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Gluten Allergies in Food Technology

Food Technology can be such a fun subject to teach and it’s one many students love just as much. But when one of your cherubs suffers coeliac disease, it can throw some hurdles at you. However, these are not challenges that can’t be overcome! So, this Coeliac Awareness Week, we are looking at the best ways to manage gluten allergies in Food Technology.

It is important we teachers are aware of exactly how coeliac disease affects a sufferer. Coeliac disease is essentially an immune reaction to gluten. When a sufferer consumes gluten products, the villi which line the small bowel can become inflamed and flattened. This can result in nutrients being poorly absorbed by the body and symptoms such as an upset stomach, fatigue, weight loss, anaemia and even skin rashes. Seeing as there is currently no cure for coeliac disease, the only way to prevent this immune reaction is to avoid eating gluten products.

There is another type of gluten allergy that we should also be aware of. People with non-coeliac gluten intolerance also need to avoid eating food products which contain gluten. These foods do not cause an immune reaction for someone with non-coeliac gluten intolerance; however they may suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, joint pain and tiredness instead.

It is important for people in both categories of gluten intolerance to avoid gluten-based products. There are a few strategies teachers can implement in Food Technology classrooms to ensure the safety of coeliac disease sufferers and those with non-coeliac gluten intolerance.

Make simple swaps for coeliac students

If you have a child with coeliac disease in your Food Technology classes, some simple swaps can be made to help them feel included in practical lessons. Thankfully, the world is now a much more gluten-free friendly place than it used to be, making this quite a simple fix! For example, you can swap out regular flour varieties for those that are gluten-free when baking. If you are using pre-prepared products such as bread or a pizza base, find a gluten-free substitute for them. If you or the student feels uncomfortable with this arrangement, you could also ask the child ahead of time to bring in an alternative they feel safe eating.

Educate your other students about gluten allergies in Food Technology classes

Spend some time at the beginning of the new school year to inform your students about the importance of catering to other people’s allergies. If you are worried about singling out a specific student with coeliac disease, make the chat about allergies more broadly, mentioning allergies such as peanut and lactose as well. However, it is critical the students know about the serious consequences for allergy sufferers if they consume one of their trigger foods.

Prevent cross contamination

Preventing cross contamination is critical in a student with coeliac disease avoiding contact with gluten in the kitchen. The best way to do this is to come up with a cross contamination prevention plan and have the rest of your class get on board with it.

One strategy for preventing cross contamination is to keep everything separated. Dedicate one specific bay to gluten-free cooking during practical lessons. Within this specific bay, all products containing gluten should be banned. This bay should have all the utensils such as knives, chopping boards and plates in one noticeable colour, which are to be dedicated to handling gluten-free foods. This helps to distinguish what utensils have been used on gluten-based products, and consequently, which utensils your student with coeliac disease should avoid. All regular utensils should also be banned from the gluten-free bay.

The colour system can also be used to store gluten-free products and to make sure they are kept away from other products which contain gluten. It is also important to ensure there are special gluten-free versions of non-gluten-based products as well. For example, have a gluten-free butter your coeliac student can use which hasn’t been used on regular bread products.

These simple strategies can help you and your student with coeliac disease to feel much more comfortable cooking and eating in the Food Technology kitchen. There’s nothing better than seeing all of your cherubs engaging and participating in their practicals, particularly when those with allergies have the confidence their food is safe for them to consume.

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