Judging food awards is, you would think, a fairly simple business – as long as you have some understanding of food and relatively well trained taste buds, you are away. But this is not really so for our awards because, as in all things to do with allergy, it is just not that simple….
For starters – what are you actually looking for in a freefrom product? Should it be an exact, freefrom replica of a product which would normally include major allergens such as gluten, wheat and dairy – or should it be a really nice/good/tasty product which would never include any major allergens anyhow?
For example, should you, in a chocolate tasting, be awarding rosettes to a really excellent dark chocolate that, by its very nature, is free of gluten, wheat and dairy and is a first class ‘gourmet’ product – or – should you be giving them to a product which has used clever and imaginative manufacturing techniques to replicate a much loved, popular milk chocolate brand but which has little to recommend it in terms of chocolate excellence?
Moreover, should you be rewarding the manufacturer who manages to exclude a range of allergens from a product over and above one who only excludes one allergen but makes a better tasting product?…. For example…
Manufacturer 1. makes a really delicious quiche with gluten free pastry but includes eggs, cheese and milk in the filling. Meanwhile, manufacturer 2. makes a quiche with gluten/wheat-free pastry and an egg and milk-free filling. This quiche, while tasting perfectly pleasant, does not come near quiche number one in terms of quiche-excellence. But to create it at all (given that the basic ingredients for a quiche are wheat-based pastry, eggs and milk) displays pretty amazing ingenuity on the part of its manufacturer. Moreover, it fills a gaping hole in the freefrom ‘offer’, and would be brilliant for anyone who is gluten, wheat, dairy and egg allergic/intolerant (and they do exist!).
So which one gets the rosette?
I am afraid that this argument raged after each judging session – and was never really resolved as new judges continued to have new input. And that was before we got round to discussing nutritional profile versus taste, ‘raw’ food versus conventional’, dedicated manufacturing units versus ‘deep-clean down’, the importance of labelling….. – for which, see posts 2, 3, 4 and 5 !