Celiac.com 12/23/2011 - A research team recently sought to figure out the basic level of awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity among the general public and trained and untrained chefs, and to compare dining habits of people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity to those of the general public.
In face-to-face interviews, and via internet survey, researchers asked people about their knowledge of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. They also asked people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity about their dining habits, in addition to asking chefs about their levels of training and education.
They surveyed 790 people with either celiac disease (82%, n=646), or gluten sensitivity (18% n=144). The vast majority of respondents to the study were female, making up 83% of those with celiac disease, and 90% of those with gluten sensitivity.
Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity were older than the general public respondents, 57% of the patients were over 45 years of age compared with just 32% of the general public respondents (p< 0.0001).
The 200 chefs who were surveyed showed a much higher awareness of celiac disease, with 77% of chefs having heard about celiac disease compared to less than half of the general population. Interestingly, many more people in both groups had heard of gluten sensitivity, with 89% for chefs, and 67% for the general population, respectively.
Still, the chefs, like the general public, had a tendency to underestimate celiac disease was underestimated by both chefs (56%) and the general public (69%) while peanut allergy was overestimated by 55% of the general public and 60% of chefs.
People with celiac disease may not be surprised to learn that a large majority, 63% of the 790 following a gluten-free diet reported avoiding restaurants more, and eating take-out food much less often than the general public.
One important finding was that the level of training had a great deal of impact on a chef's knowledge of celiac disease. Overall, trained chefs were much more likely to be familiar with celiac disease compared with untrained chefs (83% vs. 52%)
Also, there was a direct connection between the average price of a meal and the likelihood that the chef was familiar with gluten-free concerns. The more expensive the restaurant, the more likely the chef was familiar with celiac disease and gluten-free concerns. Restaurants with an average check below $25 had a 64% rate of awareness, while the rate for restaurants with a check over $65 had a 94% awareness of gluten-free concerns (p<0.0001).
In general, the survey team was impressed by what they saw as a fairly high degree of awareness of gluten-related concerns. Interestingly, both trained and untrained chefs were more likely to have heard of gluten sensitivity than of celiac disease.
Most people with celiac disease avoid restaurants, and eat out the home far less often than the general public. Still, many do eat out, and they do so by making sure they get their needs met.
The simple take away is that chefs are generally pretty aware of gluten-intolerance and celiac disease, and that chefs with better training and higher-end restaurants are more likely to deliver a gluten-free dining experience.
As always, communication goes a long way toward ensuring a pleasant and successful restaurant experience for anyone with celiac disease. Knowing your needs, sharing your concerns, and asking your server and/or chef about their gluten-free options and preparation methods can go a long way toward a smooth gluten-free dining experience.