It is always fascinating travelling abroad as a coeliac – sometimes surprising (New York several years ago was alarmingly nonchalant and unhelpful about gf food) and often a bit stressful too.
If travelling to a country where English is not the mother-tongue, we coeliacs have to travel with translations of some basic info on gluten which we hand to waiters, after which we pretty much have to hope for the best.
I am in Australia currently and must say that there is plenty of gf food on offer and a high level of understanding about food allergies in general.
However, I did come across an entirely new thing yesterday, which was where food on a menu in a cafe was labelled as “low gluten“. In the UK, gluten free food is where the food contains 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten or less. Technically, very low gluten is where foods contain between 21 and 100ppm gluten.
Specialist substitute products (such as breads and flour mixes) that contain a gluten reduced ingredient (gluten-free (Codex) wheat starch) with a gluten level above 20 and up to 100ppm may be labelled as ‘very low gluten’. There aren’t any foods currently labelled ‘very low gluten’ in the UK ~ Coeliac UK
As far as coeliacs are concerned, we have to stick to no gluten, not low gluten, so I quizzed the waitress at length about what was going on. She was exceedingly happy to help and it transpired that in fact, they are referring to the possibility of cross contamination (cc) in the kitchen and not the amount of gluten in the bread (I asked to see the packaging). For some coeliacs, cc is a real worry, but, personally, I am fairly relaxed about it (too relaxed?). The Australian Coeliac Society has some very good info here http://www.coeliac.org.au/cross-contamination/ and they point out that,
…..as little as 50mg gluten (equivalent to 1/100th of a slice of standard wheat bread) can damage the small intestine of a person with coeliac disease.
Getting here on the plane was interesting. Airplane food is seriously lagging behind for coeliacs, so I got the ubiquitous couple of slices of melon followed by 2 rice cakes and jam. I ended up eating a bowl of nuts to supplement the meals. I have a feeling that often the gf airplane meal is also dairy free (and maybe kosher as well?) so it is a very, very long way from exciting. Oh well, it makes arriving in the destination that bit more exciting. Especially when your sister-in-law has made a beautiful gf orange cake. Yum.
Concerned about cc? Let me know what your experiences are.
Annie Bee x
Other posts on being a coeliac: https://anniebeebuzz.com/2015/05/03/coeliac-disease-too-many-misdiagnoses-and-superfluous-surgeries/