As we approach Celiac Awareness Month, it’s disheartening to read in the news that in a recent report in American Journal of Gastroenterology researchers found 32% of restaurant dishes labeled as gluten free contained gluten. Not surprisingly, pizza, pasta and dinnertime dishes were the most frequent offenders, with pizza and pasta testing positive more than half the time.
The numbers are substantial enough to have merit:
“The company supplied what they had: 5,624 food tests performed by 804 users during an 18-month period. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that 32 percent of tests revealed gluten contamination in dishes that were supposed to be gluten-free.
“Gluten-free pasta samples were positive for the protein in 50.8 percent of tests, while gluten-free pizza turned out to contain gluten in 53.2 percent of tests. Gluten was detected in 27.2 percent of breakfasts, 29 percent of lunches and 34 percent of dinners.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-celiac-restaurants/restaurant-dishes-labeled-gluten-free-often-are-not-idUSKCN1RE2CH)
There are many opportunities for cross contamination in kitchens where gluten-containing foods are also found. Many establishments are making honest efforts to serve the celiac and gluten sensitive customer. Others may make lip service. It’s good to know your local restaurant and what their commitment is. Traveling or trying a new establishment can be more challenging.
We’ve met chefs who have- honestly!- laughed in our faces when we’ve told them our products are certified gluten free, calling gluten free “a trend” or “a fad.” We’ve also met chefs and restaurateurs who ask earnestly how they can serve the gluten free consumer who walks through their door or appears at a wedding they are catering. Somewhere the information is just not getting out. Until a person experiences the problems associated with ingesting gluten -or any food allergen- some people just don’t get it.
The same question arises for me when considering this conundrum as arises when considering addiction or mental illness. Why is a broken leg understandable, or cardiac disease, but not these other medical conditions? Why is pollen allergy understandable while a gluten or peanut allergy is not?
There are organizations working on providing answers and resources. But what about people who just don’t want to hear? Who don’t want to know? For now, those of us who understand must access those resources en mass, get together in groups, be activists for self. For health. For life. If you are food celiac, gluten sensitive or food allergic, do not hesitate to help others understand what it is like for you. If you are uncomfortable facing peopel alone, find a friend, a group of people to be with to help. Together we will continue to get the word out that celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and food allergies are not just “a preference,” “a trend” or “a fad,” but real conditions that can be life threatening.
Ask questions, find answers. Don’t hesitate to walk out the door of an establishment that doesn’t make you feel comfortable you are safe. Be an advocate for yourself, and you will at the same time be an advocate for others who share your experience.
On your side, respectfully,