The FSA has invited feedback from the industry 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) that was promulgated on July 20, which standardizes labeling information on products that are gluten-free or very low in gluten.
The law doesn’t require a reformulation in the ingredients or the methods used to make these products, just the new wording that must be adhered to on product labels.
It also clarifies how manufacturers can inform consumers of the difference between foods that are naturally free of gluten and products that are specially formulated for those who are intolerant to gluten.
The proposed regulation relates to England only, and has no jurisdiction over Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The rise of gluten-free claims
According to the FSA, approximately 1% of the UK population (around 600,000 people) suffers from coeliac disease, while nearly half a million people remain undiagnosed. Coeliac UK believes that around 500 companies in England make gluten-free claims on prepacked foods, and these figures are rising rapidly.
Food businesses are allowed to voluntarily make gluten free or low in gluten assertions, and this has led to inconsistency in how these claims are made. This is misleading for consumers, and could cause health problems for those who are gluten-intolerant.
Many of these products are also sold at a premium because of the claim, stated the FSA.
Terms and conditions
The aim of the English regulation is to standardize the entitlements around gluten. Manufacturers will be limited to the use of the words “gluten-free” or “very low gluten” along with the prescribed supporting information.
No other descriptions are permitted and fines will be issued to those that don’t conform.
The previously accepted phrase “No gluten containing ingredients (NGCI)” can no longer be used on product labels.
However, to give food companies time to remove these words from their packaging without wasting stock, the FSA has imposed a deadline of February 20, 2018 before enforcement will take effect.
Unavoidably, many companies have been affected by the new EU Regulations and will have to relabel their gluten-free products.
The FSA has reported that evidence from a Campden BRI study commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in 2010 suggests these labeling costs could range between £1,800 and £3,300 ($2,240 to $4,110) per SKU, depending on the extent of the alteration.
However, a two-year transition period (from July 20, 2016) has been granted that should allow companies to absorb the expenses within routine label changes.
Parties interested in expressing their opinions about the proposed Gluten In Food (Information for Consumers) (England) Regulations 2017 have been given until December 22 to submit their views to the FSA.