Irish Celiacs Affected By Cutbacks

By Laura (The Gluten-Free Traveller)


This may seem like pure fantasy for US celiacs but in some countries, including the UK and Ireland, biopsy-diagnosed celiacs are entitled to free or subsidized gluten-free products to help them to adjust to the gluten free diet without too much of an additional cost. When I was first diagnosed in the UK I was very happy to receive subsidized gluten-free bread and pasta thanks to our wonderful NHS.

Gluten-free products such as bread, pasta and crackers – anything which is normally filled with gluten and is specifically made to be gluten free – tends to be pretty expensive. Receiving free or subsidized gluten free basics therefore makes a big difference to celiacs where this is offered.

Unfortunately due to fiscal cutbacks, Irish celiacs are now missing out on this. Forty-one products which were previously free of charge or subsidized under the Health Service Executive (HSE) drug’s schemes are no longer available. It was confirmed earlier this week that 23 gluten-free food products have been taken off the list in order to save €3.6m.

The HSE receives around 16,000 claims each month for free or subsidized gluten-free food.

The move has been met with opposition from the Coeliac Society of Ireland. A spokeswoman from the Coeliac Society warned that the side effects and long-term complications of not sticking to a strict gluten-free diet are very serious.

On the other side of the debate, a spokeswoman for the HSE said that many European countries did not reimburse for gluten-free foods, adding they were considerably cheaper in a supermarket compared to pharmacies.

“There is a social welfare allowance available for medical card holders, and for those without a medical card there is tax relief available.”

Ms O’Byrne, St John’s Wood, Clondalkin, Dublin, who is suffering from cancer, said she could not afford to buy the gluten-free foods on her social welfare allowance of €188 a week.

This problem is not unique to Ireland. Similar issues as a result of cutbacks are also affecting many British celiacs.

What are your thoughts on this? Should celiacs receive subsidized gluten free food or not?

4 thoughts on “Irish Celiacs Affected By Cutbacks”

  1. I’m in the US but I don’t think gluten free food needs to be subsidized. It is better to eat just fruit, vegys and meat anyway. All those carbs are not healthy anyway.

  2. In Spain gluten-free food is not subsidized, actually it has higher VAT than ordinary products. I think that eating fesh food is the best option, but I do not think that eat bread or pasty occasionally should not be a luxury.

  3. Hmm, that is really interesting. I wish them the best of luck! I’m in the US and we don’t have any sort of subsidy program like that. Closest we have is if you participate in an FSA you can get a pre-tax reimbursement for the difference in cost of “regular” food to their gluten-free substitute. Doesn’t help though that a lot of people think that gluten free is just a fad diet.

  4. I was born in the us and now live in Ireland and a diagnosed gluten intolerant person. In the US it’s so easy to eat fruits and veg because it’s everywhere. Even US gas stations have more fruits than a mainstream grocer out here in Ireland. There isn’t availability to nearly as many salad options nor fruit just fresh meat and whatever is provided by the medical card. I don’t have one but it sure would come in handy as I personally have to spend 100€ a week to feed myself where my husband can live off 45€. Considering the cost of living being so high, its hard to get by at times. I couldn’t imagine doing it on a social welfare budget.

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