Pick of the Day: Allergy and Free From Show 2013


We’ve been back from the Allergy and Free From Show in London for a while now, and have had time to mull over the various things we learnt, new things we tasted, and food we liked enough to bring home.

Sometimes, it’s a little like coming back from holiday with some kind of local gourmet treat, and finding that it just isn’t as good out of context… In other cases, you know that you’ve found a real treat, and will go out to hunt down more.

Whereas last year, I’d say the theme was cupcakes, this year it was definitely back to basics, but with a twist: pasta (especially fresh), and wraps. My poor coeliac tried so much of both that we didn’t need to find lunch.

The pasta that we really liked came from:

  • Dell’Ugo. Not so much the fresh chickpea pasta—they’d sent me some of this to try in advance, and if you’re missing wholewheat-style pasta, this is the one for you—but the fresh penne and tagliatelle. We thought these were very good, and although they are fresh, they’ll last for 35 days in the fridge, apparently. We will be buying this.
  • Asda’s fresh gluten free pasta deserves a mention too; again, we’d been sent some to try in advance, and it was also good. Sadly, we don’t have an Asda near us, but if you do, you should try it. (Asda are launching 95 new gluten free lines this summer. 95! Go check them out…)
  • Then I must mention Feel Free’s ravioli. We’ve been wanting a decent ravioli for ages, and here it was! This is a frozen meal, with meat and […]

Tasting Gluten Free Bread

Have you ever wondered how foods get from idea to plate?

I have, so I’m always interested in finding out how companies go about product development.

Recently, I was invited to join a Dr Schär tasting panel, at an agricultural college in rural Cheshire. (Dr Schär is the company behind several brands. In the UK, these are: DS-gluten free, Glutafin and TRUfree).

The idea was to help them in their product development process. Dr Schär are interested in looking at two things:

  • international differences. Dr Schär sell products in several different countries, including Italy, Germany, US and UK, and people in each of those countries have different preferences for the taste of their bread.
  • validating their internal tasting panels. Naturally, Dr Schär have internal tasting teams, but it is important to check every so often that the internal team understand, and agree with, what the customer wants. It’s easy to see how the internal teams might get ‘acclimatised’ to the taste of their own products…

So they’d invited coeliacs to bring along a ‘mainstream’ friend or family member, so that Dr Schär could see how the various products went down in comparison to mainstream bread.

Dr Schaer are running multiple panels, in a variety of different places, and at different times, but at the one I went to it was noticeable that:

  • I was among the youngest (and I’m over 50)
  • 14 out of the 15 coeliacs on the panel were female

We may or may not have been a representative group; it was an afternoon session, so younger or middle-aged people would have been at school, as my daughter was, or at work.

We were split into 2 groups, one […]

It’s The Little Things: Allergy & Free From Show 2012

Are you going to London for the Allergy & Free From Show 2012? It’s less than a fortnight away now, but if you don’t have a ticket yet, you can still get a free ticket here.

We’ll be there.

We went last year, and it was great. Exhausting, because it is such a big event, but really enjoyable. We talked to very many different manufacturers, and learnt a lot about new products and services. I just love to see the range of products available to us constantly increasing… and I am delighted by the choice now available!

But the best bit, for me, was when we took a break for lunch in the cafe, which was selling only gluten-free products. That was excellent in itself (and they were pre-packaged, so no risk of cross-contamination). But there was more…

We sat down to eat, and I tucked in to my gluten free houmous and red pepper sandwich, without realising that my teenage daughter didn’t know how to open the triangular box to get at hers. Because she’d never, ever, eaten a sandwich that had been wrapped up and made available for sale before.

I’ll write that again: she’d never eaten a bought gluten free sandwich before. Obviously she’s eaten gluten free sandwiches all her life, but a year ago, we’d never seen one available for sale, still less one wrapped up in a triangular display box.

Such a little thing—a tiny thing—but it shows just how different her experience of life has been from that of most of her peers.

And she was thrilled. Here it is, a year later, and it still comes up in conversation occasionally. The […]

Warburton’s Host a Gluten Free Gathering

What do you call a group of gluten free bloggers?

Judging by the volume of conversation over the last couple of days, the answer is probably a ‘chattering’.

We—4 bloggers plus 2 coeliac advocates from Coeliac UK—had been invited to Newcastle by Warburton’s for a tour of their gluten free bakery and a discussion of their products.

It’s always instructive to get together with other gluten free communicators, and this was no exception. The other bloggers were:

  • Annie, who runs Annie’s Supperclub – a secret supperclub which is part of the growing underground restaurant scene here in the UK, and which is entirely gluten free
  • Fiona, a gluten free campaigner, from Gluten Free Guerrillas, who runs a Facebook community for coeliacs, their families and friends
  • Katie, a foodie blogger, baker and nutritionist, who runs Apple and Spice, a blog about all the good things in life that are gluten free and vegetarian.

We weren’t there to meet each other, though, or the Coeliac UK team, but to meet Warburton’s, who were very welcoming, friendly and generous hosts: Hannah Flannery, the Product Manager, Graeme Tough, the Manufacturing Manager and Leighton Byrom, Development Technologist, all responsible for the development, production and sales of the Warburton’s gluten free products. And we were there to offer our perspectives on their products (quality, distribution and availability), and on supermarkets provision of gluten free products, as well as discussing ingredients, health matters and more.

We were also offered the chance to taste products due to be launched in the future. I can’t tell you what they are, but I can tell you that we—all of us—loved them. Warburton’s also shared some of their plans […]

Gastroenterology Symposium Session Four

The fourth session of the patient symposium was led by Dr R Howard from Birmingham, a clinical psychologist – and also mother to a coeliac teenager. It’s always nice to hear from people who understand the gluten free lifestyle at first hand!

She discussed the psycho-social issues around being diagnosed with a long-term condition, managing the diet, and dealing with undiagnosed symptoms. Here in the UK, it can take up to 13 years before getting a diagnosis, after numerous consultations. We were lucky that our family doctor considered coeliac disease from the outset. Not every doctor has this at the top of mind, because – as we all know – it can present in a wide range of different ways.

We need better diagnosis, for which we need a better education for our family doctors (who can’t, after all, know everything about everything: it wouldn’t be humanly possible). I was impressed to hear the third speaker (Professor Anderson) tell us that AstraZeneca put on a nationwide training programme on coeliac disease for GPs in Australia – and that 50% of family doctors (GPs) have done this training now.

Dr Howard discussed quality of life issues (QoL). Apparently, although there is initially a vast improvement in the quality of life in the first year after diagnosis – as reported by patients – after that, there is a steady decline in reported QoL in adults and adolescents aged 8-16, quite possibly due to poor self-management.

The issue appears to be that in some cases (especially for women) suffering a chronic condition increases anxiety and depression. Once diagnosed and on a gluten free diet, the level of anxiety decreases. However, if people […]