We've seen the term "Very Low Gluten" pop up a lot recently, but what exactly does it mean and are Coeliacs safe to eat at places using this term?
Twice this week I have seen the term Very Low Gluten or Low Gluten used, but what exactly does that mean? Both times I have seen the terms used it has been on a menu, first time at a branch of Wyevale and they second used by nationwide chain Bills, but how can it be low gluten, surely it's either gluten free or it's not?
With the most recent changes in the law, both products and eateries aren't suppose to use the term gluten free when there is a chance of cross contamination, this is the reason, if you haven't noticed yet, that Starbucks are no longer labelling their brownie as gluten free in the chill cabinet. It's not because it is no longer gluten free (if you ask they still have them wrapped in the fridge, not that is says anywhere in the branch you can still do that) but because of the fact it is unwrapped with other definitely not gluten free products so is therefore no longer gluten free.
As soon as you put a gluten free product in potential cross contamination reach the product is no longer gluten free. So now to cover their backs and prevent being sued some places have started used the broad Very Low Gluten or Low Gluten statement, by law eateries cannot state something is gluten free when it could be cross contaminated so this wide angled take basically covers their bottoms. It won't be easy to sue for being glutened when they don't actually state gluten free.
Wyevale seemed to be the first place to change their menu, when I was there last week, there were various items with GF marked next to them but at the bottom is said GF stood for Very Low Gluten, not Gluten Free as you would expect. Yes, it is confusing, but to make matters harder they cannot use No Gluten Containing Ingredients either, again for similar cross contamination reasons.
So what exactly does Very Low Gluten mean? Well we can only assume it means, it is like normal, you go to a restaurant that does gluten free but also gluten containing products, you can never 100% guarantee there is no cross contamination, the staff can only do whatever they can in their power to prevent cross contamination. So we have come to believe this is what Very Low Gluten means, it means they use gluten free products and do everything they can to prevent cross contamination but there is still that slight chance of contamination happening. It is probably a more accurate description than declaring gluten free but at the same time is slightly confusing.
Bills also changed their menu to the exact same format as Wyevale but using Low Gluten Option for items marked with GF, surely if you are changing your menu to writing that GF means Low Gluten you can change to abbreviation to LG or just G so it at least makes more sense? Apparently not, just confuse us all why don't you.
When it comes to products the term Very Low Gluten isn't used on anything in the UK but can be used on products which contains gluten reduced ingredients and have a gluten level between 20 and 100ppm (20 and below is deemed safe for Coeliacs). It may not be used on anything in the UK at the moment but with it appearing on menus it is possible it may start appearing on products too.
With all the new laws it is very confusing and there will probably be more places that follow suit with the Very Low Gluten label, I have seen a few places use VLG to show Very Low Gluten options which makes more sense rather than still using the GF abbreviation.
Next year will probably see yet more changes in the labelling laws, probably preventing the use of Very Low Gluten since it is so broad. No Gluten Containing Ingredients and May Contains are already in the labelling laws with strict policies surrounding them so we can certainly see Very Low Gluten being added if more places start using it!