Gluten Free Labelling Removed from Seabrook’s Crisps

8 Oct

UPDATE 21/03/13: Great news, gluten free labelling to be restored. This post has been superseded, see new post here

Since I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease last year, Seabrook have been one of the heroes as they labelled some flavours of their crisps gluten free.  This was particularly welcome in light of the issues we had with Walkers (packs previously labelled “suitable for coeliacs” now said contained gluten).   It has recently come to light however that Seabrook’s have removed the “gluten free” labelling from their packaging.

I contacted Seabrook’s to try to find out why the gluten free labelling had been removed, and this was their reply:

We have not put gluten into the flavours that previously didn’t have any gluten containing ingredients. A recent legislation meant changing the packaging  information and, instead,  if a packet contains ingredients which contain gluten an allergy warning will be stated on the packet.

Pretty much what I expected and not really telling us much.  I emailed some follow up questions, and here they are along with Seabrook’s answers.

Q1:  Could you give more information on the legislation that has caused the change please?  We are a knowledgeable bunch when it comes to gluten, so we know all about the 20 parts per million values that have to be met in order for the gluten free label to be applied.  I would really like to know exactly what has forced the change, and exactly how these legislations are impacting the food industry.  Sorry to be persistent here but it is a really important issue for us.

A1:  This was the Food Standards Agency Guidance on the composition and labelling of foodstuffs suitable for people intolerant to gluten Jan 2012 report.

Q2:  One concern that coeliacs had when Walkers removed the “safe for coeliacs” labelling was that although ingredients had not changed, Walkers no longer had any reason to be vigilant when it comes to cross contamination from other gluten containing products.  Are you still taking measures to prevent cross contamination from flavours that do contain gluten added ingredients, and if so what?

A2:  We still maintain the same strict standards within our manufacturing environment and our cross contamination procedures have not changed. However, as a result of the legislation we have chosen to remove the gluten free message across our range at this point in time. Instead, products that specifically do contain gluten include an allergen warning on the pack.

I also asked Seabrook’s if they could provide a list of flavours that have no gluten containing ingredients, and they sent back the following list:

Sea Salt
Cheese & Onion
Prawn Cocktail
C/Cheese & Chives
Canadian Ham
2 Chilli
Desi Curry

I would have preferred a little more info on question one, but thanks in any case to Emma from Seabrook’s for answering my questions.  So what do you think as a fellow coeliac?  Will you continue to eat Seabrook’s crisps in light of their answers, or will you be sticking to the Pom Bears in future?  I would love to hear your thoughts so please comment below.

Update 15/10/12.  Following questions posed by Alex Gazzola in comments below, here is the latest response from Seabrook’s:

At Seabrook, we have not changed our manufacturing methods or quality controls in respect of gluten cross contamination since the 2012 guidelines were issued. All our analytical results demonstrate that we have fallen within the 20ppm threshold. However, the additional testing requirements to comply with the 2012 guidelines involve a degree of rigour and cost which, at the time they were issued, the business elected not to progress and accordingly we changed our packaging to reflect this. The authorities allow a period of grace for manufacturers in this situation to change the packaging over, hence the delay in some of the new packs appearing in the market place. One thing that we did not anticipate however was the extent of interest from our gluten intolerant consumers and, as a result, the business is committed to reviewing its policy in this area and will make further announcements in due course.

I welcome the fact that Seabrook’s are reviewing this policy in light of customer feedback.  Emma from Seabrook’s has promised to let me know of any further announcements, and I will of course share any good news with you all.

Update 21/10/12. Thanks to Shirley Quarmby, who has passed on a further reply received from Seabrook’s which is below:

Until recently we were able to claim our product as gluten free but due to new legislation of this year we can no longer state that claim.

Some of our products are wheat free but because they are made in a factorywhere gluten products are also made we can only advise customer that theyhave no gluten containing ingredients.

We have not made any changes to our recipes or our manufacturing processes, our change is all down to legislation.

I’ve attached a list of all our flavours and the allergens they contain.

UPDATE 21/03/13: Great news, gluten free labelling to be restored. This post has been superseded, see new post here

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea


19 Responses to “Gluten Free Labelling Removed from Seabrook’s Crisps”

  1. theglutenfreecheerleader October 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    At the moment I see no reason to stop eating them. If they haven’t changed their cross contamination procedures, then there’s no more risk involved in eating them now than before. So long as there’s no “may contain gluten” or “made on a line that handles wheat” on the packet then I’ll keep buying them.

  2. Annie October 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    I’m surprised that, considering the legislation was legally in force from January – after a considerably long time had been given for manufacturers to change their packaging, Seabrooks have only NOW (in September/October) have products on the shelf that no longer say “gluten free”. As I’d been buying them all this year with that statement on them, I had assumed they WERE assessing them under the new legislation!

    • Kevin Gollop October 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      My thoughts exactly Annie! Thank you both for your comments.

  3. Alex Gazzola October 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    I’m a coeliac commentator and writer not a coeliac, but hope my comments will still be welcome.

    First, just to say that I’m not sure they could have given you much more regarding the legislation – it’s the same for them as it is for others, and the FSA website can give you all the info you need on the nuts and bolts.

    More to the point, it is unclear from their reponses why they have removed the ‘gluten free’ statement. Crisps with gluten in them and which are labelled accordingly are completely irrelevant to the issue, so I have no idea why Seabrooks have referred to them several times in their remarks – especially given the legal requirement to list allergens is many years old and not a ‘recent’ legislation at all.

    Seabrooks say they have ‘chosen’ to remove the GF labelling on their non-gluten containing crisps, but the 2012 legislation requires them to do so – and to have done so by January – if they cannot meet the sub 20ppm levels.

    Can I be forward and suggest you put these questions to them?

    1. Have you removed ‘gluten free’ labelling because you cannot guarantee sub 20ppm levels?
    2. If not, why have you removed it?
    3. If so, why was this not removed by January 2012 as required by the legislation?
    4. What triggered the decision to remove it “at this point in time” (ie Sept/Oct)?

    Or I can do so if you email me Emma’s contact, Kevin?

    • Kevin Gollop October 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

      Thank you Alex, your comments are of course always welcome! When I said I’d have liked more info on Q1, I really meant what aspect had led to the labelling being removed (e.g. is it produced in a factory handling wheat or was there between 20 and 200ppm in tests). Bad choice of words on my part probably.

      I strongly agree that the labelling should have been changed in January. Great questions and I am more than happy to put them to Emma. I will post an update once I get a reply.

  4. Alex Gazzola October 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Ha, thanks, Kevin! Only said that (ie first para) as you’d asked for coeliacs’ thoughts and was a bit concerned I was ‘intruding’ a bit and wanted to make clear to you readers that mine were the views of a wheatie and an interloper! Look forward to the replies ….

  5. Shamwari October 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    Hi. Thanks for the info on Seabrooks. I’m not a coeliac but provide gluten-free ‘secret’ afternoon teas in my house (check out my website for more info if you’re interested: I have a biscuit recipe that uses cheese & onion crisps and is on my menu for a tea this weekend and was seriously worried about how I was going to make it. From the comments above and your info, I reckon it should be OK. I have emailed them myself and will see how their information compares with yours!

    • Kevin Gollop October 18, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, and I’d definitely be interested to hear about the reply you receive.

      • lizcrawshaw November 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

        I’m glad they’re reviewing their policy. The more us coeliacs get together shout the more customer power we have! I blogged about a restaurant that served me croutons and they contacted me to tell me they were reviewing their gluten free offering.

      • lizcrawshaw November 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

        I’m glad they’re reviewing their policy. We coeliacs need to get together and demonstrate our customer power. When I blogged about a restaurant which served me croutons they contacted me to say they were reviewing their gluten free offering.

      • Kevin Gollop November 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

        Thanks for the comment Liz. I agree strongly, as a collective we have the power to influence and it’s important as many of us as possible do our bit with regards contacting manufacturers.

  6. Celiac and Allergy Adventures November 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    You’re not in the same country as me but the lack of consistency with labeling (at least in the US), can be confusing. I see something as labeled Gluten-Free (yet this is not yet regulated by the US FDA – suggested to be less than 20ppm, though), I see things labeled with “no gluten ingredients added,” “may contain wheat,” “processed in a facility that also processes wheat” and on and on.

    I’m glad your questions encouraged them to review their policy. I believe if companies are acting ethically, there should be no issue with them being transparent in their practices.

    • Kevin Gollop November 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Agreed! I think we are lucky in the UK with the stiffer regulations, though it is still a challenge. They can still legally use “no gluten containing ingredients” and “may contain wheat” over here and reading labels is still a challenge. At least over here if something is labelled gluten free we know it is regulated and must be <20ppm.

      • Celiac and Allergy Adventures November 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

        Do you know how strict they are when it comes to testing that it’s < 20ppm? The FDA is working on finalizing these standards but I'm just concerned that products won't actually be tested, or they will be just tested at random. I work in the food/beverage industry with our National Organic Program, for instance, and the NOP requires that each organic certifying agency only actually TEST 5% of the customers they certify. And when they test, they test only 1 product (of the many that any given company could carry). It makes me somewhat skeptical about labeling in general, to be honest, at least in the United States.

      • Kevin Gollop November 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

        I know it’s a legal requirement that it must be <20ppm to carry the "gluten free" label, but I'm unsure how regularly products need to be tested to be honest.


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