Celiac sufferers and health-conscious Israelis could soon find their food budgets slashed, with Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman proposing that the State subsidize whole-wheat bread, as well as gluten-free bread. “I plan on proposing the idea of a subsidy on bread for celiac sufferers in the coming days, b’ezras Hashem,” he said at a conference in Tel Aviv Wednesday.
“I want to make their bread cheaper. It’s unfair that they should spend so much money” on gluten-free bread, Minister Rabbi Litzman added.
Gluten-free products has become a multi-billion shekel industry in recent years, with people who suffer from celiac disease (who cannot tolerate gluten) joined by a much larger group that eschews gluten for health reasons. Gluten-free bread has become an important food item in health food stores and even in supermarkets. Based usually on corn flour or potato starch, a loaf of gluten-free bread can cost as much as three or four times the amount a regular subsidized loaf of standard “dark” bread (made of non-bleached processed white flour).
Besides proposing a subsidy on gluten-free bread, Minister Rabbi Litzman also plans to expand subsidies to whole-wheat bread – another product that has exploded in popularity in recent years, as Israelis have become more weight and health-conscious. “I met this week with Finance Ministry officials on this and they responded positively,” he said. “We may institute price supervision of whole-wheat bread. If I see that the supermarkets are charging too much, I may want to put these products under supervision” and subsidize them as well.
To pay for that, Minister Rabbi Litzman may remove subsidies from “white” bread, which is made of bleached processed wheat flour. “We may remove subsidies from white bread, and subsidize only dark bread,” he said, pointing out that doctors and nutritionists have in recent years slammed white flour as “empty” calories with a very low level of nutrients. “Our objective needs to be making whole-wheat flour and bread cheaper, and white bread and flour more expensive. Anyone who wants white bread can pay for it out of pocket.”