Can imported gluten free foods be trusted?

The simple answer is YES!

Australian made and Australian owned is fantastic, but there are some great imported gluten free products out there too; and we wouldn’t want you to miss out on taste delights from all around the world.  Luckily all packaged food sold in Australia, whether produced here or overseas must legally comply with the Australian Food Standards.  Anything labelled gluten free must not contain any detectable gluten, and there are strict rules as to how the ingredients must be labelled.  

The more complex answer is that there are always exceptions where people knowingly or inadvertently break the law.  Different laws overseas, especially around oats and detectable gluten amounts, sometimes means that incorrectly labelled products do sneak through.  This is however only a very small amount of product.

According to Australian law there is a range of information that must be included on pack, including nutritional panels and ingredients.  There are also rules around nutritional claims (such as gluten free) and all information must legally be in English. This information can be printed on the pack or can be stickered on.  Just because the information is stickered on, doesn’t mean it’s not legal.  Many overseas products comply to all our labelling laws just by stickering the packaging with the correct information.   But as in all things gluten free – doing your research is important.  One way to do eliminate the baddies or illegal packaging is to start with the place of purchase.

  1. Imported product purchased at GF Pantry. If it’s purchased through us, all the research has been done!  We require specific documentation and checks before ranging products.  If you buy through us, you can be assured we’ve seen the right information.
  1. Imported product purchased at major retailers. The sheer size of the major retailers means that importers supplying the product usually have the resources to get their labelling correct. Australian and international companies import a huge amount of food into Australia and employ thousands of food technologists to check labels, check lab reports and decide on the correct labelling information. Sometimes their interpretation of the label laws can differ, but they almost always err on the more conservative side.  This may for instance be when they label a product containing wheat glucose syrup as containing gluten even though the syrup has been too highly processed to contain damaging gluten anymore.  If you buy products through the major retailers there is a low chance that it is labelled incorrectly.
  1. Products that have been imported through small backyard importers. The smaller guys may not use food technologists or experienced food technicians.  This is the grey area where small amounts of product are imported through smaller less regulated channels.  This may include products bought from online trading sites, in small specialist stores or your independent “$2 shops.” 

Common illegal labelling in the past has included American or European cereals that contain oats and have a gluten free label, and cuisine specific shops selling specialties where labels often don’t even have English translations.   

If you do see instances of illegally labelled products sneaking through, be wary.  You might like to gently advise the seller that their products are not correctly labelled and may make someone sick.  Some people choose to report the breaches to Coeliac Australia, and others choose to contact the local food safety authority which is usually the local council.  Coeliac Australia has the labelling knowledge and passion but no authority to enforce laws of fine offenders.  Local councils have the authority and responsibility with varying degrees of passion. 

So…if you are looking for gluten free food and the product is imported, as many packaged products are these days, just do a little research.  The overwhelming majority of imported products are labelled correctly.  The instances of the label not being correct are actually very small.  Limit your chances of being caught out by knowing the rules yourself, doing a little research and buying from trusted retailers.

If you are unsure as to what the Australian labelling laws are for gluten free product, have a read through this article -   I’m confused! What should the label say?

Now go and find something new and delicious to eat; whether it’s Australian or not.