluten products, then you may need to call the manufacturer to question them about their practices. You may end up needing to avoid these places but maybe not. Anything naturally gluten free usually is not a problem but there will be exceptions. You can't go wrong with certified gluten-free.....the vast majority of celiacs can consume these prodcuts with no problems.

Just keep asking questions if you are unsure but get used to calling manufacturers for awhile, at least in the beginning.

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Just a short note to add that there are some differences between the different certification programs. Joy at the Liberated Kitchen just posted a really thorough review of the different regulations and the different certifying bodies here in the US, along with the critical contamination points that certified manufacturers need to look out for" http://theliberatedkitchenpdx.com/celiac/gluten-free-certification/

Labels are definitely confusing -- it's worth a read!

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In America, as far as I know there is no law and you can put whatever labels you want on your food as long as it isn't a blatant lie, e.g. putting "gluten-free" on a loaf of whole-wheat bread. But you don't have to actually test your products for the presence of gluten or declare possible cross-contamination or any of it. Very little regulation.

Here in Ireland and the UK, as of last January you have to actually test to < 20 ppm in order to label as gluten-free. If you don't test, but your food is supposedly naturally gluten free, you can put "no gluten ingredients". Also it seems like in the UK they have to list gluten as an allergen along with the other top 8, and declare cross-contamination with allergens as well. At least, stuff from Tesco is always well-labelled.

As for "wheat and gluten free": it isn't redundant, because wheat can be processed to be gluten free in some cases, such as wheat maltodextrin or gluten-free wheat starch, which is used in some breads and cakes around here (I still avoid it like the plague though). A wheat allergy person would still react to gluten-free processed wheat derivitives probably, whereas a celiac might not.

Tesco own brand free from foods has cross contamination issues as do Asda and Sainsbury's.

They don't always put this on their labels and their glucose syrup can be derived from wheat but not labelled on the packaging. Their Jam tarts has glucose from wheat (or it did - you'd have to check) even though it stated wheat free because the EU don't consider derivatives as an allergen.

This really has to be addressed as there are so many so called "free from" foods which technically aren't because of cross contamination and derivative issues.

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There are four gluten free certification programs in North America. These are independent organizations, with an associated logo label, that guarantee to the consumer that a product has been independently tested and verified to be gluten free. Details of these organizations can be found here. I believe the logos in this document can be trusted, but I'd be interested in hearing the experience others have had with food labeled with these.

The USFDA has a proposal to allow companies to call a product "gluten free" if it contains less than 20ppm of gluten. Interestingly, the test for the presence of gluten can be tested to 5ppm. For this reason, in Australia and New Zealand, countries that have the strongest Gluten Free product labeling laws, you can only call a product "Gluten Free" if it contains less than 5ppm of Gluten. That is, you can only call a product Gluten Free if you test it for Gluten using the best available test, and the test cannot find any gluten present.

Europe, the UK, USA and Canada either have or are proposing laws that allow products to be called Gluten Free if they contain less the 20 parts per million (ppm) of Gluten.

There's a certain obvious common sense approach to Australia and New Zealand's Gluten Free labeling laws, and you have to wonder why any country would propose a law that allows a product to be tested, to be found to contain 5 to 19 ppm of gluten, but still be able to be labeled Gluten Free. This a very strange kind of insanity, and is definitely not in the interest of people with Celiac Disease, the primary buyers of Gluten Free products.

Australia and New Zealand have the most stringent labeling laws regarding labeling for gluten containing products, and labeling a product as Gluten Free. These two countries show that it is possible for the labeling laws to really look after the health interests of the gluten allergic and intolerant public. Despite claims by industry "experts" that this approach is unfeasible, our governments need to look to these countries on how to best serve the public, and stop pandering to industry special interest groups and corporate lobbyists. Industry will always lobby government to put in the weakest labeling laws, as this will maximize their profits. I'm not blaming them for that. But I expect my government to look after my health interests before industries' bottom line.

Further reading:

Mealanie Weir's article about Gluten Free labeling

New UK Gluten Free Labeling Laws

Latest news regarding USFDA proposed labeling legislation

New European Gluten Free labeling legislation

Article on Gluten Free labeling laws in Australia and NZ - world's best practices

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For this reason, in Australia and New Zealand, countries that have the strongest Gluten Free product labeling laws, you can only call a product "Gluten Free" if it contains less than 5ppm of Gluten. That is, you can only call a product Gluten Free if you test it for Gluten using the best available test, and the test cannot find any gluten present.

Australian Standards/Law says that if it is not free of gluten [not discernible], then you cannot say it is "gluten-free" .. simple straight-forwards.. Current testing can detect 3ppm - so that's the benchmark in Australia.

Low gluten has no relevance to the majority of coeliacs as they follow the zero gluten-free diet.

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