Dining Out initiative a success for Kiwi coeliacs

Dining Out initiative a success for Kiwi coeliacs

Every year it seems we're faced with a new food fad, and while these days it's trendy to be gluten-free, for thousands of Kiwis it's more than just a lifestyle choice.

For those who suffer from coeliac disease, eating out is almost impossible. But thanks to a new initiative, that's all about to change.

Around 65,000 Kiwis have coeliac disease -- that's one in 70 people -- and 80 percent of them are unaware they have the condition.

"Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disorder where by the body perceives gluten as being a foreign invader and produces antibodies," says consultant dietician Anna Richards.

That leads to numerous issues like weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain.

Thirteen-year-old Chiara Thorburn has lived with coeliac disease for most of her life.

"You're malnourished; you don't really grow and it hurts, yeah, it hurts a lot."

Brett Thorburn from Coeliac New Zealand says it's difficult in social situations, "when she's been excluded or has had to have different food to everybody else".

Tired of struggling to find restaurants he could take his daughter to, Mr Thorburn established the Dining Out Programme -- a guarantee the gluten-free options on the menu really are gluten-free.

"It's really about educating staff as to what's required to prepare food that's safe for coeliacs," says Mr Thorburn.

It's more than just using gluten-free ingredients. Just ask Hell Pizza in Grey Lynn, which was one of the first to jump on board.

"Firstly we change out gloves to make sure there's no contamination there. We cut it away from the regular gluten-containing pizzas," says owner Marty Richards.

Coeliac New Zealand says the Dining Out pilot has been a huge success. Of the five restaurants who took part, all have since passed an independent audit and are now fully accredited.

It's hoped at least another two dozen will sign up by the end of the year.