About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy. After being diagnosed, my life dramatically changed. Thankfully, I didn’t have Coeliac Disease. “Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your tissues when you eat gluten. This damages your gut (small intestine) so you are unable to take in nutrients,” (Coeliac UK). I have a gluten allergy, which is very different than Coeliac Disease. “Wheat allergies, like hay fever and other allergies, develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment – in this case, wheat – that typically causes no problem in most people,” (Wheat & Gluten allergy: Symptoms & treatment).
As a result of my gluten allergy, my shopping habits had to change. Grocery shopping and eating out were difficult in the beginning. There were limited options. I didn’t know what I was looking for or where to look. Finding good gluten-free options in grocery stores and restaurants can be challenging in the United States. But, being in London, the possibilities seem more advanced. Overall, London is very inclusive when it comes to dietary restrictions. Certain coffee shops will not charge extra for alternative milk because of allergies or preferences. A restaurant near my apartment, Honest Burger, doesn’t charge extra for gluten-free buns. Plus, their onion rings are naturally gluten-free. Where I live in the United States, this would be rare to non-existent. Even the grocery stores are better here. The gluten-free bread looks and tastes normal. Overall, there are more options. Plus, it is way more cost-efficient. Overall I have found it easier to be gluten-free in London than in the United States.
Ever since landing in London, I noticed the city tried to be inclusive of dietary needs. Even the tube station has advertisements encouraging people to become vegan. London started a Gluten Free Accreditation Scheme 10 years ago in 2012. The goal was to create an easier and more accessible eating environment for gluten-free people. They do staff training and use a GF trademark that is unique to others. “When you see our unique GF trademark, you know a venue is committed to gluten-free food safety. Being part of the scheme and using the trademark means the venue and its staff have been through strict audits and extensive training to ensure they meet our gluten-free standard so you can relax and eat out in confidence,” (Coeliac UK). There are no gluten-free schemes like this anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Today, there are approximately 3,000 accredited establishments in the country. Some hospitals and schools have accreditation through the scheme.
Overall, London is committed to providing safe spaces for gluten-free people. The gluten-free options are better than my home state of South Carolina and other states in the US. This level of commitment helps people allergic to gluten feel more comfortable and included when shopping and eating out and has made my time here in London more enjoyable.
Coeliac UK. (n.d.). Celebrating 10 years of commitment to gluten free food safety! Coeliac UK. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://www.coeliac.org.uk/information-and-support/living-gluten-free/the-gluten-free-diet/eating-out/.
NHS. (n.d.). NHS choices. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coeliac-disease/. Wheat & Gluten allergy: Symptoms & treatment. ACAAI Public Website. (2022, April 13). Retrieved March 15, 2023, from https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/wheat-gluten/.
By: Chloe Franklin