According to a number of papers and blogs, thousands of gluten free communion wafers have been distributed across the country (UK!) after reports of parishioners with coeliac disease being ‘laid low with digestive problems’.

gluten free communion wafersThis is curious, isn’t it – I wonder why there’s this sudden rush of digestive problems? (Is it related to the Norovirus we’ve been warned about?)

After all, many parishes have been dealing with gluten free communion wafers or gluten free bread for years. I wonder if these are the same wafers that caused such scorn in the thinking press recently?

A rather wicked thought arises that all this discussion is perhaps stemming from a press release issued by one of the manufacturers of gluten free communion wafers.

I don’t see a press release on their site … however, I can see that the wafers – which are square, to distinguish them from the normal wafers – contain codex wheat, and therefore contain gluten at 200 parts per million. This is (or was) the acceptable level of gluten to count as gluten free here in the UK, but this has just been changed to 20 parts per million, so Charles Ferris, among many other suppliers, will have to change their recipe.

The gluten free food and drink directory published by Coeliac UK, (known affectionately as ‘the gluten free bible’ here – truly not meant offensively) which contains over 11.000 food items that are OK to eat, lists six different suppliers of gluten free communion wafers:

Charles Farris (mentioned in all the current articles)
General Dietary Ltd
The Gluten Free Altar Bread Co Ltd (can supply both Church of England and Catholic altar breads, but no website that I can find)
S.O.S Church Supplies
St Joseph’s Workshops Ltd (also no website)
Vanpoulles Ltd

Note that in the Catholic church, bread used at Holy Communion must contain at least a tiny amount of gluten for it to count as bread. Presumably 20ppm would qualify … but there are a few coeliacs who can’t cope even with this amount.

I do seem to be giving this issue rather a lot of air time, don’t I? I know it matters a great deal to some people, but I’ll try not to cover communion again for a while!