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Going away on holiday can always be a worry if you have coeliac disease. But please be reassured – if you’re visiting the United Kingdom this year, avoiding gluten couldn’t be easier. The UK has come a long way in recent years, mostly thanks to the brilliant work of the Coeliac UK charity (https://www.coeliac.org.uk/), so we are sure you will eat well here – from fish and chips to roast dinners!
Unsure how to explain coeliac disease in English when in restaurants, shops, or to your British friends? The following phrases will help:
I have an illness called coeliac disease and have to follow a strict gluten-free diet, or I may become very unwell.
I cannot eat any foods that contain flours or grains of wheat, rye, barley or oats, for example:
- Soy sauce
- Bread, cakes and pastries
As long as no wheat, rye, barley or oats are used in their preparation, I can eat all kinds of:
- Plain meat
- Rice, quinoa, polenta
- Cheese, eggs, milk
Please make sure that my dish is cooked without any breadcrumbs or batter and that no wheat flour has been added to any sauces or gravy
Please advise me which dishes you are certain that I may eat safely. If you are unsure, please tell me.
Thank you for your help.
Where to buy gluten-free food
All of the major supermarkets including:
Now have dedicated ‘free-from’ sections, stocking brands such as Juvela, Glutafin, Genius alongside own-brand gluten free products. They offer a huge selection of different breads, pasta, flour, and cakes and frozen products.
- Marks and Spencer
Found in most towns and cities, also has a large selection of ready-to-eat sandwiches, salads, and chilled food in its food court.
Health Food Stores
Most big towns also have health food stores such as Holland and Barrett which have a gluten free section with a range of products.
Small, local pharmacies do not tend to stock gluten free foods. However, Boots (a pharmacy chain found in most towns and cities) does have ready-made gluten free sandwiches and other products.
Juvela, Udi’s, Newburn Bakehouse, Schär, Livwell, Genius and Trufree are all well-known brands. Coeliac UK produce a Food and Drink Directory which lists thousands of foods you can eat, call the Helpline on 0333 332 2033 to buy a copy.
In the UK, labelling is subject to EU food labelling regulations
Gluten-containing cereals are one of the 14 listed allergens that must be listed and emphasised in the ingredients list.
Manufacturers will name the specific grain used, so you will see these words on the ingredients list, most likely in bold, if they are in the product:
- Khorasan wheat (commercially known as Kamut®)
To avoid – If you see a ‘may contain’ statement for gluten on a product, this means that the manufacturer has assessed that there is a risk of contamination.
In some cases, the manufacturer may be able to provide more information on how the product is produced to help you make a decision about whether to eat the product or not.
Visit www.coeliac.org.uk/labels for more information.
The Coeliac UK website has a lot of advice on eating out and features a list of all accredited restaurants across the UK. These are restaurants that have an established relationship with the charity, meaning they are sure to meet their standards.
Great chains on the list which can be easily found all over the country include Pizza Express, Bella Italia, and Pizza Hut, which offer a brilliant choice of pizza and pasta dishes, Frankie and Benny’s, which offers an American-Italian menu, Côte Brasserie, who offer gluten free French cuisine, and the Handmade Burger Company.
Aside from the restaurants and eateries appearing on the Coeliac UK accredited list above, many other independent establishments have separate gluten free menus or clearly mark any suitable dishes with a “GF” sign on menus. Visit www.coeliac.org.uk/venueguide for gluten free venue recommendations by other coeliacs, where you can search by venue type (café, restaurant) or food type (fish and chips, British, Pub food… the list goes on!).
Wherever you go, our advice is to make sure you still explain that you have coeliac disease, and call restaurants beforehand so that they know to prepare for you.
For further help and advice, the GUTs Facebook group is a great place to ask for recommendations when you are visiting a new place in the UK.
- Roasts (without the gravy or Yorkshire pudding), steaks and salads are all likely to be suitable for someone with coeliac disease.
- Check carefully how roast potatoes or chips are made. They are sometimes coated in flour or fried in the same oil as battered foods.
- Check how soups and salad dressings have been made. The same advice applies to ice creams, yoghurts and desserts. Some might contain gluten.
- Fried fish from fish and chip shops are likely to be covered in batter or dipped in flour. Chips cooked in the same oil as battered fish are not suitable.
Awareness is generally good in the UK, and is improving all the time, but you will still need to explain the diet thoroughly and ensure that you have been understood.
For further information please contact Coeliac UK:
High Wycombe office
Switchboard: 01494 437278
Fax: 01494 474349
Helpline: 0333 332 2033
1 Saint Colme Street
Tel: 0131 220 8342
Fax: 0131 220 8201
Mount Stuart Square
Tel: 029 2049 9732
Last update of this Travel Net information: June 2017