Campaigns

Gluten Free and Out in the Cold

Did you see the findings from the survey that Warburton’s Free From carried out?

11% of Brits wouldn’t invite someone—even family and friends—to a meal if they had special dietary needs, such as needing a gluten free diet. This even includes Christmas dinner and wedding breakfasts, events that are usually inclusive and welcoming!

This is mostly for ‘good’ reasons: fear about making their guests ill, or not knowing what to cook. But it really doesn’t have to be hard, as a lot of food is naturally gluten free.

Reassuringly, most of those surveyed thought they could cater for these friends if they had the right advice: 87%.

If you’re worried about inviting someone with special dietary needs to eat with you, then ask them for help and advice! There is advice online, but asking the person you’d like to cater for what would would be OK for them not only makes it easier for you, but is also reassuring for them.

It is unnerving to go to eat somewhere else, because of the risk involved. You could help your visitor out by telling them what you plan to offer, asking where the risks lie and discussing alternatives.

They may be worried about cross-contamination in your kitchen. It means gluten unintentionally getting into their food – it doesn’t mean they think your kitchen is dirty! It’s easily done: transferring crumbs, for example, on a knife, or maybe serving two dishes, one gluten free and one not, with the same spoon. Your guest won’t want to be rude, but slip-ups like this may mean they can’t eat what you’re offering.

Please do invite people! Even if they prefer to bring their own food (which they might), please offer the invitation… no-one wants to be excluded from events simply because of the food.

Free for Tea? Free From Gluten: Happy Birthday Genius

invitation to afternoon tea at Claridges from GeniusHow hard would you find it to have afternoon tea at Claridges in the company of other gluten free bloggers, journalists and companies supporting coeliacs?

(For any of you not from the UK: Claridges is an extremely upmarket smart hotel in Mayfair).

I’m guessing: not hard at all! I certainly wasn’t going to decline the invitation (see right) from Genius to meet them there for afternoon tea – I was only too pleased to be invited, so I set off from the frozen north yesterday to join them in London.

And what a glamorous event it was… This was partly a first birthday party for Genius, so we were greeted with a glass of champagne and set loose to discuss matters gluten free.

Time to chat…

Naturally, I met Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, whose brainchild Genius is; like me, and others there, she has children with allergies; but we aren’t all professionally trained chefs impelled to make a difference by devising a ground-breaking new bread. Yay, Lucinda!

Coeliac UK were well represented by Anne Maloney (Corporate Partnerships Officer) and Norma McGough (Head of Diet and Health), and with them I discussed CD and teenagers attitudes to food and risk; the cost differential of gluten free products over normal products, and the difficulty this adds if you’re a low-income family on benefits; and the influence of family medical history (other coeliacs in the family, diabetes, psoriasis etc) over environmental impact (breastfeeding, for example, is recommended). If you’re newly diagnosed – or even if you’re not! – Coeliac UK are an excellent resource.

I met Liz and John from Coeliac London, who identify and review restaurants in London that cater well for those eating gluten free. They’d both brought iPads, to the envy of the rest of us Brits there, to show us their website and Facebook pages (do search for them on Facebook) – and they’re working on an application for finding suitable restaurants. We discussed the difficulties of quality control over restaurant reviews, and the success they’re having with their Facebook pages.

Liz had a quick look at this blog on her iPad and instantly recognised FlorisFoods goodies from yesterday’s post. FlorisFoods catered for her birthday party recently, together with Sweet Cheeks (new to me, but I’m so checking it out based on Liz’ pictures). Gluten free is a small world!

I was delighted to sit next to Caz, the Gluten Free Foodie during afternoon tea. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember I mentioned her blog a while back; she writes about fine dining gluten free in London – do check her blog out. She told us how she’d urged her local pub to get in some gluten free beers, and how astonished the publican was by the response: people flocked to the pub from miles around, and drank the gluten free beers dry in 3 days.

Caz is clearly quite a campaigner, as she’d also tried to persuade Pizza Express that it wouldn’t be too difficult to keep some frozen gluten free pizza bases in stock, with a dedicated pan to cook them in (to avoid contamination) – no luck yet, but I’d be happy to join with her in a campaign…

There were many more fascinating people with great stories to tell, from journalists, corporates, agencies and bloggers. But it has to be said that the highlight of the afternoon was the food.

Afternoon tea: a very English tradition

Genius bread was used to make the daintiest of English sandwiches (yes, including cucumber and excluding crusts), and there were also elegantly presented gluten free scones with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry preserve, made by Genius. These were excellent. Our table agreed that we all loved a decent scone, and these were fabulous.

We urged Lucinda to put them into production, but this isn’t nearly as easy as you’d think, if – like me – you don’t have experience in the large-scale production of food. And there are the issues of delivering the food fresh; scones, of course, being best within hours of baking. So: no promises from Genius on the scones yet, but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Or – here’s a thought – sell the flour mix with a recipe, so we can make our own…

Genius, in case you haven’t come across it yet, is a gluten free fresh bread available in all 5 major supermarkets across England, in white and brown. And it is very good indeed. We were lucky enough to taste an early version of Genius rolls, which are very good – and very large! Sadly, the bread isn’t on the prescribables list yet, but if you can find it in your local supermarket, do try it.

This, of course, is Coeliac Awareness week here in the UK, and the message this week is Free For Tea?

Afternoon tea at Claridges: what a way both to celebrate the first birthday of a new product, and to raise awareness of coeliac disease.

Happy Birthday, Genius!

Diagnosed Doctor Supports Coeliac Petition

Dr Chris Steele at 10 Downing StDr Chris Steele handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street today, calling on the UK Government to help improve the diagnosis of coeliac disease – a condition with which he has just been diagnosed.

8,783 people (yes, including me – did you sign?) are asking the Government to find the half-million people in the UK at risk from undiagnosed coeliac disease by introducing a target for diagnosis to the GP contract. The idea is that setting targets changes behaviour (just as in any management situation) so if GPs have to list how many people they’ve diagnosed this year, they will actively be looking for the disease.

I’m not sure whether the idea is that they get paid on results, as they used to in some cases for vaccinations (and may still, for all I know), but that really doesn’t matter for the individual who is diagnosed

It is estimated that 1 in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, but that only 1 in 8 have been diagnosed. As you probably know, untreated coeliac disease can lead to infertility, multiple miscarriages, osteoporosis and bowel cancer – and the treatment is a gluten free diet.

Dr Chris Steele MBE is one of our television doctors (on This Morning, which I catch at my hairdressers every six weeks or so – I do remember that he was ill at some point before Christmas), and has been Ambassador of the charity for the last three years. He says:

“I have supported the need to raise awareness of diagnosing coeliac disease for many years but never thought that I would be diagnosed myself! It is a condition often over looked and misdiagnosed by GPs, which has resulted in half a million people in the UK currently undiagnosed. Consequently, people are suffering unnecessarily for many years which can also lead to an increase risk of osteoporosis and bowel cancer. There is also the possible increase cost to NHS caused through undiagnosis, by ongoing repeat visits by patients to their GP, and we also know of people having unnecessary operations such as gall bladder removal when a simple blood test could start the road to diagnosis; so I urge the Government to include a target for coeliac disease into the Quality and Outcomes Framework”

I think that finding those people who are as yet unaware that they have coeliac disease has got to be a good thing – as has speeding up the time to diagnosis. Targets are always difficult things to set, as people tend to act to fulfil the targets, so you have to be sure you have the right ones. However, this one seems straightforward enough, assuming that the funds will be there to cover an additional 500,000 biopsies and blood tests.

What do you think?

Image Credit: Chantal Richards

You do know its Coeliac Awareness Week, don’t you?

Free For Tea?Free for tea?

That’s the branding for this year’s awareness week, organised by Coeliac UK.

One of the best elements of this year’s arrangements is the focus on being able to go out for the day and have a cup of tea and a cake with a friend. The National Trust and National Trust for Scotland are supporting the campaign, so you could go for a day out, explore some of the beautiful gardens, historic buildings or natural landscapes of Britain and have a gluten free cake or biscuit to celebrate.

This is one of the things that we struggle with – we go out as a family for an explore, fancy a drink and a snack, and find that while everyone else can have a delicious cake, our coeliac daughter either has nothing, something we brought with us, or yet another packet of crisps. Very far from ideal. So hurrah for CUK and the National Trust.

Check if there’s a National Trust property involved near you.

And if you’ve got questions for Coeliac UK, you’ll find them at many of our most beautiful places this week.

Coeliac UK are hosting tea-parties in the Westminster Houses of Parliament, and in the Scottish Parliament this week, and there are many other activities and offers available. Visit the Coeliac UK site to learn more. (Scroll down to see all the offers available).

So – line up in twos by the front door, and let’s go out for tea and cake …

Coeliac disease, diagnosis and petitions

signatureIf you’re a UK citizen, and are concerned about those people who have undiagnosed coeliac disease, then please consider signing the petition now available via the 10 Downing Street site.

It is asking ‘the Prime Minister to find the half million people in the UK at risk of serious damage to their health from undiagnosed coeliac disease by including a target for diagnosis in the Quality and Outcomes Framework of the GP contract’.

You know what they say: you get what you measure. If doctors have a target to meet, then they might have testing for coeliac disease higher up on their agenda … it works for infant vaccinations!

Signing the petition is easy. You do it online, here:

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/coeliacdisease/

Then they’ll send you an email to confirm that you are a real person; click the link in the email and you’re done.

Go on – and have a look at the other petitions online while you’re there. Interesting!