Tuesday, 27 January 2015

How far should free from go to create its market?

Should free from food companies and food service providers be actively marketing 'coeliac and gluten sensitivity profile' tests to their consumers?

I ask, for that's what Inspiral appears to be doing here, in offering a series of tests via a laboratory, with a discount of 10% on the normal price of £95 if you quote their name.

The words 'doctor', GP or dietitian do not appear in the write-up, and they seem to be addressing anyone who might "wonder" whether they "might be sensitive to gluten". There are no mentions of symptoms in the introduction - and they then quickly follow up with the news that they are an entirely gluten-free enterprise.

Setting aside the questionable validity of 'gluten sensitivity' testing (if they mean testing for non-coeliac gluten sensitivity - we don't yet have a marker for this, as experts in the field acknowledge), I don't automatically object to home testing kits. That said, I do feel the results should be followed up with a GP, in order to repeat the test if necessary, and verify it. There is no mention of the importance of that here.

I don't have an issue with companies boosting their potential market by encouraging proper diagnosis of recognised diseases - there are half a million undiagnosed coeliacs in the country, after all - but is it is acceptable to create an artificial or fad market via questionable tests and through potentially inciting health paranoia?

I happen to like the Inspiral products I've tasted very much, and have even featured some in articles I've written. But following the questionable marketing of brands such as Genius, I'm again left wondering whether free-from companies should leave the medical side entirely to the experts, and merely concentrate on creating good quality and healthy products, factually conveying what they are free from and therefore who they might be good for.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Prêt a Mang ... Er?

Last summer Pret launched the 'Mexican Guacamole', made with a gluten-free wrap. It carried a disclaimer: "While the ingredients of this product are gluten-free, it has been made in our kitchens which are not gluten-free environments". Blogger Kevin at Gluten Free by the Sea queried their head office about it, was given basic explanation of hygiene / cross-contamination controls and told: "We can't call it gluten-free because of the risk of cross-contamination".

The Mexican Guacamole wrap appears lately to have been supplanted by a Chicken Harissa, also made with a gluten-free wrap (which I understand is Newburn Bakehouse by Warburton's, incidentally) but the Pret line on it is just the same, as they confirmed in an email to Kevin last month. His full account is worth a look. Read it here.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014: a year in coeliac, intolerance and allergy

We’ll gloss over my failed prediction from last year’s round-up that low-FODMAP ready meals would be in our supermarkets by the end of 2014 (by end of 2015, definitely ... ) and instead kick-off where I left off - with scientists doing remarkable work.

We heard this year that drugs to help coeliac patients may be only a few years away, and that oral immunotherapy offers a real, promising road forward for peanut allergies. The potential to manipulate gut bacteria to better manage, prevent or even cure allergies and autoimmune continued to be an active area. Then there was the concept of gluten-free 'pre-digested wheat flour', which uses enzyme technology and which we may be hearing much more of in 2015, not to mention the interesting, albeit controversial, goings-on in so-called 'gluten-friendly wheat' too - where using a microwave process wheat is modified and the gluten reduced and its nature altered, so much so that is appears to be no longer 'recognised' by the immune system of coeliacs.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

2015 M&S FreeFrom Launches

Having been so distracted by the whole M&S-branded Kinnerton chocolate saga – if you’ve missed it, catch up with Part 1 here and with Part 2 here – I’ve neglected to tell you about the many good-looking new launches which M&S told me that they had planned for the new year within their Made Without ranges.

So here they are. This is all the info I have, and from what I gathered these are expected to hit shelves around March / April time - although dates can sometimes be changeable when it comes to launches.

Friday, 19 December 2014

FreeFrom Companies: Beware - and play fair

A story that may have passed under the radar of many of us in the UK last month was that of multinational giant Unilever - owner of Hellman’s - issuing legal proceedings against a small US company of egg-free ‘mayo’ on the basis that it was misleading to customers - who they claimed expect any product to be called 'mayo' to have egg in it. 

One month on, and following a wave of support for the small free-from supplier, Unliver has just announced that it is dropping the case. 

It's not the only such story. Closer to home, Oatly is being sued by the Swedish Dairy Association for making milk seem 'unmodern'. As Natural Products Magazine reported recently, one of Oatly's catchphrases 'No milk. No soy. No. Badness' has 'irked' the Swedish dairy industry. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

In the FIC of it

A trip into town to see what was happening #14allergens-wise on the EU FIC front ...

Nothing on display in BHS's restaurant - whatsoever. So I enquired with a lady serving chips, and she referred me to a gentleman I took to be head of kitchen.

"Do you have allergen information about the meals you're serving?" I asked.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Nut another one … two

Further developments regarding the M&S / Kinnerton nut-warning confusion which I blogged about last week.

To recap, M&S Made Without Dairy chocolate - made by Kinnerton - carries a “not suitable for nut allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods” warning.

A further response from a senior source at M&S has confirmed that the chocolate IS manufactured in the nut-free zone at Kinnerton (they have a non-nut-free zone too). So why the warning?

Friday, 12 December 2014

Nut another one …

Marks & Spencer’s ‘Made Without Dairy’ chocolate is manufactured by Kinnerton’s, who operate a nut-free factory. And yet the M&S labelling for the products carry a nut warning. 

The warning is “Not suitable for nut allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods”. 

Why is this? I tried to find out.