A gluten-free diet is a type of diet without the specific proteins contained in the cereals wheat, rye, barley and possibly even oats, as well as their related grains and hybrids (spelt, triticale, green spelt, Emmer wheat, Khorasan wheat,…). "Gluten" is the name given to all the proteins from the grains mentioned above and that are harmful to people suffering from coeliac disease.
Gluten is not only found in products that obviously contain any compounds of the cereals listed above, but is often used as an ingredient in processed foods.
As a result, food manufacturers and retailers offer "gluten-free" products during the processing of which a "contamination" with gluten or cereals containing gluten is avoided by all means possible. These products can be identified by a symbol featuring a crossed grain symbol. Products are subject to mandatory examinations for gluten content at an AGES laboratory before they can bear the "gluten-free" logo.
The requirements that must be met by gluten-free food are defined in both the Codex Alimentarius and the appropriate EU Regulation 41/2009. Unlike with all other food allergens, a legal threshold value to regulate the labelling of gluten as an allergen in foodstuffs was introduced for the very first time on 20th January, 2009.
A difference is made between
Foodstuffs labelled as "GLUTEN-FREE": these foods must not exceed a gluten content of 20mg/kg. This includes foods that are gluten-free by nature and foods the natural gluten of which has been removed.
Foodstuffs labelled as "VERY LOW GLUTEN CONTENT": foods carrying this label may contain a gluten level over 20 mg/kg but below 100 mg/kg.