Gluten Free France: Supermarkets

Mr D and I recently took a trip to Burgundy in France to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I was looking forward to a week of walking, cycling, reading with plenty of delicious food and seriously good red wine from the region. Since Mr D and I were staying in a gîte we had to get quite acquainted with supermarkets and gluten free shopping in France. I absolutely love exploring supermarkets on our travels abroad so I was very much looking forward to this.

The gorgeous Burgundy village in which we were staying had 2 supermarkets which were of a similar size, an Intermarché and an ATAC. Having tried both we preferred the Intermarché but that was not food driven: The wine section was better in the Intermarché!

 Both supermarkets had gluten free sections. In the Intermarché the section was larger:

In the ATAC supermarket the gluten free goods were in an aisle with other free from goods. The gluten free items are those in blue packets on the left hand side:

We went into bustling Dijon and came across this Le Marché Bio supermarket. They had a good range of both French and international gluten free brands.

The Dijon Bio store did have it’s own gluten free section but I found some of the goods on offer quite pricey. For example I paid EUR 7 for a loaf of long life bread.

Most of the products I found in France were gluten free versions of biscuits, cakes and pasta. There were several varieties of flour and ready to bake bread mixes which might be useful to know if you wanted to bake your own bread while on holiday (hmmm well you might!). Although if you are self catering, I think you would want to bring your own loaf tins and other gluten free baking ingredients.

Some French gluten free products I bought:

These were meant to be for breakfast to get over not being able to have a pain au chocolat but I didn’t like them very much. They tasted to me like they were full of additives:

 Now these I did like!

I bought some great gluten free Madeleines the last time I was in Italy and one of these is a perfect breakfast with a good coffee. The taste of these Madeleines was good, but not as good as the ones I bought in Italy.

What I found really surprising about shopping for allergies and intolerances in France is that the labelling of food items in France is very inconsistent. Some items (notably those which are explicitly marketed as gluten free) have clear labelling on them which can be seen in the photos above and this example from the Madeleines:

Conversely, food items which we would expect to be labelled in the UK such as sausages, crisps, pâté often had no labelling whatsoever. I don’t understand why this is. In the UK new EU regulations on gluten free labelling will come into force in January 2012. If food manufacturers in France are going to comply with these new rules, they’ve got a lot to do in the next few months. 

It is possible to shop and eat gluten free in France although it’s not as Coeliac friendly as other European nations. In my view the gluten free sector is much more developed in the UK than in France and so the products available in France are not as sophisticated as those we find in the UK. Many of the items I saw in France were fairly synthetic and certainly none of the higher quality gluten free brands we see in the UK, or Italy for that matter. I didn’t see any fresh loaves such as Genius while I was in France nor I didn’t find any gluten free croissants or baguettes although I’ve heard they exist!

My tips for gluten free food shopping in France:

  • Gluten free goods are available in French supermarkets but the variety and quality of the range may not be the same as available in the UK
  • Seek out health stores, such as the Bio chain which sells brands including Schär as well as French gluten free goods. Other health food stores include Naturalia and La Vie Claire 
  • For negotiating ingredients on labels where allergy information may not be explicitly stated, use the French version of these excellent Allergy wordlists.
  • When purchasing items in stores (e.g., the delicastessen), use these Coeliac Travel language cards in French
  • Check out the website for the French Assocatiation of Gluten Intolerants. Details of gluten free food manufacturers are in the left hand menu.

Most importantly enjoy all of the wonderful naturally gluten free food and wine which France offers!

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