Coeliac UK celebrates 10th anniversary of life-changing food safety scheme, helping bakeries and food operators drive in traffic

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

One in 100 consumers suffer from coeliac disease in the UK. Pic: GettyImages/minoandriani
One in 100 consumers suffer from coeliac disease in the UK. Pic: GettyImages/minoandriani

Related tags Coeliac uk Gluten Free Accreditation Scheme Foodservice Gluten-free baked goods

The watchdog developed the Gluten Free Accreditation (GFA) scheme on peer-reviewed research and has established a rigorous process to ensure bakeries, cafes and other food establishments adhere to best practice for safe gluten-free catering.

Coeliac UK was founded in 1968 by Elizabeth Segall, wife of a doctor and mother of a child with coeliac disease, and Peter Benenson, a founder of Amnesty International, who also had the condition.

Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system that reacts to the gluten in food and attacks the gut. It affects one in 100 people in the UK, although only 36% are clinically diagnosed.

Even the smallest amount of gluten can be damaging for this cohort of consumers and the only treatment is to follow a strict diet for life, which makes eating out – or on-the-go – a fairly risky pastime.

Drive traffic

Prior to the launch of the Gluten Free Accreditation scheme in 2012, no such system existed in the UK. A decade later, there are around 3,000 accredited establishments in the UK, including bakeries, restaurants, hospitals, schools and takeaways.

The term ‘gluten-free’ is covered by European regulation (Regulation (EU) No 828/2014) and embedded in UK law. To label a product or food gluten-free, it must contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten.

The GFA abides by the above regulation and reassures safe delivery of gluten-free food – helping operators to meet this increasing consumer demand.

Sporting the GFA symbol automatically tells customers that an establishment is safe – building trust, loyalty and driving new visitors.

GF_accredited by Coeliac UK_logo (002)
Pic: Coeliac UK

According to a January 2023 Coeliac UK poll, 96% of its social media followers said their gluten-free needs – or someone within their party – determines where they eat out.

97% said that when they’ve found a venue they trust, it becomes a preferred place to visit.

With some existing accredited partners reporting a 10-12% increase in business levels and a meal out costing on average of £10-£22 per person (Lumina Intelligence), there is great potential for increased revenue for food catering businesses across the UK.

Online training

Bakers with laptops RossHelen
Pic: GettyImages

Another benefit is access to Coeliac UK’s online training courses, which equips food operators to deliver a safe dining experience, again instilling confidence and trust in their customers.

Designed for both business owners and staff, the training covers clarity on the law for allergens and gluten-free food preparation, serving customers and menu labelling. This training equips food establishments to deliver a safe dining experience, while instilling confidence and trust in their customers.

“By joining the Coeliac UK Gluten Free Accreditation Scheme, catering establishments are able to give customers certainty of the gluten status of a dish beyond the use of the wording ‘gluten free’ on menus,” said Hilary Croft, CEO of Coeliac UK.

“By law, food labelled as gluten free must contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten – accredited partners commit to going over and above this and meet an exacting standard, and this assurance plays an important role in venue choice.”

To achieve the certification, bakery, café and foodservice owners undergo a rigorous six step accreditation process to ensure they are fully committed to, and following, best practice for safe gluten-free catering.

GFA Audit Process

“The need and demand for safe eating environments for those following a gluten free diet, which is crucial for people with coeliac disease, continues to grow,” said Croft.

“We will be continuing our work to increase the number of venues carrying the accreditation into 2023 and beyond – and I encourage any caterer that is not currently accredited to get in touch with us to learn more about its benefits for them as a business, and their customers.” 

Coeliac UK has made the Gluten Free Accreditation Scheme as accessible as possible by offering a scalable annual accreditation fee, to help even small independents offer safe gluten free food.

Highlights

  • The Gluten Free Accreditation Scheme was launched by Coeliac UK in 2012 and is the only scheme of its type in the UK
  • The scheme is a charity-led and -run initiative and does not receive any government funding.
  • Coeliac UK has trained over 4,000 catering staff across the country.
  • Over 3,000 UK establishments are currently carry the GFA.
  • For over 50 years, Coeliac UK has been the expert on coeliac disease and a voice for the gluten-free community. The independent charity provides advice and support, funding for  research and works with healthcare professionals to ensure that no one’s life is limited by gluten.

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