We are coming up to Holy Communion time: Below are lots of suggestions and helpful tips to make sure gluten doesn’t ruin your special day.
Keeping one table gluten-free at school events, celebrations and parties.
Why might you need a “gluten-free” table?
1 in 100 people in Ireland have coeliac disease so chances are there are some children and families in your school that need to avoid gluten. If someone has coeliac disease, then gluten causes damage to the lining of their intestine and can lead to cramps, bloating and diarrhoea as well as anaemia, osteoporosis and ataxia.
When it comes to school events, children with coeliac disease can feel left out of the treats that are there for other children to enjoy. Or they can end up eating something with gluten and having their special day spoiled with cramps and tummy upsets. Having one table set aside for gluten free food can help all children to be involved in events at your school and to be able to safely enjoy treats along with everyone else.
Why does it have to be a separate table?
Foods that are gluten free can pick up gluten if they come in contact with ordinary foods. A gluten-free muffin that touches a muffin made with wheat now has gluten, which will cause a reaction in a child with coeliac disease. Having a separate table means there will be no cross-contamination. This helps ensure that the gluten-free foods stay gluten free.
Setting Up Your Table
- Have a table that is slightly away from the main tables used to serve food at your event. Have it clearly marked “gluten-free” so children and family members with coeliac disease know where to go.
- Use shop-bought foods that are labeled “gluten-free” and are sold in packs. Gluten-free cakes, scones and so on that are unpackaged can easily be contaminated with gluten. Do not use homemade foods as there is a high risk of cross contamination from foods made at home. Most people who are not coeliac may not be aware of the many places where cross contamination can occur. Sticking with wrapped, shop-bought foods is safer.
- If you are serving sandwiches, it is best to order them from a caterer who is experienced in making gluten free foods – the risk of cross-contamination is very high when ordinary sandwiches are made along side gluten-free ones.
- Keep gluten-free foods wrapped up. Do not open packets of cakes, biscuits, sweets and muffins until they are just about to be used. Keep sandwiches covered until the last second. Where possible, it is best to hand foods to the child (or family member) still in their pack.
- You can use gluten free biscuits, cakes, tray bakes and muffins. Look for foods that are labeled “gluten-free”. You can also ask the child’s family for suggestions for gluten-free chocolate, sweets and other treats. The Coeliac Society compiles a list of gluten-free foods every year that can be used for reference. If the child is a member of the Coeliac Society, they will have a copy of this book.
- Man the table. Keep an adult at the table to help keep the gluten-free foods for the children who need them. Other children may wander over with ordinary food in hand and spill crumbs (it happens!). It helps to have an adult to provide some supervision here.
- Remember, children and family members with coeliac disease will really appreciate your efforts.
What is Coeliac Disease?
People with coeliac disease have an abnormal reaction to the gluten found in wheat, rye or barley. They will also have a bad reaction to any foods that are made with these grains. This reaction causes damage to the lining of their intestine and can lead to short term and long term problems. In the short term many people who are coeliac will have cramps, diarrhoea and bloating when they eat gluten. In the long term, people can have anemia, stunting, osteoporosis, problems with fertility, depression and nerve damage (ataxia). It is very important that people who have coeliac disease avoid all gluten, all the time.
This is not a fad!
Being coeliac is not a choice. It is not part of the current “fashion” for going gluten free. There were people with coeliac disease long before social media discovered gluten and they will still be here long-after social media has moved on to something else. It is a lifelong, genetic, condition that most coeliacs would prefer to do without.
A little More About Cross Contamination
Some gluten-free foods can become contaminated with gluten during cooking or processing. Below are some of the ways foods can become contaminated with gluten at home:
- Crumbs from ordinary bread getting into butter, jam or spreads.
- Not washing hands well before preparing gluten-free foods
- Using a deep-fat fryer that was already used to make something with gluten. The gluten stays in the oil and contaminates the gluten-free food being cooked next
- Toasters are a problem. People who are coeliac either use a separate toaster or use toaster bags instead
- Not cleaning down a kitchen really well after ordinary flour has been used. We all know that if we open flour some of it goes up into the air. If this is still around when my food is being made, then it can contaminate what I eat.
- Foods that are gluten-free touching foods that contain gluten e.g. gluten-free scones beside ordinary scones.
For more information on Coeliac disease or to join the Coeliac Society go to www.coeliac.ie.