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CAMRA takes stand on allergens

By thirsty hack Ignatius Rake

Posted November 20, 2015
CAMRA takes stand on allergens

CAMRA's beer festivals to stop ordering brews that don't list all ingredients.

The UK's Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which claims to be the country's "biggest organiser of beer festivals", reports that it will no longer order beer from breweries that don't list all their ingredients.

The move, which is intended to support those with food allergies or intolerances, follows EU rules on allergen labelling introduced last year.

According to a press release, CAMRA, which organises around 200 real ale festivals across the UK each year, has introduced these measures "to ensure its beer festivals are more attractive to the one in five people who have food intolerances".

"Every CAMRA festival now has full allergen information available to customers for every single real ale on sale, which ensures that somebody with an intolerance to something like gluten or wheat can be sure the beer they are choosing is suitable for them to drink," says CAMRA CEO Tim Page.

"CAMRA will now only purchase beer from breweries that supply full information on the ingredients going into their beer, encouraging them to tap into an industry that is in huge growth."

"The 'freefrom' market has grown 72% in the last five years and the number of gluten-free restaurant items has increased by 300% since 2011, but the beer industry has been slow to adapt, with just a handful of gluten-free beers available."

"We want to ensure festival-goers are 100% confident in the information they are given and the only way to do that is to ensure we have the correct information at every step of the supply chain, from the brewers to festival organisers, right through to the staff working behind our bars."

"I myself have a wheat intolerance and find it extremely difficult to get accurate information on whether a beer contains wheat or not, as it is often used in small amounts."

"Now at CAMRA's festivals, I can be secure in my choices."

"The food information regulations that came in to force in December 2014 on labelling of allergens in both pre-packed and loose foods was a great move forward for those with food allergies and intolerances," adds Lindsey McManus, deputy CEO of Allergy UK.

"It's vitally important that people with food allergies, some of which are potentially life threatening, and for those with ongoing food intolerances, are able to identify which foods are safe to eat."

"Any of the 14 allergens that now have to be listed can be found in the most innocuous of foods, including beer."

"It's encouraging to see food outlets, such as the CAMRA beer festivals, embracing the new regulations and understanding the importance of keeping those with food allergy safe and confident when joining in the fun at festivals."

"We have continued to grow the range as more drinkers became diagnosed with a gluten intolerance from barley and wheat, thus providing those drinkers with choice." – David Ware

Many brewers already have this information either on their casks or on their websites but many still don't have this information readily available, CAMRA says.

One company that has been "dedicated producers of gluten-free beers" and which has "been producing gluten-free beers for over a decade" is Green's Brewery.

"Green's are the original brewers of gluten-free beers and from the outset in 2003 we knew there was a limited but growing need for beer drinkers diagnosed with an allergen intolerance to continue a normal life," explains Green's managing director David Ware.

"We have continued to grow the range as more drinkers became diagnosed with a gluten intolerance from barley and wheat, thus providing those drinkers with choice."

"When the new regulations on allergen listings in pubs and restaurants came into force last December, Green's were in a good position to reinforce the message that we all had a social responsibility to cater for those with allergy intolerances."

"Having a few gluten-free beers at CAMRA beer festivals ensures that everyone can enjoy craft-brewed beers."

The most common allergies and intolerances in the UK are to dairy and gluten, with 4% of the population having an allergy to diary while 33% of the population have an intolerance to it, the press release states.

Meanwhile, 6% of the population are allergic to gluten while 20% are gluten intolerant.

Adnam's Brewery, whose core range of beers are wheat-free, are also considering producing a gluten-free range for their consumers.

"It's important to us that we brew great beer for our customers without compromising on quality and taste," says Adnam's head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald.

"Brewing gluten-free beer is something we are looking at and there is a growing interest in gluten-free food and drink."

"There is already an option to make beers brewed with barley into 'low gluten' beers using an enzyme."

"However, we are more interested in making a true gluten-free beer using raw materials that are naturally gluten free."

Most beers contain gluten as a by-product of the malted barley used during brewing, although a number of brewers now produce gluten-free ales too, which are brewed using non-gluten-producing grains, such as sorghum, or which have the gluten removed after brewing, CAMRA notes.

But it's not just gluten that can cause problems as a high percentage of British beers (CAMRA estimates around 40%) contain wheat too as it helps to give beer a dense appetising-looking head of foam on the beer.

"There has never been more choice of unusual, delicious and sometimes surprising beer than there is in the UK right now," Page continues.

"But with experimentation comes a responsibility and it's important that brewers are making allergen info readily available."

"Brewing with raspberry, cocoa and milk sugars?"

"Sounds delicious, but ensure your customers know about it!"

See also Learn yourself beer, posted 29/10/15, among others.

Ignatius Rake
is a freelance journalist, geographer and world traveller who has visited more than 70 countries on six continents. He has written on numerous subjects for various publications and is available for hire and commissions. He can be contacted by email here.

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