Free From Food expo 2013: Latest news on gluten-free (photos, tweets, commentary)

Gluten-free food availability: Germany vs. UK

Thanks to @MissGlutenfrei for submitting an interesting question on differences in consumer choice, followed by the answers I got:

English translation: @ernsteZoeli 1. Why is the distribution in D improving so slowly? If you look at the UK there are many more and better gf products

Personal commentary
Personally, I think supply is also influenced by reimbursement of gluten-free foods by the health insurance. Reimbursement lowers the expense for celiac consumers, which will increase their demand for gluten-free foods. Supply will follow demand. In the UK, celiac patients can get basic gluten-free foods on prescription, at the expense of their National Health Service (NHS). Similarly, Italy is also said to have a wide range of gluten-free foods widely available and also happens to have a prescription-based reimbursement system.

Ms. Ute Hamacher-Reichenberger of the German Celiac Society DZG (Deutsche Zöliakie Gesellschaft) told me that Germany does not have a prescription-based gluten-free food reimbursement scheme. There is a general disability compensation scheme, but this is only used by a small subset of German celiacs. She could however not confirm this as a possible of cause of the lower availability of gluten-free foods in Germany.

Industry involvement in creating awareness: Lactose-free vs. gluten-free

The second question from @MissGlutenfrei was why the gluten-free food manufacturers are not doing as much as the lactose-free manufacturer MinusL in creating awareness of ‘their’ food intolerance in the general population:

English translation: @ernsteZoeli 2.Why do the manufacturers not participate in the explanation of celiac disease? Due to MinusL and Co also have more lactose intolerant. Explanation, as in “opening eyes”. Lactose statistic is 1/200 affected (not few). Due to the numerous advertising campaigns by MinusL many play it safe, buy lactose-free products, although they tolerate lactose. The result: MinusL makes big profits and can therefore expand product range and improve products.

Manuela Maucher, Junior Key Account Managerin, and Marion Figueroa, Vertrieb EU-Inland, OMIRA/MinusL
Manuela Maucher, Junior Key Account Managerin, and Marion Figueroa, Vertrieb EU-Inland, OMIRA/MinusL

I talked about this idea with Steve Wood, Commercial Manager at Dove Farm Foods. They had not tried sampling their products in normal supermarkets. To help raise awareness of gluten intolerance, Dove supports Coeliac UK:

I also talked about this with Erik van Luyn, Sales & Marketing Europe at Roma Food Products (Orgran, BuonTempo):

Personal commentary
Personally, I see two possible explanations. First, the number of manufacturers in the respective markets. It seems to me that there are many more gluten-free food producers than there are lactose-free food producers. If a gluten-free food producer were to invest in raising gluten intolerance awareness, he would have to share the profits from that investment with many more competitors. Second, it seems to me that lactose intolerant people are not as well-organized as the celiac community. This might have to do with celiac disease being considered more of a “disease” than lactose intolerance. As the statement by Dove Farm Foods shows, gluten-free food producers can simply support national celiac societies to help raise awareness, whereas lactose-free food producers seem not have this possibility and have to raise awareness themselves.

Remarks by AOECS board members on transfer of EU gluten-free rules

And of course I chatted with a few people about EU gluten-free legislation, that will move from the PARNUTS* framework for special foods to the general food law (other articles on this subject).

* PARNUTS or “Foods for Particular Nutritional Use”: Framework of European legislation concerning foods with specific requirements (e.g. dietetic foods).

FIC or Food Information to Consumers: European Regulation on information to be provided to consumers (i.e. food labeling).

I got the impression that Sarah Sleet prefers to choose the legal wording of the requirement regarding nutritional value in such a way that it allows room for everyone to interpret it in their own way, allowing the differences existing in current practice to persist.

Personal commentary
I told Sarah Sleet that I think this is risky, as the goal of the European legislators seems to be to do away with differences in member state interpretations of European food law. Writing provisions on gluten-free that could be subject to multiple interpretations might satisfy all parties now, but could lead to an unexpected interpretation at the European level in the future.

Finally, I had a talk with Tunde Koltai of the Hungarian Celiac Society, who is also (I was not aware at the time of our talk) chair of the AOECS:

Personal commentary
Thinking back, I do not remember if we were talking about the position of Hungary specifically. Knowing now that she is also chair of the AOECS, makes her comments all the more interesting.

AOECS will be in Brussels soon to discuss this matter with Basil Mathioudakis, Head of Unit, Nutrition, food composition and information, DG SANCO*, European Commission. Within the AOECS, the issue will be further discussed during the General Assembly held 5-8 September 2013 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

* DG SANCO: Directorate General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission.

Thanks to Maeve Madrigal for the Spanish translation and for adding some explanatory notes.

One thought on “Free From Food expo 2013: Latest news on gluten-free (photos, tweets, commentary)”

  1. I am German and live in the UK. Awareness in the UK is higher and German doctors (even though healthcare in Germany as a whole is much better than in the UK) just don’t really get it as regards to glutenfree, ie. also for non-celiacs. Germans don’t like spending money on food anyway, so lots of reasons.

    My life as regards to food is so much better since I have moved to the UK. 🙂

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