‘Gluten free but contaminated with gluten’ no more. Are you updated about the new legislation?


I am sure most of you know about the European Gluten Regulation EC 41/2009, that was published in January 2009 and came into full effect on 1 January 2012. Basically and very briefly, with this regulation, gluten free and low gluten labelling of pre packaged products are covered by law in Europe. For a product to be labelled gluten free it must contain less that 20 parts per million of gluten, and to be labelled low gluten it must contain between more than 20ppm and less than 100ppm of gluten.

So, the term gluten free is protected by a legal framework. Once a gluten free claim is made, the law applies. We now have an overarching legislation EC1169/2011 that is going to come into effect on the 13th of December 2014. It was formed as a result of a European labelling review to simplify legislation. This law applies to the catering industry a well as to packaged food.

I was recently invited to attend a conference organised by the Coeliac Association of Malta that was aimed for retailers and caterers to explain this new legislation. The speaker at this event was Norma McGough, Director of Policy, Research and Campaigns from Coeliac UK. She gave a very thorough explanation of how the new law applies to gluten free foods, and I will share some information I learnt here in this post.

  • Legislation EC1169/2011 will bring in changes to the format of allergen information on pre packaged foods. All 14 major allergens must be emphasised in the ingredients list. If wheat, barley, rye or oats are used as deliberate ingredients, the actual grains must be clearly visible in the ingredients list. Manufacturers can emphasise the allergens in any way they choose and some examples include bold, highlighted, italics or underlining. So it will now be extremely important for us to read ingredients lists. May contain statements may still be included if there is a risk of contamination and these should be taken seriously.

The 14 major allergens that will be emphasised are:

• cereals containing gluten

• crustaceans, for example prawns,crabs, lobster and crayfish

• eggs

• fish

• peanuts

• soybeans

• milk

• nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio, cashew and  macadamia(Queensland) nuts

• celery (and celeriac)

• mustard

• sesame

• sulphur dioxide, which is a preservative found in some dried fruit

• lupin

• molluscs, for example clams,mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid

But there is more to this law. How do you feel about going out to eat at the moment? With gluten free claims being made by restaurants and establishments on every corner, how can we know what is safe? This new law deals with just that. Gluten free must now be gluten free. No more ‘gluten free but not suitable for coeliacs’. No more gluten free pizza bases with gluten containing toppings. No more risks of contaminated food.

  • This law makes it compulsory for caterers to know what allergens are in the food they are serving. There was no previous law that stated that caterers must know the allergens in their food.  This will apply to all food sold unpackaged, in places like catering outlets, deli counters, home made products, butchers, bakeries, sandwich bars and hospitals for example. So if a recipe uses cereals containing gluten such as wheat, rye, barley or oats in the ingredients, staff must be able to provide this information.

Food served unpackaged must be gluten free, meaning that the end product served to the customer must contain less than 20ppm of gluten. However, testing of individual dishes in not compulsory or needed. These are some steps that catering establishments must go through to ensure that their food falls within the threshold of gluten free.

1. Establishments must have a HACCP plan that covers gluten. Not just a standard HACCP plan. This requires knowledge about the gluten free diet, knowledge about the gluten free law, knowledge about ingredients and all steps in processes where there might be a risk of contamination.

2. Training must be provided to all staff, and records of training should be kept in store or in head office. There must be key individuals identified that people can go to for information.

3. There must be excellent communication from the front of the house to back of kitchen. Having something written down can help. There must be a system in place to provide information to the customer, and the buisness should encourgae customers to discuss their dietary requirements.

4. Supply chain controls by using only reputable suppliers, and incoming supplies must be monitored for any change in ingredients. If any of the usual supplies are exhausted, the replacement items must also be gluten free. Records of all checks of incoming ingredients must be kept.

5. Storage of ingredients must be in a way to avoid contamination. For example, they must ensure that flour not leaking, all gluten free supplies must be properly covered and stored on upper shelves. There must be a plan to avoid contamination by accidental spillage of gluten containing ingredients.

6. Preparation and cooking.
When cooking, they must prepare the area, ensure ingredients are all gluten free, cross contamination risks must be controlled, and any unused gluten free ingredients must be covered and labelled.

A great tip Ms Mcgough shared was making sure gluten free pasta is not the same shape as gluten containing pasta to avoid mix ups.

7. There must be good hygiene practices in place, a schedule for cleaning, and clean utensils, and surfaces must be used.

8. There must be quality assurance and verification.

9. There should be a company policy stating the caterer are committed to providing gluten free food.

It was not made clear who is responsible for ensuring the law is abided here in Malta. More discussion is required regarding the matter.

However, one thing is clear. It is possible to do all this with some thought & care. 

For more information please read this document by the Food Standards agency UK. Advice on food allergen labelling:How to buy food safely when you have a food allergy or intolerance 


This article was originally written by Candie Borg Cardona on her blog candiesglutenfreeland.wordpress.com. It is based on the information given by Ms Norma McGough, Director of Policy, Research and Campaigns from Coeliac UK. This article was written as a recount and summary, and should not be used as legal advice or a thorough explanation of current labelling laws. All information should be verified with current legislations EC41/2009 and EC1169/2011, and failure to do so is done at the reader’s own risk. The author reserves the right not to be responsible for the topicality, correctness, completeness or quality of the information provided. Liability claims regarding damage caused by the use of any information provided, including any kind of information which is incomplete or incorrect, will therefore be rejected. This article is part of candiesglutenfreeland.wordpress.com and falls under Terms and Conditions that can be found on that website.


photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/sunciti_sundaram/8576458273/”>Sunciti _ Sundaram’s Images + Messages</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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