Australia and New Zealand have the toughest labelling laws in the world; these have been set by the Australia New Zealand Food Standard's Code. This gives a great deal of confidence with choosing food for people with coeliac disease in Australia.
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code require the following:
- Foods labelled as “gluten free” must not contain any detectable gluten; and no oats or their products; or cereals containing gluten that have used malt or their products.
- Ingredients derived from gluten containing grains must be declared on the food label, however small the amount.
- Foods labelled as “low gluten” must contain less than 200 parts per million of gluten. Australia does not have a very large range of low gluten foods and be aware low gluten foods are not recommended for a gluten free diet.
This new code of labelling applies to all food sold or prepared for sale in Australia and New Zealand and food imported into Australia and New Zealand.
A great tool for all coeliacs is Coeliac Australia. This national organisation is a not-for-profit association. It has five state organisations providing support for people with coeliac disease and medically requiring a gluten free diet. Coeliac Australia has endorsed many products after these products have been tested to prove they contain no detectable gluten.
The crossed grain logo is recognised world wide as a symbol for gluten free.
Lets now look at how to understand food labels:
1. Products Marked Gluten Free
The easiest way to work out if gluten is NOT contained in a product is to look for products marked Gluten Free on the product label. If a product is marked “Gluten Free” it does not contain any detectable gluten. You do not need to look at the ingredients list, the gluten free statement overrides the ingredients list. This is the easiest way for a newly diagnosed Coeliac or for someone catering for a Coeliac and doesn't really know what to cook.
- An example is : SOY SAUCE - (product labelled “Gluten Free”)
Ingredients: hydrolysed vegetable protein (soyabean (8.5%) maize), water, colour (caramel iv) (from wheat, contains added sulphites), salt, naturally brewed soya sauce (2.5%) (soyabean, wheat, salt)
Ingredients contain added sulphites, wheat and soy products.
As this product is labelled gluten free, you do not need to look at the ingredient list. The fact that it mentions wheat, is irrelevant. The “gluten free” statement overrides everything else.
It is hard at first to believe it can be gluten free when the ingredients state 'wheat' but you must trust the rule. To be labelled 'gluten free' it does not contain any detectable gluten.
2. Gluten Free by Ingredients.
You can read the ingredient list to determine if a product is classified Gluten free, that is, it contains no detectable gluten. Once you start taking notice of what ingredients are actually in the products we consume, we start to see a lot of products actually do not contain gluten. This is a bonus for someone requiring a gluten free diet. This way takes a little practice but in time you will become confident in understanding different labels and a whole new range of products will open up to you. Soon you will have a new list of favourites which will allow you to make new recipes. Foods that are not marked gluten free but are gluten free by ingredients are often a lot cheaper. So, not only do you get to eat a larger range of food, you also get to save money.
3. Foods that are naturally Gluten Free.
These include a large variety of foods such as:
- Fats and oils
- Milk (except flavoured milk – you need to check the ingredient list)
- Nuts, legumes and seeds
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- unprocessed meat (beef, lamb and pork), poultry and fish - cold meat bought from a delicatessen MAY contain gluten. Ask the shop assistant and check the ingredient list.
- rice, corn (maize), sago, soy, tapioca, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, sorghum, quinoa and arrowroot.
Just imagine the yummy recipes you could just make from all these foods alone!! Look at what other safe foods you can eat - see Safe and Unsafe Foods.
Hints on reading labels.
All food allergens that are contained within the product's ingredients, must be declared. Gluten is considered an allergen, just like nuts and dairy. Gluten is contained in wheat, barley, oats and rye; therefore where the source of the product is not from a grain containing gluten( wheat, barley, rye and oats), it is gluten free. For example:
Sweet Chilli Sauce
Ingredients: Sugar, water, pickled red chilli (16%), garlic, vinegar,
salt, stabiliser (415)
Ingredients: Skim milk, milk, fruit (8%) blackberry, strawberry, sugar, milk solids, Inulin (dietary fibre), water, maize thickener (1442), gelatin (halal), flavour, food acid (331), natural colour (120), live yoghurt culture.
Both products do not have any allergens declared (i.e. wheat) therefore the products are gluten free.
The rule of thumb is if it does not say it contains gluten then it is safe to eat. Remember - IF IN DOUBT – LEAVE IT OUT.
A few exceptions to the rule:- products containing Dextrose, Glucose or glucose syrup and caramel colour (150) initially are derived from wheat but they are so processed that NO gluten is present in the finished product, making the product safe to consume on a gluten free diet. For example:
The only wheat derived ingredient is the dextrose from wheat so the product is therefore gluten free.
Production Lines and "May Contained" statements
Products containing gluten (i.e. normal cookies) that are made on the same production line as products that contain NO gluten (i.e. they are making gluten and gluten free products using the same machinery), and products that are labelled "may contain gluten" are not considered safe for a gluten free diet and should be avoided.
Except, if the contained statement (you will find this underneath the ingredient list) states "May contains wheat" but the only ingredient from wheat that is listed in the ingredients list is either glucose syrup (wheat), dextrose (wheat) or caramel colour (wheat) then there is no detectable gluten in this product and therefore safe to eat.
Either/Or statements on Products
Sometimes companies will make an "either/or" statement on products. It would look like this - "Maltodextrin (wheat or maize)". This means the product could contain wheat or maize as the manufacturer has not specified which one and if the product is not marked as gluten free, it should be avoided.
Reading ingredients is not the most exciting thing to do, and it does take a little extra time when you do your shopping, but I encourage you to 'give it a go'. Soon you will have a new list of favourites and it will become second nature to determine if products are gluten free or not.
Good luck on your shopping journey. For more information see Food Labeling - General.