Life without bread? Cake? Beer?! That's a tough row to hoe, especially in a country where you probably can't read most food labels. But survival is possible. We chatted with Sanna Luoto of Gluten-Free Shanghai to find out how.
Why, when and how did you start Gluten-Free Shanghai?
"Gluten-Free Shanghai was established to fulfill the needs and demand of people previously neglected. Founders of GFSH, like other people on celiac or gluten-free diet, were having difficulties finding suitable foods in Shanghai. Sanna Luoto, who is also a gluten-free food technology professional, wanted to share her knowledge and experience to benefit the gluten-free living community. In April the Gluten-Free Shanghai Community will celebrate its first anniversary."
For the people who don’t really know, can you explain what gluten is and exactly why it is a health concern?
"Celiac disease (CD) is the most common food-related and life-long disorder in the world. It is caused by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The surface of small intestine does not tolerate gluten due to genetic susceptibility. CD is a serious and hereditary autoimmune disease, and the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. Additionally, many people suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a condition that is not CD, but symptoms disappear when they exclude gluten-containing foods in the diet."
You have a baking demo coming up on March 15. What can participants expect?
"They can expect to find out that gluten-free baking can produce both delicious and celiac-safe outcomes. During the demonstration, valuable tips on how to convert wheat-based recipes into gluten-free ones will be shared. Ms. Luoto is also
available for questions about gluten-free diet overall."
Are there any other events or activities that you organize?
"Yes, GFSH organizes monthly events together our preferred partners, events like educational talks, baking demos and fun GF peer networking events. The main event for 2014 will be the first ever in China; the Celiac Disease Assembly and Gluten-Free Fair on 24–26th of October."
How many members do you have? How does one become a member?
"In just one year, our community has grown to 500+ followers of our monthly GF Newsletter. To become a Community member simply visit http://www.glutenfreeshanghai.com and sign up for a mailing list. For those using Facebook, we have an active page with community members posting the latest tips from all over the city."
Tell us more about your blog? Who is the Gluten-free Chef on your website?
"The GF Chef, Ms. Virva Orre is a professional chef with sound expertise in GF cooking. Safety and taste are her kitchen principles as she shares her best GF recipes with the GFSH Community. For your convenience, the GF Chef’s recipies are always adjusted to be Shanghai raw material supplied. The GF Chef has also co-produced the popular GF Smart Nordic Muesli.
What makes GF Chef very special is that the she nourishes ones appetite for tasty meals that also creatively nurtures ones soul. She combines food and culture in a unique and enjoyable way. Art, music, architecture, design, literature and theater are all portrayed in the works of the Gluten-Free Chef."
Do you work with any other health and wellness related organizations in Shanghai?
"Naturally, we do. Gluten-Free Shanghai Preferred Partners are high-class companies with visionary professionals. They comply with the safety standards related to a highly sensitive gluten-free production and sales. We know their premises and processes and trust them to be gluten-free safe.
Look for the GFSH sticker to separate the GFSH preferred products from all other ones. We recommend the products and services of our Preferred Partners – Bastiaan Bakery, May's Deli and Sprout Lifestyle – to anyone consuming GF foods."
Gluten-Free Shanghai hosts a gluten-free baking demonstration at Sprout Lifestyle this Saturday. For more details click here.