Reclaim Gluten-Free: Help Stop the Misuse of the Term Gluten-Free by Restaurants

Reclaim Gluten-Free: Help Stop the Misuse of the Term Gluten-Free by Restaurants

The term gluten-free has a regulatory definition. This definition was created because of celiac disease. Only those restaurants that are able to provide appropriate meals for folks with celiac disease should use it.

What the FDA says 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.” (From https://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/restaurants-and-gluten-free-labeling-claims/).

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

If you come across a restaurant menu that has a gluten-free menu or marks certain menu items as gluten-free BUT includes a disclaimer that the menu item is not meant for someone with celiac disease, please do the following:

  • Share the pdf letter available at this link with the restaurant.
  • Send photos of the gluten-free menu and the disclaimer to Gluten Free Watchdog for posting on social media. Please note that this request applies only to the term gluten-free. While there may be a dislike of the term “gluten-friendly” this is not an FDA-defined term.
  • Contact an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator and file a complaint. FDA has stated, “FDA will continue to work with partners in state and local governments with respect to gluten-free labeling in restaurants.”See https://www.fda.gov/safety/report-problem/consumer-complaint-coordinators

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Comments (11)

  • Ann
    Reply

    So Tricia, what do we do with a national chain such as Dominos? They advertise their gluten free crust even on their TV commercials.
    Here is the Dominos page discussing the gluten free crust.
    https://www.dominos.com/en/pages/content/customer-service/glutenfreecrust?lang=en

    January 8, 2020 at 1:30 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      This situation is a bit tricky because it appears that Dominos isn’t labeling the pizza gluten-free only the crust.

      January 8, 2020 at 2:10 pm
  • Ann Reply

    I see. Yes, tricky. Thanks Tricia.

    January 8, 2020 at 11:01 pm
  • Margaret E Clegg Reply

    So what about a bakery that sells both wheat based and gluten free donuts, and doesn’t publicly disclose on their website that the “gluten free” donuts are made in the same fryer with the same oil as the regular donuts. (The disclosed this only after I asked them in private.)

    January 9, 2020 at 1:07 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      The short answer is yes, please share the information with this bakery. If the fryer is shared then the supposed gluten-free donuts may have been “exposed” to gluten. I’m curious though, does the bakery sell donuts via mail order and do they represent the mail order donuts as gluten-free? Are the donuts in the brick and mortar bakery labeled gluten-free? When asked if the gluten-free donuts are appropriate for someone with celiac disease how does the bakery respond?

      January 9, 2020 at 12:58 pm
  • Nancy Reply

    so the crust is gluten free but Dominos, environment is not so therefore there pizza is not gluten free.

    January 9, 2020 at 6:36 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Dominos is insinuating that they don’t take the steps necessary to ensure a “safe” final product pizza for folks with celiac disease. Establishments don’t have to be 100% gluten-free but they must have protocols in place to ensure that foods represented as gluten-free truly are gluten-free.

      January 9, 2020 at 1:01 pm
  • Randi Reply

    I would love to know food we order in restaurants is safe, but I wonder if restaurants will just throw their hands up and not serve us if they get too much push back?

    January 19, 2020 at 1:03 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      We’ve now tested three restaurant chains that stated in writing to me prior to testing that their gluten-free menu items were appropriate for folks with celiac disease. Nothing about the test results contradicts their statements. This is a drop in the bucket of restaurants I know but we will keep on testing. If some can do it then others can too.

      January 19, 2020 at 11:55 pm
    • Abigail Kennedy Reply

      I have seen the term “gluten friendly” used as a work around to the labeling law for restaurants. Is this a legal term?

      January 21, 2020 at 11:30 pm
      • Tricia Thompson Reply

        The term “gluten friendly” isn’t federally defined.

        January 22, 2020 at 12:26 pm

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