Coeliac UK Torbay Group Food Fair, 6th September

31 Aug

The Torbay Coeliac Voluntary Support Group are having a gluten free food fair next Saturday 6th September from 10am to 2:30pm.  The event is being held at the Riviera International Conference centre, Chestnut Avenue, Torquay – which was the venue for last years successful event.  Exhibitors include national brands such as Juvela, Glutafin and Warburtons and a host of local companies such as Jackson’s Bakery, Kay’s Cakes and Born to Bake.  There will be plenty of free tasters, goodie bags, dietitians from Coeliac UK and Kids Korner.

Torbay Food Fair

I visited last years Torbay food fair and it was well worth a visit.  I believe that last year’s event was so successful that the event has been moved to a bigger hall this year.  I wish Torbay Group Organiser Wendy Smeaton and her team another very successful day!  Below is a photo of Wendy and I at last years event.

wendy and kev

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea.

Fun Day Out at Mount Edgcumbe – September 14th

28 Jul

Please see the details below of the upcoming Coeliac UK Plymouth Group event that will be held in conjunction with the Mount Edgcumbe local produce market on Sunday September 10th. Please note that the market itself is not organised by the Coeliac UK Plymouth Group so will not be entirely gluten free, but all traders are aware of the coeliac event and will be ensuring they have gluten free options where possible.  This is a re-arranged event following the postponement of the August due to severe weather conditions.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

Plymouth

When

14 September 2014

11am till 2pm, with many activities to enjoy on your own following the group activities

Where

Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park
Cremyll
Torpoint
Cornwall
PL10 1HZ

Details

The Coeliac UK Plymouth Group invite you to join us for a tour of Mount Edgcumbe House on Sunday September 14th.  The standard ticket price is £7.20, but we have negotiated a special price of £3 for members and their guests.  We ask you to meet us for registration at 11am for 11.30 entry. Tea and Coffee will be available upon arrival as will samples of gluten free cake and savoury items. The house takes about 1.5 hours to explore.

All members and guests must register in advance, stating name and email address, or phone number. This is then to be checked off on the day. Any members needing assistance between the Cremyll Ferry and the house to notify us upon initial registration so we can ensure golf buggies are available. Meeting point for the buggy is at the lower gate to the park. Please be patient as once the buggies are full we will be back until everyone has been picked up.  Please email coeliac.plymouth@gmail.com to register by completing and returning this form; money will be collected on the day.  If you have any problems finding us on the day please visit the Let Them Eat Cake stall at the produce market where someone will be able to direct you or call 07743 792368.

After your time looking around the house please reconvene back at the Earls Garden for more refreshments, and a wonder around the produce market.  Those not wishing to take part in the house tour are welcome to meet us in the Earls Garden from 1pm to enjoy refreshments, where committee members will be available to give advice and answer any queries.

The market is a monthly event, showcasing the finest produce from within the Tamar Valley. Every trader at this market has been fully briefed on our event and all are putting a great deal of thought and effort into their offer for you.

You will be able to purchase goodies such as gluten free sausages, chilli jam, thai green curry, cider, apple juice, honey, fresh flowers, fresh Tamar Valley fruit and veg, jam, cake, pasties, pies, sausage rolls, bread (that doesn’t break down when you make a sandwich), everything you could need for a picnic, Sunday supper, or to fill the freezer.

Please be aware that the market is not being organised by the Coeliac UK Plymouth group, so do check with traders to ensure any purchases are gluten free.  There will of course be produce available for our non-gluten free family so please be careful.

After this please take the time to enjoy the stables courtyard where you can find weaving and whittling workshops, an up cycled store, art, spa treatments, new children play area, frisbee golf and segway.

This is a day out for all of the family, so please do bring them along and if the weather stays like this we will have the most wonderful time.

Pret A Manger “Gluten Free” Wrap

21 Jul

Some of you may have seen recently that Pret A Manger have joined the gluten-free bandwagon by launching their own “gluten free” wrap.  However, the eagled eyed amongst you will notice the small print that states “While the ingredients of this product are gluten-free, it has been made in our kitchens which are not gluten-free environments”.  Pret stated on Twitter that they use cross contamination controls, so I asked them what they were.  Oddly they emailed me to ask if this was for “business purposes” which I soon set them straight on, but I’ve now finally managed to get a reply:

pret wrap“The gluten free wrap is made with no gluten ingredients (the wrap itself is gluten free), but we can’t call it gluten-free because of the risk of cross contamination. As it is made on site every day, and not in a segregated room in a factory, we can’t guarantee ‹20ppm. (this would mean putting the product on hold, send it out to a lab for testing and then release it once the results were available. We don’t carry sandwiches over, so wouldn’t be able to retain stock for analysis and wait for the results.

There are strict health and safety standards in place in our kitchens. Team Members need to thoroughly clean their benches and equipment before starting a new batch of sandwiches, and ensure that previous used ingredients are put back tin the fridge/cupboard. But this still doesn’t guarantee gluten-free. Also, sandwiches are made throughout the day for availability of fresh product. The same product is made several time throughout the day. Production is not limited to one batch, so again, we can’t guarantee no contamination.”

Interestingly the product name on the website is “Mexican Guacamole Wrap” and makes no mention of gluten free.  However it then states underneath “does not contain gluten”, with then further small print saying they cannot guarantee completely free from any allergen.  The product is described in store as a “New gluten-free tortilla wrap”.  Clear enough?  Personally my initial reaction is to avoid this one, as the cross contamination controls just sounds like basic hygiene rather than anything to avoid gluten cross contamination.

I posted this on Facebook the other day, and some were in agreement that they would avoid and a few said they would be happy to give it a go.  There was one particular comment from Carly Talbot of Gluten Free B that was very thought provoking:

Odd one- they surely aren’t technically correct as the likes of Dominoes etc can call their product ‘gluten free’ without testing every batch, based on the controls they use. Perhaps they should be looking for Coeliac UK accreditation for their process and training.

Also, are we guilty of holding Pret to a standard we wouldn’t hold other restaurants e.g. independents to if they also served GF bread?

Carly’s first point is of course correct, if Pret had engaged with Coeliac UK to gain official accreditation they could have indeed labelled their wraps gluten free.  To do this they would have to demonstrate that clear and documented cross contamination controls were in place along with staff training.  I had mentioned in my emails to Pret that I was surprised that a company of their size had not worked with Coeliac UK when rolling out a gluten free option, unfortunately they did not reply to this point.

Moving on to Carly’s second point and that’s a really interesting one.  Rightly or wrongly I do expect more of a large chain.  They have the resources to ensure they have responsible allergen processes in place, and if they don’t have confidence to put procedures in place on-site could have brought in a wrap prepared off-site.  One of the main differences to me between a chain and an independent is the point of contact.  If I email an independent restaurant I generally get emailed back by the manager, chef or owner detailing exactly what they do (or don’t!) do to prevent cross contamination.  If I’ve contacted the customer services team of a large chain I expect some sort of standard reply.  Pret initially didn’t seem to know what I was talking about, and took a week to come back with essentially “we wash hands, counter and put stuff back in the fridge”.  No mention of separate utensils and nothing to inspire confidence, and as a coeliac confidence is what I need to enjoy food when eating out.

It is of course welcome to see more and more companies offering a gluten free option, but this one just makes me a little uneasy.  Am I being too harsh?  I am genuinely keen for your feedback on this one, and I’d really love you to comment below with your opinions or if you’ve tried the wrap.  Coeliac UK have also said they are going to look into this one so I will be interested in their response too.  I’ll be sticking to the Costa gluten free wrap for now, which is certified gluten free.  I hope I’m wrong about the Pret offering but it just goes to show that it’s the confidence gained from the first point of contact that dictates if we eat somewhere as a coeliac.

Thanks also to Sarah from the Wuthering Bites blog for the photo.

UPDATE 08/08/14: Following comments on this blog I asked Pret to clarify if other items such as salads and soups were subject to the same cross contamination risks as the wrap.  Their reply below.

I would like to explain that everything made in our kitchen does not contain gluten ingredients ie salads. Items which do not go into the kitchen such as soups, popcorn bars are definitely gluten free and not at risk of cross contamination. So we only say gluten free on the items which are not at risk. I have confirmed with our food team that there is indeed a slight risk of cross contamination for our salads.

UPDATE 15/08/14: I’ve also had some comment back from Coeliac UK via Twitter:

We’re discussing kitchen processes with Pret who are very anxious to avoid confusion and want to provide suitable options for customers.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

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