1. If you're shopping for food at a farmer's market or festival you'd be forgiven for thinking that all of the vendors are registered with the appropriate local authority. A 'business' can have a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and gorgeous photographs on Instagram without being registered anywhere. Social media platforms do not carry out due diligence with regards to the businesses that they support. While usually all traders are asked to display their food hygiene certificate at events, this is not enforced. In fact over the last few years we've only been asked once to provide evidence of our food hygiene rating. The one document that event organisers always insist on seeing is a copy of your public liability insurance. As a consumer, if you're feeling brave, you can ask the company what their food hygiene rating is or you can just check up online http://ratings.food.gov.uk/ After all if a company isn't registered they don't even know what rules and regulations they're supposed to be following and for gluten free food producers this can result in actually making people sick.
2. Toast. If you see gluten free toast on a menu which is not exclusively gluten free listen out for the alarm bells. If gluten free bread is put in a toaster used for 'normal' bread it will be contaminated with (gluten containing) crumbs from the normal bread. A few crumbs is all that it takes to get 'glutened'.
3. In the EU the term 'Gluten free' is defined by the Regulation (EU) No 828/2014. This means that only foods that contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten can be labelled 'gluten free'. A food product which contains more than 20 parts per million gluten, (approximately 20 grains of flour per kilo) can not legally be called gluten free. Unfortunately this little regulation doesn't stop random makers from declaring that some of their products are gluten free. In reality managing 20 grains of flour in a kitchen which uses both gluten free flour and traditional gluten full flour requires significant effort and manpower. If a kitchen or bakery is not 100% gluten free the simplest way to check if it's safe is to ask the maker if their products have been tested for gluten content. Those that take hygiene and cross-contamination seriously will confirm that they test to prove that their products satisfy the legal requirement. However, you're equally likely to be met with a blank stare, in which case you probably don't want to put that food in your mouth.
4. This is not so much a GF fake as just .... boring. If you see this flour mix: Rice, Potato, Tapioca, Maize & Buckwheat, it's probably best to move along. This blend is heavy on starch and nutritionally poor. This supermarket brand is a no-brainer for the baker, they'll just add buckets of sugar and fat to produce a reasonable replica of a traditional baked good that you're familiar with. It's fine, it's okay... but it could be so much better. Don't let lazy bakers get away with this bland easy option. Take a look at these British companies which are challenging the status quo and providing some great flours and blends which actually provide protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals in addition to calories: Hodmedods (flour from beans, peas and quinoa), The Free From Fairy (teff, sorghum, buckwheat, tapioca and potato) and Gluten Free Baking and Living (tapioca, rice, potato, whole corn flour and sorghum
5. Finally, we have the reasonably useful "May Contain..." label. I have mixed feelings on this one. According to the FSA: "Warning labels should only be used where there is a demonstrable and significant risk of allergen crosscontamination, and they should not be used as a substitute for Good Manufacturing Practices."* As a consumer I find it annoying to see it on labels particularly on random products which should never ever contain gluten, for example, oregano (?!). If a pizza guy can clean his production facility, make his GF products first and test to prove that they contain less than 20ppm gluten then why can't everyone else?
*Food Standards Agency: Guidance on Allergen Management and Consumer Information