Son inspires gluten-free treat

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A Derrymacash woman has invented her own chocolate so that her 14-year-old son can enjoy the same treats as his schoolmates.

Caroline McArdle came up with a gluten free alternative to chocolate after her son Jonathan was diagnosed with Coeliacs disease which meant he couldn’t have wheat or gluten in his diet.

After Jonathan was diagnosed at the age of 10 Caroline became a food detective.

She said: “I was investigating every food label and every ingredient in the food aisles. We were reassured that Jonathan’s tummy pain would settle down as long as he didn’t have wheat or gluten in his diet. Unfortunately this was not the case. He also reacted badly to buckwheat. His symptoms didn’t really settle down at all until I made the hard decision to remove all dairy and egg from his diet.

“Because Jonathan was only 10 we wanted to source some sweet treats for him. I contacted all the big brand names that he liked on the sweet aisle, all the responses were the same that their products contain gluten.”

She continued: “I’ll always remember one Christmas at school. It was last day of term. Everyone was excited. The teacher lined everyone up and handed out the selection boxes. When Jonathan’s turn came it was a case of ‘Sorry Jonathan, we can’t give you one’. He was the only one left standing without anything. This time I got angry. Enough was enough.”

So motivated was Caroline that she decided to make her own chocolate, a process which took two years and involved extensive research.

She said: “One of the things Jonathan really missed was chocolate. The gluten free chocolate he had tried either didn’t agree with him or he didn’t like it because they were a very bitter dark chocolate.

“After a few years of research and hard work with some of the finest chocolatiers in the world we produced a chocolate delicious enough for all to enjoy even if by chance you just happen to be Coeliac or not.”

She added: “I only did it for Jonathan. It was never meant to go on the market, but then other people tasted it and encouraged me to put it on sale. We now supply several shops.

“I’ve been right across Northern Ireland at markets and trade fairs and food festivals, but this is the first time we’ll be in Lurgan.

“I’m very excitied that Lurgan is going to have a market. It’s great that we can have our product on display in our own town.”

Cirillo Chocolate will be one of 15 traders at Lurgan market today (Thursday) situated at the plaza in the heart of the town centre.

On the opening day, council will be giving out free reusable hessian bags to shoppers. Lurgan Market will run every Thursday from 9am to 2pm.