Labelling of 'gluten free' foods

Last updated:
31 October 2016
Brown bread
Around 1% of people in the UK have coeliac disease (a condition caused by intolerance to gluten). This is a lifelong autoimmune disease which is caused by the immune system reacting to gluten. This makes labelling claims about gluten in foods an important issue.

Labelling standards from July 2016

From 20 July 2016, Regulation (EU) No. 828/ 2014 came into force which applies to all foods:

  • prepacked – includes food put into packaging before being placed on sale, when the food is either fully or partly enclosed by the packaging, the food cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging, and the product is ready for sale to the public or to a catering establishment.
  • Non-prepacked - includes meals in a cafe or restaurant, food that is wrapped just before sale such as loose bread rolls, sandwiches or cakes or unpackaged food served in schools, hospitals and care homes.

These labelling standards help protect the long term health of coeliacs by giving them the information they need to make informed choices about the foods that are safe for them to eat. 

How gluten-free food should be labelled

Gluten-free and very low gluten options are based on legal limits. These legal limits are the same as before Regulation (EU) 828/ 2014 came into force and are:  

  • 'gluten-free': at 20 parts per million of gluten or less
  • 'very low gluten': at 100 parts per million of gluten or less - however, only foods with cereal ingredients that have been specially processed to remove the gluten may make a 'very low gluten' claim

How labelling relating to gluten has changed

More specific rules, relating to what can be used on gluten labelling, has changed and this is covered in Regulation (EU) No. 828/ 2014.

This means:

  • the use of ‘no gluten containing ingredients’ ( NGCI) and similar factual statements other than the ones mentioned in the Regulation, cannot be used in any food labelling. For more information about changes to claiming NGCI, please see the fact sheet in the Related Links section.
  • only the terms ‘gluten-free’ and ‘very low gluten’, as well as the accompanying statement explained in Article 3 of EU Regulation 828/ 2014, are permitted.
  • the Regulation specifies that food businesses using the terms ‘gluten-free’ and ‘very low gluten’ can  accompany those terms with ‘suitable for people intolerant to gluten’ or ‘suitable for coeliacs’. Or, if the food has been specially produced, prepared and/or processed to:

(a) reduce the gluten content of one or more gluten-containing ingredients; or

(b) substitute the gluten-containing ingredients with other ingredients naturally free of gluten, food businesses may include the additional statement ‘specifically formulated for people intolerant to gluten’ or ‘specifically formulated for coeliacs’.

How the rules have changed

From 20 July 2016, Regulation (EU) No. 828/ 2014 came into force. Specific rules on gluten labelling moved to a different legal framework, on food labelling information, across the EU and UK. Previously those rules were governed by legislation on ‘foods for particular nutritional uses’ (PARNUTS). However, the PARNUTS legislation was replaced by Regulation (EU) No. 609/2013 on foods for specific groups (FSG). The FSG covers a much smaller range of foods than the previous PARNUTS approach, hence the change mentioned above.