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A survey of central city Dunedin eateries offering gluten-free options shows three-quarters did not have the food-handling policies in place to ensure they were gluten-free.
Dunedin School of Medicine fourth-year student Seong Shin will present the findings of his survey of 90 chefs to the Gut Health Network public research forum in Dunedin today. The survey appeared to show it was not safe for those with coeliac disease to eat out in Dunedin, Mr Shin said.
While all 90 of the chefs' eateries had gluten-free options, only 22 had policies in place to ensure food was definitely gluten-free.
Necessary measures included using separate chopping boards, separate equipment such as toasters, checking ingredients properly, and careful storage practices.
However, the survey found trainee Dunedin chefs had a much greater awareness of food preparation issues for coeliac disease.
The survey also found that 30% of chefs aged over 50 had never heard of the disease, while 100% of those aged under 30 had. Study co-supervisor and gastroenterologist Associate Prof Michael Schultz said eating even a small amount of gluten could adversely affect health, potentially cancelling out the strict diet a coeliac disease sufferer followed previously.
Consuming gluten could lead to iron loss, anaemia, weight loss, and in extremely rare cases lymphoma.
Co-supervisor Dr Kirsten Coppell, of the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research, said the food industry needed better monitoring and more education.
Prof Schultz is the director of the Gut Health Network, a University of Otago initiative launched last year to stimulate research. A New Zealand first, it now had about 30 clinician/scientist members.
One of its aims is greater collaboration between various fields of research.
The network linked patients, researchers, and commercial health entities, he said.
It is expected participants in gut health related studies will attend the forum, to which the general public is invited, at the Hunter Centre.