Celiac Canada releases country’s first food guide for health-care facilities: Andrew Coppolino

A new guide to help health-care facilities when it comes to addressing the needs of people with celiac disease is a welcome step for Kitchener’s Linda Sill.

Her mother was diagnosed with celiac and Sill says she struggled to get staff to understand how serious it was when cross-contamination happened with food. 

“I wish my mother’s care home workers had the guide,” Sill said. “This guide could save thousands of lives.”

Since her mother’s death, Sill has become an advocate for awareness about celiac in health-care settings and says the new Celiac Canada guide is an important education piece.

Celiac Canada released the new guide last month and the group says it will be an important resource for health-care providers, food nutrition workers and food service employees as they care for patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

One in 100 Canadians have celiac, a disease that has as many as 200 symptoms and remains an under-diagnosed condition, the organization says.

Celiac Canada, a volunteer-based, federally registered charitable organization, was founded in 1973 by two Kitchener women who recognized the “vital needs” of people suffering from celiac disease, the association’s website says.

A portrait of a white woman with red hair. She is wearing a blue and white scarf.
Doris Foster, a board member with Celiac Canada, is the lead author of Gluten-Free Food Service in Health Care: A Practical Guide. She says the key to improve health outcomes is education. (celiac.ca)

Distributed in co-ordination with Sysco Canada, a global food service company who will share the guide with its institutional customers, the document is touted as Canada’s first gluten-free food service training guide that seeks to improve patient health and saves lives.

Guide meant to help busy institutional kitchens

Doris Foster is lead author of the guide and a registered dietitian, former administrator of hospital nutrition services and a board member with Celiac Canada. She is also someone who has been diagnosed with celiac.

She stresses that the education element of the guide is key to improved health outcomes when it comes to diet.

“The guide is designed to help busy health-care managers and their staff give the best service given that they have limited resources,” Foster said. “It can be complicated because there are cross-contamination issues and in a busy institutional kitchen there’s a lot going on.”

Called Gluten-Free Food Service in Health Care: A Practical Guide, comes at a time when celiac awareness is growing in the general population, Foster said.

“Celiac is just better understood even in the public and even if you don’t have the disease, people do have a better understanding, although there is still more work to do,” she said.

The free, downloadable guide is available to anyone and can be found on the Celiac Canada website.

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