Gluten-free foods to be more accessible to celiac patients in Israel

Subsidies, eased regulations for importers, manufacturers.

A new gluten-free flour can be used like regular flour in baking favorite desserts. (photo credit: SARIT GOFFEN)
A new gluten-free flour can be used like regular flour in baking favorite desserts.
(photo credit: SARIT GOFFEN)
Celiac disease sufferers will be relieved to hear that the Health Ministry decided on Sunday to make the purchase of non-gluten foods more accessible.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman decided to adopt the recommendations of an interministerial committee on celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can cause serious gastroenterological symptoms when they eat gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, barley and other grains that gives bread its chewy texture by making the dough elastic.
Eating gluten triggers an overreaction in celiac patients and harm the villi, the tiny, finger-like projections of the wall of the small intestine, making it difficult to absorb the food’s nutrients.
Beyond that, various other chronic problems from infertility to osteoporosis can result. But people who do not suffer from celiac disease or are not sensitive to the protein are not advised to eat gluten-free foods.
As a result of the steps to make non-gluten foods more accessible to celiac patients, their prices are due to be cut significantly. The committee, headed by ministry associate director- general Prof. Itamar Grotto, investigated the reasons gluten-free grains and other foods are so expensive.
One reason is that the manufacturers must take care to ensure that no gluten grains find their way into gluten-free foods, while another is that “specialty foods” are usually more expensive than ordinary ones. Although potatoes, which have no gluten, are cheap, gluten-free products made using them have been very expensive.
Others foods without gluten include buckwheat, corn, rice, cassava, flax, millet, quinoa, sorghum, soy, tapioca and teff.
The ministry will give a total of NIS 9 million in support to companies that produce non-gluten foods, thus increasing the supply and competition in this sector, which will reduce prices, the ministry said. In addition, regulations on producing such food will be eased while ensuring the health of the public, it continued. Importers will thus be able to increase the variety of the products they bring into the country. In addition, the ministry will subsidize gluten-free flour at a cost of NIS 750,000 a year via a public tender.
“This is an important social process, out of the ministry being committed to and recognizing the rights of people who have to eat gluten-free foods. We can already see the first signs of the trend of cheaper foods for celiac patients,” Litzman said.
The committee included not only Health Ministry experts but also senior representatives of the Treasury, Labor and Social Services Ministry, Economics Ministry and the National Insurance Institute. The committee met with members of the Israel Celiac Association to hear their views.