Those of you who read my recent report on Professor Clare Mills’ presentation at the Anaphylaxis Campaign’s conference in September will know that things are moving forward, slowly, on the ‘may contain’, precautionary allergen labelling front. But meanwhile we are still living with the current horribly unsatisfactory confusion.
One of our entrants to the FreeFrom Food Awards was muttering crossly about people selling ‘gluten-free’ products which still carry a ‘may contain gluten’ warning – totally see his point since his gluten-free products are what they claim to be – gluten free…. And then Catherine Rose sent me this instance of how ridiculous the situation can be.
Someone bought her an Innocent Smoothie – Invigorate – kiwi, lime, matcha, wheatgrass, flax seeds and some vitamins – with a ‘may contain traces of gluten’ warning.
Well, wheatgrass, despite the name, does not contain gluten as this is the grass and the gluten comes from the grain – so where do the traces of gluten come from? Catherine asked.
Apparently the flaxseed supplier said that there might be traces of gluten on their packing line. And how much flaxseed is there in the smoothie? 0.4%…… So if there was only the possibility of contamination on the packing line of an ingredient which only constitutes 0.4% of the total mix, I think you would have run out of zeros to assess what the actual gluten contamination risk would be in that smoothie. Are you surprised that people ignore ‘may contain’ warnings as being totally meaningless?
Advisory labelling on possible cross-contamination with allergens should be justifiable only on the basis of a risk assessment applied to a responsibly managed operation. Warning labels should only be used where there is a demonstrable and significant risk of allergen cross- contamination, and they should not be used as a substitute for Good Manufacturing Practices.