Living Gluten Free

Allergy Alert: Morrisons Celery Fruit and Peanut Salad

Oh dear, this is unfortunate: Morrisons Celery Fruit and Peanut Salad (250g) with a use by date of 27 October may contain pesto pasta.

I imagine there was a bit of a mixup with salads in the factory – as far as I know, Morrisons don’t produce a gluten free pasta salad (hint: would be a good idea, though!)

If you’ve bought one of these recently, check the use by date, and take it back if the date is 27 October.

See the Food Standards Agency for more details of this allergy alert.

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 […]

Winter Flu, Pneumonia and Coeliac Disease

Winter is coming…

We visited the medical practice yesterday for some travel inoculations. That was fun, as you can imagine: me, plus three large teenagers, in a small nurse’s office, each receiving a variety of jabs in both arms…

Anyway, as we were wrapping up (and retrieving one feeling-faint daughter from the floor) the nurse said something in passing about coeliac daughter.

Has she had her pneumonia jab?

Um… no? What pneumonia jab? We decided long ago that we wouldn’t take up the winter flu vaccination, as coeliac daughter is very healthy; she just needs a special diet.

The nurse dug around in her paperwork, and found our daughter on a list of people to be called in. Apparently, these days, infants all receive a pneumococcal vaccination as part of the routine series of inoculations. Because of their ages—born long before 2006—my children did not receive the pneumococcal vaccine: too old.

And now, it turns out, it is recommended that coeliacs (especially those whose spleens are not working well – fortunately, this doesn’t apply to us) should receive this jab, no matter what their age. And, we should be reconsidering our views on the winter flu jab.

The pneumococcal vaccine will protect her against pneumonia for 10 years, apparently; the winter flu jab against influenza, but only for one season.

Have you had this vaccine? What do you think? Find out more at Coeliac UK.

Experimenting with Almond Milk

almond milkDo you have a preferred non-dairy milk?

Luckily, we don’t need to be lactose-free in our house, though there was a little friend some years ago who was dairy-free, so I got used to using Pure to cook with, to having Swedish Glace dairy-free icecream in the freezer, and even soya milk occasionally. Though I’m not a fan of soya milk…

I was offered the chance to try some almond milks – Almond Breeze, from Blue Diamond – and since I love almonds (there’s always an open packet here, for snacking on) I thought I’d say yes. They kindly sent me two: one ‘original’ and one ‘unsweetened’.

Because I was hesitant about the ‘sweetened’ version (sweet milk?), I decided to try making yoghurt with it. I have a yoghurt maker, because we do get through a lot of yoghurt, and there are lots of recipes for almond milk yoghurt on the web… How hard can it be? I thought. Instead of using live yoghurt as a starter, which I’d usually use for ‘normal’ yoghurt, I bought some freeze-dried yoghurt starter, and I added a little extra sugar, so the culture would have something to eat.

Oh dear.

It went well for the first few hours, but overnight the yoghurt split and curdled, turning a rather unpleasant grey colour. I wasn’t expecting it to be exactly the same – because almond milk just isn’t the same colour as dairy milk – but this was a disaster.

Checking up on the Almond Breeze site, it does say ‘don’t make yoghurt’—and now I know why.

However, the unsweetened almond milk experiment worked very well.

It has a pleasant and extremely […]

Braving the Dragons Den

Are you a fan of Dragons Den?

It’s a ‘reality show’ where entrepreneurs face a team of potential investors and try to persuade them to invest money into their business in exchange for a share in the business. Naturally, for it to make good television, there has to be a certain amount of drama… a few completely bonkers ideas, a bit of confrontation, and the occasional good news story.

This weekend, we watched Lisa and Helen, from Sweet Mandarin, pitching to the investors for some money for their gluten free Chinese table sauces (sweet and sour, sweet chilli and barbeque). They wanted £50,000 in exchange for 20% of their business.

Initially, there were some negative comments about the brand not being unique, the margins being tiny, and it being a niche market. The Dragons didn’t seem to understand the significance of the fact that the sauces are gluten free—despite the fact that we were all shouting at them. Don’t they know that we don’t eat Chinese any more because we didn’t think our daughter could? Don’t they see the potential?

Lisa and Helen did explain the size of the dipping sauce and condiments market (£600m per year, growing at 16% per year) and the size of the gluten free market (they said £200m per year, but I think it might be larger).

But it wasn’t until Lisa and Helen explained that Wing Yip have ordered 50 cases per week (50!), and that they are in discussions with big retailers, that the Dragons really started listening. (Wing Yip, for those of you who don’t know, is the biggest and most famous Chinese food supplier/superstore chain in the […]