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  • Jefferson Adams

    COVID-19 Panic Buying Leaves Many Celiac Patients Without Gluten-Free Food

    Jefferson Adams
    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      From Australia to the United States, Europe, and UK, reports are coming in about panic buying and its effects on people with celiac disease or food allergies.

    Tesco - Allerton Road, Liverpool - Empty Shelves. Image: CC BY-ND 2.0--Dark Dwarf
    Caption: Tesco - Allerton Road, Liverpool - Empty Shelves. Image: CC BY-ND 2.0--Dark Dwarf

    Celiac.com 03/30/2020 - Panic buying ahead of shelter in place orders for the coronavirus pandemic are taking a toll on people with celiac disease and food allergies, who are finding shelves empty, leaving them with few or no grocery alternatives.

    Gluten-free, allergen-free, and other special diet foods had not been spared from the carnage, with many celiacs claiming that purchasers of these foods often do not have any food allergies.

    Empty Gluten-Free Shelves in UK

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    Gluten-free shoppers in the UK, looking for their regular staples, are faced with more and more bare shelves. One UK mom, Debbie Carey from Nuneaton, has been unable to find gluten free pasta for her teenage daughter with celiac disease.

    Carey says she's been to every store she can find, but none of them have any gluten free pasta...I have been looking for over a week," she said.

    "The country has gone mad, people are just grabbing what they can not really realizing what they are taking, it is selfish, this is a life-threatening condition, I only have enough pasta left for one more meal now."

    Gluten-Free Food for Celiacs Only

    One UK charity, Allergy UK, is urging people to refrain from buying free-from foods, such as gluten-free, unless they have a genuine food sensitivity.

    With alternative products oat milk and gluten-free bread disappearing from store shelves, Allergy UK is calling on shoppers to be leave these products for people with food allergies.

    With one in five in the UK suffering from at least one food allergy, purchases of specialty free-from foods by non-sensitive people can shortchange those with special diet needs. That means leaving gluten-free products for people with celiac disease or other medical sensitivities to wheat.

    Experts Urge Restraint for Non-Celiacs

    In Australia, Associate Professor Jason Tye-Din, the Head of the Celiac Research Laboratory at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said that numerous worried patients and parents had expressed concerns over the impact of panic-buying on the availability of gluten-free food.

    "Many have said that the shelves in the gluten-free section are completely empty," said Professor Tye-Din, who also reminded the public that a gluten-free diet is the only medical treatment for people with celiac disease.

    Gluten is harmful to people with celiac disease, and negatively affects their health.

    Tye-Din reminds us that people with celiac disease "can suffer symptoms similar to acute food poisoning, but there are also troubling long-term effects like osteoporosis, infertility, liver disease and even some forms of cancer, such as lymphoma."

    Like many health professionals who treat people with celiac disease, Professor Tye-Din reminds the public to be sensitive to the needs of people with celiac disease and other food allergies.

    Order Gluten-Free Food Delivery During Covid-19

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    See what people are saying about gluten-free food product shortage during the COVID-19 outbreak in our forum.

    Have a story about bare shelves and scarce gluten-free products? Share it below in our comment section.


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    Since I make all my gluten-free baked goods I am finding my usual flours are out at the manufacturer. Unable to reorder. I hope they will be back in stock soon. Also many of the fresh meat and foods I regularly eat from specific stores are not on shelf. I have to try frozen and packaged alternatives to fill in gaps.  I was cc last month from something that should be considered gluten-free food, but somehow must have been cc somewhere along the way. A bad rerun of my usual symptoms having gi issues, fatigue, myalgia, and hair falling out, so I know I was cc. 

    Trying to maintain perspective, heal, and move past this cc incident. 

    Good luck everyone. Stay safe.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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