Yes, a clear
labelling error. But even if that cross against the word ‘gluten’ were to be
replaced with a tick, I have a feeling one error would be corrected and yet another
one created …
But first let’s
deal with the glaring mistake at hand. Contrary to Walkers Crisps’ previous insistence (and perhaps continued insistence? Anyone tried contacting them
about their crisps in relation to a GF query, lately? Please let me know if so),
the term ‘suitable for coeliacs’ is legit on food labelling, providing it
supplements a ‘gluten free’ claim. If it’s not ‘gluten free’ – and stated to be
so – then you can’t use ‘suitable for coeliacs’.
Yorkshire Crisps and was told by a member of staff that the crisps had been
tested and proven to be ‘suitable for coeliacs’. The chap she spoke to believed
there was still a minute amount of gluten in them and this had to be declared
on the label. She got the impression, she told me, that perhaps he wasn’t the most
appropriate person to be speaking to on the matter, as pleasant and helpful as
he was. His statement was wrong, and I shared Jane’s reservation.
So I called the
offices and was told the correct man was Neil Fish, General Manager, but that
he was out. I was asked to email. Neil responded fairly quickly. He told me
that there had been an error: the crisps contain ‘glutamate’ and this was mistakenly
read for ‘gluten’.
suitable for coeliacs – I’ve got the spec to back it up,” he stressed. “The
next bag run for Lamb and Mint will be in three weeks where the declaration
will be amended. The reason why I didn’t scrap the bags is simply that I knew
we wouldn’t be hurting anyone.”
fair enough; and mistakes happen. The web page for the crisps, by the
way, already has a reassuring tick alongside ‘gluten’ in their ‘free from’
Is ‘Free from gluten’ allowed?
The ‘free from’
table with ticks/crosses on Yorkshire Crisps’ packaging got me thinking. Since
I’ve been involved in trying (and often struggling) to understand food
labelling as it relates to food allergens and intolerances, mostly when
researching my books, I’ve increasingly come to realise how precise the laws
can be – and how easy it is to forget particulars, and have to remind yourself
of them again and again, or skim over regulations that don’t seem to mean much,
and yet can have practical consequences.
“No other term or claim can be used to
indicate suitability for people intolerant to gluten, for instance, “free from
gluten” or “naturally gluten-free” is not allowed.”
Read that again.
Let it sink in. You can say ‘gluten free’ but you can neither qualify it, nor
rearrange its words and say ‘free from gluten’. More sinking in. Recall some of
the food labels you’ve read, or consult some of those in your kitchen – do they
stick to that rule? This is something I’m going to explore a bit more deeply
and return to soon, because I think it’s intimately tied to how we understand
and think of gluten free foods. If you come across anything that may be
relevant, feel free to email me through my website, or add a comment below.
Whether or not
Yorkshire Crisps’ labelling contravenes that particular clause, I doubt the FSA
will make a fuss about it; and I doubt coeliacs will be in up in arms either.
Let’s face it, there are bigger fights to pick. But I have to stand up and
applaud the strictness of the law in this regard, and I expect I’ll be
defending it when I come write about it again.
Finally, I know
from my Google Analytics that lots of people search for ‘gluten free crisps’
and land on these pages, and so if any such souls have found themselves here
and merely want to be directed to some safe-for-coeliacs fried potato slices
and sibling salty, snack-worthy bites, you can get rid of me at once by directing
your browser without further ado towards Coeliac Student’s highly recommended post on the matter.
Labels: gluten free, labelling