Friday, 2 January 2015

Free-From. Fad?

I feel sorry for people with food intolerances, I really do. It must be horrible not to be able to eat a slice of toast, or a really good pie made by me, because it contains gluten. Or to be killed by a peanut.

Last month, the lovely and always-right European Community introduced a new regulation concerning  the provision of allergen information to consumers of unpackaged food products. Meaning any food offered in a café or restaurant, or sold loose in something like a bakery or deli. It is a huge burden on the industry (hands up those who are not surprised), involving staff training, information displayed on websites, menus and menu boards. Guess who's going to pay for this? Yes, you, the consumer. But you can't argue about it - consumers have a right to know whether what they order might kill them, right?

The legislation covers 14 allergens - the usual suspects (gluten, lactose, etc) - plus linseed (lupin), which I've only ever come across as an oil used by painters.

All well and good (ish) - if you know you have an allergy to something, you should be able to find out reasonably easily whether what you're about to buy is safe for you.

But here's a thing. Sales of things like gluten-free bread are rising rapidly. Non-coeliacs are buying this stuff because they believe it might be better for them. Other 'free-from' products are also seeing growth in sales.

And here's another thing. I defriended someone on Facebook a few months ago. She had posted about how she'd just carried out allergy testing on all seven of her kids. How? Simples. The kid holds out his/her left hand and you place the thing you wish to test in it. He/she sticks his/her right arm out horizontally. The tester presses down on the right arm. If there is no resistance and the arm can be pushed down easily, it means the kid is allergic to whatever is in the left hand.

I queried this. Does it work with liquids? 'Sure - just put it in a small glass'. Hmm. Glass is pretty inert, how can the body tell what's inside it? 'It just can'.

So this woman is telling her kids they don't need to eat Brussels sprouts or whatever else they don't like because they have an allergy. And for the rest of their lives, they'll probably believe it, on the basis of an idiot test.

And the poor food vendors will have to deal with this forever.

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