Inventors please note

As a father of someone with coeliac disease, I was particularly interested in your article ‘Cereal killer’ (News, 21 April).

While a simple test for this condition is welcome, it only confirms that the affected person will suffer a lifetime of extreme caution in managing his or her food.

The level of understanding of this condition within the restaurant trade is extremely poor.

Cross-contamination from cereal-based products is rife via utensils and food preparation areas. Sauces often use wheat flour as a thickening agent (rye, barley and oats are also unacceptable). And for someone with low gluten tolerance, just a few grains of flour transferred into food can be sufficient to cause agonising pain and damage to the stomach lining.

Labelling of processed foods is generally unhelpful since many additives contain modified starches, which is not helped by the industry standard setting a limit of 200ppm as acceptable for a product to be labelled gluten free, a level intolerant to many coeliacs.

Australian standards, on the other hand, set a maximum limit of 5ppm because this is the lowest level that can be detected.

What coeliacs really need, once diagnosed, is a simple pocket device they can use to detect levels of gluten in food they do not control or prepare themselves from raw ingredients.

The challenge, therefore, to all budding inventors is to come up with a solution that removes the uncertainty and anxiety that coeliacs suffer whenever they eat out.

P Latham

Bristol