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Saturday 10 December 2016

We are now a nation of fussy eaters - with more self-diagnosed allergies

Published 19/11/2016 | 02:30

Many people have adapted a gluten-free diet
Many people have adapted a gluten-free diet

We have become a nation of fussy eaters with half of us now avoiding certain foods, drinks and ingredients.

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The avoidance is usually because of an allergy, intolerance, or health fear - but this is sometimes self-diagnosed.

Click here to view full-size graphic
Click here to view full-size graphic

Foods that might contain antibiotics and hormones are the most common ingredients we want to avoid.

These are followed by artificial additives such as flavours, preservatives and sugar sweeteners.

Other ingredients high on our exclusion list are monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavour enhancer often found in Chinese meals, canned vegetables and soups.

Consumers are also steering clear of genetically modified foods, according to a new report by Nielsen, a global company that investigates what consumers watch and buy.

And one-in-four Irish households has someone who believes they suffer from food allergies or intolerances - some of them self-diagnosed.

This is still much lower than the global average of 36pc. The most common foods on this list are eggs, lactose and diary, followed by poultry, gluten and grains.

The report revealed that sales of products marked 'free from' some kind of ingredient rose 15pc in Ireland last year - mirroring a similar pattern in the UK.

It is now one of the fastest-growing trends and supermarkets are extending their ranges to cope with the demand. These would include foods free from lactose, a sugar found in milk products.

One of the biggest markets is for foods free of gluten, which coeliacs cannot eat. Gluten can cause an adverse reaction to a coeliac, triggering a range of symptoms from mild to severe. A gluten-free diet has gained popularity among the wider population in recent years, many of whom have adopted it as a lifestyle choice.

However, it has come under criticism from experts who say there is no medical or nutritional need to avoid gluten unless you suffer from diagnosed coeliac disease.

A food allergy is a reaction produced by the body's immune system when it encounters a normally harmless substance.

This can happen within minutes, but more likely within one to two hours.

An intolerance does not normally involve the immune system and happens when a foodstuff such as lactose causes an unpleasant reaction.

Matt Clark, Nielsen's commercial director in Ireland, said: "People are now adopting a more back-to-basics mindset, focusing on simple ingredients and fewer processed foods.

"They're also taking a more active role in their own health care, which includes better nutrition."

Irish Independent

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