A WARNING FOR RESTAURANTS OFFERING GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS —
Straight to the point, it’s either gluten free or it isn’t. . . cross contaminated food is not GF. There is no middle ground from a coeliac’s perspective.
BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY
Whilst it’s great news the gluten free world is now trending, it’s important to remember that coeliac disease is a chronic incurable autoimmunity disease, meaning gluten is unsafe for coeliacs and this includes cross contamination.
Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
It seems unlikely anyone can actually visualise 20 parts per million.
The odd crumb can be kryptonite for a coeliac and is essentially poisonous. It changes their internal balance resulting in reduced productivity, health issues plus discomfort with the gut and brain.
ARE RESTAURANTS MISSING THE POINT?
Sorry to break it to you, but restaurants offering contaminated gluten free options are in fact not offering GF at all.
Offering food that’s contaminated with gluten, is like dropping food on the floor and claiming it’s clean.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve questioned restaurants on how food is prepared, going back and forth numerous times to the kitchen and finally discovering that they can’t be sure it’s 100% GF after all. An unfortunate wasted journey for the customer and an embarrassing situation for the restaurant, assuming the waiting staff communicate this back to the owner.
On this basis, some are not sufficiently equipped to pride themselves as offering GF food. It’s so misleading to offer GF on the menu, and then in the smallest of small prints, say it’s not guaranteed.
Catering for those who just choose to be GF, but not the coeliacs who actually need GF, is unfriendly and missing the point.
It’s vital to focus on the reality of why GF is required from a health, safety and hygiene perspective.
Sharing of ovens and towels, or even carefully preparing food in close proximity to non GF products, will result in contamination, which is why training and awareness is so important.
Half ticking the box is not an option. The food is either GF or it isn’t.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
There’s a huge amount of trust and loyalty between customer and brand. Some customers may just take a brand’s word for it, see the gluten free offering and dive in without questioning.
Coeliacs might be 1 in 100, but the gluten free individual usually picks the restaurant. Discarding one diner may result in discarding a potential group, who might not be fussy, resulting in the inevitable loss of current and future business. One percent might appear to be a small proportion of the public, but coeliacs are loyal customers; they will return if they don’t have to worry and perhaps more importantly they will recommend others.
An incident was reported concerning a restaurant that informed a customer their curry was nut free. Unfortunately it turned out to not be, resulting in the worst possible outcome. A gluten attack might not be as immediate or severe, but it can still eat away at the immune system.
Restaurant bloggers and ambassadors, are you 100% sure the brand is genuinely gluten free before you write your review?
In the not too distant future, things will change with potential consequences.
Fancy a head start? When products such as Nima Sensor tester reach the UK and it becomes easy for the diner or an inspector to check, then mistakes will not be tolerated and an improvement in standards across the board will become mandatory.
THANK YOU TO SUPERMARKETS, BUT THERE’S A BUT. . .
5 years ago, the GF selections were pretty miserable, today thankfully the GF aisles in supermarkets are gradually growing, particularly as some of the leading brands jump on the GF train and where the ingredients can safely be read for peace of mind.
There is an opportunity for supermarkets to increase their levels of awareness, by regularly cleaning the trollies, baskets and check out belts. Perhaps locating the GF section away from the open air bakery might be an idea.
All in all, eating at home with food from the supermarket still seems to be the safest option for coeliacs.
Are restaurants, chefs and waiting staff educated to a satisfactory level of advising food health, safety and hygiene? Unlikely.
How many food brands are claiming gluten free but not delivering? Too many.
Some may choose to be GF, however gluten intolerance is VERY different to being coeliac. The latter, sadly have no choice but to check the ingredients of everything before consumption for the rest of their lives. Oblivious failure of vigilance has a cumulative effect with disastrous consequences.
Inspector Gluten is keen to hear from brands that understand the seriousness of cross contamination and pride themselves on this level of awareness.
Dear Food Standards Agency, please help tighten the rule book and make eating out safe for coeliacs?