Changes to Discovery Mexican Gluten Free Range

17 Jul

I know there are many of us in the gluten free and coeliac community that are fans of the Discovery Mexican range with their handy gluten free labelling.  Recently I noticed that Sainsbury’s had stopped stocking the excellent Discovery Taco Trays, and when I tweeted them about this I was informed that they were no longer produced.  A quick investigation via Google revealed that all the Discovery products are being re-branded as Santa Maria UK.  Santa Maria do still make a taco shell and they have confirmed to me that this is gluten free.  I’ve put in a product request to Sainsbury’s so fingers crossed (UPDATE 02/07: Taco Shells now available at Sainsbury’s Plymouth Marsh Mills!).  Thanks also to @Kazzy_P who tweeted me to say she had spotted the newly branded Taco Shells in Morrisons, and they are indeed labelled gluten free.

taco shells

Further bad news is that it seems some products that were labelled gluten free under the previous branding will no longer be labelled so.  Indeed the fajita seasoning mix that I normally buy has appeared with new Santa Maria branding in my local Sainsbury’s this week, and the gluten free claim is gone.  Santa Maria have sent me the following information with regards the changes:

Q: Why are the previously gluten free products no longer carrying the Coeliac Society logo?

A: Santa Maria follows the EU regulation. According to the EU regulation the limit for gluten free is < 20 ppm (mg/kg). Furthermore it is not allowed to mark products that normally don’t contain gluten as gluten free, like jalapeños, salsas and seasonings, due to the risk of misleading the consumers.

Further to this, there is also the following information that they’ve posted on their Facebook page:

Of the products which do not carry the coeliac society gluten-free icon the following applies:

1. Jalapenos – these do not & are not expected to contain gluten – all tested < 10ppm
2. Tortillas – these all contain gluten & Wheat is highlighted as an allergen in the ingredients declaration
3. Seasonings – these are manufactured in Sweden & so under tighter Swedish legislation which requires a zero gluten content guarantee, which Santa Maria feel unable to make but all tested < 10ppm
4. Corn tortilla chips – manufactured in Sweden – but all tested < 10ppm
5. Taco shells – these are manufactured in Belgium so carry icon
6. Salsas – all carry icon where < 10ppm

So it seems that some of the products are tested to be gluten free, yet are not being labelled so due to the fact “it is not allowed to mark products that normally don’t contain gluten as gluten free”.  In my opinion this certainly would not apply to seasonings and salsa, clearly there are many spice mixes and sauces around which contain gluten.  This was queried with Coeliac UK via Twitter and they gave the following response:

The Crossed Grain symbol can only be used on processed products with multiple ingredients. Naturally GF unprocessed products can’t be certified. Some of the Santa Maria products are naturally GF and unprocessed in nature (eg jalapeños) so we can’t certify these. Any products we can certify (eg salsa, spice mixes) have been certified.

So it seems Coeliac UK agree with my opinion, and @David_Navigator was quick to point out, the jalapeños contain pickling ingredients and so are actually processed in any case.  At this point Coeliac UK agreed to follow up with Santa Maria UK directly, so thanks to them for their help with this.

The Santa Maria customer service rep I’ve been speaking to has told me they have been inundated with queries about this, and suggested that the more people who get in contact then the more likely it is that the gluten free labelling will be restored.  If you’ve been affected by this change then please get the message over to Santa Maria either by Facebook or email at feedback@santamariaworld.co.uk.  A big thank you to Naomi at Santa Maria who has been extremely helpful so far, and even went off and found my Seabrook blog post and has used this to give feedback to a higher level on why gluten free labelling is so important to us.  I emphasised that if a product used to be labelled gluten free and is no longer then we lose trust even if there is no actual change to the product itself.  Naomi has confirmed that Coeliac UK have been in touch and is hopeful the GF labelling can be restored soon.

In the meantime Naomi has been kind enough to send me this list showing which products were labelled gluten free as Discovery Foods (DF), and which ones are labelled gluten free under Santa Maria (SM) branding.  So overall disappointing news, but so far great customer service and lets hope the gluten free labelling is soon restored to all applicable products and they can go back to being one of my GF hidden treasures.  I should also point out that there are a good number of products still certified gluten free, and well done to Santa Maria on that.  This appears to be confusion over labelling rules than anything more sinister.  Anyway, wish me luck in tracking down some taco shells, and hopefully we’ll soon be toasting a Seabrook style victory with tacos made with some certified gluten free taco spice and Abby’s refried beans.  I’ll be sure to update this post as and when I receive further responses.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

 

5 Responses to “Changes to Discovery Mexican Gluten Free Range”

  1. Halo July 21, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    I’ve emailed – I love that range!

  2. Dom October 19, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    I don’t think Santa Maria UK is a rebrand of Discovery. It is a totally different company, and I agree, their seasoning mixes are far inferior to the Discovery range. All supermarkets have dropped Discovery in favour of Santa Maria, presumably because they have signed purchase agreements which are much more profitable. Basically, Santa Maria have priced Discovery out of the market, well that’s my theory anyway. You can still buy Discovery mixes direct from their website, but delivery charges are a bit steep.

  3. Rachel Street March 28, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi, I’m still confused I have read the label on a Coeliac approved label jar of Mexican Discovery Fajita season and sauce jar. On the ingredients it lists barley malt vinegar, I guess this ok as it’s been processed to meet the Coeliac approved standard.

    • Kevin Gollop March 28, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

      Hi Rachel, as long as the product has been tested to meet the <20ppm standard set by Coeliac UK then it can be labelled gluten free

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