Dining out can be a minefield for those with coeliac disease. As menus change to accommodate growing dietary requirements, so too does the dissent against what some people call a ‘lifestyle’ choice. Some businesses even refuse to allow menu changes for certain allergies.
For those who suffer from coeliac disease, even small amounts of gluten can pose adverse side effects. Coeliac disease affects the intestines when gluten causes an allergic reaction, damaging the digestive system. The long term side effects of coeliac disease include: bowel cancer, possible fertility issues and autoimmune issues.
So are we taking it seriously enough?
The Marsden Brewhouse was in trouble before it even opened. After releasing its menu online – and stipulating ‘no menu alterations’ – the angry comments came rolling in. The backlash from the post was swift, including from Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia CEO, Maria Said. The business has since backflipped on the menu policy and points out the gluten-free options on the menu.
People with coeliac disease can become quite ill after experiencing a reaction. And given the life sentence that is coeliac disease, diets must be strictly managed.
There’s recent evidence to suggest that some menu items being offered as gluten-free actually are not. Health officials in Melbourne conducted surprise visits to businesses in 2018, taking samples of food, and publishing the disheartening results in the Medical Journal of Australia. The tests found one in 11 samples contained, or were contaminated with gluten.
Lifestyle vs diagnosis
For coeliac sufferers, a gluten-free diet is a must. Given that even a bread crumb can contaminate a meal, separate utensils, cleaned surfaces, and untainted ingredients are all required for making a truly gluten-free meal.
But the growing trend of adopting a gluten free diet has hamstrung the cause for those who are acutely allergic to gluten. Jane Davies of Coeliac Victoria and Tasmania says people who go gluten-free as a choice undermine the efforts restaurants and cafes go to in order to deliver completely gluten-free food for coeliacs.
Unfortunately, a big effort by a few is being undermined by naysayers and less-than-diligent hospitality businesses. Yes, there are some restaurants out there not taking gluten-free seriously. But it’s a two-way street – the public also needs to take gluten intolerance more seriously