Tuesday, 30 July 2013

I Am Not A 'Gluten Free Trend'

My husband was at a (trusted) local takeaway the other week waiting for collection of food (and a gluten free order for me, yay!) and spotted the magazine called Hospitality Ireland and decided to pick it up for some light 'waiting-for-my-food-to-be-picked-up' reading. What caught his eye and subsequently mine, was a rather dismissive little blurb about gluten free cuisine in an article titled 'Trends - Fast Foods'.

To quote directly from the article in question: 

'Gluten-free Cuisine – As more and more people claim to have food intolerances, restaurants are learning to adapt and provide menu options that cater to this demand. Luckily for the traditional fish and chip outlet in Ireland, providing a gluten-free option is easily done by changing to gluten-free batter for fish or a gluten-free bun for a burger. This is part of a macro trend where the public want to know exactly where their food is coming from.'

There are many things wrong with this throwaway paragraph, that it caught me by surprise that something like this would be published in a magazine for the food service & drinks industry.

Okay, so my problems with this are (I apologise in advance for venting my frustration and sounding a bit like a broken record here):

- The use of the word 'claim'. If you were to look up the definition you get some of the following results: 

To state or assert that something is the case, typically without providing evidence or proof.
An assertion of the truth of something, typically one that is disputed or in doubt.
As someone who definitely suffers from gluten intolerance, I am not 'claiming' to have this intolerance, but I actually am medically diagnosed and suffer from it. Gluten free food is also associated with coeliac disease, which can only be treated by living on a gluten free diet - is dismissed by using the word 'claim'. Those with coeliac disease are not 'claiming' anything, but actually need to be on a gluten free diet.

It would have been wiser to write something that separates a genuine food allergy and coeliac disease with the actual trend of those who are merely dabbling with the notion of being gluten free. These are two very separate things and to be lumped in as a person who walks into an establishment looking for gluten free cuisine, should not be dismissed as yet another person following a food trend. 

- This leads me to the fact they completely missed the opportunity to mention coeliac disease. Considering Ireland has one of the largest coeliac populations per capita in the world, it might have been an idea to actually mention this, in order to help encourage and bring awareness to the hospitality industry. Yet, gluten free is mentioned as part of a macro trend. Just to reiterate - one of the largest populations per capita in the world, medically needing to be on a permanent gluten free diet, referred to as part of a macro trend. Notwithstanding those who are genuinely gluten intolerant like myself. Saying that the provision of a gluten free option is part of the public wanting to know where their food is coming from as part of a macro trend, is infuriating. Perhaps I am misinterpreting what the article is trying to say here.

- No mention of any other food intolerances or allergies. Seriously, gluten free is just one in an enormous list of possible food allergies/intolerances that are 'trending' right now. Perhaps they could have stated something along the lines of, 'One of the many food intolerances that have been identified in the restaurant business is the need for gluten free cuisine.' 

- As for how fish 'n' chip shops can 'easily' provide gluten free options by simply replacing foods with gluten free versions and absolutely no mention of cross-contamination or needing to be genuinely certified gluten free by the FSAI http://www.fsai.ie/ in order for the gluten free population to eat safely at these venues, is reckless. Those who are vegetarian wouldn't have their food prepared using the same counters, utensils, etc., that meat options were prepared on. Same with those who have a nut allergy, you know the prep stations would be clean of nut traces, etc. Those who need a gluten free diet can not have their food prepared on the same surfaces, with the same utensils, etc., that 'normal' food is prepared on - unless you want them to get sick. Some people who have coeliac disease or gluten intolerance can get sick almost immediately if they've eaten food that has been cross-contaminated with gluten.

I have ranted about the hospitality industry before (see my post from last year Hospitality Or Hospital http://glutenfreephotos.blogspot.ie/2012/07/hospitality-or-hospital.html), and I do acknowledge there are establishments who really do their best to provide proper, safe food for the gluten free population of this country and those visiting this country, but I am continually disappointed with the lack of some establishments truly grasping the very real need to provide a proper gluten free option. I'm of the mind that you either do it the right way or don't do it at all. Little throwaway blurbs in a hospitality (!) magazine for Ireland like this, bears no real reflection of what is needed from the hospitality sector that should be making every effort to provide a safe service/product to a population that has an ever-increasing awareness of diet and health needs. I mean that's what hospitality is all about, right?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Product Review: Veronica's Snacks - Munchy Happiness In A Bag

I haven't done a product review in years on my blog, so it's about time I do one! The fine people over at Veronica's Snacks http://www.veronicassnacks.ie/ sent me an amazing goody bag of their new baked organic crisps, during Coeliac Awareness week back in May. Yes, that is how long it has been since I've had a chance to come here and blog! Sorry about that. I'm probably one of the laziest bloggers I know! Mostly because I am genuinely crazy busy in the 'real' world. I know, more excuses, but true!

So back to Veronica's Snacks. It is always a pleasure to receive gluten free goodies in the post and these crisps didn't disappoint.

I received two bags of Sour Cream Herb & Onion crisps and two bags of Barbeque crisps.

So starting with the packaging - the gluten free labelling is well labelled and very clear on the front and back of the bag. A clear message of no gluten here. Yay! I love that I don't have to check the ingredients list to make sure. They have the cross grain symbol labelled clearly as well.

Veronica Kenneally is from Cork - so all the better that this stems from a new Irish start-up. The recipes for the crisps are hers, but they are made in Slovakia, however everything else is run from Cork. She is upfront with this information in her promotional literature. It is a shame they aren't made in Ireland too, but I'm assuming cost & logistics are the reason for these being produced in Slovakia.

These crisps are promoted as an healthy alternative to the 'usual' crisps and they undoubtedly do have their benefits - they're baked for a start and they're listed as having no cholesterol, no trans fat, no GMO & no wheat. 

(On a personal note: The small problem I have with touting gluten free as healthy, is that it is not. The other points - yes, healthy - but the lack of gluten/wheat in any given product does not necessarily equal healthy. It simply means that there is no gluten or wheat in the product. That's it. The only health benefits are to those who cannot eat gluten/wheat due to having coeliac disease, gluten or wheat intolerance, therefore these products will not make them sick, but there is largely no other health benefit to something being gluten/wheat free.)

There is a good crunch to the crisps and definitely moreish. The barbeque and sour cream & herb flavours are great and you don't feel like they're scrimping on the seasoning. The only small downside is that after eating a few in a row, they tend to be quite dry, so you need to have a drink to moisten your mouth again. Apart from that - thumbs up! 

So altogether a great product. Tasty, moreish, convenient, gluten free - what more could you want from a crisp?

Veronica's Snacks can be found pretty much anywhere in Ireland and she has a new range of Veggie Crisps out now too. I haven't tried them yet, but if I am to go by what I've tasted already with her other crisps, then I'd say you're on to a winner! 

It is nice to be able to pick up a packet of decent tasting crisps in a shop and not have gluten and cross-contamination worries.

So go forth and get munching!

Image (c) Veronica's Snacks