May Contain Russian Roulette

May Contain Russian Roulette

Is it really wise to eat a product that may or may not make you sick? Well that is what we are talking about in this blog, should we eat products which may contain gluten warnings.
Do you play Russian Roulette when it comes to may contains? When it comes to may contain warnings you basically have a decision to it or not. A warning is there to advise you that the factory or production line are used for gluten containing products, those factories usually have precautions in place to clean down the machines after they have had allergens on them but some places like to highlight the fact that it could be present still and are basically saying "well if you eat it and get ill then it's your own fault, we warned you".

Personally I keep my distance, I don't want a 50/50 chance of becoming ill because of something I know I can stop entering my system. I know it might lower my options of foods down but I'd rather that than face the alternative. However every Coeliac thinks different on this matter.

Many popular brands have may contain warnings. Cadburys do on many of their products, including dairy milk. Another one I see frequently get asked about is Bisto Best, one of the few gravies that used to be fine but now has a may contain warning on, yet many still risk it. In the end it is up to the individual, but in practise should the risk be taken?

Well there is no definitive answer really. Considering many manufacturers don't put may contain warnings as they don't HAVE to and it's actually in the law that they are to be phased out in the next year or so, we are probably eating many products that are made on equipment or in a factory which handles gluten without even realising. Same applies when you eat out, you tell the staff you need gluten free but how sure are you that they take notice of may contains on the ingredients?

With a basic hit and miss situation you could eat one batch and be fine, you could eat multiple batches and be fine but there is always that chance you will hit a batch that will cause problems. So if you have taken the risk what is the worst that could happen? Well obviously it will cause your usual Coeliac/Intolerance symptoms, but with Coeliac you are obviously running the risk of all the other issues that come along with it. You may only be eating a bit and it may not cause a reaction, not everyone reacts to cross contamination after all, but even if you have no reaction and you haven't taken heed of the warning, are you actually consuming a small amount of gluten without realising? Which in turn will be keeping your IgA levels up, and damage to the villi will remain, eventually possibly leading to the more severe complications associated with Coeliac.

Is it worth the risk of eating it? When I think about it, for me, no, it's not worth the potential pain but if they are phasing may contains out, do manufacturers and the food agency think we don't need to know about possibilities and only need to know the hard fact of something actually containing gluten? Once may contains are off the product labels, will you be contacting manufacturers to find out the may contain info or choose to eat a product which doesn't have gluten as an allergen even if it used to have a may contain warning?

I guess these questions are something we will find out definite answers too over time but we would love to know what you would do, do you risk may contains or not? When there is no may contain labels in the future will you eat a product if it had a may contain in the past? Let us know in the comments or why not vote on our twitter poll below.

Your Comments

I always avoid these products. They may well be gluten free and perfectly safe but may just as well contain well over the 20ppm threshold. If, like me, you display little in the way of detectable symptoms continuing to eat these foods could well compromise your long-term health without you knowing it.
My particular gripe is with Holland and Barrett, who stock a good range of alternative flours (soya, millet, buckwheat etc) which would be ideal for home baking but are clearly labelled "may contain gluten", thus ruling them out as far as I'm concerned. They do deserve credit for printing the warning and I'm pleased that their potato starch and brown rice flour are now labelled as "gluten free" but they still have a long way to go.

Colin Turner - 19th May 2016

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