Caterers and restaurants have been urged to improve the provision of gluten-free meals after a charity warned that people with coeliac disease are poorly served in UK establishments.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease for which the only treatment is a lifelong strict gluten-free diet.
Although diagnosis rates of coeliac disease are currently low, the potential catering market share of people with the condition is 660,000 - or one in 100 of the UK population.
But research of around 1,000 members of charity Coeliac UK revealed that 67% were less likely to eat out after they had been diagnosed because of the difficulties in finding safe gluten-free options.
The charity is today launching a new campaign, Food Without Fear - backed by the Hospital Catering Association (HCA) - for the improved provision of across both the public sector and commercial catering industries.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, said: "The gluten-free diet is necessary to avoid the serious complications of coeliac disease such as infertility problems, bowel cancer and osteoporosis.
"And yet, even where people should feel safe, such as in hospital or school, getting a gluten-free meal can be very difficult, which is why we are pleased to have begun working with the HCA to turn around this serious problem. We hope this work will show the way to the rest of the catering industry."
During May, Coeliac UK is:
- Running a UK-wide recipe competition for chefs of all levels of experience to create an innovative gluten-free dish to be judged by celebrity chef Giorgio Locatelli.
- Lobbying politicians in Westminster and Scotland to highlight the problems faced by people with coeliac disease when they eat-out either for pleasure or necessity.
- Challenging restaurants and catering establishments to offer gluten-free meals.
Earlier this week, pub operator JD Wetherspoon announced the launch of gluten-free products on its menu, winning praise from Coeliac UK.
By Daniel Thomas
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