Nearly ten months on and the term NGCI (No Gluten Containing Ingredients) is still misunderstood. Just to clarify the FSA have issued this guide https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/gluten-guidance.pdf which explains in detail where the term No Gluten Containing Ingredients (NGCI) can be used and where it can’t.
Fundamentally there are two ways in which consumers buy food – pre-packaged and loose. For pre-packaged goods the labelling law is as follows:
A food item can be labelled gluten free if the manufacturer has conducted tests on the food (or at least batches of it and procedures are in place to ensure the gluten free integrity of the food) and the food contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
Very Low Gluten
Low gluten means that the pre-packaged food contains between 20 and 100 ppm of gluten. However, it must contain gluten free wheat starch. Again this has to be proven by testing.
Anything above 100 ppm is not considered safe for coeliacs and thus cannot be labelled gluten free.
No Gluten Containing Ingredients
No Gluten Containing Ingredients is used where the food is sold loose – as in say a deli or in a restaurant/cafe/pub etc. situation. It is impossible to label the food gluten free (as it can’t be taken, mushed up and then tested), so the term No Gluten Containing Ingredients was born. Just to clarify to label a menu item gluten free or gf (or any other code/symbol) is not legally allowed – shame most of the food service industry aren’t aware of this!
As of the 20th July 2016, establishments are allowed to either have a separate menu (or a separate specifically labelled section of a menu). They are not allowed to label a specific dish as No Gluten Containing Ingredients on a ‘mixed’ menu unless it is in a separate section. The food service industry must comply with this by 20th February 2018.
What isn’t properly policed though are the processes food establishments take to ensure contamination is minimised. There is so little understanding of gluten, how it can be avoided etc (how many times have I heard that it can be killed by heat – it’s not a bacteria, it is a protein!). Unfortunately Environmental Health and Trading Standards departments are responsible for policing this and they are extremely under-resourced.
Brixham Yacht Club, has recently undertaken Droppa & Droppa’s gluten free training. The purpose of the training is to assist the catering industry in effectively managing a gluten free diet in terms of ease of staff training and environmental health compliance. Commodore, David Faithful, approached Droppa & Droppa because he felt the club needed to improve and standardise its procedures for gluten free diners, “….due to being asked to provide meals on a regular basis for its members”.
Dennis Burke, Head Chef, explained, “Although we are a private members’ club, we do have members’ guests and offer corporate functions, so it is important that we are fully conversant with gluten free. I have been a chef for 30 years, and yet I feel I have learnt a lot more about preparing foods using gluten free ingredients in a safe environment….as well as current legislation and some good practical tips.”
As ex-gluten free food manufacturers, and the fact that Jocelyn Droppa is a coeliac, Droppa & Droppa is very well placed to provide this training. There are many issues with eating out as a coeliac and the training endeavours to address these issues, so that diners not only feel confident about being catered for, but also so do the companies doing the catering. Droppa & Droppa has close ties with both DEFRA and the FSA to ensure the product is timely and up to date.
Coeliac consumers are far more discerning in eating out than they used to be. The days of providing just a salad with a jacket potato are rapidly diminishing. Furthermore, the way that the food is plated and served has to be managed carefully to ensure that the food provided remains gluten free from start to finish.
As with any busy establishment, it’s hard to juggle day-to-day service requirements, writing and implementing new menus and still find the time to train your staff to a standard where customers are afforded the level of service they deserve. The Brixham Yacht Club has rolled out the training to its staff, so everyone has a good understanding, there are solid procedures in place and the business as a whole is compliant within the eyes of the law.
The training can be replayed time and time again either on line, or via a DVD. This means the product serves a dual purpose – not only does it act as a training tool for new and seasonal staff, but also as a refresher for existing staff. Upon successful completion of the training, the establishment is provided with a certificate of accreditation.
Manage the law change with staff allergen training
http://www.bighospitality.co.uk/ recently published an article on how restaurants have changed their policies since the law change in December 2014. The article quotes the Head of Marketing of Pho, which has made most of its menu gluten free, as explaining that the key to handling allergies is staff training and communication with customers.
CCGs and prescriptions
Over the last few weeks the news wires have included the usual stories about CCGs and prescriptions. http://www.piratefm.co.uk reports that cuts are required in Cornwall and one of the areas being considered is prescriptions for gluten free. The same is true of Lincolnshire https://www.coeliac.org.uk/. This now seems to be happening all over and despite consistent arguments about the impact on the elderly and vulnerable http://www.piratefm.co.uk it is snowballing.
Whether the NHS is paying above the odds for prescription foods is also an issue, however my personal biggest concern is that because supermarkets wield so much power and only stock items for profit, what happens to the availability of staple gluten free items when the gluten free bubble bursts and they can no longer shift gluten free food as rapidly as they would like? This leads me nicely onto the next topic…..
Has the gluten free bubble burst?
Not according to http://www.just-food.com/. John Shepherd quotes the market research firm, MarketsandMarkets, whose studies have shown that in 2015 the global market value of gluten free foods was US$4.63bn and that is set to almost double by 2020.
He also looks at the potential for growth in other markets and discusses whether France is the next major market for expansion. France is behind the UK, USA and Australia in terms of gluten free food and it is thought that the reason for that is because the focus of French cuisine is more traditional than other countries. However, that is slowly changing. I have mixed feelings about this. If the French do embrace gluten free, do you think with their love of food, they could make it healthier, fresher, with less salt and sugar and not accept some of the sub-standard products we do?
On the other side of the coin http://www.fooddive.com questions whether the gluten free market has actually reached saturation point. The same research was published in http://www.foodbusinessnews.net. The article reports “Sales of gluten-free foods have peaked, said David Sprinkle, research director for the market research firm Packaged Facts.” The article does go on to say that it’s not yet in decline though. One reason given for the slowing down of the market is that finally consumers are realising that ‘going gluten free’ is not necessarily healthier (especially if they eat processed substitutes) but moreover they won’t necessarily lose weight on a gluten free diet.
I have read quite a few reports about this recently. Both the http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ and http://www.dailymail.co.uk report that there is a pill that can be taken to prevent the symptoms of digesting gluten. The way it works is that it breaks down the gluten into tiny molecules so that the body doesn’t react. The manufacturers of the pill state that it is not a cure for coeliac disease but its intended use is where gluten intolerant people may doubt the gluten free levels of the meal they are about to eat. I, personally, would consider taking this on holiday or somewhere where I had a string of important events to attend. I would like to read more research on this, so will write about that at a later date.
The crux of the matter is does Europe and the USA upgrade its ‘gluten free’ claim to less that 1ppm of gluten (as is the law in Australia and New Zealand) or does Australasia downgrade to less than 20ppm? There are scientific arguments for both sides, but it would be nice for them all to agree on a standard so that international goods can safely be consumed by coeliacs.