It was an honour to be included as a judge in this year’s FreeFrom Food Awards. The range, quantity and quality of entries was amazing – in one day I tasted over 80 different free from foods, from granola to quiche via bread and noodles. For me, it was inspiring to see how many manufacturers are looking at the needs of the wider allergic community rather than just gluten-free options for coeliacs (important though those are!)
As someone with no food allergies myself, but who tastes everything my allergic son has to eat, I am always excited to find a free-from product that tastes “normal”, because then the whole family can eat the same thing. I’m thrilled to report that there were an encouraging number of entries that fit that bill this year, and I came away with quite a few names to add to my shopping list!
As always, the judging involved lots of lively debate as everything from price to ingredients was discussed. The judges come from all walks of the allergic life (allergy mums and dads, coeliacs, adults with food allergies, allergy bloggers, allergy buyers, medical and nutrition professionals… you get the picture! This makes judging very fair and broad minded – all points of view are considered and debated, and no one group’s needs dominate. As always, I left the FreeFrom HQ in London having learned loads, made lots of new FreeFrom friends and shared lots of laughs.
On the day I attended, we judged three categories: bread (hugely important – and a really big deal for coeliacs and anyone allergic to wheat, dairy and egg), nutritional bars, and food-to-go (another biggie – who hasn’t been stuck in transit, starving, with nothing you can eat on offer!?) In all three categories, the variety and quality of foods entered had all the judges impressed.
The FreeFrom Food Awards play a very important role in encouraging, recognising and rewarding excellence in FreeFrom Food and the team running them work incredibly hard to make sure that every offering is cooked and served exactly the way it should be so that the scores are fair. They dash backwards and forwards all day, check packaging to answer our myriad questions, carrying platters of clearly-marked foods, they know the background of every product they serve us and the whole day runs like clockwork – not easy when there are close on 100 foods being tasted by a big team every day for two weeks!
Well done to everyone involved in the FreeFrom Food Awards 2016, and I’m as excited as the entrants to find out who gets top honours at the Awards ceremony on 26 April!