A gluten-free scam? Really?

This Telegraph article on "The Great Gluten-Free Scam" is an interesting read – and I’m delighted to see lots of good input from the terrific coeliac nutritionist Ian Marber – though a few bits have irritated, and several others deserve to be addressed. Some quick points:

1. That Starbucks, Carluccio's and even religious institutions are offering GF is a GOOD thing - and doesn't deserve to be mentioned under a title which includes 'SCAM'. It would be easy for the casual reader to infer that there was a suggestion here that they’re offering a below-par service and have been bandwagon-jumping. Surely unfair?

2. Why the swipe at 'hippies'?

3. Not sure of any link between gluten and hay fever, as mentioned, but happy to be corrected and enlightened … (there is a link between grass-pollen hay fever suffereers and wheat in Oral Allergy Syndrome, but this is rare.)

4. Macaroons are a ‘gluten free staple’?

5. “Even carb-loving citizens of countries like Italy now demanding gluten-free pasta and pizza”. Yes, because Italy has peerless awareness, excellent diagnosis rates, and its producers have driven the improvement in (especially) GF pasta products.

6. “India with its growing middle class is also touted as a potential huge market.” Yes, because there is a huge problem of non-diagnosis in the northern part of India (where wheat is commonly consumed), and a severe food allergy problem there too. Too often it's put down to malnutrition in childhood. More awareness could be very useful to the families effected.

7. “The gluten-free ‘community’” – why the inverted commas in ‘community’? That’s narked me no end.

8. “Not so long ago GPs expected to see one case during their whole career, but now one per cent of the population has it. (Though others say the rise is simply due to improved diagnostic methods and greater awareness of the condition.)” – again, it would be easy to infer the writer is suggesting coeliacs are hypochondriacs. Why not just be clear on the facts? 1% have it. Only about 20% tops of those are diagnosed. Yes, diagnostic methods have improved markedly. Yes, rates have increased. Not complex, really.

9. The BIG one. “New, genetically modified “dwarf” wheat, developed in the past 40 years may also have played a part.” GM wheat is NOT in the food chain. Dwarf wheat is derived from selective breeding.

(Lots of interesting stuff about Chorleywood process. Lots of wisdom from Ian Marber.)

10. “Even products like humus, which have never contained gluten, are now being labelled “gluten-free” by canny shopkeepers, to make them more attractive to the health conscious.” Canny? Or just helping coeliacs? Seems overly cynical. If it were on a bottle of water – I’d understand, but as wheat can be used as filler in products such as processed cheese, it’s not implausible it could hide in hummus.

11. “the gluten-free community has even less tolerance for jokes than for pasta.” – unnecessary.

I think I’m done. What do you all think? 

Edited to add: A funnier, rantier take from Sam, The Happy Coeliac, is worth a read.

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