Is There Cheer In A Bottle Of Beer For A Coeliac?

It’s coming to that time of year when raising a glass of festive cheer becomes part of our regular social calendar. With Christmas only weeks away, staff parties and general get togethers are the norm until the overindulgent January slump hits our bellies and purses. What to drink, if you are fond of a tipple needs some careful consideration if you are one of the 600,000 people in Britain who suffer from coeliac disease.

The government has estimated that 1 in 5 Britons has some kind of food allergy or intolerance. Most beer contains gluten and according to The Independent on Sunday “about 40% of British ales contain wheat, an ingredient which helps to give a head of foam on the beer. CAMRA, The Campaign for Real Ale, are one of the largest organisers of Real Ale festivals in the UK. With over 200 annual events across Britain they have stipulated that they will only purchase beer that has every ingredient used to make it, clearly specified. They require that all allergen information is supplied so that anyone with a food intolerance can be sure of what they are consuming. Chief Executive Tim Page stated “that we want to ensure that all festival goers are 100% confident in the information they are given, and the only way to do that is to ensure we have the correct information at every step of the supply chain.

This programme undertaken by CAMRA comes as a reaction to the new EU rules that were implemented last year concerning the listing of allergens in food products. Of the 14 that are required to be noted, gluten was is one of these. The Food Standards Agency demand that gluten has to be listed on the ingredients label or if it is being sold from a pump, then the customer needs to be verbally warned or at least the allergens made clearly visible in writing for anyone to see. Knowing what ingredients are in a drink are just as important as what is in a food. Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK quantified this by adding “ as the increasingly availability of gluten free beers means that beer festivals are no longer off the menu for those with coeliac disease, a whole new consumer group could help boost interest in beer drinking” .

What has become known as the “free from” market could mean that various brewers will start to engage with a whole new audience by either producing gluten free ales or by using gluten free grains to create new brews. Where wheat intolerance causes, in many cases severe abdominal symptoms and other health issues, beer has been off the cocktail menu for many people. However according to ‘The Independent’ there are approximately 10 UK breweries who are now specialising in gluten free ale. It would appear that there is now a healthier alternative for “wanna be ale drinkers”, suffering from coeliac disease, so raising a glass of festive cheer has been made a little easier.

By Harry Price
Harry Price is a freelance writer living on the south coast,  He loves being outdoors and active.  Anything from sailing to rockclimbing, Running to Absailing – you will find him there with bells on!

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