The Importance Of Food Packaging To Coeliacs

I am that woman you see at the supermarket who looks like she has all the time in the world, reading the backs of foodstuffs, with seemingly nothing better to do. And as I am the resident Fridge Fairy here at Bee HQ, 90% of the time it is me who does the food shopping for the family. They know me so well at my local Sainsbury’s most of the staff and I are on first name terms.

I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease (CD) about 12 years ago, and within the last 2 years, one of the Baby Bees has developed a lactose intolerance. Add to that the usual likes and dislikes of an average family, and you have quite a specialist job on your hands (~ where is my job spec? when is my next pay rise and what about my pension?).

As a coeliac, I have to avoid gluten in my diet; gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people also react to a similar protein found in oats (I do unfortunately ~ I miss you, flapjacks). So the most obvious list of things to avoid include

  • bread
  • pasta
  • breakfast cereals
  • flour
  • pastry
  • pizza bases
  • cakes
  • biscuits.

But gluten can be hidden in the most unlikely foods, such as ice-cream (where wheat is used as a thickener) and on frozen chips. My point is that reading labels (food and drink) and understanding what to look for, has been a bit of an education over the years, but I have now got it down to a fine art. I check just about every single thing that goes in the trolley, which is perhaps a bit over the top (although, maddeningly, ingredients do change every now and again on products which used to be GF) but rather that than be ill for days and risk bringing on symptoms which can include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea,  constipation, tiredness, mouth ulcers, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), hair loss and anaemia. (Yes, CD is a laugh a minute). I feel I should add that my family are also very good at checking labelling.

Thankfully the laws governing labelling in the UK are both clear and helpful. If a product contains any of the following allergens the manufacturer must say so clearly on the label, and list them in the ingredients:

  • celery
  • cereals containing gluten – including wheat, rye, barley and oats
  • crustaceans – including prawns, crab and lobster
  • eggs
  • fish
  • lupin
  • milk
  • molluscs – including squid, mussels, cockles, whelks and snails
  • mustard
  • nuts
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • soya beans
  • sulphur dioxide or sulphites at levels above 10mg per kilogram or per litre

So imagine my delight when I very occasionally come across a food label which makes me smile. This barcode is a current favourite, found on the lactose free milk I buy:

Arla Lactofree milk barcode

There are some other examples, though not enough. I think the more the merrier ~ we coeliacs need as much fun and entertainment as we can get, and we don’t care where it comes from, even the supermarket aisles.Barcode design barcode 2

Mic's Chilli Sauce

Have a look out for any eccentric barcodes or food labels and send them through.

Happy hunting

Annie Bee x

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