Gluten-free EU labeling laws now fall under the Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulation – a shift that will help push the category into mainstream food, says the CEO of Coeliac UK.
FIC was written into law on July 30, taking gluten-free labeling laws away from the now revamped PARNUTs (foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses) regulation.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, CEO of Coeliac UK Sarah Sleet welcomed the regulatory shift.
“From a Coeliac UK perspective, we proposed it go under FIC. What we’re trying to do with the gluten-free diet is to mainstream it; make it another option – importantly a controlled one – but within the mainstream food business,” she said.
Gluten-free sat best under FIC, she said, where legislation around other allergens was covered.
“The fact gluten-free is in FIC legislation makes all food providers aware about allergens and in that specific context of gluten. It’s something all food providers need to know.”
Normalizing gluten-free for celiacs
Coeliac UK CEO Sarah Sleet: “Who wants to go to a pharmacist for your shopping? It’s about normalizing gluten-free and making it another option."
The primary concern among celiacs was safety, Sleet said. “But we know safety can be delivered in the mainstream environment and so people’s next concern is that they can get food they want in a normal environment,” she said.
“Who wants to go to a pharmacist for your shopping? It’s about normalizing gluten-free and making it another option,” she said.
Retailers and manufacturers were warming to this idea, she said, with increased gluten-free product development from retailers under private label ranges, as well as mainstream manufacturers - Warburtons and Heinz two recent examples.
“I think they’re all seeing it as part of their standard offering – another range within their mainstream ranges,” Sleet said.
The FIC transition had sparked a lot of hard work from branded and private label manufacturers to ensure full compliance to FIC laws.
Logos: The shortcut for celiacs
Gluten-free logos, however, still remained outside the remit of FIC.
Across the EU and the globe there are a number of used logos, one being the registered trademark of Coeliac UK – the crossed grains symbol.
Asked if such logos should be regulated, Sleet said: “The fact that the gluten-free standard is already legislated, I’m not sure that adding legislation on about logos is necessary once they’re associated with the claims.”
Use of gluten-free logos – the cross grains symbol for example – could only be used in conjunction with a ‘gluten-free’ claim, she explained, and were just really a shortcut path to information about the status of that product.
For consumers, logos were generally welcomed because they were easy to spot, she said. “They’re not complicated by language, so it’s much more clear-cut.”
Coeliac UK’s crossed grains symbol had picked up increased interest over the past year – way above expectations, Sleet said.
“In the UK alone, we’ve had 33 new licenses taken out in the first six months of 2014, and we had a target internally of 12,” she said.
Asked if increased interest could be linked to the move under FIC legislation, she said it was possible. “There’s obviously a couple of things: one of the major things is people are looking at the growth in the gluten-free category – it’s continuing to storm away, so there are people thinking there’s a market opportunity there. Secondly, with the legislation, it’s just the noise around this issue of allergens – it puts it at the front of people’s minds.”
Three years ago, Coeliac UK rolled out a European-wide license of its crossed grains symbol. Since then, around two-thirds of the AOECS [Association of European Coeliac Societies] membership had signed up.