|Warburtons new gluten and wheat free bread|
I had a highly amusing time on Friday (Jan 21st 2010) at the Warburtons product launch of their new gluten and wheat free range http://www.warburtons.co.uk/ . This was held in association with Phil Vickery Vickery.tv and the Coeliac UK Society http://www.coeliac.org.uk/ at a hotel in Covent Garden.
The first shock of the day was being presented with a tiered cake stand full of bacon sandwiches (Phil Vickery's own happy pigs), salmon twiddly things and a variety of other little savories. I know I was at the launch of a gluten free range, but it still took a lot of courage to even approach this food as I have had to refuse anything from a mixed display of this sort for nearly three years. This reaction wasn't what I expected, and is an interesting demonstration of how restricted my eating behaviours have become. Even when invited to a gf launch I still carried a stash of my own energy bars in my handbag.
The Warburtons range is made in a dedicated gluten and wheat free factory in Newcastle. I have had an invitation to go and look around it, so sometime I'll combine it with a visit to my sister in Scotland (Newcastle is 250 miles away, which is a long drive for the UK even if a mere jaunt for the USA or Australia).
They have made white and brown sliced loaves, fruited teacakes, crumpets and sub rolls. I did try several of these, and wrote a brief report for Foodstufffinds http://www.foodstufffinds.co.uk, who I was representing at the launch. I made french toast with some of the bread and found that it soaked up the moisture well, gave a crisp edge and a succulent middle with no weird textures.
|french toast made with Warburtons gluten free bread|
I did intend to buy the nearest competitors breads, Genius and Marks & Spencer's, and do a full product comparison. However, having eaten about four small slices of the bread and two small teacakes over a twenty four hour period I spent the next day maintaining close proximity to a toilet.
The major manufacturers all use xanthum / xanthan gum in their products to produce cohesion and elasticity in their gluten free ranges. This is well known to be a laxative, but they say the doses are small enough not to be a problem (the 'they' includes the Coeliac Society). I have never yet seen any studies which show that people with already compromised guts can tolerate the amount of this gum you would eat if you had a normal diet based on manufactured gf breads. I have met enough people who are rigorously gluten free and still worry about travel, and have noticed an increasing trend in other people trying to manage their gf lives without these gums, to be sure that this isn't just me.
So, well done to Warburtons. Their range should make it easier to cater for people with gluten and wheat intolerance, and, in particular, should make it easier for cafes and restaurants to be able to feed us something. I am getting tired of being turned away from restaurants who say there is nothing on their menu that I can eat safely. Being a wholely gluten free factory means you don't have to worry about product recalls for accidental contamination/ substitution (c M&S fruit cake a while ago gluten free blogger food.gov) or even the low levels of possible contamination from the general environment. I don't buy things which say 'made in a factory which also handles wheat', as I react to even minuscule amounts of gluten)
If you are less sensitive to xanthum gum than I am then rejoice. The bread may be a long way away from the artisan breads and homemade sourdough I used to eat, but the fact that a major baker has put this amount of effort into a gf range is great news for people with food intolerances in general. It will raise awareness, increase convenience, and remove excuses.