Major rise in demand for special foods to combat allergies and intolerance

20 Mar 2012

So many Brits now have a food intolerance or allergy that the market for special foods to help sufferers has become one of the fastest growing in the UK.

So many Brits now have a food intolerance or allergy that the market for special foods to help sufferers has become one of the fastest growing in the UK.

As many as 25 million people, almost half the UK population, could suffer from food intolerance, according to the charity Allergy UK. The main intolerances are gluten, wheat and dairy products. As a result the Free From food market, as it is known, has grown by 15 per cent in the last year to be worth a staggering £238 million, say independent retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel.

The greatest demand is for dairy-free foods and Tesco will this week become the first UK retailer to offer a comprehensive chilled range including soya milks, spreads, yogurt and desserts.

Tesco Dairy Customer Manager Paul Duszynski said: “Just 10 years ago if you suffered from a food allergy you would have to go out of your way to specialist health shops in order to find dairy, wheat or gluten free foods. There weren’t  many from which to choose, and they often tasted quite bland.

“Tesco was the first UK retailer to launch a Free From brand back in 2003 and we’re proud that we’re still leading the way by introducing new products for our customers. People who used to suffer the symptoms of intolerance or allergy in silence can now easily find high quality wheat, gluten and dairy free products when they do their weekly shop.”

With the launch of the new chilled dairy-free products there will now be more than 200 lines in the Tesco Free From range.

Included in the new chilled range will be six yogurts; seven desserts; seven milk alternatives; six dairy cheese alternatives and two dairy free spreads. Not only is every product dairy-free but also free from gluten, wheat and egg which makes them suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Lindsey McManus, Deputy Chief Executive at Allergy UK, the country’s leading charity dealing with allergies said: “Often it is the simple everyday foods that sufferers are looking for. We are seeing an increased choice and a wider variety of foods in store specifically for those with food allergies and intolerances.

“Foods that can be picked up with the weekly shop are making, what is a difficult job for food allergy and intolerance sufferers, much easier.”

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors:

Types Of Allergies and Intolerances

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is sensitivity to the protein, gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats.  (It is not actually an allergy). The only way to control the disease is to have a gluten-free diet.  Many staple foods, such as bread and pasta, contain wheat and specially-prepared gluten-free products are available for sufferers.  Coeliac disease can cause poor growth and weight loss if not managed properly.

Wheat Allergy

This gives symptoms of asthma, itchy skin and/or diarrhoea in people who are sensitive to wheat.  Whereas coeliacs are only sensitive to the wheat protein, sufferers of wheat allergy are sensitive to the whole grain, including wheat starch.

Milk Intolerance

Allergy to milk is an immune system response to the proteins found in milk and can cause symptoms such as swelling/tingling of the lips, rashes, urticaria (hives) and in the most severe cases anaphylaxis. It can also be responsible for eczema particularly in babies and young children. Milk intolerance can cause sickness and diarrhoea; this is not a true immune system response as in allergy, although it can be a reaction to milk proteins it can also be due to lactose intolerance this is where the body fails to make the enzyme lactase that is needed to break down the milk sugar lactose.

Goats or sheep’s  milk should not be used as a as a replacement for cow’s milk as the makeup of this is very similar to cow’s milk and may still cause an allergic reaction, it also still contains lactose.  Normal Soya milk is not suitable for infants under one year of age; however Soya milk infant formulas which are fortified with vitamins and minerals may be given over six months of age.  A paediatrician or allergy specialist should prescribe infant formulas for young babies with milk allergy.