Dear Mr Little
The gluten-intolerant community of New Zealand thanks you for your interesting and obviously well-researched opinion piece in the Sunday Herald, January 13th 2013. It is comforting to know that because my gluten-intolerance is not life-threatening, it is therefore not something I should mention when ordering food, for fear of being considered high-maintenance. I will also inform my bank balance that my gluten-intolerance is a “cost-effective” way of making myself feel special. Perhaps you could also alert manufacturers of gluten-free food of this fact as well, so that I am not forced to pay 50-400% more for gluten-free products than I would for those containing gluten ($7.89 for a small loaf of bread anyone?). I also appreciate knowing that my “acquired allergy” does not require the purchase of expensive equipment or an arduous course of study. I must have been mistaken about learning to cook all over again using products which do not contain gluten. Please also let the supermarkets know that it is no longer necessary for them to group gluten-free items together to make it easier for me to shop, because I have the extra time available to me to walk the aisles looking for the products hidden away amongst the normal items.
You do pay lip service to those genuine sufferers in the last sentence of your
diatribe article by referring to “…the much smaller number of people whose lives are made a misery by truly severe cases” and for that I thank you. However, as someone only suffering from gluten-intolerance, I fall squarely into the category of the rest of the people you refer to in your article. Yes I can eat gluten. No, it does not make me fart (well, no more than any other food) – it causes me to have eczema. It was diagnosed by a blood test, so I guess I don’t fall into your “self-diagnosed” camp, but actually, I was one of the lucky ones whose doctor authorised the blood test. The rest of us have to eliminate food groups one at a time to determine what causes the dietary issues we’re having. Oh wait, so we’ve self-diagnosed by going without a certain food for 3-6 months – apparently a scientific method, as it’s what the medical professionals recommend as the best course of action for identifying food allergies.
As someone who is gluten-intolerant, I appreciate and patronise those establishments who make an effort to cater for me. I will also continue to ask the wait staff whether there is anything gluten-free on their menu – no matter how uncomfortable it makes me when I feel I am coming across as a high-maintenance diner. I am one of the lucky ones – if I do inadvertently eat gluten, I am not made ill by it. However the number of people who are coeliac and who do suffer from even one mouthful of gluten-filled food -not just in feeling ill – and farting more- but in the damage it does to their intestines – MUST ask these questions to maintain their level of health.
I appreciate that your article is an opinion piece, and may even be a satiric opinion piece, but for those of us who are gluten-intolerant, it was unwelcome, ill-informed and a long way from entertaining. Food allergy is a real complaint and differs from fad diets, and trust me, it is not something that anyone would choose. As to gluten-intolerance being a new complaint, this is because of the new strains of wheat and the fact that we do not eat the way we used to 50 years ago.
Please do browse my blog, read my experiences, and then click a few of the links to blogs of those who are far more serious sufferers than I am to get a more balanced view on your article.
Wishing you all the best in your own dietary endeavours, and hoping that you are never diagnosed with any kind of food allergy.
I have emailed the text of this to Paul Little, the editor of the Herald, the editor of the Herald on Sunday and the online editor of the Herald. Will keep you posted as to whether I get a response!