Don’t fall for Free From fraud

June 9, 2017 8:46 am Published by Leave your thoughts

There’s a really interesting blog/article/rant on the Rude Health website at the moment, written by Naomi Devlin, the resident gluten-free chef and expert at River Cottage. Entitled ‘The Free From Fraud’, it takes a good, measured look at the growth in gluten- and dairy-free products on supermarket shelves. It might be of interest to many of our customers, particularly as the NHS starts to insist that ‘free from’ patients take responsibility for their own gluten-free shopping, rather than receiving products on prescription. You can see the article here.

We explore Naomi Devlin's take on free from fraud.

Gluten-free food? What’s the fraud?

The Free From Fraud

Naomi is a great champion of ‘free from’ food, particularly gluten-free food. We’ve written a lot about her recipes and views, most recently, taken from her book River Cottage gluten-free. We’re perhaps not strictly impartial, as she names us as one of her specialist suppliers in the book, but there again, we’re not aiming for impartiality! We’re happy to say that we fully support her ideas. We recognise the necessity of eating gluten-free for coeliacs and others who find gluten hard to digest – and we support the idea of everyone widening their diets beyond their usual foodstuffs. There are so many wonderful grains out there that relying solely on wheat is silly – and boring.

Naomi takes her views one step further in this article. She’s not happy with the state of some of the ‘alternative’ foodstuffs that find their way onto supermarket shelves.

‘Many people are delighted with the increasingly wide range of products available for those who need, (or choose) to go without gluten, dairy and sugar, but looks can be deceiving and those products are often highly processed and full of junk.’

The ingredients labels can tell a very disturbing story. While a product may ‘look the part’, it can turn out to be ‘a far cry from the real stuff’. You’ll find a lengthy list of ‘modified starches, damaged fats, caramel, colourings, preservatives, humectants and emulsifiers’.

She explains why this is such a problem.

‘Many of the modified ingredients can cause inflammation in the body; resulting in symptoms such as an over-active immune system, allergies, food intolerances, joint pain and ultimately chronic disease. Of course, the odd bit of junk food doesn’t do anyone any harm, but people are eating ever-greater quantities of these foods as the choices expand.

Free from fraud: Junk Food?

Manufacturers use emulsifiers to provide the familiar ‘mouth feel’ of gluten and dairy, yet their effects on our bodies are little understood. The most worrying type of emulsifiers are; carrageenan, gellan gum and hydroxymethylcellulose (HMC), commonly found in free-from milks, coconut milk and dairy free ice creams. These emulsifiers appear to cause the fine mesh of cells lining our guts to open up a little more than they ordinarily would, making the gut walls more porous; something that is not such an issue if it happens occasionally, but can become a real problem if it occurs every time you drink a cup of tea or eat a slice of toast.

A porous or leaky gut can cause auto immune reactions to food particles that are not broken down by the time they reach the blood stream, resulting in allergies, chronic fatigue and unexplained pain. When you consider that the people choosing these foods often start with poor digestion and slightly porous guts, the fact this is exacerbated by the food they are encouraged to eat by their GP or well-meaning nutritionist is almost tragic.’

What’s honestly good to eat?

Of course, it’s no good just telling people what NOT to eat – and Naomi doesn’t stop there. She notes various brands (Rude Health and Provamel, for example – all of which we stock), which only use natural, proper ingredients. She notes that all you really need is a cookery book: many cuisines, such as Japanese and Middle Eastern (or the British roast dinner) are inherently gluten-free anyway.

Rude Health make sure their products are as nutritious as possible.

Look out for gluten-free products that are clean and natural.

So take Naomi’s advice and stay away from ‘cleverly packaged imposters’! But do look out for the real thing – including our range of gluten-free ingredients here, and our dairy-free milks here, to enable you to be free from food fraud rather than a food fraud victim! And look out too for Naomi’s next book, Food for a Happy Gut, published in spring 2017.



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This post was written by Yzanne

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