You may be thinking that it’s the life of riley, swanning up to Foods Matters head quarters and tasting a bit of this and bit of that. Well you’d partly be right, it is one of the high lights of my allergy calendar, but not because it’s easy.

We arrive early and get started straight away with categories packed with different products entered. Sometimes 30 different freefrom foods in one group, sometimes more.

Picture a table groaning with anonymous samples all being passed around for each judge to taste, score and comment on.
FreeFrom Food Awards 2014 judging sheet
You’ll see above some products without a score from me. These are the ones I couldn’t test. That is because either they contained an allergen that I have an allergy to (nuts, dairy, soya), or had ‘may contain’ warnings and we didn’t want to take the risk. So I have it easy compared to others. I generally don’t taste half as much as some judges – some of them can eat EVERYTHING!

It does make the products which are completely freefrom really stand out from the rest. Some could be, with a little bit of tweaking, which is a little disappointing.

All this must be done under strict FreeFrom Food Awards judging guidelines.

  • No discussing the products during the judging period
  • No ewwwing and Mmmmmming allowed. You might sway the views of other judges
  • Each entrant must be given a score out of 10. When there is a large group this is difficult and you need to go back to re-taste and review scores.
  • Once all entries are tasted by every judge has finalised their scores Head Judge Michelle Berridale-Johnson tots up the scores
  • We then agree, disagree, discuss and cogitate who will be the overall category winner and who gets highly commended and commended awards. The discussions are heated and detailed. We often disagree about the innovativeness or life-changing qualities of certain things and our taste buds differ greatly in some cases.

Judges range from food writers, bloggers, nutritionists, people with allergies, coeliacs, health practitioners and even some who aren’t in the industry to see what the ‘normal’ person might think of these products too. If they pass the ‘well that actually tastes like normal xxxxx’ test then that is high praise indeed.

Some foods are tasted in their raw form as well as made into a recipe, as provided by the company in question which adds another dimension and sometimes it’s really hard to compare two products in the same category when they are actually quite different. e.g. I judged the Ingredients and Raw Food categories. These ranged from flour, cake mixes, anything for the kitchen cupboard really – the list is endless. Choosing a favourite was often tricky but we managed.

Nobody said being a FreeFrom Food Awards Judge was easy!

It is exhausting, it is hard work, it can be frustrating but most of all it’s the most fun and it is so encouraging to see so many companies entering such amazing products.

For proof that I was there check out the beautiful chick in the blue jumper pictured here deep in thought and later on slightly sloshed… http://www.michellesblog.co.uk/freefrom-food-awards-judging-day-1/

You will all just have to wait until the shortlist is announced on the Wednesday 12th February to find out more. Only two days to go…


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