Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia
Welcome to gluten-free Europe!
This site will provide you with a comprehensive overview of Europe's countries and their options for travelling with Celiac disease or wheat/gluten allergy.
Completion will probably take some time. I am currently working on the most "difficult" countries rather than the most popular ones. If you have trouble finding information for a place I haven't covered yet, you can use this form to request advice.
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The situation for Celiacs in Europe varies considerably. In most places, however, you can get by quite ok, if you know how to. In some places, like in Scandinavia and the UK, it is very easy, while Eastern European countries can be tricky.
Gluten-free standards in Europe
The maximum amount of gluten in Europe is 20 ppm (parts per million) for "naturally gluten-free" foods and 200 ppm for foods labeled "gluten-free" from ingredients that used to contain gluten (such as wheat starch). This is in accordance with the "Codex Alimentarius", but some people from countries with lower limits have reported getting symptoms during their Europe holiday, especially from foods containing "gluten-free" wheat starch and the like.
The European Union enforced a new law on food labelling in 2005. I actually read the original documents to be sure about the exact content. This law applies to all prepackaged foods sold in the European Union, i.e. also prepackaged foods of non-EU origin, but not fresh bakery products, for example. All gluten-containing substances (ingredients, additives etc.) used in production and still present afterwards must be clearly mentioned on the label, i.e. everything that's intentionally added. Cross-contamination is not covered, since it doesn't result from "used" substances. Often potential contamination with allergens would be mentioned on the label ("may contain"...) anyway, but it's not mandatory.
The complete official directives are accessible here (2000/13/EC and 2003/89/EC are the relevant ones).
A note on oats
In some European countries, pure oats (free from cross contamination) are considered gluten-free. This is a disputed issue, but there is growing consent amongst scientists that uncontaminated oats are in fact gluten-free. Information on recent studies can be found in this special section on celiac.com.
Anyway, I've never seen any oat-containing product labeled gluten-free. Especially in Scandinavia you're likely to find products not labeled gluten-free, but "ren havre" (pure oats) - plain, in breads or in cookies - next to those labeled gluten-free.
My personal opinion: yummy!
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