The 2014 Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulations set out to do 2 things:
- Tell anyone with an allergy to any one of 14 major foods on the list when it is in the product.
- Tell anyone with coeliac disease who has to avoid gluten when there is any gluten in the product.
- Gluten is NOT an allergen. It is a protein and there are several versions of the protein: gliadin - in wheat, barley and rye; avenin - in oats
- Most coeliacs only react to gliadin (in wheat), hordein (in barley) and secalin (in rye): a very small number also react to the avenin in oats.
- Oats are often milled and processed in facilities which are also used for processing wheat flour, so could be contaminated with wheat. When they have been milled and processed separately so that there is no possibility of contamination, they are labelled as ‘gluten-free oats’.
- In order to cover the needs of both allergy sufferers and coeliacs in the one regulation, the first ‘allergen’ on the ’top 14’ list is: Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats.
- Because the regulation gives the broad definition ‘gluten’ and does not specify which form of gluten, this statement is technically correct.
- However, to the very large majority of coeliacs who only react to wheat, barley and rye and who can eat gluten-free oats without harm, this regulation is confusing and self contradictory. It is telling them that oats are a gluten-containing allergen that they should avoid while the label on the pack is also telling them that they are gluten free.
Historically, the FreeFrom Food Awards have stuck with the letter of the law and have excluded products containing oats, even if gluten-free oats, from the 'No Top 14' category.
However, in 2020 we reviewed our position and decided that this was not helpful for the consumer and that we should therefore change our criteria to allow in products which contained oats, provided that they were labelled as gluten-free oats.
If you have any queries or would like to talk to us about the project email Michelle or Cressida or call on +44 (0)7790 869706.