Gluten Free Diets – An Update

Gluten Free Diets – An Update

By Dr Mabel Blades,  Freelance Dietician and Nutritionist
On 1st January 2012 the rules about making claims as regards which foods are gluten free changed.


A number of people suffer from coeliac disease and while this used to be regarded as a simple food intolerance, it is now regarded as an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues (thus there is a link with Type 1 diabetes). In people with coeliac disease the autoimmune reaction is triggered by gluten, which is the name of the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people with the condition are also sensitive to oats.


In the general population about 0.75% of people suffer from Coeliac Disease, but it rises to 2-10% in those with Type 1 diabetes. Therefore the NICE guidelines recommend that all people with Type 1 diabetes are screened for coeliac disease.

What is gluten free?

In the past as long as foods did not contain wheat, rye, barley or any products derived from them they could generally be described as gluten free.
With the realisation of the sensitivity of some to gluten and how little contamination is required to cause a problem, it was decided that only foods which contain no more than 20 parts gluten in a million parts of food can be labelled as gluten free. This legislation came into effect on 1st January 2012. Now the only food which can be described as gluten free is:

  • Specially made foods for people with gluten intolerances such as pasta made from rice instead of wheat flour
  • Everyday foods such as soup made only from vegetables which would contain less than 20 parts per million

No gluten containing ingredients

To assist people with coeliac disease caterers and food businesses can make a factual statement to let customers know it does not contain any gluten containing ingredients. So look out for this on foods and menus.

Extra information

Additional information on this can be obtained from the Food Standards Agency, and also Coeliac UK,