The State of Gluten-Free reporting from sunny Cyprus


People before profit.jpggrapes.JPG

On my 2nd  Anniversary of going gluten-free I feel a need to reflect on the state of how things have changed in the gluten-free world. It’s a long posting so make yourself comfortable.

I recently read Caitlin Moran’s Book, How to Be a Woman.  Rather late to the party on this one, but having heard a lot of chatter about it, I thought it was about time that I parked my prejudices and read it for myself. (that's not her book by the way, that is the cover of  People Before Profit by the incredible Bob of Bob's Red Mill).

Back to Caitlin Moran.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes in parts, I laughed out loud and I definitely connected with some of the points she raised.   The bit about fashion and how we have to make do with what High Street Shops sell for us ladies of a certain age had me applauding.  Her humour and wit, really kept it going and I liked she could stir emotions and actions on a subject that previously left me feeling at most blaze.

I wasn’t that keen on all the CAPS and the lists (although, I may borrow the list technique as it makes things easier to read and digest quickly) and I’m trying out the CAPS for EFFECT, even though they make me wince.  I wasn’t keen on all the bad language either. It gets on my nerves especially since one of her central points is about being POLITE.   I agree with this.  Why can’t people go back to being polite?  And thoughtful? And thinking about others?

The bit I really did like is the way she’s made being a feminist a mass market thing.  Getting ordinary women without a particular axe to grind to stand on chairs and shout I AM A FEMINIST…..made me think about how this could work for Gluten-Free. Seriously? I hear you gasp.  Well, yes, because it’s time we took a good hard look at this gluten-free thing and sorted out some of the issues.

Not a day goes by when a friend or a parent or my own daughter tells me about someone who has gone gluten-free.  Yeah I think.  There are now more of us and there is strength in numbers. 

The media circus is all over it telling us endlessly about the benefits a gluten-free diet can bring.  It seems the whole world is now a) aware of gluten b) wants to switch to a gluten-free diet.  But the reality is:

1. Lots of people really don’t know what gluten-free means. Can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been invited to have a gluten-free lunch or dinner and been served couscous.  Or been told, this spelt bread is fine, honestly.  It’s completely gluten-free.  No it’s not! 

2. Lots of manufacturers are cashing in on this craze. They continue to make food that is bad for us, but they are taking out the gluten.  In a way, I’m okay with this if it makes being gluten-free more accessible.  But, I think this accessibility comes at a price for those who really need to be gluten-free. The wishy washy labelling is completely meaningless and creates confusion rather than clarity.

3. Going gluten-free and then eating a load of rubbish isn’t going to make you one iota healthier.  Sadly many of the free from food on our supermarket shelves continues to be of questionable quality and offer little in the form of good nutrition.  Things are changing and lots of small companies out there are going the extra mile and bringing us good gluten-free food, but more needs to be done.

4. Getting approval to have a gluten-free label on your products costs a lot of money. Why is it that it’s mostly large companies with big budgets who can afford to wear the gluten-free badge of honour whilst small companies with products which don’t contain gluten aren’t allowed to market themselves as gluten-free? I know this is about protecting the consumer, but it’s all gone a bit bonkers.  There is too much red tape, too much money being exchanged and not enough transparency or clarity on labels.  It drives me insane when I pick up a pack of taco shells, made of corn and sunflower oil and then read that there may be traces of gluten.  Huh?  Have a look at what’s on the gluten-free shelves at the moment.  It’s mostly large brands with products containing loads of unpronounceable ingredients and additives not to mention loads of sugar, salt and fat.  The list of additives is beyond shocking, it’s almost criminal.  And if they tasted amazing I’d say, okay, go for it.  But they taste like something you would use to insulate your loft with. If you are new to gluten free, the best advice I can give you is cook from scratch, learn to bake and use some of that money you save on lousy supermarket gf bread and splash out on a specialist gluten free cookery class.

5. Eating out and on the go food continues to be problematic.  Big problem here is that a lot of the money on making gluten-free food is going not on good natural unprocessed foods which happen to be gluten-free but on complying with gluten-free allergy legislation, avoiding cross contamination and developing products which let’s be frank really are not meant to be gluten-free.   I’m on board with all the health and safety stuff and completely salute the work done to ensure food is safe for coeliacs.  However when it comes to actually eating that gluten-free pizza,  I get a little disappointed when the base tastes like sweet cardboard. It’s fantastic that we have a choice of where to go for a gluten-free meal but it would be nice if the same thought and attention was given to the food.  On the other hand (yes Pret, I’m looking at you) if you do go to all that trouble, then make sure you can provide safe gluten-free food that even Coeliac’s can eat.    

NB. I read a few days ago on Twitter about Pret’s new GF Wrap.  This has been in development for years and guess what folks, it’s not suitable for coeliac’s because they can’t guarantee it’s gluten-free.  Is this insane? We are talking about a large company with outlets all over the world who can’t make a gluten-free wrap safe for those who need it to be gluten-free.   What’s that all about?

A few months ago I had a similar discussion with someone at EAT who also told me that it was impossible for them to guarantee any of their salad dressings or food for that matter was 100% gluten-free.  The reasons for this is to do with cross contamination and because they do lots of assembling and making of things in each outlet, so the risk is too high.  I practically pleaded with them to let me come in and talk to them about how they could make this work and the answer was, nope, we’ve got it covered.  Okay- well done you.  I look forward to seeing what you come up with, and hopefully it won’t be the same as Pret’s gluten-free (not suitable for gluten intolerant people) wrap. 

For many Coeliac’s taking risks is part of everyday life.  They shouldn’t have to take risks like this and companies should not be encouraging them to do so. And yes big company you are encouraging them to take risks, because if I’m a coeliac and I’m hungry and I see a wrap on your shelf that says I’m sort of gluten-free, then I may  take that risk.  Ultimately it is the person buying that gf wrap or sandwich who makes the choice of course, but it seems that corporations such as Pret are more interested in taking the money then they are in our well-being, despite what the poster says.  They also are scared of litigation.   I get that, but I think with a little more thought and a bit more involvement from the GF community this can be made to work for all concerned.  We want a win win scenario and that’s not what we’ve got at the moment and we’ve got lots of angry gluten intolerants out there who want and deserve better.

To be fair Pret have been on twitter and have said they are looking into the situation.  Thanks Kevin Gollop of for bringing this to our attention and for being so wonderfully polite about the whole thing.  Please read Kevin’s blog about the GF Pret Wrap.

And even better news, this afternoon, Leon Restaurants who serve lots of gluten-free food in their restaurants mentioned they may be looking to open a branch in Oxford.  That is really exciting. 

There are many exceptions where gluten-free food on a menu means just really good food that hasn’t been messed about.  Lots of countries get this right and from my terrace here in Stroumbi, let me tell you a little about the food in Cyprus.


melons 1.jpggreek salad.JPG


olivetreemontage.jpgcypriot breakfast.


Pictures from top right are melons on the go, a village salad, Cypriot breakfast and Andreas of The Olive Tree in Polemi, Cyprus.  Dosen't he look a lot like an older Yotam?




It’s not that difficult and yes you do have to ask awkward questions, but the food is simple, unprocessed, full of flavour and for the most part naturally gluten-free and here’s the best bit…. nothing is too much trouble.  That’s the key folks.  That’s how it should be.


When people take the time and are aware and really do their best, I feel gushingly proud to be part of a caring community who go the extra mile to help, not because it means more money in their pocket but because they want that person to feel included.  And keeping positive in the face of adversity is also a good plan.  If you find somewhere that’s doing things well please let others know about it.  Let’s recognise the ones who do it well.

popcorn shot.jpg


The good news is the trend is set to continue and whilst the faddy diet thing may die a death, the links with gluten and lots of other diseases and health issues are increasing.  Michelle Berriedale-Johnson from recently posted lots of interesting information on this very subject.  Please have a read this on

Also have a look at Alex Gazzola's blog foodallergyandintoleranceblogspot,   His latest blog Some things change, some stay the same makes great reading.  

Thanks for listening and hope to be back in touch soon.

Adriana x


Your rating: None