rich emollient used in the management of eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions.


I love this time of year and not just because it’s January and my birthday, it’s also the FreeFrom Food Awards judging week where I get to discover so many new #FreeFrom products and meet lots of lovely people from very varied backgrounds, jobs, tastes etc.

I actually daren’t get onto the scales because I feel like I’ve put on a stone in weight from just two days judging. This job is certainly not for the faint hearted.

We eat, constantly, all day from 10am until about 4.30pm with lunch thrown in… we eat and we eat and we eat and we eat. I am often glad of the respite when I can’t try a product that contains soya, wheat, dairy or nuts. Phew! One less morsel for my straining belly to digest. I know you could take just a tiny bite or spit the food out but that doesn’t seem right with food. Nor wine and beer tasting if I’m on honest…

And I signed up for two whole days back to back of carb and cake filled gorging but it’s very hard work. We have to remain silent, not share our thoughts and score each food privately based on taste, appearance, ingredients, use and innovation to the industry etc. etc. When you’re looking at over 50 different foods just in one category it’s not an easy task with lots of re-tasting and reviewing.

FreeFrom Food Awards Coffee to start the judging day off

FreeFrom Food Awards Coffee to start the judging day off

But the day always starts with your choice of fresh coffee or a huge selection of herbal teas. This amazing Food Matters ‘F’ on the coffee was created by Sue Cane @GfBeerExpert who was a fellow judge and also the organiser of the Gluten Free Beer category which I am sadly not attending this year.

I’m not going to share very much with you on here about the foods we tasted because if I did I’d have to kill you. Judging for the FreeFrom Food Awards is Top Secret and what goes on at the FreeFrom Food Awards judging stays at the FreeFrom Food Awards judging until the winners are announced at the Awards Dinner later in the year.

What I can tell you is that, as always, the quality of entries just keeps on getting better and better. This is fantastic but also makes the job of judging that much harder. Gone are the days when there might be one stand-out winner. Now there are so many really amazing new products coming onto the market and the regular well known freefrom food producers are also continually developing their products and ranges and upping their freefrom game.

Judging wouldn’t be judging with the also totally freefrom lunch provided. Quite a few of us judges were either coeliac or had allergies or some kind or other and Michelle Berriedale-Johnson always produces an amazing lunch each day which is suitable for all. I’m not sure we needed it either day after the amount we ate but all managed to fine space to partake…

Amazing totally freefrom lunch provided at FreeFrom Food Awards judging sessions

Amazing totally freefrom lunch provided at FreeFrom Food Awards judging sessions

Now whilst I’m reluctant to wax too lyrical about anything I discovered during judging, I can give you a very brief insight into what really excited me:

  1. I have discovered a couple of dairy free pesto sauces to add to my larder. Both contain pine nuts but no other nuts and both were delicious.
  2. A soya free alternative to soya sauce featured highly on my ‘must find and buy’ list. It’s an amazing product with just two really simple ingredients and I can’t wait to cook with it.
  3. Having a tomato allergy I’m always looking for tomato free red sauces so the Beetroot ketchup we tasted was a firm favourite of mine too. I can and do make my own but I don’t always have time for a spur of the moment meal choice so to have something like this in my fridge would be marvelous.
  4. Pancakes galore and some really amazing totally freefrom pancake mixes that produced really A star excellent pancakes impressed many of the judges. You might be thinking, well anyone can make gluten free and dairy free pancakes these days. You’d be right of course, there are loads of really simple recipes out there but some of these mixes were brilliant and would make the job of pancake making that bit easier.
  5. Being a fan of ‘clean eating’ and trying to eat as little processed foods as I can I am always on the look out for the products that have managed to avoid including fillers, bulkers, flavourings and other things that us normal folk wouldn’t have in our cupboards at home. This is getting better and I was heartened to discover quite a few very good products with the usual gums and syrups etc.

As I said earlier the standard of products is impressive but I would love to see more nut free and more totally freefrom please! There are quite a lot of us with nut, dairy, egg and soya allergies and others with less common allergies to corn, tomato, celery and sulphites, to name just a few.

And I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, Oh would that it could, but some of these products would be suitable for a much wider audience of some of the other allergens could also be removed. I know this may not always be easy but it has started to happen already.

I’m not asking for the world to go nut, dairy, wheat and soya free just for me but those few producers catering for the free from community would do well to look at their ingredient’s lists and experiment if they can.

So who will win the 2016 FreeFrom Food Awards?



An allergy and health writer and freelance copywriter, Ruth is passionate about helping those with allergies and food intolerances take control, embrace their condition, and learn to live with and love who they are. It can be very lonely finding you have allergies and discovering what helps you can be a life long journey. What works for one person won't work for another, so after trying nearly every allergy treatment under the sun and finding hours of research necessary to keep abreast of what's going on, Ruth started writing her blog, What Allergy? in April 2009. Ruth has life threatening allergies herself to all nuts, all diary, tomatoes and celery and knows first-hand what it's like to have an anaphylactic attack. Voted in the Top 5 UK allergy blogs by Cision UK in 2011, What Allergy is packed full of interesting articles, hints and tips and product reviews which are a must read for anyone with allergies, food intolerances or sensitivities, asthma and eczema. From subjects such as "What is celery allergy?" to "Surviving a holiday abroad with allergies", it's packed with useful and interesting information. You can register free for a weekly newsletter by visiting her website and also keep in touch by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

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