Secaucus, NJ…“Gluten–Free” foods are now virtually everywhere at Kosherfest, signaling a growing popularity of the foods without gluten. Show organizers say that it is a substantial increase from just five years ago. Although intended mostly for celiacs, the gluten-free foods have a much larger audience. Celiac is an inherited autoimmune disorder that when gluten is consumed, a protein found in wheat — rye and barley — the immune system reacts by attacking the small intestine. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the disorder has been tied to other serious health problems, including cancer and type 1 diabetes. Avoiding gluten is the only current treatment.
Malky Levine of the Evergreen stores in Monsey and Lakewood says that it is all part of a trend towards eating healthier and staying well. Yakov Yarmove of the Albertson’s supermarket chain and a well-known authority on kosher, has a special section on gluten-free in his Chicago Jewel-Osco flagship kosher store but he says “most producers of gluten-free would rather be integrated on the main shelves hoping for a wider audience than just celiac sufferers purchase their products.” Well-known nutritionist Tamar Feldman of Edison NJ feel that people are “pretty well educated about what gluten-free represents.” Mrs. Feldman, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, feels that avoiding gluten can often be beneficial to people who suffer from various autoimmune diseases such as colitis or Crohn’s, but she cautions “that it may not work for all people but worth a try.” What concerns her is the processed gluten free products that may in fact include lots of fat and sugars that can be even more damaging than the gluten. She sees a very bright future for gluten-free products that are pure “without the junk that is bad for you.” Mr. Yarmove too feels that it is a trade-off. “While people will feel more comfortable, they may not necessarily be eating healthier given all the sugars and oils that they may consume.”