Hi, it's Jo from An Easy Gluten Free Life here and when I first had to stop eating gluten - I spent hours walking around the supermarket completely confused by labeling. I had so many questions - if something says may contain - does that mean its likely to or not likely to contain gluten? can I really believe something that says it's gluten free? how gluten free is a 'gluten free' product?
If you are reading this, I am sure you have had the same problems but I'm pleased to say you won't look like a crazy lady reading all the labels in Morrisons ever again. Well, maybe not never again because that would mean everything was gluten free - but certainly a lot less of your time!
The label says it's Gluten Free, but is it really?
According to law, only foods which are specially produced to be gluten free or naturally do not contain it can be labelled as 'Gluten Free'. However, this does not always mean that the food has been produced in a dedicated gluten free factory, and therefore can sometimes also state that the food 'May Contain traces' of gluten/cereals/wheat/barley/rye.
What does the 'May Contain' Gluten Label mean?
Although it's no longer a legal requirement to do so, some manufacturers will issue a 'May Contain' warning on their label. Put simply this means that the product has been made in a factory that handles other products which do contain gluten. There are usually procedures which ensure the thorough cleaning of equipment after each batch of food is produced. It also means that proper procedures are in place for handling products containing gluten to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. However, they cannot guarantee that particles of gluten haven't remained on equipment, or traveled through the air. There is also an element of human error here, such as someone missing part of the equipment when cleaning, or not changing their gloves.
Should I avoid foods with the 'May Contain' label?
This really is down to personal choice, I know of both Coeliacs that happily eat products with a 'May Contain' warning on and others that avoid them rigidly. If you are concerned about cross-contamination of a certain product, it's always best to contact the company directly as they will be much more able to advise.