Oats – are you labelling as part of the Top #14 allergens on your menu

If you are in catering, are you aware that if oats are part of a dish within your menu you need to highlight within your allergen tables, and the dish can not have claims ” to be free of the #Top 14 allergens”  Check out Alex’s recent blog post and follow the link to join the discussion.

Alex Gazzola, a journalist and author with over 20 years’ experience, specialises in food intolerance, food allergy, coeliac disease, gut disorders and skin allergies. Alex produces a blog called Allergy Insight.

Alex is highlighting that Oats should ALWAYS be highlighted when used in dishes on your menu 

Cereals containing gluten’ are one of the ‘top 14’ emphasizable and declarable allergens or allergen groups mandated in UK labelling law.

The ‘cereals containing gluten’ are defined to be wheat, rye, barley, oats and their hybrids.

It has occurred to me that some people interpret ‘cereals containing gluten’ in law to mean “cereals when they have gluten in them” — but ‘Cereals containing gluten’ does not mean that.

‘Cereals containing gluten’ means “cereals which are defined to be of a gluten-containing nature”, and the main four are named above.

The best analogy I can muster …

We are all human beings — members of a bipedal (two-legged) mammalian species. A human being who loses a leg in an accident would still be a human being, and still be a member of a two-legged mammalian species.

‘Cereals containing gluten’ which have their gluten removed — or, as in the case of oats, protected from gluten cross-contamination — are still ‘cereals containing gluten’, as defined in law. They’ve just ‘lost’ their gluten.

Gluten-free wheat starch is still an allergen, and must be emphasised on labels (look on your prescription GF bread, if you have any). It’s an allergen which has lost its gluten and non-starchy wheat components.

Deglutenised barley — for instance, in gluten-free beer — must still be declared as the allergen that it remains. Its gluten has merely been ‘lost’ (or ‘degraded’ / ‘digested’). Check your bottles of enzyme-treated GF beer: they will say ‘contains barley’.

And this applies to other allergens too. An egg with its white removed, is still ‘egg’, and that yolk left behind still has to be declared on labelling. It doesn’t become non-allergenic because it is albumin-free, just as oats don’t become non-allergenic because they’re gluten-free.


Modifying one of the ‘top 14’ allergens by removing one or more of their constituent parts does not usually mean they stop being ‘top 14’ allergens or allergenic.

There are, though, exemptions. One is glucose syrup derived from wheat — this is considered so ‘non-allergenic’, it needs not be emphasised.

You can read the exemptions in the FSA’s technical legislative guidance (pages 10–11). Others are dextrose, maltodextrin, and refined soya oil.

Gluten-free oats are not an exemption.

So: Gluten-free oats are a ‘cereal containing gluten’ because they are a member of the ‘cereal containing gluten’ ‘species’ as defined in law, much in the same way anyone unfortunate enough to have lost a leg in an accident remains a human being.

They’ve just lost their gluten. They’ve just lost their leg. No ‘species’ change has occurred.

All oats are ‘top 14’ allergens. None are exempt.

To read more on this topic and add to the discussion please click here.



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