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Help needed from Mumsnet members please for Coeliacs

(3 Posts)
debsam Wed 29-Jun-11 20:43:36

My name is Debra and I am a member of the Leeds Coeliac Group. Matthew, my 14 year old son, was diagnosed with Coeliac's Disease when he was 7. For those of you who don't know what Coeliac's Disease is, it is the inability to process gluten - and so he has been unable to eat anything which contains gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and, to some extent, oats, since then. Whilst, thank G-d, not a life-threatening problem, it is a life-changing disease, requiring scrupulous checking of all ingredients on almost every food.

As a family, we have adapted - we have had to! No popping into a sandwich shop when we're out on a day trip - all trips have to be planned in advance to see where there are cafés etc which cater for and understand the rigours of gluten-free. Cross-contamination becomes a mantra - a simple mistake of using the wrong butter knife (i.e. one which has been used to butter a normal piece of bread) and Matthew is severely ill for days.

As Matthew grows up, he is subject to all of the problems and worries of normal teenagers - especially that of fitting in. He is unable to join his friends when they have meals at his local Youth Club - both because of the problems of cross-contamination and also because of the difficulties of finding Kosher gluten-free food as we are Jewish. However, there is one single thing that makes him feel totally normal, like any other teenager. He can buy it almost anywhere - from a train buffet, from his Youth Club, from almost every local corner shop - it is ubiquitous - and it is Kosher to boot! What is this wonder food? Walkers Crisps.

However, the law on food labelling is changing in 2012 and Walkers have decided that they are unable to test to the new limits required by the label 'Gluten-Free'. Currently, a product can be labelled 'Suitable for Coeliacs' if it contains no more than 200 parts per million of gluten. The new requirements mean that products can only be labelled gluten-free if it has 20 parts per million of gluten. There is no legal requirement for Walkers to test to that level. As a business, they have decided that it is either not cost-effective or not technologically possible to test to that level. We don't know which - whether it is a decision based on finances or technology. The UK organisation which campaigns for Coeliacs - Coeliac UK - have tried to speak to Walkers but Walkers are not responding to any of their advances, not even to say 'Get lost'!

I too have spoken to Walkers Customer Services and their response was 'Yes, we've had a lot of calls from Coeliacs. No, the product will no longer be labelled as suitable for Coeliacs. Sorry.'. And so, I have taken it upon myself to start a Facebook Group - Bring back Gluten-Free Walkers Crisps - I am hoping that if the numbers of friends on this group is large enough, Walkers might just take notice. The statistics are that 1 in 100 people in the UK has Coeliac's Disease even if they don't know they have it. If we get even a small percentage of those with Coeliac's joining the campaign, it will have to give Walkers cause to pause for thought - I mean, I'm sure that they won't like to lose that many customers.

I would like to get the knowledge of this Facebook group out to as many people as possible. So please help us by joining the group and asking all your friends to join too.

Thank you


Danthe4th Wed 29-Jun-11 20:54:12

I'm coeliac and can only eat the plain walkers crisps but will continue as I presume they will still be ok as they only contain potato, oil and salt and they will still be made the same. I can't eat quite a few of the foods that are labelled suitable for coeliacs but I know the food I can eat and will continue. I will see if the new labelling makes any difference to me I suspect not as I will carry on checking labels and being aware of the preparation etc. When I'm out and about I always go to m&s foods so I will be interested on what they are going to do about the new testing limits. Good luck with your campaign for your son.

Frenchfoodie Thu 30-Jun-11 18:36:51

Hi Debra,
It is a good idea to spread the word and educate people on this problem. If you go to my 'favourites' page you will see some links to websites that are good on this subject. Perhaps they can help you in some way. I am sure the info would also help people food with recipes too.

Good luck.

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