Cracker Pack 2019

Catering for Coeliac disease

According to Allergy UK, up to 20 per cent of the population now believe they have a food allergy or intolerance. With eating out, especially at this time of the year, high on the agenda, do your menus offer enough alternative choices or could failing to cater for special diets be costing you dear?

It may be hard to swallow in these tough economic times but right now, you could be missing out on your share of an annual £100 million.

This is the estimated figure at which charity Coeliac UK, a support organisation for people with coeliac disease, value the untapped restaurant spend of its members.

Coeliac disease is not actually a food allergy or intolerance but rather an autoimmune disease that flares up when those with the condition eat anything containing gluten. Gluten is a protein found in three types of cereals – wheat, barley and rye. For the estimated one in 100 Brits Coeliac UK says are affected by coeliac disease, pasta, pizza, beer, cake, bread, sauces, sausages and a host of other foodstuffs are off the menu because there is no cure for the condition. Its symptoms of diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss, bloating and constant fatigue, as well as its more severe possible complications, are treatable only by switching to a gluten-free diet and that, according to the charity, makes eating out such a big problem most of its members don’t even bother to try anymore.

Add to people with coeliac disease those with allergies or intolerances to peanuts and nuts, wheat, milk (lactose), eggs, shellfish, fish, soya, celery, mustard and sesame seeds as the other most common allergens and it really does give rise to some serious food for thought. Catering for people you don’t know is a huge responsibility but making your food more palatable to more people may also be a massive business opportunity.

Food Allergy– or Food Intolerance?

How to Tell the Difference


  • Symptoms come on suddenly within seconds/minutes of eating the food.
  • In extreme cases, can be life threatening
  • Even a tiny trace of the food can cause a reaction.
  • Easily diagnosable with tests

Some common symptoms include:

  • an itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears
  • raised itchy red skin rash
  • swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue and the roof of the mouth


  • Symptoms tend to come on more slowly and are longer lasting. They mainly involve the digestive system.
  • Never life threatening.
  • A reasonable portion of the food is needed to cause a reaction although some people can be sensitive to smaller portions.
  • Those with the intolerance may crave the food to which they are intolerant.
  • Difficult to diagnose.

Catering for those on Gluten-free and other Special Diets

  • Fairway family member Hensons Foodservice sells only gluten-free burgers, having earlier this year removed the rusk (a wheat product) from its burger recipe. Check with your meat supplier that the burgers and sausages you buy are gluten-free.
  • Coeliac UK offers online catering courses leading to an accreditation, which enables you to display its gluten-free logo and be listed as one of its recommended restaurants. For further details, log on to
  • Last month, both Domino and Pizza Hut launched gluten-free pizzas. Look at adapting your most popular dishes by switching to maize flour, potato flour, rice flour and other alternatives, which are increasingly more widely available.
  • Use your menu to highlight your allergy awareness profile by marking dishes that contain ingredients such as mustard and other possible allergens that may not be immediately apparent to the general public.
  • Use your menu to highlight your offering of dishes that come under special dietary requirements. It’s not really any different to highlighting your vegetarian options.

Karen’s Currying Favour

Childminder Karen Northrop was diagnosed as suffering from coeliac disease in October last year. Says Karen, who lives in Huddersfield: “I’d experienced bloating and tummy problems for about 12 years. I then started to lose weight.

“I was frightened I had cancer so when coeliac disease was diagnosed, it was quite a relief. A number of my relations have the condition, including my daughter Rachael.”

Continues Karen: “Rachael was born a healthy, 8lb plus baby. When I started to wean her, she began losing weight. At 18 months, she weighed only 17lbs. My husband and I were terrified that she had something really majorly wrong with her. I broke down at the doctor’s and we were referred to a paediatrician, who recognised coeliac disease.

“When she was little, Rachael had to take her own food to parties, which I know used to upset her. Eating at home was fine because you quickly learn to adapt but we never ate out until more recently. Rachael is almost 19 now and like her father and I, enjoys a good curry. A lot of Indian food is gluten-free. There’s also a restaurant called The Lemon Tree in Honley which is very helpful.” Adds Karen: “Over the years, supermarkets have started to sell more gluten-free products. It would be good for more restaurants to follow their lead.”

For further information and recipes to help you cater for those with food allergies and intolerances, visit: The Anaphylaxis Campaign,, Allergy UK,, Food Standards Agency, and Coeliac UK,

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