Independent gets it wrong yet again

Another irritation yesterday in the form of the Independent on Sunday’s diary column, which refers to ‘sniggering in the pews of Oxford Cathedral’ when the bishop announced that gluten-free wafers were available.

According to their diarist (who goes under the pseudonym of ‘Sindy’, and wears a headscarf and dark glasses as a disguise), this statement was met with snorts of derision all round.

“Even the most intolerant communicant would have to eat an awful lot of glutinous communion wafer before having a reaction to it” spluttered one churchgoer.

This would presumably be someone in her own party, who goes to church perhaps once a year. At Christmas. Anyone going more often would know that gluten free wafers are increasingly common (at least in the Church of England). And surely no true Christian would mock the afflicted?

Research has found that for most coeliacs, the amount of gluten consumed per day should be less than 50mg to remain healthy – or 1/96th of a 30g slice of bread. 0.1g per day can cause damage. (The amount of gluten in wheaten bread is about 10% by weight). For some coeliacs (about 1 in 13) the amount consumed should be significantly less than this.

Inevitably, some gluten is consumed daily as a result of cross-contamination, and these microscopic amounts can add up quite quickly.

So yes, the amount of gluten found in a communion wafer could be enough to cause intestinal damage.

Congratulations to the Bishop, I say. I’m getting rather bored of the Indy’s ignorance of coeliac disease …

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Lucy is the mother of a coeliac, and has been managing a gluten free diet for her daughter for 20 years - though, to be fair, she does do most of it herself now...

5 thoughts on “Independent gets it wrong yet again”

  1. Hi there, I too have coeliac disease and whilst every site I look at tells me how to AVOID eating wheat, not 1 tells me what to do if I accidentally do eat it.. which I did… last Saturday! *sob* I am still in a bad way (Doc gave me a weeks worth of steriods for the inflamation but I feel I am slowly grinding to a halt.

    I am sooo tired I can’t get out of bed most morning and have MAJOR cramps in my arms and legs… know any tips how to combat this – I guess, as my gut is compromised, taking multi-vitamins won’t help (I am, its not) any thing else?


  2. Oh Dizzyscouse, I am sorry to hear you’ve been so badly affected. I hope whatever it was you ate was delicious enough to make it worth while …

    I don’t know what to suggest, other than rest. Coeliac UK say:

    “…..The reaction to eating gluten varies between individuals. In some it may trigger symptoms that last several days, whilst in others no symptoms are experienced. Eating gluten will damage the gut, the effects of which may last longer than symptoms. However, if you make the occasional mistake and take in gluten by accident, it is unlikely to cause lasting gut damage. After you have eaten gluten there isn’t really a lot that you can do to prevent or ease the symptoms. If you get diarrhoea or vomiting, it is important to keep yourself as hydrated as possible, so drinking lots of fluid is essential. Some people find that taking an anti-diarrhoeal drug to ease symptoms can help, but this depends on the individual. The most important thing is to get back onto your gluten-free diet to try to prevent further symptoms.”

    I know that probably doesn’t help much. Can you tolerate yoghurt? Would a probiotic yoghurt help your digestive system get back to normal? Magnesium may help the cramping, but you’ve probably got that in your multivitamin already.

    Please let us know how you get on …

  3. Hi – does something like piriton help. my daughter had an anaphalactic type reaction – throat closed up, really fast when she ate Asda baked beans from a tin labelled – yes you guessed it – gluten free! I called them and they weren’t interested for 3 weeks as I didn’t have the tin to send back – it had been bin day and had been thrown out inadvertantly while I mopped up copius amounts of sick for my very ill daughter. When I eventually got a letter from Asda they said their chief nutritionist said they wouldn’t have been allowed to label the beans – Asda cheapies by the way, as gluten free because the product was made in a production line that would almost inevitably be cross contaminated – and had I got the right supermarket??!! By that stage and when there had been no concern for my daughter who was still laid very low 3 weeks later, I found the second of the two tins I’d bought. I phoned and was greeted with doubt again that it could be one of their tins and I read the batch number to them. This time someone called me within half an hour!!! My daughter was sent a £15 Asda voucher which remains unused on principle. She and I will not use Asda products – We can’t trust them. To top it all the tins were not removed from the store locally to me over a month later. Huge great shelves of the things were still there. Next thing I know the Coeliac Soc. had palled up with Asda as a sponsor for the year – boy did my blood boil. I had also written to them and asked them to consider the position of Asda in the “bible” very carefully after my daughter’s accident. No response ever came.

    Straight after that she learnt another hard lesson about the sizes of products. That a large sized ice lolly was fine in one particular product but that a small sized one wasn’t – she was out with friends and thought ah, I can have those and was promptly ill again for the next 3 weeks as well.

    That was a wall’s product and they told me that 0.1% i think of the glucose syrup in that version of the lolly was made of unsuitable gluten. With that % in mind I wonder how much had been in the beans.

    If that minute % of just one of the ingredients can make a child SO ill, imagine the long term effects of gluten on a weekly basis even in a small amount…

    Do you know if it is the case that ALL the hosts on offerr have a bit of gluten in – are there ANY that are completely gluten free.

    Also, re medicines – we have found gluten in a number of medicines – particularly Calpol and Nurofen for children – orange flavour – in case that helps anyone. Does anyone else know about lipsticks/lipglosses – are they safe – Vitamin E range at bodyshop is wheatgerm based…

    Anyone ever checked out toothpastes…?


  4. Hi Ginny – does your daughter usually have an anaphalactic type reaction to gluten? That must be really scary for you! (And her). Do you think she is a super-sensitive coeliac?

    Your story about Asda beans is unnerving too. I’ve no experience of Asda, as there isn’t one near us, but I’m not surprised they called you back quickly when you could prove they were at fault. I am surprised, though, that they didn’t remove the beans from stock, as most supermarkets would have done this, I’d have thought, to avoid future problems.

    Thank you for pointing out about the different sizes of products. This does need checking. Often sweets are OK in one size but not in another.

    As for altar breads (communion wafers / hosts / …) I don’t know of any that are completely free from gluten. I’ve had a thought, though: would a piece of rice paper be acceptable (not for Catholics, I suspect)? I’ve heard of churches that are happy to use gluten free bread, but for those that want a wafer, perhaps rice paper would be OK, as being fairly similar to a wafer?

    We use the strawberry flavour Calpol (though my coeliac daughter is practically big enough for adult paracetamol now) – and your question about lipsticks/lipglosses is another interesting one. I must do some research!

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