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.


  1. Anonymous

    to 3) hayfever might be a misdiagnosis, as in individuals with histamin intolerance sneezing and migranes and pseudoallergies in general are common symptoms, but a diet for histamin intolerance is even more complicated than just getting gluten free!

  2. Sam/ The Happy Coeliac

    Thanks for linking. 🙂 The use of inverted commas around the word "community" irritated me too, but it's just another way in which gluten-free people are belittled in the article. Ranty blogs are good therapy!

  3. Alice Coleman

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. deglutenous

    Some valid points. I just read these types of articles and laugh though. There were so many odd quotes – many of which you pointed out. I suppose though as a coeliac I am in some way removed from the gluten free shaming that goes on. Although I am annoyed by the lack of awareness of Coeliac Disease in restaurants in Australia and anyone asking for gluten free should have their requests respected, so I guess we should be exposing the media for supporting lackadaisical attitudes. Good read, thanks!

  5. Alex G

    Histamine intolerance (or HIT) is indeed tricky. Lots of info on the FoodsMatter site here if you're interested: http://www.foodsmatter.com/allergy_intolerance/histamine/index_histamine.html

  6. Alex G

    Yeah, they are … I'm finding the article is one of those that yields something new each time you read it. So many aspects of it that I missed, and has really made me think about the different reasons people are gluten-free …

  7. Alex G

    For some reason, I thought awareness was pretty good in Australia – due partly to the stricter GF regulations. Quite agree that anyone asking for GF – or any other dietary request, for whatever reason (eg religious, ethical, palatability) – should have request respected, always.

  8. Pingback: Gluten allergy: a question of semantics | Allergy Insight

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