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 in principle 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.

4 Comments

  1. Vicky

    This excerpt has genuinely rendered me speechless:

    "Simply squeeze a drop of blood onto a test sheet, post it off to the lab and wait for your results. Exciting!"

    At no point during my "what the hell is wrong with me" phase leading up to my coeliac diagnosis did I ever feel "excited" about waiting for test results.

    Reply
  2. Alex G

    Indeed. I was wondering whether someone would pick up on that, but it clearly stuck out more than I'd imagined ….

    Reply
  3. sugarpuffish

    Given the length of time I have waited for test on NHS I can understand how attractive these home tests can look to people who are feeling unwell and may not be getting anywhere with their GPs etc. However, I think free from food companies should stick to making foods and leave the medical side of things to the experts.

    Reply
  4. Alex G

    Yes, very good point … Hopefully as awareness of food sensitivities among GPs increases, this will become less of a problem. I expect, though, that progress will be slow.

    Reply

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