Reading Labels well....
Reading labels is key to Coeliac Disease. If you can master those, you have the ability and confidence to make informed decisions.
I see on lots of Facebook groups, “can I have this”, “Is this safe”, “is this gluten free”. Make life easy and learn to read food labels well & confidently.
Reading is now a key part of your coeliac or gluten free lifestyle. My top suggestion is join Coeliac UK – you then have access to an online digital membership or receive a handbook. With membership comes access to two apps. One for scanning labels and one for finding venues to eat at.
As a Coeliac, you need to cut out all items that contain gluten, or ‘may contain’ gluten/wheat. Remember the key word ‘B-R-O-W-S’ to help you recall the items you need to look out for on labels. These all need to be excluded from your diet:
Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, Spelt.
Anything with those items in will potentially cause a reaction and make you ill. Being ‘glutened’ as it is known! And the longer that you are off gluten your reactions may change/become more severe.
Oats are an exception as they don’t contain gluten but a protein called Avenin which mimics gluten. Oats must be processed in a wheat free factory and labelled as Gluten Free to be safe to consume for a Coeliac. However, there are still a percentage of Coeliacs that react to oats regardless of whether they are Gluten Free or not. If you have a reaction, you need to speak to your consultant.
Learn to read labels
Reading labels is key. We have excellent food labelling in the UK which helps in spotting any item a Coeliac can’t eat.
- Every label has to list every ingredient and component that makes up that ingredient.
- They are always listed in order of the most to the least.
- Each ingredient component will be listed in brackets after it to show what it is made up of
- If gluten or wheat is within the list of ingredients it should be in bold writing to show it is an allergen
In the example above, the label has percentages of an ingredient to show how much is in it, and if you look carefully after the 3rd ingredient, the Prawn Cocktail Flavour, it has brackets after it so that you can see what the flavour is made up of, what it’s particular components are.
A label will ALWAYS be up-to-date & overide a scanning app. They are often updated later.
Coeliac UK’s advice is to avoid may contains & one I agree with. It’s like trying to guess which one box in one hundred boxes has a present in by sight alone. Some packaging – such as Cadburys chocolate bars will state ‘may contain wheat’ or ‘may contain gluten’. Some Coeliacs eat them, some don’t. We don’t eat may contains, nor use them in baking or in our boxes.
When an item says it is gluten free, that itself is a legal term and undergoes rigorous testing to be declared so. As we are looking out for the key 4 allergens to remove from a Coeliacs diet, when you see Barley listed, it is obviously of concern. “Ooh, we can’t have that, isnt that bad”. But it says it is gluten free. What’s the right answer?
Barley is one of the 14 allergens and is listed on labels to demonstrate that it contains that ingredient. Some people have a Barley allergy on top of Coeliacs or separate to it. An item that is labelled Gluten Free will always be less than the 20ppm (20 parts per million) of gluten deemed safe for a Coeliac.
So if you are having a gluten free beer/lager, and it states Gluten Free but also states it has Barley in it, then the barley will be less than the specified 20ppm, it will have had the gluten removed though the various stages of fermentation / distillation and be totally suited for a gluten free diet. BUT if you have a barley allergy, it is there to highlight to those suffering from a barley allergy that its present.
Understand the basics, and you’ll be fine. But reading labels each and every time is key. Manufacturers are always changing ingredients. It’s always best to check.