What does the gluten-free symbol look like?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues. To help these individuals easily identify gluten-free foods, a standardized gluten-free certification symbol was created.

The Origins of the Gluten-Free Symbol

In the past, there was no universally recognized symbol for gluten-free products. Different countries and organizations had their own versions of the gluten-free logo. This made it confusing for consumers to know if a product was truly gluten-free or not when traveling or shopping in different areas.

To address this problem, the Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS) led an effort starting in 2005 to develop a standardized gluten-free certification symbol. They worked with other coeliac organizations globally to create a logo that could be easily recognized and understood by consumers around the world.

In 2007, the AOECS introduced the International Codex Alimentarius standard for gluten-free foods. This established that any products bearing the gluten-free symbol could not exceed 20 parts per million of gluten. This very low level helps ensure foods are safe for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

The AOECS also developed requirements for companies using the gluten-free logo. They must verify through analytical testing that their gluten-free labeled products meet the <20 ppm standard. This ensures consumers can trust that items with the gluten-free symbol do not contain any significant traces of gluten.

What the Gluten-Free Symbol Looks Like

The standardized gluten-free logo features an ear of wheat crossed out with a red circle and line. Some versions also include the words “gluten-free” printed underneath. This clear, concise symbol makes it easy for consumers to quickly identify gluten-free items when shopping.

Specifically, the logo consists of the following elements:

  • A red or black circle with a diameter of 3.3 – 4.2 cm
  • A red or black cross running diagonally through the circle from bottom left to top right
  • A single ear of wheat in the middle of the cross with three yellow seed kernels
  • The words “gluten-free” printed at the bottom of the symbol in black font (optional)

This standardized design means the gluten-free logo looks virtually identical whether it appears on a product in Europe, the United States, Australia, or anywhere else across the globe. The universal symbol makes it easy for gluten-free shoppers to quickly spot items that meet their dietary needs in stores around the world.

Where You Can Find the Gluten-Free Logo

You can find the gluten-free symbol printed on product packaging and labels for many different food items:

  • Bakery products – bread, muffins, cookies, cakes
  • Pasta, noodles, and other wheat alternatives
  • Cereals and grains
  • Snack foods
  • Meats and meat alternatives
  • Dairy products
  • Condiments and sauces
  • Ready meals
  • Desserts and ice cream
  • Beverages

In fact, just about any food product that is naturally gluten-free or has been specially processed to remove gluten can display the certified gluten-free logo. It’s also commonly used by restaurants on their menus and takeaway packaging to indicate gluten-free dish options.

You may also spot the gluten-free symbol shown on non-food products like medications, supplements, cosmetics, hair care items, pet foods, craft supplies, and even on homecare and personal hygiene products like soaps, detergents, and shampoos.

How the Gluten-Free Certification Process Works

For a product to legally display the standardized gluten-free symbol, the manufacturer must go through a certification process. This verification is performed by an independent gluten-free certification organization to ensure the <20 ppm gluten standard is met.

Here are the general steps to receive gluten-free certification:

  1. The manufacturer contacts a reputable gluten-free certification organization and submits an application requesting certification for a product.
  2. The certification organization reviews the product formulation, manufacturing facility, procedures, and supplier documentation to understand potential sources of gluten cross-contamination.
  3. If necessary, the certification organization may request changes to reduce cross-contamination risks.
  4. The product undergoes gluten testing using validated ELISA test kit methods to detect any traces of gluten.
  5. If testing reveals gluten levels above 20 ppm, the manufacturer reformulates or modifies procedures until passing results are achieved.
  6. The certification organization grants certification and authorization to use the gluten-free logo once all requirements are satisfactorily met.
  7. Periodic follow-up audits and testing are conducted to ensure ongoing compliance. Certification may be revoked if a product fails to meet the <20 ppm gluten standard.

Reputable gluten-free certifiers follow the official standards established by the Association of European Coeliac Societies and Codex Alimentarius guidelines. Look for certification organizations that are accredited and use analytical testing methods validated by AACC International and the R5 ELISA Mendez Method.

Major Gluten-Free Certification Programs

Some of the most common and reputable gluten-free certification programs include:

The Gluten-Free Certification Program

This program operated by GFCO (Gluten-Free Certification Organization) is recognized globally. GFCO was recommended by celiac associations and formed to bring standardization to gluten-free certification.

Australian Coeliac Gluten Free Certification

Run by Coeliac Australia, this program certifies products that meet the recognized gluten-free threshold for safety in Australia and New Zealand.

The Crossed Grain Symbol

This certification symbol used in Europe is issued by AOECS members including Coeliac UK. Companies display it to affirm they adhere to EU regulations on gluten levels.

Gluten-Free Food Services (GFFS) Certification

This program focuses on certifying food service establishments and restaurants that offer gluten-free menu items and avoid cross-contamination.

Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) Gluten-Free Certification

A major certifier in North America verifying gluten-free products, restaurants, and food manufacturing facilities meet best practice standards.

Relying on Reputable Gluten-Free Symbols

When you see the standardized gluten-free logo on a product, you can trust that it has been properly certified to not exceed safe gluten limits. This takes the guesswork out of determining if items are truly gluten-free when shopping and dining out.

However, be aware that some manufacturers may use similar-looking gluten-free symbols on their products even if they have not gone through official third-party certification. Make sure to look for reputable certifying organizations like GFCO, Coeliac UK, or GIG to ensure meaningful validation of the <20ppm gluten standard.

Gluten-free consumers can feel confident selecting products bearing the trusted gluten-free logo. This clear and easily identifiable symbol empowers people around the world to enjoy food safely so they can live healthy lives while following a strict gluten-free diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some key facts about the standardized gluten-free symbol?

Here are some key facts about the international gluten-free logo:

  • Consists of a crossed out ear of wheat inside a circle with the words “gluten-free” printed underneath
  • Universally recognized and understood in countries globally
  • Products bearing the symbol must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten
  • Manufacturers must pass third-party certification to use the gluten-free logo legally
  • Helps consumers easily identify safe gluten-free foods when shopping

What should you check for on the label when buying gluten-free products?

When purchasing foods labeled as gluten-free, look for the following:

  • The standardized gluten-free logo from a reputable certification organization
  • A statement that the food contains less than 20 ppm of gluten
  • No mention of wheat, barley, rye or questionable ingredients in the listed ingredients
  • Precautionary allergen labeling if the food is made on shared equipment with gluten-containing foods
  • A note indicating whether the food is naturally gluten-free or was specially processed to be gluten-free

Can I trust any product claiming to be “gluten-free” even without an official certification logo?

No, you should be cautious of any products that claim to be “gluten-free” without bearing the standardized certification logo. Without third-party validation, you have to take the manufacturer’s word that the product does not contain gluten. Since cross-contamination is a major concern, it’s best to look for the recognized gluten-free symbol from an accredited certification organization for assurance.

What happens if a product bearing the certified gluten-free logo tests over 20 ppm of gluten?

If a certified gluten-free product is later found to contain over 20 ppm of gluten, the manufacturer must have the certification revoked. The certifying body would investigate what went wrong and require the issues to be corrected before considering re-certification. The manufacturer would have to eliminate the source of gluten contamination and pass testing again to regain authorization to use the gluten-free logo.

Can I request a restaurant add the certified gluten-free logo to their menus if some dishes are gluten-free?

You cannot request a restaurant to add the certified gluten-free logo unless they have completed the formal certification process through an accredited organization like GFFS or GIG. Just having gluten-free dishes doesn’t automatically qualify a restaurant to use the official logo. The establishment must pass audits verifying proper protocols to avoid cross-contamination in order to achieve certification.


When you see the standardized gluten-free logo, you can have confidence you are purchasing a product verified as gluten-free. This simple symbol gives consumers trust that items labeled as gluten-free meet safety standards for those with gluten intolerances and celiac disease. Look for the gluten-free logo featuring the crossed grain inside a circle the next time you shop!

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