Why Don't They Just Call it Gluten Free?

Courtesy CCA National Newsletter

ingredients-listI have heard a lot of complaints recently about products that have no gluten ingredients and no warnings on the label about gluten, but when the company is contacted, they do not identify the product as gluten free. Sometimes the response from customer service is that there might be gluten in the spices or flavouring; sometimes it is that there is a possibility that the product might have come in contact with gluten.

The comments from our members: What use are labels? Why don’t they just call it gluten free?.

A “gluten free” claim has a special meaning beyond “there is no gluten in the product”. In Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations, section B.24.001, it is defined as a “food that has been specially processed or formulated to meet the particular requirements of a person a) in whom a physical or physiological condition exists as a result of a disease, disorder or injury …”. In the case of gluten free products, this means that the product has been formulated for someone with celiac disease.

It is easy to understand how a loaf of gluten free bread has been formulated to meet the needs of someone with celiac disease. Soups made without hydrolyzed wheat protein, licorice candy made with rice flour instead of wheat flour, snack bars made without outs – it is easy to see how all these products were formulated to meet the need of people with celiac disease.

It gets much more difficult to make that claim when you are talking about ketchup or salad dressing or cocoa, however. Not using a gluten-free ingredient when gluten free ingredients are not normally used does not meet the criteria of a food specially formulated for someone with celiac disease. Putting a gluten free label on those products might be questionable.

The products may be safe for someone with celiac disease, but they will not carry a gluten free label.

There is one way that the companies might be able to make this claim for a product that does not generally contain gluten – if they have introduced a food safety program that includes controlling gluten as a food safety hazard, they have specially processed the product to meet the needs of someone with celiac disease. Manufacturers who have met the requirements of the CCA’s Gluten Free Certification Program, for example, have done this.

Every person with celiac disease needs to figure out how they will decide which products they will consume. The CCA has recommended reading the ingredient list and choosing products that do not contain gluten in the ingredient list or a “may contain” statement. In addition, they recommend choosing flour products where the manufacturer has made a gluten-free claim.

Requiring a gluten-free claim will minimize your gluten exposure, but it will also limit the number of products available to you. If you decide that is going to be your criteria, you need to reconcile yourself to this fact or you are going to spend your time feeling deprived and frustrated. Set your criteria and be confident in your decision.

About David Fowler

David Fowler is an online marketing consultant specializing in AdWords PPC, SEO, and website updates. He is the webmaster of Kelowna Celiac and was co-chair of the Kelowna 2012 CCA National Conference in Kelowna.