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.
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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?)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.)?
- 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".)
- 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.)
- Is there Gluten in items like Corn Bread, Corn Bread Stuffing, Corn Meal Fry or Bake Coatings, Nacho Chips or Corn Tortillas?
- Are all Ready-Mixes used for "Gluten-Free" items actually "Gluten-Free"? (e.g. Hollandaise Mix, Salad Dressings, and Brown Sauce).
- 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.)
- Are the Dishwasher Chemicals, Table cleansers, and Hand Soaps all “Gluten-Free”?
Please feel free to submit comments or suggestions at www.glutenfreesimplicity.wordpress.com. One can also write to William Beverly, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send U.S. mail to P.O. Box 1271 Edinburg, TX 78540.
This entry was posted on February 2, 2009 at 4:54 pm and is filed under G-F Cooking, G-F Diet Tips, G-F IQ, G-F Recipes, Gluten Watch!!!. Tagged: Gluten-Free Menu. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.