This week I attended the IFE 2015 event at ExCeL London.
I really enjoyed it! It was great to see such a high percentage of stands being occupied by gluten-free, organic, dairy-free and general Free-From food.
Naturally I was very excited to be meeting all these wonderful people and discovering such interesting new brands.
Until I came across one particular stand. This stand didn't have any allergy specifications, so I asked them to take me through their products. They explained all about the product benefits and origins of the ingredients until the 'dreaded questions' arrived from my mouth:
"Is it gluten & dairy-free?"
I was met by complete confusion. The lady who had been so confident and kind earlier on, retreated in her shell and started looking at me as if she were to find the answer to my confusing question somewhere on my face.
Once she realised I wasn't going to offer the answer for her, she proceeded to regaining her confidence almost immediately and started parroting to me a half-learnt script. "Of course it's gluten-free" - she said - " It doesn't actually say it on the box, let me see... Yes, it doesn't specify it here, but I am 100% sure it's gluten-free. Look", and she started pointing the list of ingredients on the box to me, "see, it doesn't say gluten on here. Just ..., ..., and beer. So yes, completely safe and gluten/dairy-free." She finished this last sentence with a beaming smile and proudness, as if she had just won a 100m sprint race.
"Beer", I calmly informed her, "does contain gluten." Her expression remained exactly, the same as she stated: "Oh, I see. Ah well, in that case yes it does contain gluten."
It took her 5 seconds to realise my facial expression. Now I was the confused one. But I wasn't shying away with confusion, I was simply getting confused mixed with frustration at how it was possible for a product to get away without proper ingredient specifications, and how this lady was being allowed to sell her product without knowing all of the implications of giving out false information relating to allergy/sensitivities.
As I made a quick decision to put the sealed product back down on the stall, and walk away, she looked at me as if to say, 'oh stop being so picky and just take it. It's free and it;'s delicious.'
By now, I was feeling frustrated and judged. I heard myself starting to apologise, justifying my choice not to take the product from her. I even started putting myself down, and calling myself a pain in the backside with things like ingredients and allergens. And then shying away from her stall.
Bad, bad move on my part.
Enough saying sorry and having to apologise for our sensitivities and allergies. I am fed up of being treated as if I am part of a destructive sect, or feeling like a minority. It brings me such a joy and hope whenever I see anyone's efforts in raising food allergy awareness, and acceptance.
It's about time we open everyone's eyes to the reality. The change that is happening in our bodies, and which will allow us to live a longer and healthier life forcing us to avoid mass produced foods which our bodies intelligently reject.