Whole wheat bread.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
MKs called Tuesday to reduce the price of gluten-free food products for the sake of those who suffer from celiac disease.
The discussion was part of a Knesset Economics Committee session on easing import restrictions and thus cutting costs for consumers.
Import restrictions double – or triple – the cost of corn, potato and other versions of products like bread and pasta that are usually made of wheat, barley, spelt and other grains that exacerbate the gastrointestinal disease.
The session took place at the initiative of MKs Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), Merav Michaeli (Labor) and Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua).
Sheetrit said that as a member of the opposition during the previous Knesset, he had presented a bill that would require the state to partially subsidize the cost of special foods that celiac patients eat.
Such measures would have cost the state NIS 150 million a year. The proposal came to a halt amid elections for the new Knesset, but when he presented it again as a member of the coalition, it was rejected due to opposition from the Treasury, he said.
He argued that governments around the world were helping celiac patients pay for the food they required, but this was not the case in Israel.
Dan Solomon, a representative of the lobby for celiac patients, brought with him gluten-free versions of several simple food products – such as bread, pita, flour and pasta – that cost at least twice as much as their regular counterparts.
Ofer Eliav – marketing director of the Green Lite company, which manufactures gluten- free products – explained that “raw materials are expensive, the amounts produced low, and the costs of production and storage high.”
In addition, said Rahel Brodno of R.B. Grains, which imports food for celiac patients, the products are considered “sensitive,” so the Health Ministry requires extra tests that raise the prices. She proposed waiving such tests for products that have already received approval from the American and British authorities.
Rami Levy, head of the eponymous supermarket chain, told the committee that for the past year he had been trying to lower the costs of gluten-free food and that they required supervision so they were not adulterated with gluten.
Health Ministry public health chief Prof. Itamar Grotto said his ministry had checked the prices of gluten- free products abroad and that even there, they were more expensive than those with gluten. But he added that he was the head of an interministerial committee on finding ways to reduce food costs for celiac patients. The committee will look into the possibility of direct subsidies to patients, but that would depend on extra budgets, Grotto said.
United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Asher called for monitoring the committee’s work on the subject, and said it should recognize that the condition makes sufferers eligible for disability payments.
“The moment that it costs the state money, it will find a way to reduce costs so the food is cheaper,” he argued.
The committee decided to hold another session on the matter in a month.