James Miller - Coeliac Diary


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Times Report on Coeliac Disease


We get The Times delivered, so I'll keep a copy of their report on coeliac disease. It looks comprehensive and bangs on about one in a hundred being coeliacs. There seem to be lots of stories including one about coeliacs not getting pregnant.

I should make people think if nothing else.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Letter To Dame Deirdre Hutton


She is the chairman of the Food Standards Agency and appeared on the Simon Mayo show on Radio 5 Live.

This is the letter I wrote to her.

Issues for Coeliacs

I am a coeliac and not a sufferer of coeliac disease, as properly handled it is very much a non-illness and an intolerance.

I heard you yesterday on the Simon Mayo program and was generally impressed with your answers on the work of your Agency. On a personal point of view, as an engineer/scientist and statistician, I’m not impressed with the Tesco labelling system and feel your proposal is best. (I had one of their healthy option pies and quite frankly it had more salt in it than the Dead Sea! They know that salt sells and I know I don’t like it. I also have gall-stones.)

I am a moderator of a lively group of several hundred on coeliac disease on Yahoo and one topic has dominated over the last few weeks. That is the fact that the Codex standard allows 200 ppm of gluten. This means that if you have two slices of toast, you’re eating a lump of gluten the size of the average aspirin. (It doesn’t bother me, as with few exceptions gluten-free bread is total crap and only marginally more tasty than cardboard. I’m on a Marie Antoinette diet where I eat cake.) So please can you reduce that limit to at least 20 ppm as it is in Australia or the USA.

I also was worried about your reply on Simon’s program as to labelling for allergies. It should be compulsory for all allergens to be named on the packaging. Anything less is totally unacceptable. Marks and Spencer are leading the way here and actually name both gluten and wheat separately.

Remember that according to serious studies coeliacs are one in a hundred of the population. Even if many have not been diagnosed!

It will be interesting to see the reply.


Simon Mayo


I put a question into Simon Mayo's program on Radio 5 Live, because the lady who runs the Food Standard's Agency was on. The question was about gluten levels.

I think it may have been answered because at the wrong moment someone phoned.

So if anybody heard it can they tell me what was said.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

All Party Coeliac Disease Group


This All Party Group is chaired by Kevan Jones.




This article under the title, "Pasta and milk are root cause of ill health for millions" appeared on Sunday.

It calls for a lot more allergy testing.

I'll give three cheers for that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sainsbury's Gluten-Free Bread


I just phoned them on 0800 636262 to complain about the lack of gluten-free pitta bread. Apparently, it's on hold to change the packaging.

Sounds daft, as it was rather nicer than the Tesco pitta bread.

So if anybody wants to phone up and ask, it may get them to take their fingers out and start deliveries again.


Quaker Seasons


I've just tried this snack. Not bad and it says it's suitable for coeliacs.

Anybody else looked at these.


Thursday, January 11, 2007



Celia and I had a great meal at this restaurant in Frith Street, Soho. The lady on the next table was also coeliac and the restaurant knows exactly what is possible and what is not.

Not cheap, but ideal if like us you were celebrating something in London.


Monday, January 08, 2007



Maltodextrin comes up a lot, so I've been doing a bit of research.

In the US maltodextrin must be made from maize or rice, so it must be gluten-free. So if you eat a US made product with maltodextrin, that part must be gluten free.

I also found this Question and Answer on the Kettle site.

Q. Why is Salsa with Mesquite gluten free when the ingredients list says it contains Dextrose and Maltodextrin from wheat?

A. Dextrose and Maltodextrin are made from wheat grains by a process that separates all of the protein including gluten from the Dextrose or Maltodextrin. We can confirm that products such as Salsa with Mesquite contain less than two parts per million of gluten which means they can be classed as gluten free. Some people may need to avoid wheat products entirely and to help with this we always indicate the source of ingredients such as Starch or Maltodextrin that may come from wheat.

Myself, I tend to eat their low salt or undressed crisps, so it doesn't affect me.

If you want a laugh read what Pringles are made of.

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Astraeus to Gambia


We flew to the Gambia on Astraeus from Gatwick.

Just a quick post to say that the GF meals were actually quite good.

We flew what they call Star Class, which is a bit more upmarket but they made a mistake with the meal on the way out and I got one for steerage. It was a Citrus Ginger Chicken the CFH Group in Wrexham. It was very nice, even if it had too much coconut for my liking.

Coming back I got the Star Class meal, which was again chicken and very good.

This was a much better experience than I got with BA when we went to Turkey.

The only problem I had was they gave out nuts mixed with the odd biscuit. I didn't need to eat them and mistakenly ate a biscuit. Serves me right for being greedy.

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PPM Contamination of Gluten in Food


With all the talk of gluten contamination I just thought I'd do a few calculations.

I weighed an 8-10 cm. potato and it weighed about 200 grams. So if you take a double adult portion of mashed potatoes then it is probably about 1 kilogram or 1000 grams.

Wheat flour contains between 8 and 14 percent gluten. (I got this from a site called www.cookingforengineers.com which appears very interesting if you want to find out things like this.) I'll use 13 percent as this is average for bread making flour.

So let's contaminate the mashed potato with different levels of gluten using wheat flour.

200 ppm would mean that 1.54 grams of flour had been added.

So how big is that amount of flour?

Now a cubic metre of wheat flour weighs 593 Kilograms or a cubic centimetre would weigh about 0.593 grams. (I got this from www.simetric.co.uk which gives the density of many materials. It actually lists gluten by itself, which is slightly heavier than flour.)

So that means that to get 200 ppm in the kilogram of mashed potato you would have to add about 2.5 cubic centimetres of flour. i.e. that would be 1 cm x 1 cm x 2.5 cm. or about half of a large heaped teaspoon. (A heaped teaspoon is about five cubic centimetres. But that seems a lot to me.) Interestingly, you would probably add less salt than that when you cook the potatoes.

So even a low level of 10 ppm still needs about 0.125 cubic centimetres of flour, which is probably a generous pinch.

I have checked this, but if anybody can find fault please let me know. Years ago I used to do these sort of calculations all the time as an instrument engineer, but I'm rather rusty these days.

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The Gambia


This will probably end up as a series of posts and certainly I'm quite prepared to answer any questions.

Celia and I decided to go to The Gambia, as we needed a break, wanted some sun and it is about the shortest flight where you can get reasonably warm at the New Year.

To quote the Lonely Planet guide "For vegetarians, this region can be a challenge." I hoped it wouldn't be the same for coeliacs. But then I'm not supersensitive, it was only a week and there was a lot of interesting things to see like the birds, the forests and the other wildlife.

We had a very good time.

We did stay in a very good hotel called NGala Lodge which is owned by its Belgian chef and he had been warned. For instance on the first night, I ordered a starter based on grilled fish. Normally, he breadcrumbed them, but for me he did them plain. And they were very good.

We ate in a couple of restaurants and I had no trouble at all. Generally, the waiters speak very good English, as it is promoted as the National language. One thing though the holiday rep from Gambia Experience told me, is that no-one minds if you seek out the chef and ask his advice.

But the good thing is that most of the food seems to be naturally gluten-free. We had one of the local dishes which was effectively beef in a spicy peanut sauce. There is also a lot of good fruit and plenty of things like eggs and bacon at breakfast, even if I had problems convincing them that I didn't want toast.

So if you want a nice winter holiday, I'd recommend The Gambia. But I would plan more than I did, as we would have had a better holiday if we had. That is nothing to do with food, but I'd take a bird book, stay perhaps in two places and learn more about the people.

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Breathlessness and the Sun


Before I went on holiday, I was getting increasingly breathless, if I did some exercise. After a week in the sun, that has all gone.

I don't think that's a coeliac thing, but I suppose it's linked to something like vitamin D.