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Gluten-free prices soaring for Canadians with celiac disease

The price of nearly every food item has been under inflationary pressure this year, but those buying gluten-free products – an already expensive purchase to begin with – are noticing a price hike that’s even more dramatic.

“In our household 2 out of 5 of us are gluten-free so our grocery bills are very high," said Nicole Byrom, a registered dietician with the Canadian Celiac Association.

About one per cent of the Canadian population, approximately 350,000 people, have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by eating gluten which results in damage to the small intestine.

For health related reasons, those with celiac disease must eat gluten-free products, and they've noticed some major price hikes this year.

At Tiano’s Organics in Pickering, Ont. they specialize in gluten-free products and owner Mark Tiano said while a loaf of traditional bread may sell for around $3, a gluten-free loaf of bread which recently sold for $9 just increased to $9.50.

“Just like every other product, gluten free products have had price increases. Gluten free products have additional ingredients in order to substitute for wheat," said Tiano.

While one per cent of the population has to eat gluten-free items, Tiano said about 12 per cent of the population chooses to buy gluten-free items as an alternative for health reasons.

Tiano said while his store is trying to keep prices down for his customers, his suppliers keep raising them.

"With this gluten-free dessert I called the manufacturer because it’s the first time they have done two price increases in one year,” said Tiano.

The Canadian Celiac Association is concerned about the rising cost of gluten free products as those with celiac disease are medically required to have a gluten-free diet.

Food is our medicine and there is no other treatment other than a strict 100 per cent gluten free diet," said Byrom.

Byrom said that a household that has to buy gluten-free items can have grocery bills that are 200 per cent higher.

Some people with celiac disease like Frank Colaiacovo of Thornhill, Ont. said they are having to cut back on buying certain gluten-free products because they are just too expensive.

“They should give us a break instead of taking advantage of us because we have to buy things that are gluten-free,” said Colaiacovo.

The bad news is there appears to be no price relief in sight for gluten-free products.

“I’m hearing we are starting to see the results (price increases) of the last two years now, and it's going to get worse before it gets better," said Tiano.

Anyone who has to buy gluten-free products because they have celiac disease can get a tax break. For information on that and other money saving advice you can check the association's website Top Stories

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