‘Normal’ Breakfast Cereal In The UK

Morrisons Corn Flakes

These cereals are found in the normal cereal section of UK supermarkets and although include ‘Barley Malt Extract’ in their ingredients, they contain a low enough level of gluten that they keep within the Codex standard of what they consider to be a safe amount for those of us with coeliac disease to consume. Barley is still listed in the ingredients but they are thought to be suitable for people following a gluten free diet. This information comes from Coeliac UK and it is their opinion that if you travel to the UK and require your cereal to be gluten free then you can eat these varieties.

There is certainly a debate between coeliacs in the UK on whether or not these cereals which contain ‘barley malt extract’ are safe for coeliacs or not. Some coeliacs eat them and feel fine whilst other don’t because either they are freaked out at the thought of a product which includes barley or they have tried them and gotten sick in the past.

ASDA: Choco Snaps, Cornflakes, Frosted Flakes, Honey Nut Corn Flakes and Rice Snaps.

SAINSBURYS: Choco Snaps, Cornflakes, Frosted Flakes, Honey Nut Corn Flakes and Rice Pops.

SOMERFIELD: Choco Rice, Cornflakes, Crisp Rice, Frosted Flakes and Honeynut Cornflakes

TESCO: Rice Snaps, Choco Snaps, Cornflakes, Honey Nut Corn Flakes

MORRISONS are also included in this category but they have changed their product names a few times so I need to double check which of their cereals are still considered safe for coeliacs under the new legislation.

When I was first diagnosed and discovered this information I went back to eating a few of these ‘normal’ cereals much to the joy of my tastebuds and my wallet.

(2009) Things are going well so far and I haven’t felt glutenated but I will keep you updated in case things change. It feels a little disconcerting to be eating something I know contains ingredients I didn’t think I could ever have again even if it is my favourite food ever! If you have any experience positive or negative with eating these cereals then please share your thoughts…..

UPDATE: April 2012. Whilst these cereals continue to include barley malt extract as an ingredient (I’m not sure why they can’t get rid of it!) they are still considered safe for Coeliacs under the new labelling legislation passed at the beginning of 2012. If you’re in the UK and looking for safe products, including cereals, your best bet is to check out the Coeliac UK Food and Drink Directory for the most up-to-date information and listings of safe, gluten free products.

ANOTHER UPDATE: May 2012. Personally I would be a little nervous to eat these cereals (I think the Barley Malt Extract just freaks me out!) and I tend to stick with safer gluten free cereals such as these when I’m back home in the UK but at the same time I do trust Coeliac UK and their judgement so perhaps I will try these cereals again in the future.

Do you eat these supermarket brand ‘gluten free’ cereals? Have you had a possible or negative experience with them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below..

Happy gluten free cereal eating!

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  • I have been reading other blog sites run by Coeliacs and there seems to be a lot of confusion over whether or not even low levels of Barley Malt Extract are safe for all Coeliacs. As it has only been a couple of months since I was diagnosed and considering I tend to eat pretty huge bowls, I plan to stick to completely gluten free cereals at least until my next hospital appointment and blood tests to ensure I am completely free of gluten when this happens. My dietician suggested that I try to bring oats into my diet after this time to see how I feel so I will probably try ‘normal’ cereals again at this time.

  • ThatPandaGirl

    May 6th, 2012

    I am a 9 year diagnosed coeliac, and I cannot tolerate any of these cereals without feeling “glutened”. It is my opinion that wherever possible we shouldn’t be playing “just how much can I get away with”instead we should be sticking to things with no gluten containing ingredients.

    People (including Coeliac UK) seem to treat this like a challenge. How Much Gluten Can We Feed Them Before They Get Sick. A ridiculous and dangerous attitude if you ask me!

  • I agree with you there, Panda Girl. There must be some kind of science/research behind the levels set and considered to be safe but I’m also not sure why they can’t just take the barley malt extract out of these cereals and make them completely gluten free and safe for coeliacs..

  • Personally I’m too nervous to try them, although I’ve tried Estrella Beer which has ‘safe’ levels of barley in and had no problems; so perhaps I should give it another try? The main problem is it’s just easier to pick to something in the ‘free from’ aisle rather than searching on my iPhone for which ones are ok!

  • Pete UK

    May 30th, 2012

    I have eaten the JS cereals since diagnosis last year and have had no issues. I do not feel ‘glutenated’ like many can feel but had a recent blood test and it all came back ok which proves to me that the levels in them are minimal. Much cheaper than special cereal and readily available too! I’d say try it, although I will write and ask about barley malt.

  • Thanks for sharing your experiences! Seeing’barley malt’ on the label certainly puts me off but I think I will give them a try again next time I’m back home in the UK.

    Does anyone know if these cereals are now actually labelled with ‘gluten free’ since the new legislation came about at the start of this year?

  • Even though I am not in the UK, I still wouldn’t eat a cereal (or other product) labelled as gluten free, if it contained a known gluten ingredient. I’ve heard that sometimes even foods labelled with the ingredient “wheat starch” are considered “gluten free,” but if there is any gluten containing ingredient added (even if the amount is minimal), then it is not truly free of gluten. It would seem to me that they could use another ingredient to get that flavor/sweetness. Perhaps brown rice syrup?

  • These cereals have a cumulative effect on me. If I have them 3 or 4 days in a row, I start getting aching joints & headaches. As soon as I realised what was happening, I stopped eating them. Now, I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole. I agree with the comment above. The label ‘gluten-free’ can’t be taken at face value. It’s all about thresholds but what one person can tolerate, another may not be able to . I always check labels now whether it says gluten-free or not and avoid anything that mentions barley! Claire

  • Pete UK

    May 30th, 2012

    The JS honey nut cornflakes box did have a ‘suitable for coeliacs’ label on it but I’m not sure if it’s still there (new box design), I can check tomorrow. As mentioned previously, I had the blood test a few weeks ago and all ok, levels were normal for me.

  • Thanks. Pete! I thought I remembered a ‘suitable for coeliacs’ label.

    I agree, Amanda. Why not use a brown rice syrup or even just take it out altogether. I wonder what this mystery barley malt extract has that so many cereals, which would otherwise by gluten free, can’t seem to stop using it!

    It definitely seems to be as you say Claire, some celiacs can tolerate it and others cannot. I would love to see the research behind why 20ppm was chosen in the first place as the standard that is ‘safe for most coeliacs’.

    Quoting from Coeliac UK here..”Everyone with coeliac disease is different in their sensitivity to gluten. Most people with coeliac disease can tolerate a low level of gluten without ill effects.” I trust Coeliac UK and their research (and wish every country had the same kind of organisation!) but I often wonder whether when they say “without ill effects” does this mean both immediate symptoms and long term complications. Who can know for sure…

  • On the recommendation of her doctor (for the iron/vitamin fortification), my celiac daughter started eating the Waitrose brand ones that are listed in the Coeliac UK directory (happily I can even buy the exact same cereal here in Hong Kong). One year on and her blood levels are perfect. She probably eats it for breakfast 3-4 times per week.

  • Rebecca

    Jun 3rd, 2012

    This issue is really confusing! I’ve been diagnosed a coeliac for around 7 months and follow the coeliac uk food and drink directory religiously. However with the new packaging at sainsbury it no longer says suitable for coeliacs and in the allergen box clearly states contains barley gluten! I have emailed coeliac uk and they say it’s fine but I’m doubtful and haven’t eaten since. Surely a product either contains it or doesn’t – would that not just be a simpler measurement! Tesco own branded still says it is suitable for coeliacs – so perhaps stick with that?

  • Jennifer Morgan

    Oct 11th, 2012

    This week my brother has been diagnosed coeliac and it seems to me that these people are being penalised for having this disease as I have checked out items available and that they are quite costly.

  • Being something of a tightwad, I’ve always bought shops own brand cereal, and have never really noticed any difference other than the price. Now I’m a confirmed Coeliac-er, as it’s supposedly ok, I’ll probably just carry on with them as normal.

  • I’m intolerant to wheat gluten and allergic to barley malt extract… most of the “specialist” foods I pick up are certified suitable for coeliacs but I have to be careful with the barley malt extract. Take it out, it’s toxic!

  • I believe that if we are allergic to something like gluten or wheat we should avoid it all together because who knows the long term damage it may do .. Plenty of times they say things are good for you and then a few years down the line they decide its not … I stick to naturally gluten free foods that way you can’t go wrong .. If you think about things that they had years and years ago its all man-made foods with lots of additives ..

  • Honestly I try to stick to foods that are naturally gluten free, too risky otherwise! If I do venture into any ‘certified’ foods I typically sprinkle prebiotics on top to help digestion. Tons of benefits for gut health from prebiotics

    I’ve never been to the UK but it sounds like package labeling is a bit more confusing than it is here in the US!

  • I am gus and I have only had coeliac disease for three years and I am finding good breads but when I go in an Asda or a tesco for instance every packet I look at I get disappointed and I really think big labels such as sea brook should reall advertise this a lot more and also Haribo all of there stuff is gluten free ( so I have heard) and I never even thought to check them out……

  • Well, I tried the Sainsbury cornflakes and I had a pretty bad reaction. Not the worst I’ve ever had… but bad enough. Oddly enough I can eat spelt with no problems. Of course I don’t eat spelt every day or even 3 times a week. But last night we had spelt home made pizza…. and I was fine. This is the 3rd time we’ve made pizza with spelt and I’ve been ok each time.

  • egbert

    Jun 1st, 2013

    I bought sainsburys cornflakes and honey nut cornflakes, both contain gluten.

  • I’ve had a reaction to the Tesco honey nut cornflakes and their rice crispies which the coeliac uk directory says are ok. It’s taken me a couple of months to realise they were causing the problems. In the meantime I self diagnosed everything from stomach ulcers to cancer! I feel annoyed now that I didn’t question something which was in the directory. I feel if it’s in there, it should be safe.

  • I have been diagnosed with coeliac disease since 2011 and I eat Asda Honey Nut Cornflakes everyday for breakfast with no problem. I also eat Sainsbury’s honey nut cornflakes too and they are also fine 🙂

  • I have been eating supermarkets own brands of Cocopops for about a month now and I have become very ill again. I’m not 100% sure if it’s the cereal but I’m not sure what else it could be. Could I be too sensitive to the barleymalt extract even though it’s below the codex and considered safe for coeliacs?

  • I have not been diagnosed with cealic disease, but I am certain I have it. I have noticed that if I eat anything with barley listed in the ingredients I get mild symptoms, even if it is listed as a may contain ingredient…. By mild symptoms I mean it affects my concentration which is a significant problem for me as I am a researcher. Therefore, I avoid even gluten free branded products that may contain barley or have barley listed on the ingredients.

  • When Coeliac UK say “most coeliacs can tolerate 20ppm” they are forgetting about a large number that cannot. Even my NHS Gastroenteerologist says it is not known how much gluten can be toelrated. In my own case, my blood test is normal, but I am needing another biopsy as he says you can have good blood results but still have a damaged gut. I take great care with my diet and avoid anything with malt barley listed on the ingredients. I was even got by gluten free worcester sauce that contains barley malt. My personal view is that Coeliac UK are not helping us by sticking so rigidly to 20ppm. In New Zealand and Australia the gluten free limit is no detectable gluten, in practice better than around 3ppm I understand. Why not here?

  • Michael

    Nov 26th, 2015

    Even tho I’m not coeliac, I find it frustrating and puzzling why a small amount of a single gluten-containing ingredient is in there. I’m 74 and my GP found many of the symptoms I have recently developed were also experienced by those with some degree of gluten intolerance (I thought this was genetic and was surprised at the idea that I could develop it). She suggested cutting out as much as I felt convenient, So having heard that ‘gluten -free’ products were expensive and not very tasty, out went cereal, bread, pizza, pasta and cakes etc. Then in Tesco fresh bakery I found Corn bread and, knowing maize did not have gluten, bought it and found it crusty and tasty. Next time I went to buy some, I asked a young woman if she could slice it for me and whether they had buckwheat bread to try, as that did not have gluten either. To my surprise, she said “Are you coeliac?” I said no and explained. Her reply was that it contained some wheat, and I couldn’t count on anything in the bakery to be gluten-free. The same applied to oats and oat-based products. I said she was very knowledgeable and she replied that her parents were doctors. She couldn’t understand why this, generally small, proportion of gluten-containing material was essential or desirable. She showed me a book listing the ingredients, but without any indication of proportions. I took this up with Tesco on-line customer services saying that I realise it’s not practical to print detailed bakery labels in-store, but if I, well-educated, assumed that ‘corn bread’ was made from maize (obviously + water, raising agent etc), many others might do the same, and the – automatically printed – labels could be slightly less simplistic.

    and was surprised to get a very self-defensive reply, that they complied fully with regulations. I mentioned it to the young woman next time I was in Tesco and she said HQ wouldn’t know, as they simply bought in from one or more bakeries.
    I have emailed Coeliac UK to say I think only an approach at a high level by them to the big 4 supermarkets might produce a more considerate policy.

  • I have been diagnosed with Coeliac for nearly 4 years. I tried Tesco own brand Cornflakes recently and had a reaction.Previously only eaten labelled gluten free cornflakes. I trust Coeliac UK to some extent but who actually checks the 20ppm. Also it appears that some coeliacs are more sensitive than others. I am returning to clearly labelled gluten free products – for me it is not worth taking a chance.