Today I have been filming with Graham Satchell of the BBC for a feature about the new allergen labelling regulations which will become law on the 13th December. Watch it here.
Imagine my horror when they announced they want to look in the fridge and larder… perhaps I should have anticipated this, but I’ve been busy and only knew about the potential of a visit since last week. What would we find in there? Eeek…
I thought we were nipping down to the local pub, The Russell Arms, to film in a food service venue! I had of course washed my hair and hoovered and dusted downstairs in preparation, in case they were going to do any filming inside, but being prepared for some cupboard searching. Whoah!
What food is in the allergic girl’s fridge today?
Well my face dropped. I needed to go shopping for fresh food, the fridge is almost empty. Lots of bad food that I can’t eat for him like normal milk, cheese, ready meals (I’m out tonight so he has an Indian curry ready meal for tea – lucky man).
For me? Just a carton of KoKo coconut milk, a Coyo yogurt, some pumpkin seed butter and some Pure spread… half a tin of sweetcorn, some spring onions, a couple of mushrooms, one cold cooked gluten free sausage, a few carrots, eggs, oh and a few limes (for the tequila). Hang on, things aren’t so bad, there’s a meal in there somewhere. I’m thinking sweetcorn, sliced sausage, mushroom and onion omelette with pumpkin seed butter on rye toast. Mmmmm.
The fridge is not an exciting place right now, but luckily they wanted to concentrate on what it’s like shopping when you have multiple allergies and looked at a selection of freefrom foods from my cupboards. Phew!
Even that could have gone horribly wrong but thankfully there is a good stock at the moment by some fluke, a rare moment of organisation shopping online (thanks Ocado and Goodness Direct) and a recent very productive trip to the health food shop.
There will be some happy companies out there, perhaps a second’s fame for Perkier Foods, ilumi, Nairns, Isabel’s gluten free, FeelFree, KoKo and Free & Easy…to name just a few. The companies with the more colourful packaging worked best for the camera.
We didn’t quite make it to the freezer, my favourite thing in the whole kitchen, which is stuffed full of plastic tubs with homemade chilli, soup, casseroles etc. Coconut collaborative frozen yogurt, frozen fruit from the garden and frozen meat and Bfree wraps and Village Bakery Rye Bread. It stood aloof in the corner gurgling and hissing. If you have been in my kitchen you will know how noisy the darth vader freezer is. I have been convinced there was something in the room before but you get used to it.
It was great fun, the process of filming always fascinates me; the creative flair of the director and the camera man, filming the same thing from many different angles, with different lights and me getting something out of the larder over and over again. I didn’t find it repetitive at all, although it was a bit awkward repeating the same action with a camera in your face but not looking at the camera… Don’t get too excited, they were off to film with the FSA and at a restaurant after leaving mine so blink and you might miss me.
Inconsistent labelling – hopefully new regulations will streamline
What was clear from examining all the labels on food I had in my cupboards is that they are anything but consistent. Some have ‘may contain’ warnings, some don’t. Some have allergens in bold already, but many didn’t. Some use the Allergen Box to list allergens which will have to change under the new laws – there will be no special Allergen Box which highlights the allergens in packaged food, instead these will be highlighted in bold.
Hopefully we will get used to these new regulations and it will help bring all packaging in line with the same kinds of allergen messaging. I will miss the Allergen Box warnings, I’ve got used to them, as have friends and family who are occasionally brave enough to try to buy me treats. They were also a second chance to spot an allergen if you hadn’t done so already. The new system will have an Allergen Warning which will say, For allergens see ingredients in bold. If you’ve got that why not just list them anyway instead? But we have what we have. We will get used to it and at least all manufacturers will use the same system.
On one packet, on some Aldi gluten free sausages, the label was so tiny we all struggled to actually read it, it was in -30 point font or something and should come with a magnifying glass. What do elderly or short sighted people do? It’s bad enough having to read labels in detail but if you can’t even read them in the first place… what a nightmare.
So watch out for changes on labelling from next week. It may take time for some companies to get up to speed and update packaging but I hope it will be a good thing in the long run.
Of course these new laws affect eating out too. Lots more on eating out to follow in future blog posts, but all food service establishments must now be able to advise diners about allergens in their food. They don’t have to provide a meal but they do have to know if allergens are present. It is a great opportunity for restaurants, cafe’s and pubs to attract more customers, those people with coeliac disease and allergies who have been too scared to eat out. Can you feed them?
Keep your eyes peeled for blogs on the FreeFrom Eating out Awards 2014 and some amazing places where I have been eating. I have soooooooooooooooo much to tell you.
Oh and the BBC Breakfast filming should be on next Monday, 8th December on BBC1 at 6.20, 7.20 and 8.20am. Fingers crossed I don’t come across like an idiot. My hands were shaking. And I went for brown trousers and a blue jumper in the end. Comfort won, after one top no longer fit and nothing looked right and I was getting cold I grabbed my favourite trousers and went with the blue vote. Thanks for all the advice everyone. I survived and it was fab darlings.