Coeliacs exposed to gluten due to poor food labelling

A quarter of people who are coeliac or strict vegetarians and vegans have said they have eaten foods they shouldn't because of poor supermarket labelling, a report has claimed.

Shoppers say they are confused by food labelling.

Around 44 per cent of respondents to a survey by dietary app Ubamarket said that food labels are difficult and at times impossible to read,while more than half of respondents said that the complicated nature of UK food labels make it difficult for people with dietary requirements to make informed decisions about their food.

A large proportion of food recalls by the Food Standards Agency relate to incorrect labelling on foods - an error stating that something does not contain an allergen when it actually does.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Coeliac sufferes have an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten which can not only make sufferers vomit and have stomach problems after eating anything containing gluten - but can leave them with long-term damage to their gut if they are exposed regularly.

Last week, Tesco recalled a type of cheese burger because of undeclared sesame, which could be a serious health risk to anyone with an allergy to the ingredient. Last year, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, died after allegedly eating sesame in food sold by sandwich chain Pret a Manger that they knew they were allergic to, but did not realise was in the food they were eating. The chain has since begun listing all ingredients on its fresh products.

Ubamarket's app features 'Allergy Alerts' which bring the small print to life and ensures that UK consumers are informed and knowledgeable about the ingredients in the food they look to purchase. The feature allows shoppers to scan items using the Ubamarket app and receive an alert for any allergens such as gluten or dairy and even if a product is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Will Broome, chief executive of Ubamarket, said: “The recent discovery that many supermarkets such as Tesco, ASDA, Iceland and Morrisons are having to recall food due to inadequate food labelling shows that what should be an informational tool, is not serving its purpose. Our research has revealed that 23 million Brits feel that food labels are difficult and at times impossible to read, so the importance of having systems in place that grant freedom for shoppers to shop according to dietary requirements has never been more apparent.

"Retailers, supermarkets and food outlets could enable easier ways to identify important allergens and ingredients on labels. With easier ways to identify important allergens and ingredients on labels using technology, more convenient store layouts and a smoother shopping format, consumers will be able to shop with ease.”