A recent trip to Spokane gave us some painful lessons about gluten contamination in restaurants that we hadn’t previously considered. As a result of our “education,” I just posted this letter to a web site that publishes a list of Restaurants who claim they can serve gluten-free food. Update: 2/23/16: I received an email back from the gluten free web site with news that many restaurants had been contacted with the kind of information I have posted here and the concerns & recommendations were, "brushed off." The owner of the website has Celiac & suggested that only the restaurants that post 100% gluten free environments can be safe for those who are truly Celiac. He further suggested that every restaurant needs to be contacted directly for one's protection.
My comments to him, and to anyone who has Celiac, "I would like to trust web sites and restaurants who claim gluten free, but I have been sick for years before being diagnosed and my recovery and health depend on zero contamination. In our recent chat with the chef at a restaurant in Spokane that was on your recommended list, we were told they could not guarantee there wouldn’t be cross contamination. Yet the hostess guaranteed us gluten-free and stated many people with Celiac come there and can eat safely.
Please recommend that anyone diagnosed with Celiac question the executive chef directly in any restaurant that says it serves gluten free food. For us with Celiac we cannot risk cross contamination. It takes months to recover from ANY exposure.
I have some suggestions for every restaurant that claims they serve gluten-free:
That they have a Gluten-Free button on their web page (& a related statement area on their in-house menus). Their statement would be clear & truthful about what level of Gluten-Free they are doing, such as:
- 100% Gluten Free (or not) prep zone, including all foods, prep dishes & utensils, towels, & any other tools used in the preparation, or clean-up of food.
- Change of gloves for any worker who moves between the glutenized areas & the 100% gluten-free zone (someone recently pointed out that in a well known mexican styled food chain the workers put wheat flour tortillas into a warmer while preparing gluten-free food, thus contaminating their food).
If the restaurant does their own baking in the same kitchen area do they realize that the powder of gluten flour spreads through the entire kitchen, which would rule out having a 100% gluten free zone.
If everyone in/or associated with the restaurant industry holds themselves to a higher, truthful standard it could avoid the impending legal ramifications that can occur in our litigious society. And most importantly, it would guarantee safe, enjoyable food for those diagnosed with Celiac, which is what we most want."