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UK Food Standards Agency Seeks Public Comment on Gluten-free Labels in England


Photo: Screen Grab: CC--Andy Blackledge

Celiac.com 01/25/2017 - The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has initiated a public comment period on gluten-free labeling in England.

The FSA is inviting industry feedback on the proposed Gluten In Food (Information for Consumers) (England) Regulations 2017. This regulation enforces the new European Union regulation (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 828/2014), which standardizes labeling information on products that are gluten-free or very low in gluten.

The law does not require any change in formulation, ingredients or the methods for these products, but does mandate new wording for product labels. It also clarifies for consumers the difference between foods naturally free of gluten, and those specially formulated for people with gluten intolerance.

The proposed rule applies to England only, not Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The rule change is, in part at least, a response to rising numbers of product complaints.

According to the FSA, approximately 1% of the UK population (around 600,000 people) suffers from celiac disease, while nearly half a million people remain undiagnosed.

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Currently, food businesses are permitted to make voluntary gluten-free or low in gluten claims, but this has led to inconsistency and confusion in many cases. Such confusion could cause health problems for those who are gluten-intolerant.

Many of these products also fetch a premium price because of their gluten-free claims, stated the FSA.

The aim of the English regulation is to standardize the permitted claims about gluten. Manufacturers will be limited to the use of the words "gluten-free" or "very low gluten" along with clear and limited supporting information.

No other claims or descriptions are allowed, and products that fail to conform to labeling standards can be fined.

The previously accepted phrase "No gluten containing ingredients (NGCI)" can no longer be used on product labels.

Enforcement of FSA rules will take effect February 20, 2018.

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