Photograph: Laura Krippner
A coeliac, a diabetic and a vegan walk into a bakery, stop me if you've heard this one before. There is an ever increasing awareness of dietary requirements for both those with specific illnesses and those who choose not to eat (or use) animal derived products. It seems that the free-from sections of supermarkets are growing on a weekly basis, Sainsburys has Gary, Tesco has a free from Christmas selection box with comparable prices to mainstream products. Waitrose stopped stocking Dove's Farm's Xanthan Gum as a means of persuading you to buy their ready-made gluten free products rather than baking your own... don't worry it's now back on the shelves. These national businesses have large teams of people focused on their free-from ranges from new product developers to buyers, unfortunately we small businesses just don't have the same unlimited resources.
I've written before on how most people are unaware that the term 'gluten free' is in fact a legal definition governed by EU law http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/../../laura-krippner/5-ways-to-spot-a-gluten-f_b_11995648.html The vast majority of small businesses providing a gluten free option are merely using gluten free ingredients, for example, they open a bag of gluten free flour to make a cake on the same countertop, in the same kitchen, using the same equipment and ingredients as their 'normal' cakes. In order to show that cross-contamination hasn't occurred they should prove that their products are actually gluten free by having them tested independently. This is both time-consuming and costly which is why the majority of businesses don't bother. This means that the consumer has to find out exactly how the food was prepared, and how safe it actually is for them.
Diabetic cakes are another area for alarm bells, red flags and other siren like sounds. Does that baker look like a Nutritionist or a Registered Dietitian? Is there any evidence at all of medical training proudly displayed on the website or the wall? Do they understand the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? The likely answer to these questions is 'No'. In which case it's probably a good idea to follow the advice found at https://www.diabetes.org.uk/ which is the same for both type 1 and type 2:
Avoid foods labelled 'diabetic' or 'suitable for diabetics'. These foods contain similar amounts of calories and fat, and they can affect your blood glucose levels. They are usually more expensive and can have a laxative effect. Stick to your usual foods. If you want to have an occasional treat, go for your normal treats and watch your portion sizes.
Finally, vegans (this is an alphabetical list), I just don't get the partiality to Oreos. Particularly when Oreo UK clearly states that their products are not suitable for vegans due to cross-contamination. http://www.oreo.co.uk/faq The Food Standards Agency's guidance gives a four stage risk analysis which evaluates the supply chain from raw materials to the finished product. It's not to be used as a catch-all phrase for manufacturer's to cover their backsides. I understand that there's a certain nostalgic fondness for the Oreo (like the Jammie Dodger pre-ingredients change) and Bourbon Biscuits as these were the few high-street choices that were available until recently. As a vegan food producer we don't cut corners as our bakes have to appeal to both the vegan customer who (rightly) expects that their vegan food is 100% vegan, and the customer who is choosing a 'vegan' cake because they are allergic to milk or eggs (both of these foods can cause anaphylaxis). This means that we read a lot of labels. It means that our fruit is unwaxed, it means that carmine or E120 isn't used in our red velvet cake, it means that we cross-reference the alcohol that we use to bake with at http://www.barnivore.com/ to make sure that it's safe for you to consume. There's a lot of research happening to bring you that gorgeous baked cheesecake that tastes just like you remember with the crunchy base and soft texture.
So the coeliac, the diabetic and the vegan walk into a bakery... and after 5 minutes of intense questioning everyone finds something delicious to eat.