Celiac Disease Awareness Month Call to Action #2: Restaurant menu items designated as “gluten-free” but not recommended for those with celiac disease

Celiac Disease Awareness Month Call to Action #2: Restaurant menu items designated as “gluten-free” but not recommended for those with celiac disease

In honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Gluten Free Watchdog will be issuing four calls to action (one each week).

The second call to action pertains to restaurants with menu items designated as “gluten-free” but not recommended for those with celiac disease.

FDA states the following about gluten-free claims and restaurants*:

If restaurants or other retail food establishments wish to make “gluten-free” claims (or the synonymous claims “no gluten” “free of gluten” or “without gluten”) for any of their menu items, these foods should meet all of the requirements FDA has established for a food labeled gluten-free, including not containing 20 parts per million or more gluten, whether or not the presence of gluten is due to accidental cross-contact occurring in the kitchen. If restaurants cannot ensure that the foods they prepare fully comply with FDA’s definition of gluten-free, restaurants should not refer to their foods as being “gluten-free.” 

Let’s remember why we have a gluten-free labeling rule**:

“Need for the rule: … Celiac disease has no cure, but individuals who have this disease are advised to avoid all sources of gluten in their diet to protect against adverse health effects associated with the disease…Establishing in this final rule a regulatory definition of the food labeling term “gluten-free” and uniform conditions for its use in the labeling of foods is necessary to ensure that individuals with celiac disease are not misled and are provided with truthful and accurate information with respect to foods so labeled.”

Help Gluten Free Watchdog raise awareness among FDA staff about the use of gluten-free claims and disclaimers by restaurants. Please take photos of actual menus that designate items as gluten-free yet provide a disclaimer about the suitability of the product for someone with celiac disease.

Send photos to info@glutenfreewatchdog.org with “restaurant menu” in the subject line. Photos will be shared with FDA.

Thank you!

*From https://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/restaurants-and-gluten-free-labeling-claims/

**From https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2013/08/05/2013-18813/food-labeling-gluten-free-labeling-of-foods

Consumer photo posted with permission.

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Comments (18)

  • Tom Baker MD
    Reply

    Tricia:

    Have you written anything about the effect of Roundup on our grains?

    May 8, 2019 at 12:56 pm
  • Summer Reply

    Does it need to say “not safe for celiac” specifically or does “gluten free but ***prepped in common area” or the like count? If so I feel like I could send you >20 pictures.

    May 8, 2019 at 3:55 pm
  • Cathy Lawless Bischoff Reply

    From the Pieology Webpage:
    GLUTEN FREE
    A light, vegan-friendly option that is full of taste, free of gluten² and has a satisfying chew.

    ¹Contains Milk and Eggs. This product is Gluten-Free and rBST Free.

    ²Our Gluten-Free pizza crust is made with gluten-free ingredients, however, all of our pizzas are prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure. Pieology does not recommend our gluten-free pizzas for guests with celiac disease. Guests with gluten sensitivities should also exercise caution and judgment when ordering our gluten-free pizzas.

    May 9, 2019 at 12:02 am
  • Angelica Reply

    Thank you for finding the regulation involved here. I had one Pizza shop owner tell me that restaurants are entirely unregulated and it’s up to us to ensure we’re safe. Yeah, so I’m not eating there. LOL

    This restaurant really bothers me because they should know better, but they’re not the only ones in my area who are clueless. This is their disclaimer: *Although the following menu items are made without gluten ingredients, they are prepared in a kitchen where gluten ingredients are used and there is a possibility of cross-contamination)

    This is the website: https://www.neomonde.com/dietary-lifestyle/gluten-free-menu/

    I know I recently saw a disclaimer that specified Celiac but I’ll have to go find it again.

    May 9, 2019 at 7:31 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Thank you, Angelica. Here is the full statement from FDA (pasted in from my other website glutenfreedietitian.com):

      The following statement was drafted by Rhonda Kane, MS, RD, former Consumer Safety Officer, Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Current FDA staff reviewed and slightly revised this statement and granted me (Tricia Thompson, MS, RD) permission to post the revision at http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com:

      In the strict sense, FDA requirements for gluten-free claims apply to only packaged foods that are subject to FDA labeling regulations. However, FDA stated the following in regards to restaurants in the preamble to its final rule on gluten-free labeling (see 78 FR 47153 at 47173, issued 8/5/13): “with respect to restaurants, FDA guidance suggests that any use of an FDA-defined food labeling claim (e.g., “fat-free” or “cholesterol-free”) on restaurant menus should be consistent with the regulatory definitions.”

      Further, both FDA regulations at 21 CFR 101.13(q)(5) (see http://tinyurl.com/lfvknn7) and Chapter IV of FDA’s guidance document titled Guidance for Industry: A Labeling Guide for Restaurants and Other Retail Food Establishments Selling Away-From-Home Food initially issued April 2008 (see http://tinyurl.com/mngrt4j) reiterate the agency’s position that restaurants should not use an FDA-defined nutrient content claim for foods sold in restaurants unless those foods meet regulatory requirements for the claim. A gluten-free claim is an avoidance claim and FDA has publicly expressed its opinion (in the Federal Register and in a guidance document) that it takes a similar approach to gluten-free claims made for foods sold in restaurants.

      Consequently, if restaurants or other retail food establishments wish to make “gluten-free” claims (or the synonymous claims “no gluten” “free of gluten” or “without gluten”) for any of their menu items, these foods should meet all of the requirements FDA has established for a food labeled gluten-free, including not containing 20 parts per million or more gluten, whether or not the presence of gluten is due to accidental cross-contact occurring in the kitchen. If restaurants cannot ensure that the foods they prepare fully comply with FDA’s definition of gluten-free, restaurants should not refer to their foods as being “gluten-free.” State and local governments play an important role in oversight of restaurants and other retail food establishments and are responsible for conducting on-site inspections of those facilities to help ensure the safety of foods served to the public. FDA expects to work with their State and local government partners with respect to gluten-free claims for foods prepared and sold in restaurants. FDA will consider enforcement action as needed, alone or with other agencies, to protect consumers.

      In addition, consumer advocacy/watchdog groups, other retail food establishments, manufacturers of foods labeled gluten-free, and consumers can play an important role in preventing restaurants from incorrectly using gluten-free claims for their menu items. For example, if a restaurant manager confirms that a menu item bearing a gluten-free claim is made with an ingredient prohibited by FDA regulations on gluten-free food labeling, or if any persons sensitive to gluten become sick after consuming restaurant foods claimed to be gluten-free, it is important that these cases be reported to both the overseeing state agency and to FDA (see Consumer Complaint Coordinators listed by state at http://tinyurl.com/k7cfrp2. It is believed that conducting outreach to restaurants and other retail food establishments to help educate them about FDA’s definition of gluten-free can be an effective tool to avoid inappropriate uses of the term gluten-free for foods sold by those facilities.

      ©Copyright January 28, 2014 by http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com

      May 9, 2019 at 1:16 pm
  • Angelica Reply

    Here’s a really obvious one. I don’t know why they even bother.

    “With all that fresh baked bread, it’s just impossible for us to guarantee that any of our items have not come into contact with gluten in the bakery-cafe environment and/or in the supply chain, but if you want to avoid or reduce gluten and do not have celiac disease, a heightened gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, (in which case you should check with your doctor), these options might be just what you’re looking for.” from https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/articles/avoiding-gluten.html

    May 9, 2019 at 7:59 am
    • Grace Reply

      This! I was diagnosed with celiac disease a few weeks after getting a job at Panera, and cross-contamination is such a big risk that I never eat there. However, I understand that there are other people who are gluten intolerant without being Celiac, and eat off of the “gluten-conscious” menu. I hate to say it, but that’s like labeling the pastries+breads without nuts or dairy as “nut-conscious” and “dairy-conscious” because (at my location) the bakers and cashiers don’t change gloves before handling different bakery products. The only people who are trained about allergies are the people prepping food and managers. And even some of them don’t get it. Cashiers and servers are taught next to nothing about allergies. Breadcrumbs get everywhere, and they make sandwiches on the bare counter, so forget it if you’re Celiac. Sorry for my rant, it just frustrates me at this point. My doctor says it’s safe for me to work at Panera, (the dough is pre-mixed for the pastries, so there isn’t as much flour in the air as you might think) but every time that I hear someone mention the “gluten-conscious” menu, it worries me that it could mislead newly-diagnosed Celiacs

      May 13, 2019 at 5:09 am
  • Diane Reply

    I received a Master Pizza flyer in the mail yesterday and it is available online:
    https://www.masterpizza.com/user/files/Menu-Online.jpg

    Note the disclaimer at the bottom of the green box titled “New Gluten-Free Pizzas!”

    “While we take meticulous care with our gluten-free options, these pizzas may have been exposed to gluten from other foods in our kitchen. For that reason, we do not recommend it for those with Celiac Disease & caution customers with any or more severe gluten sensitivities.”

    May 10, 2019 at 3:30 pm
  • C. Bryce Reply

    Thank you SO much!

    May 11, 2019 at 2:37 am
  • Angelica Reply

    I went through Yelp and filtered by category gluten free, and just in my home town. There were 37 listings. However, only these actually disclaimed GF by either citing CC, or actually using the phrase ‘not safe for celiacs’ or similar. Most of them claim they can make certain items GF, and you should talk to them or some such vague thing. Bella Monica is one that surprised me because it’s often mentioned as a good place for Celiacs in the local community, but I don’t see that from the menu, so I listed their odd disclaimer that has nothing to do with GF.

    https://www.bellamonica.com/gluten-free
    It has this bizarre disclaimer on their GF option menu: “Although Bella Monica is not a dedicated Casein Free kitchen, we do cook all Casein Free items with separate &clean pans and utensils to reduce cross contamination.” I know dairy can be a problem, but casein sensitivity is a smaller group than general dairy sensitivity.

    https://www.piepushers.com/menu
    “GLUTEN FREE: WE NOW OFFER GLUTEN-FREE CRUST FOR OUR CUSTOM & SPECIALTY HAND-TOSSED PIZZAS, as well as gluten-free flatbread! PLEASE NOTE THAT We DO MAKE OUR GLUTEN-FREE DOUGH IN THE SAME ENVIRONMENT (AND ON THE SAME EQUIPMENT) AS OUR STANDARD FLOUR DOUGH. AVAILABLE IN OUR RESTAURANT AND VIA DELIVERY ONLy.” Sorry for caps, caps are theirs, not mine.

    http://www.chronictacos.com/view-menu
    “Gluten-free items are prepared in the same kitchen as items containing gluten. Cross-contamination may occur.”

    https://pieology.com/menu/custom-pies
    Scroll down and click -choose crust- and you get: “Our Gluten-Free pizza crust is made with gluten-free ingredients, however, all of our pizzas are prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure. Pieology does not recommend our gluten-free pizzas for guests with celiac disease. Guests with gluten sensitivities should also exercise caution and judgment when ordering our gluten-free pizzas.”

    https://blazepizza.com/menu/
    I think this is equivalent to saying not Celiac safe: “GLUTEN-FREE CRUST AVAILABLE
    We work with wheat-based flour, and do not use a separate oven or press for our gluten-free dough. If you are highly sensitive to gluten, please consider your dining choices carefully.”

    https://musclemakergrill.com/menu/
    “All gluten-free items are handled by our employees in common areas with gluten items, which may not be acceptable to certain types of gluten-free allergies.” AND “No allergen or nutritional information on our website should be considered a guarantee, but simply a good faith effort to serve our customers.”

    May 11, 2019 at 6:54 am
  • Ann Reply

    http://www.1000degreespizza.com/neapolitan-pizza-menu-2/
    You have to scroll down to the bottom of the page there where it says BUILD YOUR OWN NEAPOLITAN PIZZA

    Which says:

    CRUST OPTIONS
    Traditional Neapolitan (our favorite) • *Gluten Free

    *Our Gluten Free Dough is composed of a 100% Gluten free recipe, we also cook Gluten Free Pizzas on their OWN pan, and use a separate gluten free only pizza cutter to slice them. Patrons who are extremely gluten sensitive should still use caution until they have tried our Gluten free pizza.

    May 13, 2019 at 11:18 pm
  • Tiffany Reply

    Do you have a print out that we could bring to restaurant to give them stating they are not following the rules? Some of the smaller, local shops may not even be aware of it.

    May 14, 2019 at 8:59 pm

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