One of the most significant changes to the sale of gluten free food in 2012 here in the UK – or at least to its labelling and packaging – is the incoming change to the law.

The packaging that you see in the supermarkets should begin to look different. There are 3 options…

  1. The new law says that food can only be called gluten-free if the food contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

    The previous level was 200 parts per million (ppm), which is obviously quite a lot more, and wasn’t consistent with food labelling in other countries. This new level, of no more than 20ppm is more restrictive, and should give you greater confidence in the foodstuff. That is, of course, assuming that companies are happy to label their food as ‘gluten-free’ under these new rules.

  2. There is a new term: ‘very low gluten’. This covers foods which have between 21 and 100ppm of gluten.
  3. And finally, there is another option: ‘no gluten-containing ingredients’. This will apply to foods that don’t contain wheat, barley or rye, and where they have reasonable cross-contamination controls in place.

These new labels should apply to food in supermarkets, restaurants and cafes: wherever you buy food.

Only you know how sensitive you are to gluten. For some people, the previous level was fine; for others, even 20ppm may prove to be too much. At least now you should have more guidance as to the real quantity of gluten in your food.

It is intended to make life better for coeliacs; it will be interesting to see how companies choose to react to this new law, and whether it is easier or harder to find gluten free food.

If you work in the food industry (catering or manufacturing) you may find the guidance available from Coeliac UK to be helpful (download guidance PDF here).