Photo Credit: Image by Jutta Zeisset from Pixabay

Israel’s Health Ministry has issued a tender to subsidize quality flour for celiac patients who eat a gluten-free diet, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday. The subsidized flour will replace the currently subsidized flour that contains sugars and has a low nutritional value. The cost to the consumer of the new flour is expected to be five shekels per kilogram, while the price of quality flours today ranges from 17 to 30 shekels per kilogram.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, primarily affecting the small intestine, where individuals develop intolerance to gluten––present in wheat, rye, and barley. Classic symptoms include gastrointestinal problems such as chronic diarrhea, abdominal distention, malabsorption, loss of appetite, and children’s stunted growth. If untreated, Celiac may result in cancers such as intestinal lymphoma, and a slightly increased risk of early death.

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As many as 1.5% of Israelis suffer from Celiac disease and require a special gluten-free diet, but the cost of these basic food products is as much as five times higher than equivalent products that contain gluten.

Limor Tal-Pony, the dietitian of the Celiac Rights Organization and chief dietitian at Maccabi HMO, told Israel Hayom “Today, Celiac sufferers do not have a quality solution,” noting that if the commercially available flour were marked for them, it would have received a red marking, indicating an inferior nutritional value.

“The Health Ministry defines as a national goal changing the eating habits of the general public to prevent disease,” Tal-Pony continued. “The more the environment allows us to consume healthier products, the more we would be able to encourage a healthy lifestyle. But the celiac public has no answer. The price of a really small loaf of bread is about NIS 25 and of a bun about NIS 6-5. The multi-purpose flours cost NIS 20-15 per kilogram. it’s very expensive.”

Of course, if the health ministry and the Maccabi chief dietician wished to introduce change, they could remove flour and sugar from the Israeli food pyramid and watch how diseases such as diabetes and obesity disappear. As to Celiac patients, their gluten-free diet is very similar to the diet that can save the lives of diabetics: meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruits in moderation.

Dr. Ronit Andwalt, Head of the health ministry’s Department of Nutrition, told Israel Hayom: “We are embarking on a course that aims to make healthier products accessible to Celiac patients. Our move is aimed at providing access to quality flour from source flours and legumes. Some people who have Celiac disease also have diabetes, and the currently subsidized flour, which is made from corn flour, greatly raises sugar levels. In recent years, the flours intended for Celiac patients have been greatly improved and it’s possible to replace the subsidized flour.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.