Claim ‘gluten-free’, similar wording not allowed

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The use of the claimgluten-free,’ in food labeling and advertising, is subject to a number of requirements already referred to. (1) Regarding the mode of information, it should be clarified that similar wording to ‘gluten-free‘ is not allowed. Insight.

Gluten-free‘, ‘lactose-free

The claimsgluten-free‘ and ‘lactose-free‘ were at the time excluded from the scope of the Nutrition & Health Claims (NHC, reg. EU 1924/26, as amended) regulation. (2) Gluten-free and lactose-free products were then later excluded from the specific discipline of PARNUTS(Foods for Particular Nutrition Use), to fall under the general discipline of foods of current use. (3)

This information is therefore subject to the fair information practices defined in the Food Information Regulation (EU reg. 1169/11, Articles 7 and 36). (4) With particular regard to the prohibition of attributing to a product characteristics instead common to the reference category. As still observed in naturally gluten-free products without corresponding ‘gluten-containing’ versions, tea above all (5,6,7,8).

Lactose-free and gluten-free endorsements are also subject to appropriate wording and conditions of use. (9)

Claim ‘gluten-free’, reg. EU 828/2014

Regulation (EU) no. 828/14 applies to the generality of ‘consumer information on the absence of gluten or its presence to a reduced extent in food.’ (Article 1, scope and objectives). (10) Be they contained in labels or advertisements of:

– commonly used foods, ‘suitable for celiacs(optional information, Art. 3.2), or in

– Foods ‘specifically formulated for celiacs(optional information, Art. 3.3. E.g., products with deglutenized flours or substitute ingredients).

Gluten, the only permissible wording

The only statements on the absence of gluten or its presence to a reduced extent in food-and the conditions of use thereof-are those set out in the Annex to reg. EU 828/2014 (art. 3.1):

– ‘gluten-free (…) only where the gluten content of the food sold to the final consumer does not exceed 20 mg/kg’,

– ‘with very low gluten content (…) only where the gluten content of the food sold to the final consumer, consisting of one or more ingredients derived from wheat, rye, barley, oats, or crossbred varieties thereof, specially processed to reduce the gluten content, or containing one or more such ingredients, does not exceed 100 mg/kg.’ (11)

AIC’s point of view

‘The use of the claim ‘gluten-free’ expresses the assurance that the operator knows and complies with current regulations, respecting the needs of celiacs. The 20 ppm threshold limit must always be guaranteed to ensure the total absence of traces of gluten that may be toxic to the celiac.

The use of similarwording such as ‘does not contain gluten’ conversely induces the suspicion that the manufacturer has only taken care to use ingredients potentially suitable for celiacs, without considering the risks of cross-contamination.’ (Susanna Neuhold, AIC, Italian Celiac Association, National Food Manager).

‘Operators must use the correct wording to allow consumers informed choice. Different wording, not covered by the standard, may lead the celiac consumer to distrust it. For this reason, SBS, AIC’s Social Enterprise, has always been committed to spreading proper knowledge and application of the standard’ (Leone Fabio, SBS, Spiga Barrata Service, president).

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo. Gluten-free? Without exaggeration. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11.12.17, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/senza-glutine-senza-esagerare

(2) ‘Conditions for claims such as “lactose-free” or “gluten-free,” aimed at a group of consumers with specific disorders, should be covered by Directive 89/398/EEC (…) on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses’ (EC Reg. 1924/06, Cons. 22). Directive 89/398/EEC was then recast into dir. 2009/39/EC, which in turn was repealed by reg. EU 609/13

(3) The reg. EU no. 609/2013 – concerning foods for infants and young children, foods for special medical purposes and substitutes for the whole daily food ration for weight control – then excluded gluten-free products from its scope. Testo consolidato all’11.7.17 su https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?qid=1611844800058&uri=CELEX%3A32013R0609

(4) Dario Dongo. ‘Free from’ in label, The ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2/24/18, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/free-from-in-etichetta-l-abc

(5) Dario Dongo. Gluten-free tea? GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 12/22/17, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/tè-senza-glutine

(6) ‘Gluten-free’ on products that generally do not contain it, responds lawyer Dario Dongo. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 12/18/17, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/domande-e-risposte/senza-glutine-su-prodotti-che-in-genere-non-lo-contengono-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

(7) Buckwheat without gluten or preservatives? Lawyer Dario Dongo answers.. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 11.6.20, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/domande-e-risposte/grano-saraceno-senza-glutine-né-conservanti-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

(8) Gluten in cured meats, lawyer Dario Dongo responds. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 2.10.17, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/notizie/domande-e-risposte/glutine-nei-salumi-risponde-lavvocato-dario-dongo_1

(9) Dario Dongo. Lactose-free, ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11/19/18, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/senza-lattosio-abc
(10) Implementing Regulation (EU) No. Commission 828/2014 on requirements regarding consumer information on the absence of gluten or its reduced presence in food. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32014R0828&qid=1611874222987

(11) NB: The oats contained in a food presented as “gluten-free” or “very low gluten” must have been specially produced, prepared and/or processed in such a way as to avoid contamination by wheat, rye, barley or their cross varieties, and its gluten content must also not exceed 20 mg/kg

Dario Dongo. Gluten free. Truth in labeling even in the U.S.. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 9/24/14, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/gluten-free-la-verità-in-etichetta-anche-negli-usa

Carlotta Suardi, Dario Dongo. Celiac disease, a viral infection among possible causes, diagnosis by blood test. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.3.19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/celiachia-un-infezione-virale-tra-le-possibili-cause-diagnosi-tramite-analisi-del-sangue