Coeliacs unable to afford gluten-free food, report claims

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Coeliacs are paying more than a third more for their weekly shop, according to Coeliac UK.
Coeliacs are paying more than a third more for their weekly shop, according to Coeliac UK.
People suffering from coeliac disease are paying up to 35% more for their weekly food shop, with a growing number of consumers unable to find gluten-free products on shelves, according to Coeliac UK.

An updated report from the charity, The Gluten Free Diet: What does it cost and why does it matter?, ​found that a weekly shop suitable for a gluten-free diet cost more on than a third more on average than one that wasn’t.

Further, 7 in 10 people said shopping gluten-free adversely affected their quality of life due to cost and availability of gluten-free food in supermarkets and online.

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More than three-quarters of respondents (77%) said they struggled to afford gluten-free products and some even said they risked jeopardising their health by actively eating gluten despite the risks to cost concerns (4%) – 27% said they opted to eat products with ‘may contain’ statements for the same reason.

Nick Trott RD, gastroenterology dietitian at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital & The University of Sheffield, said: “The findings from the Coeliac UK report highlight a critical concern: many patients struggle to afford the only effective treatment for their condition – a strict gluten free diet. Ensuring affordable access to gluten free foods is essential for the well-being of the coeliac community.”

The cost of a gluten-free diet

Analysing the average cost of gluten-free food compared to gluten containing food gram for gram from March 2022 to March 2024, Coeliac UK found that:

  • Bread loaves are 4.5 times more expensive.
  • Plain flour is 2.0 times more expensive.
  • Bread Rolls are 3.1 times more expensive.
  • Pasta is 2.0 times more expensive.
  • Crackers are 1.7 times more expensive.
  • Cereals are 2.1 times more expensive.

The Coeliac UK report also highlighted the barriers of access and availability – nearly 9 in 10 (87%) respondents described problems with overall availability of gluten free products, while 86% were unable to fulfil all their needs at one shop. When shopping online, for 1 out of 3 orders, gluten free bread loaves were out of stock.

Can’t afford treatment

Dr Gerry Robins, consultant gastroenterologist at York Hospital, added: “As a clinician, I’m seeing more and more patients who simply cannot afford the gluten free staple foods they need to treat their condition.

People have a right to high quality nutrition at reasonable prices – unfortunately significant numbers of coeliac patients are now being forced into a situation where they have to forgo the only treatment that makes them better (gluten-free food) or go hungry. This is a significant public health issue and requires urgent action.”

Meanwhile, approximately 6% of the UK adult population have a food allergy​, according to new research by the Food Standards Agency.

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