What Does a Gluten-Free Diet Cost in Spain?

As many of you know, GlutenTox is produced in Spain — a country with plenty of (delicious) options for the gluten-free traveler. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live gluten-free in Spain? 

If so, this report from Biomedal will surely be of interest! 

Everybody knows that currently there is neither medical treatment nor cure for celiac disease; the only way to avoid or alleviate symptoms is by following a gluten free diet.

That being said, its impossible to imagine the possibility that one with celiac disease could live a normal lifestyle without the inconvenience of a gluten free diet, due to the risk of developing an autoimmune disease or even lymphoma. Fortunately, thanks to medical advances and the increase in awareness among the general population, it has become easier to find gluten free products in grocery stores and local supermarkets. The drawback is that these products require a particular manufacturing process and in some cases special ingredients, which are therefore reflected by a higher price.

So realistically, how expensive is a gluten free diet in Spain?

A recently published study by FACE (Federation of Celiac Associates of Spain), “An Investigation of prices of Gluten Free Products 2012” which is based in the comparison of the diet of an average family that lives gluten-free (including only one celiac patient in their family) and one that doesn’t, relates the prices of regular foods with those that are gluten-free. Using this study we can get an idea of how much a gluten free diet really costs to the average Spaniard.

According to the study, a gluten free Spanish family spends 1,525.18€ more a year (127.10€ monthly) than the average wheat/oat/barley eating family. Above is a graph that shows the monthly increase in the prices of food sans gluten.

Obviously, its is much more expensive living a Spanish gluten-free lifestyle than one without. A whopping 259.73% more expensive to be exact.

Let’s take a closer look at a simple “homemade” meal and see how much it costs to make it gluten-free. Why not start with the classic (and my favorite), a hamburger – complete with bun, a hamburger patty and ketchup. To keep things realistic and tastier more interesting, we’ve included ingredients that are typically more problematic while maintaining a gluten-free diet: processed meats, bread, and sauces.

The Showdown:Is this hamburger gluten-free? If so, it costs more!

Hamburger with Gluten vs. Gluten-free hamburger:

  • 1 (50 grams) hamburger bun
  • 1 (150 grams) hamburger patty
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of ketchup

According to the aforementioned investigation, the following are the prices of one kilogram of the ingredients. After a few calculations, we’ve also included the cost of each ingredient, with respect to the amount we have allotted to make our meal.

You can see that there’s a huge price difference in just a simple homemade hamburger, a price increase of 178.68% no less, by making our meal gluten-free.

One has to ask, what is the Spanish government doing to help its “gluten-free citizens” absorb this huge price increase? The answer is, unfortunately, nothing at the moment. On the other hand, governments of other European countries such as Sweden, England, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal and Malta offer help via income tax breaks, a lower sales tax on gluten-free foods, and even yearly grants or monthly subsidies which can include free celiac friendly products by medical prescription. Meanwhile, in Spain only a few provinces such as Navarra (northern Spain), Castilla la Mancha and Extremadura (surrounding Madrid) and the areas near Valencia offer some kind of financial assistance to those with celiac disease. However, in many cases this isn’t enough.

The Spanish government not only needs to address the lack of financial assistance towards those who have a medical need to buy these products, but also work towards a more sustainable solution to the problem, such as subsidizing the gluten-free industry so the products themselves can be more reasonably priced. Furthermore, by offering training courses in the production and proper preparation of gluten-free food to restaurant owners and the common Spanish cafeterias, those with celiac disease can dine gluten-free and worry-free at a more economically feasible price.

So we ask to all of you bloggers out there, has the time come for the Spanish government to play a more central part in the monetary lives of its celiac citizens and therefore take a more active role in regulating the production of gluten-free foods?

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