Gluten-Free Simplicity

Useful Info, Tasty Anecdotes and Simple Recipes for Attaining Gluten-Free Simplicity

How to Tell if a “Gluten-Free Menu” is Truly Gluten-Free

Posted by nepeht on February 2, 2009

How to Tell if a “Gluten-Free Menu” is Truly Gluten-Free

By William T. Beverly, Ph.D.

  First, it is important for me to acknowledge the efforts of Food Service People.  For one, I am very grateful for their sincere attempts at constructively addressing the important consumer need — “Gluten-Free”.

UPDATE (April 21, 2009): If you are a Food Service professional and you would like to look into this post from that perspective, please go to my site at: Gluten-Free Simplicity for Food Service Professionals .  Given the fact that this is going to be a really big issue in the food business for quite a while now, I have started working on ways to help food professionals through this.

  As a person with Celiac Disease who spent many years (about 20) working in food service, prior to just as many years in higher education, I have closely examined “Gluten-Free” Menus whenever I have been afforded the opportunity.  Following a brief period of wonder and gratitude, I could not help but start to notice the potential for misunderstandings that can lead to big problems. 

  By all means, please keep the “Gluten-Free” Menus.  But at the same time, please consider these areas that may call for closer attention.

  I can see for myself the various ways in which a food-service menu item advertised as “Gluten-Free” by well-meaning food-service planners and menu designers could be slightly altered by well-meaning restaurant staff to become Gluten-Contaminated. 

  Then I started thinking about how (given my experience) such maladies could fall between the cracks and become tragedies for both unsuspecting Celiac Disease or otherwise Gluten-Sensitive persons as well as for well-meaning restaurateurs.

  I have constructed a list which if used wisely, can help both consumers and sincere food-service persons to rule out sources of potential Gluten Contamination in the best of “Gluten-Free Menu” -offering food-service establishments.

  Please feel free to print this list and offer a copy to the managers of your favorite dining establishments.  And if anyone needs further clarification or could use some more focused help with this, I will be glad to accommodate.  My contact information is at the bottom of the list.

  1.  If you have a G-F menu, did the consultant or who ever designed it specify certain brand names for various items such as Vinegar, Rice, Pepperoni, Sauces etc. to use regardless of cost or convenience?  Are Buyer & Chef aware of these requirements and either committed or required to use these brands? (Why: Because certain brands of various ingredients are Gluten-Free and Certain brands are not.)
  2. Have key Staff (i.e., Managers, Chefs, Bartenders, Waitrons and Buyers) been oriented to the differences between Gluten-Free items and ingredients versus those with Gluten?
  3. Are key Staff (i.e., Managers, Chefs, Bartenders, Waitrons and Buyers) aware of the possible adverse and long-term effects of Gluten-Exposure?  (Why: Because staff who are aware of the seriousness of Gluten exposure may be more conscientious about serving Gluten-Free food.
  4. Have Staff been trained to leave Gluten-Contaminated off of plates upon request?  Have they been trained to offer non-Gluten substitutes? (i.e., Can they leave off the toast and substitute it with grits; or how about some fresh fruit instead of pudding?)
  5. Are preparation and line staff using the prescribed “Gluten-Free” methods and ingredients for thickening Gluten-Free sauces, gravies, soups, puddings, ice creams, shakes, icings, and toppings etc?  (Why: Perhaps the Chef has decided that flour-made Rouxs make richer cream soups than do those using Corn Starch.)
  6. Are the brands of prepared sauces used in food preparation of “Gluten-Free” items known to be “Gluten-Free”? (i.e., Vinegar, Ketchup, Tomato Sauce, Jelly, Syrup, Yogurt, Sour Cream, and Peanut Butter etc.).  (Why: Because even though the corporate recipe might call for a certain "Gluten-Free" brand of ketchup and mayonnaise used to make that Thousand Island Dressing, the Chef might have decided to use a different brand because it is less expensive — and possibly Gluten-Contaminated.)
  7. Are brands of prepared Cooking seasonings used on “Gluten-Free” items, actually “Gluten-Free” and MSG free? (i.e., Soy Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, BBQ Sauce, Marination, Wine, Sherry, Alcohol, Juices, Stocks, Consumes, Sprinkled Taste Boosters and Seasoning Salts). (Why, It could be that the Chef likes to  use a dash of his homemade meat tenderizer combination on ALL grilled and roasted entrees and this tiny dash has just enough Gluten to make it unsafe.)
  8. Is there possible Cross-Contamination of pre-shelled, pre-cut, pre-formed, pre-grated or milled items such as nuts, corn meal, canned fruits, cheese toppings, or prepped frozen potato items such as hash browns?  If so, do any Staff members actually  think it is acceptable to simply rinse off this item before serving in order to make it Gluten-Free? 
  9. Are any of the items being used that are NOT prescribed among the Consultant or Corporate Brands possibly Gluten Coated (i.e., Rice, Frozen Foods and Marinated items etc.)?
  10. Has Gluten been ruled out as an ingredient in certain non-suspected Pre-made items such as pop corn, pop corn seasoning, potato chips, mints,  bacon bits, condiments, candies, cold salads, desserts, cheesecakes and pre-portioned extras like ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, tarter sauce, cocktail sauce etc.? (Why: It could be that the Chef uses the prescribed "Gluten-Free" brand of ketchup in cooking, but the little packages of ketchup given to customers on to go orders are not"Gluten-Free".)
  11. Are the cheeses and Cold cuts offered on the “Gluten-Free” menu actually “Gluten-Free”? (Why: The original plan could have been to offer hot dogs that are “Gluten-Free”, but the the manager decided to get the others instead because they are about 1/2 the cost and in his opinion they taste the same.)
  12. Is there Gluten in items like Corn Bread, Corn Bread Stuffing, Corn Meal Fry or Bake Coatings, Nacho Chips or Corn Tortillas?
  13. Are all Ready-Mixes used for "Gluten-Free" items actually "Gluten-Free"? (e.g. Hollandaise Mix, Salad Dressings, and Brown Sauce).
  14. Are the fryers, Grill spots, and cutting boards where “Gluten-Free” items are prepared totally free of Gluten?  (Why: Grills and Cutting Boards can be cleaned, but a batch of fry grease that has been used to cook breaded vegetables has gluten in it and cannot be used to prepare “Gluten-Free” French fries.)
  15. Are the Dishwasher Chemicals, Table cleansers, and Hand Soaps all “Gluten-Free”?

 Please feel free to submit comments or suggestions at  One can also write to William Beverly, Ph.D. at, or send U.S. mail to P.O. Box 1271  Edinburg, TX 78540.

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


9 Responses to “How to Tell if a “Gluten-Free Menu” is Truly Gluten-Free”

  1. […] 4) Gluten free simplicity show “how to tell is a Gluten Free Menu is really a gluten free. […]

  2. […] Reader Favorites Gluten-Free Eating Out: A List of Opportunities and MenusHow to Tell if a “Gluten-Free Menu” is Truly Gluten-FreeSkin Irritation Problems and Celiac DiseaseGluten-Free Dining MapCeliac Disease and Health […]

  3. Chris said

    How has the GF life helped manage your Crohn’s Disease? Do you still have Crohn’s flares? Are you taking any medications for your Crohn’s or has the GF life kept you in remission?

  4. nepeht said

    Some of the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease are very similar to the symptoms of Celiac Disease. For instance: headaches, skin rashes, muscle aches, fatigue, depression, gas, etc…
    As a scientist, it is difficult for me to say what causes what without some really good deliberate methodology and empirical proof. At the same time, I can say that for me, when I am really good with my Gluten-Free diet, the symptoms I listed above tend to be much less severe, if not all together gone.
    The medications question is a whole different issue. My main problem with medications for Crohn’s Disease is that: 1) they are very expensive; 2) Insurance companies sometimes tend NOT to cover than very well, using the excuse that either they are “an experimental treatment”, or “they are used to treat a pre-existing condition”. Thus, it is not always easy for me to have Crohn’s medications.
    At the same time, I would encourage any person who is diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and being treated by a Licensed Physician, to take the medications that she or he prescribes for them.
    While it may seem a simple logical conclusion that eating a Gluten-Free diet can help illeviate Crohn’s and Celiac symptoms, it is NOT proven that any certain diet is a “cure” or can “prevent” either disease.
    It is important to distinguish between things such as: 1) the Cause of a disease; 2) the Cure for a disease; and 3) a way to reduce the Symptoms of a disease. Cause, Cure and Symptoms are three very different things.

  5. […] Gluten-Free Eating Out: A List of Opportunities and MenusSkin Irritation Problems and Celiac DiseaseHow to Tell if a “Gluten-Free Menu” is Truly Gluten-FreeCrohn’s Disease and Celiac Disease: A Dynamic DuoGluten-Free Energy Diet (part 4): How Many Grams of […]

  6. allie said

    Everywhere I’ve checked online, everyone claims that Underwood Deviled Ham is gluten-free.

    Looking at the ingredients, I see at the end, it states, “SPICES.”

    How do we know that none of those unidentified spices are not contaminated with wheat?

    Afterall, we always have to check carefully and make sure to not buy any spices or herbs which have been ground together with wheat flour.

    Anyway, I’ve been gluten-free for a couple years, and recently started a low-carb diet, and yesterday when I ate a salad with mayo & Underwood Deviled Ham, I had MASSIVE reactions, just like way back when with wheat gluten.

    Horrendous burning of stomach; beet-red burning butterfly rash on face; swollen hands with palmar erythma; severe cramping & burning sensations in upper arm muscles, and last but not least, uncontrollable urges to sleep – with vivid nightmares.

    I’ve eaten maybe 2-3 cans of Underwood Ham per year for decades – but I’ve never been on any ketogenic type diet – so had never consumed so much at one setting.

    Anyway, I tryed some again today, and once again the instantaneous burning stomach, intense facial flush, etc.

    Has anyone ever determined WHICH herbs & spices & flavorings are contained under that ingredient, “SPICES” — these symptoms are identical to what happens when I inadvertently ingest any products containing wheat-gluten.

    Thank you.

    • Linda said

      It sounds like you need to look into MSG sensitivity. “Spices” and “natural flavor” are dumping grounds for MSG-related compounds, and all of your symptoms sound like an MSG reaction to me.

      It is pretty tough being both gluten-free and MSG-free – most GF products have ingredients that count as MSG, like xanthan gum. But some of us have to do it – maybe you too.

      MSG-free since 2004, gluten-free since 2009

  7. […] HEADS-UP!!!  Remember, just because a well-meaning restaurant menu, corporation, person, owner, waiter or website claims a dish is “Gluten-Free” does NOT mean it is in fact Gluten-Free.  Unfortunately, there are many variable factors that can introduce Gluten into a dish without any well-meaning restaurant employee even realizing it.  At this point in our lives, being Gluten-Free also means being alert, assertive and using our own ability to think critically.  Click HERE to learn how to tell if that “Gluten-Free” Menu is TRULY GLUTEN-FREE!!! […]

  8. William said

    I also have a new site at
    to help folks purchase Gluten-Free Groceries without spending an arm and a leg…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: