FreeFrom Food Awards Judging
Christine Bailey, who organised the children's category judging session for us, as well as judging a number of other categories herself, reports on both experiences!
Christine 'dishing out' to the keen judges who ranged from seven to fourteen years in age
Over the last couple of weeks I have been slurping, chewing, munching, crunching and generally eating my way through each day judging the entries in the Free From Foods Awards. Wow! What amazing products we sampled. There was lots of discussion and debate about the winners among judges but complete agreement about the quality and standard of foods entered.
I have also been organising and running the children's category which was launched for the first time this year. Having been involved in the judging for a number of years I can honestly say the quality of foods entered seems to get better and better. As a nutritionist and chef I am looking for foods that are not just 'free from' but contribute nutritionally and taste delicious. For me free from foods should taste as good as or better than standard products. There should be no compromise on taste but equally the food should do us good. Wouldn't it be great to see free from foods mainstream so that when you go into a café or your children have a school dinner you are not treated as though you are on some faddy diet or just being fussy?
This is particularly true when it comes to children's diets. Your children are growing and developing rapidly and they need nourishing foods rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and protein. Giving children nourishing, healing foods is perhaps one of the most basic ways we can show our love for them. Giving them sugary rubbish is not.
So it was encouraging to see a range of savoury, snack and sweet foods entered into the children's category. The children who took part in the tasting were truly amazing. They tasted each food one by one and gave comments and marks on each food. I was equally impressed with the parents who sat in a separate area allowing the children to debate on their own which foods should win. While it is probably true that children (and many adults for that matter) are drawn to sweet foods what was surprising was the diversity of foods the children loved – savoury foods included.
All the parents agreed how much the free from sector has changed and diversified over the years – now it is possible to find alternatives to everyday favourites which taste as good or even better. Often these products have less additives, fillers and unnecessary bulking agents – don't you just love it when you read an ingredients list and can understand what's in your food?
The diversity of products entered in the awards is certainly growing. Every year there are always new products that thrill and excite me. This year was no exception. In every category there was something unique, that used unusual ingredients, combinations of flavours or created a solution to a much needed free from need.
This is why the awards are so special – they have done so much to raise awareness, they drive and promote innovation, quality and push products into mainstream. I for one am waiting expectantly for the shortlist to be announced at the end of February and for the awards night on the 16th April. The children's category signals an increasingly appreciation of the importance of providing options for children with allergies and will run again next year with another group of excited, enthusiastic children to taste and judge!
You check out Christine's blog, where this piece first appeared, on her site at www.advancenutrition.
If you have any queries or would like to talk to us about the project - please email