Monday, 17 November 2014

Far Eastern Odyssey - or Idiocy?

You have a few weeks from the date at the top of this blog to catch up with Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey, Episode 2, originally broadcast in 2009, and repeated this weekend, in which the well-known chef discusses food allergies with a friend and former colleague, Tom Kine, while eating street food in Hanoi. The segment starts at around 39 minutes. Click here for the BBC iPlayer link - but here's an edited transcript. 

TK: " ... Vietnamese food ... is very, very healthy. There's no wheat, there's no dairy ... high protein, high vitamin ... fresh herbs .... it's become very popular ... "

RS: "Do you think the Vietnamese would have food allergies, then?"

TK: "No, I don't think there are any food allergies in the third world. I think there are only allergies in the first world because we choose to be faddy. These people have had so many years of famine, they'll just eat whatever's available."

RS: "So you don't think they need to put a note saying 'Some of our products contain nuts'?"

TK: "No, I don't think so."


The Sunday-night allergy and free-from crowd have already discussed the issue on Twitter, and this morning Allergy Mums blogged on it. Her blog clearly demonstrates the frustration and concern such incidents cause mothers of allergic children. It was particularly worrying that the context for the discussion was peanuts, in part. 

As I said last night, the danger of such material being broadcast is it risks trivialising food allergies in the eyes of those who we would hope are aware enough to offer protection to us and our children - nursing staff, waiting staff, teachers and babysitters, for example. All it takes is one person, perhaps already sceptical about the rise in food hypersensitivities and the attention it is garnering, to be 'tipped over' into thinking they are essentially nonsense, to put someone under their care at potential risk.

In only partial mitigation, the programme is five years' old. Yes, chefs should know better now, but should they have known better that long ago? Really those who should know best of all is the programme's editors, who should have snipped that segment and dropped it onto the cutting room floor, and the current BBC2 schedulers, who should have reviewed the material prior to broadcast. Perhaps they did - if so, I'm baffled why they didn't catch the dangerous information. 

Alexa of YesNoBananas commented that this reiterated the need for compulsory allergen training among all in the food industry - which I agree with. She also uncovered that Kine had worked with highly allergy aware brand Ilumi

To add some further thoughts: I'm surprised that Kine appears to partly indulge in the notion that Vietnamese food is healthy because it is free of wheat and dairy - two of the greatest Western allergens - which are harmless to most people and a key source of good nutrition to many of them in wholesome forms (e.g. wholegrain spelt, probiotic natural yoghurt). It is in the overindulgence in the junk or fast food in which these foods are typically found - cakes, biscuits, cheeseburgers, pizzas etc - where unhealthiness lies. Perhaps compulsory nutritional training for chefs would also be a good idea?

Further, the shame of all this is that, while we all know that allergies affect 'first world' countries to a serious degree, not enough know that, increasingly, they are becoming an issue in developing nations - about which the programme was also mistaken. Several years ago I rewrote my Living with Food Allergies book for the Asian and African markets, such was the need, according to my publisher, for it. At the time, I covered the huge problem of food allergy in India for Foods Matter

And in Vietnam itself? It's taken a bit more digging, but yes, allergies are there. Here is a report of a curious case of childhood milk/GOS allergy, and here's an older study outlining how overweight children in Vietnam are more susceptible to allergy

So in our frustration that insulting material like this is still getting broadcast, let's not forget that - with adrenaline injectors at our disposals, and ever-improving food labelling - we have it a lot better than the developing nations, whose increasingly Westernising diets appear to be correlating with a rise in all kinds of allergic disease, and whose medical and market infrastructure may not be best equipped to cope with it now, or for some years to come. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Four years, two drugs: pharma treatments for coeliac are coming

Most press releases I get (sometimes over a hundred a day) are pretty dull, but a recent one from research and consulting firm GlobalData piqued my interest enough to survive the DEL key treatment.

It confirmed that two coeliac drugs are expected to enter the European market in early 2019 and early 2020 respectively (each a year earlier in the US).

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Extra Class: the EC responds to the Mail

Given that I have written for the Mail group of papers - it’s a few years old, but my article on a lady’s experience with gluten ataxia and coeliac disease is here - I am in some minuscule part a participant in its ongoing success (some might say ‘existence’ …) 

But as a long-standing critic of its sometimes alarmist and dangerously misleading coverage of food hypersensitivities - the recent blog here, for example - I can’t deny a sense of satisfaction when someone takes the time to not rant, but to calmly and effectively expose their fabricated silliness for what it is. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Quit the outrage: it’s not personal

There was a terrific piece published in the New Yorker recently about the whole gluten cultural phenomenon, taking in coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), breadmaking, fodmaps, and the free from industry. It was health journalism at its best. 

And of course, some hated it and chose to get angry, as has become the pattern for discussions online when it comes to gluten-related disorders. 

One was a short piece in direct response - entitled “No such thing as gluten sensitivity? Really?!” - published on the blog of Living Without Magazine / Gluten Free and More - a US print magazine for the gluten-free community. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Will the Mail ever change their 'It's all in your head' tune?

Another day, another Daily Mail article telling some people they're deluded.

I agree with Dr Ranj on a lot: the unproven usefulness of IgG testing, the risks of extreme diets, that self-diagnosis is not reliable, for instance.

My objections are twofold, and I don't blame him necessarily for them. 

The first concerns the repeating of a piece of data which continues to be misused and abused, and has been for years - that 30% of adults think they are allergic to food, but that in reality it's around 2%. Sometimes the figure are given as 20% and 2% respectively.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

When the Media come good on food sensitivities

Given my last post was a rant about media - namely Marie Claire - getting it very wrong, in this case on the subject of gluten-free skincare, and that poor articles on food sensitivity have fuelled many other stroppy posts on this blog, it seems only fair to point out that sometimes, writers get it very right too.

The last few weeks have seen really good coverage of some of the most exciting issues in food sensitivity - non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, the microbiome / bacteria, FODMAPs, and all that wheat-related jazz .... although the grumpy part of me can't help but wish that sub-editors would really put their minds to try to think up some article titles on matters gluten-related other than 'Against the Grain', 'Grain of Truth' and 'Gluten for Punishment' .... How about 'Cereal Offenders'? Been done? If not, you can have that one on me ....

Monday, 20 October 2014

Gluten Free Beauty Won’t Save Your Life

More nonsense in gluten-free with the publication of this under-researched, alarmist and inaccurate article on gluten-free skincare in Marie Claire

Women’s magazines, like all magazines, exist to make money. To some extent, most women’s magazines achieve this by being seen to sell to their readers - selling a lifestyle, typically, of the rich and famous and beautiful, one of aspiration. Some do it by fear - fear that you may be too fat, that you’re wearing the wrong clothes, that you will never find a partner because you’re doing some intangible thing wrong. The message is ‘consume, and you will improve yourself’. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

What Djokovic Says; What Djokovic Does

What Djokovic says

Extracted from Serve to Win, by Novak Djokovic:

“… when you think of foods that spike your insulin, you generally think of sugary foods: candy, ice cream, honey or cookies … such foods raise your blood sugar and trigger an insulin in response”