Gluten-free claims in packaged foods

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other similar grains. It can cause adverse health effects in people with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity.

In Australia, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) set the standards for food labelling, which is outlined in the Food Standards Code.

A gluten-free claim on a product label is known as a nutrition content claim. A gluten-free claim can only be included on a product label if the product contains no detectable gluten.

Under Schedule 4 of the Food Standards Code, gluten-free products must not contain:

  • detectable gluten or
  • oats or oat products or
  • cereals containing gluten that have been malted, or products of such cereals.

What is detectable gluten?

Testing methods in Australia allow for detections as low as three to five parts per million, which is called ‘the limit of detection’. Anything below this limit contains no detectable gluten and is considered ‘gluten free’.

Be aware that this is different to other international regulations, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, which allow gluten-free products to contain up to 20 parts per million of gluten.

Oats and oat products

Oats are naturally gluten free, but contain a protein called avenin, which is similar to gluten, but is not the same.

Oats can become contaminated with gluten from other grains during harvest or storage at the farm level.

Any foods containing oats or oat products cannot be labelled as ‘gluten free’ in Australia.

'may contain' statements

'May contain' or 'may be present' statements are a voluntary statement and not regulated by the Food Standards Code. This may also be known as precautionary allergen labelling.

Food businesses can make gluten-free products in the same facility they use to produce other products containing gluten, or any other allergens, by using good allergen management practices.
These practices include creating a product scheduling, alongside appropriate controls for cleaning, sanitising, and cross contamination.

If you are unsure whether a food product is safe for you to eat, it is always best to check with the manufacturer.

Nutrition information panel

If food businesses are making a nutritional claim, they must be able to prove the product meets the claim.

For gluten-free products, this will likely include laboratory testing and demonstration of processes to ensure products remain free from gluten during processing.

They will also be required to show this on the nutrition information panel on the packaging, indicating that gluten is not detected.

This requirement is found in the Food Standards Code 1.2.8 - 6 What must be on nutrition information panel.

How do I make a nutrition information panel?

To assist food businesses, FSANZ has developed a Nutrition Panel Calculator. It is a free tool to help calculate the average nutrient content of their food products and helps prepare the nutrition information panel.