Walkers Crisps - Suitable for Coeliacs - NOT!!

Concerns regarding UK 'Gluten Free' Labelling

I have been aware of Walkers crisps (labelled 'suitable for coeliacs') causing adverse reactions in many individuals with coeliac disease in many past instances. However, coming from Australia, I have been locating and taking to task businesses that falsely market products as 'Gluten Free' in my own country only and was more than happy to leave the debatable issues surrounding gluten free labelling in other countries to those citizens only. That was, however, UNTIL I came across one of the Coeliac Disease-not just a food preference's account photos!

Coeliac Disease-not just a food preference's Photos - Walker's gluten-free crisps - or are they?
Coeliac Disease-not just a food preference's Photos - Walker's gluten-free crisps - or are they?

Don't be Complacent - Look after Your Health

For the average coeliac consumer's point of view, it would be assumed to be gluten free, hence the statement Suitable for Coeliacs. However, should one take a moment to interpret the package ingredient list, it turns into quite a controversial debate. Is the product gluten free?

My answer to this question would be no! This is due to current and past UK laws allowing foods that contain less than 200 parts per million (i.e. < 200 ppm) gluten to be labelled as 'gluten free'.

Gluten Free is one term, however the statement 'Suitable for Coeliacs' couldn't be further from the truth with regard to being safe for individuals with coeliac disease. In fact this latter term shouldn't even be mentioned when describing a product AT ALL! I never want to hear the term 'suitable for...'...

Because you know why?!

--

  1. When on a gluten free diet, all gluten must be avoided. There is no known safe level (i.e. a level at which gluten can be 'safely' consumed without aggravating the symptoms of coeliac disease). Even if one with coeliac disease does not experience any signs or symptoms of discomfort after ingesting gluten, it is highly likely that damage is still occurring in the small intestine (let's not even MENTION the long-term implications!!). This is the main one I take
  2. Many individuals with coeliac disease (assuming they have no additional intolerances) have been adversely affected by products labelled as 'suitable for coeliacs' in many instances, particularly in the UK. These include Walker's Chips.
  3. {and finally, but not least of all}, It is a false term (unrelated to gluten)! You cannot gather all the coeliacs around the world and distribute a particular product to each person at a grandstand and assume that it will be edible by every coeliac consumer! For there are many other numerous food intolerances and allergies that a significant population face in today's society (partly due to GM foods, however that's a whole other story). Saying that a product is 'Suitable for Coeliacs' is plain outright LYING and DISHONESTY! Manufacturers need to STOP using this term ALTOGETHER!

SUMMARY OF LABELLING LAW CHANGES:

Apparently, by *2012*, all of the laws *should* be changed to allow only <20ppm gluten for foods to be labelled as 'gluten free' in the UK.

In Australia, the law stands at <5ppm gluten, however the Coeliac Society of Australia is lobbying our food authority to change the law to allow products that contain gluten up to <20ppm gluten 'gluten free'.

I personally find our coeliac societies around the world to be VERY weak. They are not only endangering the lives of many coeliacs but also those with anaphylactic reactions to wheat and gluten-like proteins. Due to proposed law changes (with relation to gluten free food in Australia) I am also now totally AGAINST THE COELIAC SOCIETY of AUSTRALIA!

Back to the topic, now. This post is about FALSE MARKETING! Consumers are only doing themselves a disservice in the long term by trusting brands like Walker's, especially when products of theirs contain wheat-derived ingredients! WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?! Money-Grubby Capitalists would be my answer!

As I live in Australia, I am lucky as foods are very accurately labeled and they are only labelled as 'gluten free' when they contain 'no detectable gluten'. However, we still fight our own battles as the same can't be said about public take-away food service businesses I have blogged about here like Domino's Pizza (blog post), Eagle Boys (blog post), Hungry Jack's [Aussie for Burger King] (blog post) and more... [N.B. All links open a new window ;-)]

Please leave your views about Walker's Chips in the discussion below, as I feel that it absolutely STINKS that they are simply treating us like a lump out of society and exploiting us as a niche market. Be very careful about what 'gluten free' foods you buy and ALWAYS CHECK THE INGREDIENTS, CAREFULLY!

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Comments 19 comments

CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

Have you contacted Walkers? I am sure that your readers would love their answer. E mail if you need an address as i live near there largest British factory!


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks, CASE1WORKER

I have contacted Walkers by email and am awaiting a reply. I will do my best to publish their response once it is received.


moonbun profile image

moonbun 6 years ago from London

I'm horrified, but I've had a very lucky escape! Only this morning did I have a packet of Walkers cheese and onion flavor crisps. I've been having them on and off for a few months due to the fact that it says suitable for coeliacs and doesn't contain any pepper.

I've never had a reaction to this flavour, but the fact that they are blatantly advertising falsely means that I won't be eating them again.

You are a wealth of information. Can't wait to read what Walkers have to say about this!


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks, Moonbun. The gluten content is fairly low in Walkers crisp products that are marked 'gluten free'. This would explain why some individuals may not have a bad experience with these products.

The sad part, however, is that many assume that they are only damaging themselves from gluten if they experience outright 'physical discomfort'. Not the case at all, as you say!

Changing laws in the UK over the next few years (or so I'm aware) should make living gluten free easier.

I don't normally charge at businesses outside my own country in the 'Land Down Under', however after having observed online forum posts on social networking sites, etc. I felt compelled to get the word across. It is quite possible that this is the first of many more posts I intend to make about businesses around the world falsely 'promoting' their gluten free products to individuals and families.

I am rather keen to see what Walkers has to say, too. Quite honestly, though, I have little idea of what 'their' thoughts might be. It'll be interesting to see. I don’t know until they BOTHER RESPONDING though. Hm. I’ll be watching out see what they say.


Walkers Crisps - PepsiCo 6 years ago

Thank you for your recent email.

Unfortunately, we are at present reviewing our dietary lists, in light of the current changes in clinical advice on levels of gluten suitable for a coeliac diet, which have driven changes to legislation, and as such, our revised lists are not yet available.

As soon as the revised information is available, we will write to you again and please accept our apologies in advance for the delay this is likely to entail. In the meantime, should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact our Consumer Services Department. You may also wish to visit the Food Standards Agency and the Coeliac Society websites for more information about these changes via the following links -

http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2009/jan/n...

or

http://www.coeliac.org.uk/glutenfree_living/codex_...

Once again, thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thank you for getting back to me! I was starting to wonder whether my voice travelled into the never-never! heh.


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

There is the debate that some coeliacs can tolerate some gluten- I was fairly tolerant at 14yrs- the doctors thought I had grown out of it. After 3 children my tolerance levels are significantly lower. I think the moral must be to check and check again the labelling. I have eaten their crisps for 20 years and yes cheese and onion is my favourite- oh ****- the question is, cant they just make them gluten free- it cant be that hard!


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

It wouldn't be that hard for Walkers to make them gluten free. Just change the type of flour. I know, though, that Smith's Potato Crisps here in Australia all contain gluten except for their original flavour. I've a feeling that even though the contents of both Smith's Cheese & Onion and Walkers Cheese and Onion are quite similar, it may just be the strict Aussie food labelling laws coming to play with regard to the difference in labelling. The 'gluten free' label officially overrides the ingredient listing with regard to how suitable the product may be here. Very rarely in Oz does a product labelled as 'gluten free' contain any derivative of wheat or rye. Gluten free should mean just that: GLUTEN FREE! How hard can it be for society to understand?!


Ella 6 years ago

It will probably mean there are less gluten free crisps in the UK. Doesn't really bother me that much though. I'd much prefer to be in Oz over UK right now just because of the labelling differences. Great information, infonolan


Jo 5 years ago

Glad I found this site because I have been eating Walkers crisps on and off for a while now, but only recently I've been feeling unwell after eating them. As it says 'suitable for ceoliacs', I thought perhaps I had another allergy to deal with!


Anastasia 5 years ago

i have knowingly had coeliac disease for over a year and a half and by seeing that the walkers chips were "suitable for coeliac" consumed them and am now in bed , feeling very sick, i am absolutly furious!

they contained Barley Malt and wheat derivatives!


D ROE 5 years ago

WALKERS CRISPS

IF IT ISN'T TRUE DONT PUT IT ON THE PACKAGING PLEASE!


petals 5 years ago

i too have been eating walkers crisps for a while now as they say they are suitable for coeliacs but upon changing their design of the packet they no longer are i did not realise this ate a cpl of pkts over a cpl of days hence was quite poorly, i think walkers as such a big company are very lapse i e. mailed them over a week ago and they haven't een had the decency to reply, they really should post the changes.


Cat 5 years ago

This is interesting but also worrying. I had been eating Walkers cheese & onion and smoky bacon flavours as they both say on individual packets that they are suitable for coeliacs so had assumed they were safe to eat. However, yesterday I noticed that there was no such labelling on multipacks of the same flavours therefore suggesting that they are not safe if bought as part of a multipack! I'm going to stop eating even the ones that are marked as suitable from now on as it's just not worth taking the risk. If companies are going to change ingredients to make a previously OK product unsafe they should flag these changes. I've noticed M&S have a blue label saying "allergy update" on foods where their ingredients have changed so it would be good if others could do something similar


Julie 5 years ago

At work today we had some Walkers crisps brought in for lunch. Out of interest I looked at the pack of Prawn Cocktail and noticed that it had a box that said it was packed in a factory that handles wheat, gluten, soy plus lots of others, probably almost all of the allergens which must be stated on packaging. Thought it was just because of the flavour so looked at the Plain ones which I knew did say 'Suitable for Coeliacs' and they now stated the same. I usually eat the Plain baked ones so will have to keep an eye on the packaging of these too. Have also found the same issues with Pringles, the plains ones say suitable for Coeliacs but they contain Wheat Starch and are something that always made me ill before I even knew what was causing it.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 5 years ago from Australia Author

Thank you for all your comments.

It's frustrating, isn't it. I'm sorry you all have to go through this over there. With the new legislation coming in next year (i.e. 20ppm gluten), while it won't solve everything, hopefully it will make foods labelled 'gluten free' safer.


Liam Brandon 5 years ago

I found your information too late as I had a terrible reaction to eating a few packets of Walker Crisps(Blue Packet) and became very unwell (it's now 24hrs later and I'm still not right). I am always very careful of my gluten free diet habits and I had assumed the Crisps were Gluten Free because of the labeling but as a long time Coeliac I realized too late that I was having a very bad reaction to them. Hence, I went searching and found your website, at least I have some comfort in that you have confirmed my findings. Many Thanks


infonolan profile image

infonolan 5 years ago from Australia Author

My pleasure, Liam. Hope you're well soon. :)


Gaynor 5 years ago

I cant believe what Im hearing. I logged onto google to do a search on Walkers as I too have been having the odd packet of cheese and onion because I noticed they were labelled Suitable?? Im very careful with my diet because even the smallest amount makes me feel terrible, so I always check and re check and I noticed that Walkers have changed the labelling and are now NOT labelled suitable?? hence why im here! Now, I realised what made me ill. Iv had a few times where iv racked my brains trying to think where I slipped up knowing that I hadn't eaten anything I shouldn't. Thanks Walkers for several days of clammy sweaty cramp ridden days in bed!!! The people who decided to label their crisps this way should be given some uncooked chicken to chew on...that's the only way they will understand what its like to eat gluten when you're a coeliac!!! Life is hard enough with my diet without complicating things further. Iv noticed also the Wotsits are now not labelled as gluten free..when they were before? Its ridiculous!!

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