When gluten free doesn’t really mean gluten free and what we can do about it
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When gluten free doesn’t really mean gluten free and what we can do about it

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On a recent trip to Iowa, I was meeting my family for dinner. Being the celiac, I was in charge of picking the restaurant. Without hesitation, or concern for the length of anyone’s drive, I chose a place with one of the largest gluten-free menus I’ve ever seen. I’m talking appetizers, sandwiches, pizza, dessert and beer. This restaurant advertised and boasted about their gluten-free menu. Normally, I would call the restaurant and ask about cross-contact and celiac concerns, but this time, because of their proud advertising, I assumed they knew what they were doing. 

Never assume. I’ve given this advise countless times. Never assume a restaurant cares about anything other than their profit margins. Never assume they want to accommodate someone who is actually sensitive to gluten. Yet, here I was in Iowa, excited and making assumptions. We sat down, I read the menu and was ready to gain 20 pounds by over-indulging in every single item on the menu. Then, I read the disclaimer on the top of the menu. I was ready for it to tell me about their cross-contact procedures and how they do everything they can. Wrong! In a nutshell, it said they do absolutely nothing to prevent cross-contact and if you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten the items on their gluten-free menu are not safe for you. What? How can a restaurant that boasts of their gluten-free menu not actually be safe for someone who is sensitive to gluten? The answers simple, they just don’t care.

So what can we do about it? Email, call and speak to management and restaurant owners. Let them know why they need to rename their gluten-free menu, the ramifications of cross-contact, and how easy it is for them to safely accommodate you. Those of us with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity are extremely loyal customers. I’ve been a regular at a mediocre restaurant simply because I knew it was safe. Remind them when they accommodate us correctly, they not only gain our business but the business of everyone dining with us. We’ve made a major stride this year with the FDA’s gluten-free labeling law, keep advocating friends. We can change the restaurant industry too.

 

Your celiac sister,

Sarah