Bakers are being given a chance to have their say on the introduction of new regulations in England to enforce EU rules on the labelling of gluten-free foods.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a four-week consultation on the proposed regulation Gluten in Food (Information for Consumers) (England) Regulations 2014, and is asking food manufacturers, consumer groups and other interested parties for their opinions.

These are not new labelling regulations themselves, but will allow the FSA to enforce EU rules on the labelling of gluten-free and low-gluten products that were announced two years ago and came into force this summer.

Separate domestic regulations have already come into effect in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, reflecting the requirements of the EU gluten rules

Under the EU regulations – Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 828/ 2014 – foods can either be described as ‘gluten-free’ of ‘very low gluten’, defined as:

  • The statement ‘gluten-free’ may only be made where the food, as sold to the final consumer, contains no more than 20 mg/kg of gluten.
  • The statement ‘very low gluten’ may only be made where the food, consisting of or containing one or more ingredients made from wheat, rye, barley, oats or their crossbred varieties, which have been specially processed to reduce the gluten content, contains no more than 100 mg/kg of gluten in the food as sold to the final consumer.

“The intention is to continue to ensure effective standardisation of the claims around gluten,” said the FSA in its consultation document. “This will help to ensure consumers are not misled or confused about gluten claims, and consumers (in particular people with coeliac disease) can have continued confidence that the foods they eat are suitable for their health needs.”

Until the proposed English regulations take effect, the FSA has advised authorised food officers of interim measures they can take under General Food Law (Regulation (EC) No. 178/ 2002) against businesses after continued breaches of the gluten rules.

In the consultation, businesses are being asked to give views on matters including the cost of implementing the new EU regulations, and what impact they may have on small businesses.

A Defra-commissioned study suggested a cost of £1,800 per stock keeping unit (SKU) for a minor label change and £3,300 per SKU for a major label change. Businesses have two years to make changes once the regulations are adopted.

The FSA consultation document can be downloaded here, and the deadline for responses is 22 December.