“It’s estimated that 8.5 million people in the UK have now gone “gluten free” and it’s a very fast-growing section of the supermarket with an expanding (and expensive) range of gluten-free alternative foods on sale.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37292174)
Food intolerances can very debilitating to those who suffer from them. Take gluten intolerance, for example. It can cause a variety of uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous symptoms. The incidence of gluten-related medical problems is uncertain. It may be as high as 1 in a 100 people according to one source (https://glutenintoleranceschool.com/gluten-intolerance-statistics/#2), or, possibly not nearly so high. A study published in 2015 (Digestion, 2015;92(1):8-13) found that 86% of patients complaining that they had non-coeliac gluten sensitivity were found to have neither Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity, nor Coeliac Disease, nor Wheat Allergy. Whatever the actual figures may be, it is estimated that the incidence of Coeliac Disease in the UK is 1 in 100.
To summarise, the greater majority of people in the UK are unlikely to be intolerant to gluten. You may wonder why I am ‘going on’ about gluten intolerance in this blog. Well here is the reason.
Recently, I visited the superb William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow in north London. It has a beautiful cafeteria overlooking the extensive gardens behind the lovely house where William Morris once lived. I was looking forward to having a hot beverage with a cake or pastry. When I looked at what was on offer, I was surprised. All of the cakes and pastries were labelled as being ‘gluten free’ The only gluten containing item on offer was an unexciting looking scone. I tried a gluten free orange polenta cake, which was just about acceptable.
Afterwards, I wondered why the majority of the baked goods on offer were gluten free when most of the public in the UK are not gluten intolerant. Is there an abnormally high incidence of gluten intolerance in Walthamstow, or does this lovely place attract a large number of visitors who believe themselves to be gluten intolerant without having taken the trouble to have medical tests to confirm or dispel their beliefs?