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Free
From
Foods
Matter
With Michelle Berrie-Dale Johnson
An Interview on UK Health Radio with The Food
Teacher - Katharine Tate
This year the FreeFrom Food Awards celebrate their
10th anniversary and as the only FreeFrom Awards
in the food industry the popularity and prestige of
the awards continues to grow. Michelle Berriedale-
Johnson launched the awards ten years ago when
`freefrom' was very much a cottage industry. She
believed that establishing the awards would raise
the profile of freefrom
food within the food
industry and set a
standard of excellence
to which manufacturers
could aspire. Today the
industry is counting its
turnover in billions and
interest in this market
from manufacturers and
consumers continues to
grow.
Michelle has been involved with food for over
40 years, first as a caterer, then a food historian, a food
writer, a food manufacturer and finally as a `FreeFrom'
(gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free etc.) food expert.
It was when her 18-month old son and husband
developed a dairy intolerance that Michelle decided
the family would embark on a dairy-free diet. As this
was back in the 1980's there wasn't much dairy-free
food available so Michelle decided to make her own!
The family started by creating an organic soya based
ice-cream. They also began to produce ready meals
that were dairy, egg and gluten free that could be
frozen and a range of vegetarian foods as well as dairy-
free chocolate. They sold their food in supermarkets
but sales didn't take off as Michelle had anticipated
so she decided to branch into education. During
this time many other people living with allergies
and intolerances continued to develop their own
products and many like Michelle started selling foods
over the internet and then to the supermarkets. This
later triggered Michelle to launch the awards in 2008
after she was continually invited to taste and judge
freefrom foods for various magazines.
To enter the awards the
product must be free of
at least one allergen and
be available nationwide.
There are now 20+
categories and over
100 judges including
professional foodies
(manufacturers, chefs
and cookery writers),
medics (dietitians and
nutritionists) coeliacs and allergy sufferers and
parents of allergic children, a dozen or so keen
freefrom bloggers and a good sprinkling of `outsiders'
to benchmark the products against `normal', non-
freefrom equivalents. This year Irish bakers BFree
were presented with `Marble Mo', the FreeFrom Food
Oscar for 2017. BFree's Sweet Potato Wraps won the
Product of the Year. Judges praised the wrap not only
for being `enormously versatile, beautifully soft and
pliable, a lovely warm colour and tasting delicious'
but for being free of all of the major 14 allergens. `A
totally inclusive, totally delicious product just what
a freefrom food ought to be!'
Along with BFree, over 30 gold champions
along with silver and bronze winners spread over
19 categories were presented with their certificates
by Antony Worrall Thompson. He has been a long
standing patron of the awards and commented, `It is