Not only do people with food allergies have to watch what they eat, but they also have to watch what they spend. Choosing foods from the grocery store is more time-consuming due to the need to examine every product’s food label, and the cost can quickly go up. Unfortunately, the cost of living with food allergies is high.
In a previous post on Celiac Disease Awareness, I reported that “the prevalence of celiac disease is estimated to be as high as one in every 133 individuals (1 percent or 2.5 – 3 million people) in the United States with only 17 percent of those individuals having been diagnosed.”
Those numbers reflect Celiac Disease itself and don’t even begin to address the number of people who may have a sensitivity to gluten. Though they share many of the same symptoms and are caused by the immune system responding to gluten, the former can cause permanent intestinal damage and the latter is slightly less severe.
For those with Celiac Disease or a gluten-intolerance, gluten-free is not a choice but rather a necessity to good health – a rather expensive one.
The Cost of Gluten-Free Products
Luckily, we live in an age where there is more availability of gluten-free products; however, they do not come cheap. A 2018 study found that gluten-free products are an average of 159% more expensive than the standard equivalents. In fact,
“celiac-friendly cereals were an average of 205% more expensive, and bread and bakery products were 267% more expensive.”
While the inner cynic may believe that manufacturers purposely drive up the cost of gluten-free products, there are a couple of good reasons why these items come at a higher price tag.
First of all, gluten is the substance in flour that helps form the structure of dough, acting as ”glue” and binding food together. Manufacturers of gluten-free products have to find other ways to create that binding texture – often substituting as many as 20 ingredients to replace the one. Those extra ingredients could provide an explanation for the price increase.
Another reason these products are more expensive is the cost of dedicated facilities free from gluten. For example, oats are not made from gluten, but if they are made in the same facility as products with gluten, cross-contact could occur. That is why companies produce their gluten-free food in special facilities to avoid that possibility.
While the numbers look bleak, the growing demand for gluten-free products across the food and beverage industry could stimulate manufacturing innovations to drive down those costs in the future.
Check out my Guide to Celiac Disease to learn more about the auto-immune disorder and how we can look out for our guests’ well-being and safety when living with this disability.