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Limited availability and higher cost of gluten‐free foods

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Background:  A gluten‐free diet is the only treatment for patients with coeliac disease, although it can be burdensome to follow and result in inadequate nutrient intake. The cost and availability of a gluten‐free diet has been cited as a cause of incomplete dietary compliance; however, this has not been extensively investigated. The aim was to investigate the availability and cost of gluten‐free foods across a wide range of stores.

Methods:  The availability and cost of 20 foods (both wheat‐based and everyday foods) was surveyed at 30 different stores across five different store categories. For each of the 20 foods, four products were selected (branded gluten‐free, cheapest gluten‐free, branded standard, cheapest standard) resulting in sampling of up to 80 products in each of the 30 stores.

Results:  In general, there was limited availability of gluten‐free foods, with an average of 8.2 of the 20 (41%) foods being available in a gluten‐free version per store. Regular supermarkets had a greater availability (18.0/20, 90%), whereas budget supermarkets (1.8/20, 9%) and corner shops (1.8/20, 9%) had almost no gluten‐free versions (P < 0.001). All 10 gluten‐free versions of wheat‐based foods were more costly than their standard counterparts (76–518% more expensive; P < 0.001). Some gluten‐free versions of everyday foods were also more costly than standard counterparts (2–124%).

Conclusions:  There is limited availability of gluten‐free foods and they are generally more expensive than their standard counterparts. This may impact on compliance to a gluten‐free diet, with potential nutritional and clinical consequences, together with an increased risk of complications.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: King’s College London, Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division, London, UK

Publication date: 2011-10-01

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