A woman whose autoimmune disease requires that she consume specialty foods claims that the cost of her weekly grocery shop has doubled.
Coeliac disease affects Lisburn resident Collette Cassin.
According to the NHS, eating gluten-containing foods triggers the immune system to attack and harm your gut. A gluten-free diet is used to treat it.
Some gluten-free foods can be obtained with a prescription.
However, many coeliacs believe that this program is quite constrained and prevents them from making last-minute food purchases.
According to Ms. Cassin, the price of gluten-free food has been steadily high for more than ten years, but prices have increased significantly due to inflation.
Compared to usual, my grocery bill is significantly higher. Simple things, like the gluten-free version of Bisto costing two or three times as much as the regular version, she said.
"The cost of a loaf of bread is up to £3.40. ".
She said that gluten-free flour "is much more expensive than regular flour.".
The price of gluten-free frozen food, such as fish, has increased so much, according to Miss Cassin, that she sometimes chooses not to purchase it. She continued, "And I just don't bother with pastries.".
"A shop that would have cost me £50 or $60 is now costing me over £100, and that's for a week's worth of groceries. ".
Because Miss Cassin's daughter does not have coeliac disease, she must purchase other foods.
"You have to buy two lots of food when you have a family, which can be difficult for many people," she said.
"It can be difficult to live on a low income. ".
The Consumer Council has spoken with 1,000 people who are involved in the healthcare industry, who are hypersensitive, who use 'free-from' products for their lifestyle and health, or who do so out of concern for the environment.
More than 40% of these consumers, according to the report, had to forgo buying something because it was too expensive.
Value for money, according to Philippa McKeown-Brown of the Consumer Council, is a significant problem.
"Items are frequently available in smaller pack sizes, but they cost more than their standard equivalent. That's having repercussions, she said.
"People are being forced to purchase in larger quantities or in bulk, which requires paying upfront and may be challenging for consumers with lower incomes. ".
Others might find it difficult to locate certain products, according to Ms. McKeown-Brown.
People who depend on free-from foods "were seeing people buying gluten-free pasta because their own pasta wasn't available," which caused a lot of anxiety and concern, Ms McKeown-Brown said. These supply-chain issues were related to Covid and the war in Ukraine.
"With the EU exit, there are also some product ranges that our participants are telling us are no longer available, and that seems to be having a more long-lasting effect. As a result, some of the problems have disappeared due to supply, but now they may be witnessing product lines being withdrawn. ".
Inability to purchase free-from foods can have serious effects on a person's dietary health, according to Katie Hunter, a public health dietitian from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and member of the British Dietetic Association.
She continued, "Either they will decide to eat foods they have an intolerance to, which will result in poor health, or they could choose to leave out significant portions of their diet.