Why I’m backing Coeliac UK’s cost of gluten free campaign 

Have you noticed the price of gluten free food increasing recently?

If you answered yes, then you are not alone. 

This week Coeliac UK released a new report called ‘What is the cost of gluten free food and why does it matter?’ And the results are startling. 

It found that the price of the cheapest loaf of gluten free bread is over 7 times more expensive than the cheapest gluten containing loaf. 

Alongside the report, Coeliac UK launched a new campaign to make gluten free food more affordable and more accessible. The charity is urging the gluten free community to join the campaign to help spread awareness of the additional challenges faced by people with coeliac disease.

I was more than happy to pledge my support. 

A selection of gluten free products

Increased cost of gluten free food

Unsurprisingly for those of us living with coeliac disease, the report found that the cost of gluten free food is a real concern. 

With Britain in the midst of a cost of living crisis, and inflation at levels not seen since the 1970s, many people with coeliac disease are struggling to afford the essentials.

Key findings from the report show that:

  • A weekly gluten free food shop can be 20% more expensive than the average food shop.
  • A gluten free loaf of bread is, on average, 4.3 times more expensive than a gluten containing loaf, and the cheapest gluten free loaf is 7.2 times more expensive than the cheapest gluten containing loaf.
  • Gluten free staple substitutes including flour, pasta and cereals are, on average, double the price of their gluten containing equivalents.

This is pretty damning stuff. 

As I’m sure you know, coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease and the only treatment is following a strict gluten free diet. Put simply, gluten free is not a choice. 

Why then, are we paying way over the odds for something as basic as a loaf of bread?

It is by no means a new phenomenon. Ever since gluten free products became widely available in the supermarkets, they have always been more expensive than their gluten containing equivalents, but this has been exacerbated recently.

The report shows that while the cheapest gluten containing loaf stayed around the same price for the duration of the study, the cheapest gluten free loaf increased at around the same rate as the other items monitored. The price of the cheapest gluten free loaf increased by 7.3p per 100g over the course of the study. Meanwhile the cheapest gluten containing loaf only increased by 0.38p per 100g. 

With people struggling to pay the energy bills, it is little wonder that some people with coeliac disease are finding it hard to pay for those essential free from items. 

Availability a real concern 

As well as cost, the availability of gluten free products is another issue raised in the report. 

The data shows that a whopping 90% of gluten free food shoppers experience out of stock issues. 

I can certainly relate to this, as there have been plenty of occasions over the last couple of years where I’ve struggled to buy my usual free from products when they’ve been out of stock. 

Of course, one way to tackle the issue would be to make gluten free items widely available on prescription. Unfortunately, it is a postcode lottery when it comes to gluten free prescriptions. In some areas you can choose from a wide range of breads, pastas, crackers, flour blends and more. In some, there is an extremely limited selection of only bread and flour. And in others, there is absolutely nothing available.

This is just not right. 

Eating gluten free is a medical necessity for people with coeliac disease, and it is vitally important that essential free from items are accessible by everyone with the condition, regardless of the money they earn or where they live. 

Of course, there are naturally gluten free sources of carbohydrates such as rice and potatoes, but, as well as it being extremely inconvenient for people with coeliac disease to not eat staple gluten free products like bread, it is also not advised nutritionally.

Indeed, according to the report, replacing bread with rice or potatoes can reduce iron and calcium intake by up to 96% and 93%. People with coeliac disease are in fact recommended to INCREASE their intake of calcium due to potential malabsorption caused by the disease. So not only is it not practical to avoid eating bread, it is very much not recommended by medical professionals.

Next steps

I would urge everyone reading this to pledge your support to Coeliac UK’s cost of gluten free campaign. On the Coeliac UK website there are some suggested steps you can take to amplify the message such as sharing posts on social media or writing to your local MP if you live in an area where gluten free prescriptions have been taken away or reduced.

As you can probably tell this is a campaign that is very close to my heart, and I can only hope that, if we all get behind it, it will bring about much needed change. 

Coeliac Man out. X

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