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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Domino's Pizza Now Offers "Almost" Gluten-Free Pizza (So Be Careful!)

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--janetmck

    I have a big issue with what I believe to be a misleading headline in a recent joint press release by Domino's Pizza and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)...here is the headline:

    "Domino’s Pizza Becomes First National Pizza Delivery Chain to Offer Gluten Free Crust"

    Photo: CC--janetmckWhen you read the release further, starting at the 5th paragraph, which many people will never get to, it says:

    "While Domino’s new Gluten Free Crust is appropriate for those with mild gluten sensitivity, Domino’s and the NFCA do not recommend it for those with celiac disease. Domino’s and the NFCA found that while the crust is certified as gluten free, current store operations at Domino’s cannot guarantee that each handcrafted pizza will be completely free from gluten."

    So my question is this: How can the NFCA, a national organization dedicated to supporting celiacs, actually get behind this? Domino's is obviously a big corporation that has decided it wants to cash in and profit on the new gluten-free gold rush, but they cleary don't want to spend the money that it would take to make their pizzas truely gluten-free, and safe for celiacs.

    The Designations area of the NFCA's web site begins with: "Restaurants that complete GREAT Kitchens earn a designation based on their ability to meet gluten-free needs and avoid cross-contamination with gluten."  Just below this it describes their "Green Designation" and its "Amber Designation," and describes its Amber Designation as follows: "This level requires ingredient verification and basic training of wait staff and managers. Kitchen practices may vary with this designation, level one of the tier system, meaning those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity should ask questions and exercise judgment when dining at an establishment with an Amber Designation. Domino's has earned this designation."  So how has Domino's met "gluten-free needs and avoid cross-contamination with gluten"?

    Also, I think any celiac who watches the video Domino's made for this release will find it a bit scary...the same ovens, pizza scoopers, topping areas, etc., as where they make their regular gluten pizzas.

    I would exclude Domino's as an advertiser on Celiac.com based on this release.

    Some might think that the NFCA has sold out here. I invite them to respond using the comment field below, and I invite you to respond.

     

     

    Here is the original press release:

    ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 7, 2012 – Domino's Pizza is responding to the needs of choice consumers, today launching a Gluten Free Crust available in all of its nearly 5,000 U.S. stores and becoming the first national pizza delivery chain to offer such a product.

    Domino’s Pizza (NYSE: DPZ) consulted with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to ensure its products and team member training meet the standards of the foundation’s GREAT Kitchens Amber Designation. NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens is an official credentialing program that has expanded to include restaurants offering gluten free products with varying kitchen practices, therefore suitable for those with gluten sensitivity under the Amber Designation.

    Domino’s new Gluten Free Crust provides a great-tasting option for consumers who previously could not enjoy pizza from the recognized world leader in pizza delivery because of sensitivity to gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

    “Many of our customers have asked for a gluten free crust, and Domino’s is excited to offer a product to customers with mild gluten sensitivity – as well as partner with the NFCA, which has been instrumental to our learning more about how to take this step,” said J. Patrick Doyle, Domino’s Pizza president and CEO. “The prevalence of gluten sensitivity has become a real issue with significant impact on consumer choice, and we want to be a part of the solution. Now, the whole group can enjoy Domino’s with the addition of our new Gluten Free Crust.”

    While Domino’s new Gluten Free Crust is appropriate for those with mild gluten sensitivity, Domino’s and the NFCA do not recommend it for those with celiac disease. Domino’s and the NFCA found that while the crust is certified as gluten free, current store operations at Domino’s cannot guarantee that each handcrafted pizza will be completely free from gluten.

    “The NFCA is thrilled that Domino’s Pizza has developed a product that will improve the quality of life for many of the estimated 18 million Americans who are gluten sensitive,” said Alice Bast, NFCA founder and president. “Not only is Domino’s Gluten Free Crust a huge win for much of the gluten free community who can now get pizza delivered to their door, it’s also delicious. Customers aren’t going to believe they’re eating a pizza made on a gluten free crust when they try it. And the variety of fresh toppings that are available is a giant leap ahead.”

    In an effort to remain open and informative about Domino’s Gluten Free Crust, Domino’s has created a video on YouTube that allows customers to decide whether this product is suitable for their diet, found here: www.youtube.com/user/dominosvids.

    “Offering Domino’s Gluten Free Crust is a big step for us, and we wanted to make sure we were doing it right,” said Doyle. “Domino’s is doing that by partnering with experts at the NFCA and by empowering the gluten sensitive community with the information they need.”

    Domino’s new Gluten Free Crust is available in stores across the U.S. in a small, 10-inch size only, and prices vary by store.

    Domino’s pizza made with a Gluten Free Crust is prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness supports the availability of Domino’s Gluten Free Crust, but cannot recommend the pizza for customers with celiac disease. Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise judgment in consuming this pizza.

    About Domino’s Pizza®
    Founded in 1960, Domino's Pizza is the recognized world leader in pizza delivery.  Domino’s is listed on the NYSE under the symbol “DPZ.”  As of the first quarter of 2012, through its global footprint primarily made up of locally-owned and operated franchises, Domino’s operated a network of 9,810 franchised and Company-owned stores in the United States and over 70 international markets.  During the first quarter of 2012, Domino’s had global retail sales of nearly $1.7 billion, comprised of over $830 million domestically and nearly $855 million internationally.  Domino's Pizza had global retail sales of over $6.9 billion in 2011, comprised of over $3.4 billion domestically and over $3.5 billion internationally. In May 2011, Pizza Today named Domino’s its “Chain of the Year” for the second straight year – making the company a three-time overall winner, and the first pizza delivery company to receive the honor in back-to-back years.  In 2011, Domino’s was ranked #1 in Forbes Magazine’s “Top 20 Franchises for the Money” list.  

     

    Edited by admin


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    All of the credentialing programs (GIG, NFCA) accept money, so this is a non-starter.

    You are incorrect, they actually require batch testing on the end product to maintain their certifications...if they fail a test they must make big changes or they will lose their certifications...this is a very different thing indeed. The NFCA is endorsing them even though they know they will likely fail any test that will put their pizza's under 20ppm, and they are not safe for their own members. No testing is required by the NFCA, and obviously they admit the pizzas are not gluten-free, yet they seem to back Domino's headline claiming that they have a "gluten-free crust."

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    Thank you for your reply. While I support guiding more restaurants towards safety for celiacs, I don't think that is what is going on in the case of Domino's. Actually, I think the NFCA putting their stamp of approval on this, which is what you have done, could actually end up hurting many celiacs, and that is who you are supposed to be helping, isn't it? So is it safe to say then, that anyone can get an "Amber Designation" from you, even if the likelihood of cross-contamination is extremely high? Again, I think putting the NFCA's stamp of approval on anyone who wants it is a very bad idea. Also, besides taking money from Domino's to get your approval, what did you contribute to making their pizzas safer for celiacs? It sounds to me like they launched this line of pizzas exactly how they intended in the first place, which is making them unsafe for celiacs. What influence did you have on them?

    When Domino's approached us asking for help with the launch of its Gluten Free Crust, we absolutely hoped, just like all of you, that this pizza would be safe for all those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, after reviewing operating procedures we realized that we could not recommend this product for those with celiac disease, and we would need to urge those with gluten sensitivity to exercise judgment in deciding whether to order this pizza. We helped Domino's see that, too.

     

    Domino's heeded our advice to include a disclaimer for the celiac community, as we all felt it was critical to be open and honest regarding who could consume this pizza. In fact, the disclaimer pops up when you select Gluten Free Crust from their online ordering system, and staff has also been trained to read the disclaimer to all customers who request a Gluten Free Crust over the phone. The disclaimer states unequivocally that the pizza is not recommended for people with celiac disease.

     

    We can also assure you that the Amber Designation is not an easy designation to earn. We believe the Amber designation is a first step in addressing those restaurants who promote gluten-free options without training or even knowledge of cross-contamination. While we may agree to disagree about this approach, we believe we have put in place a system that can minimize the confusion, motivate an industry to train their staffs properly and, ultimately, move all restaurants to a Green Designation, including Domino's Pizza.

     

    National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

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    When Domino's approached us asking for help with the launch of its Gluten Free Crust, we absolutely hoped, just like all of you, that this pizza would be safe for all those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, after reviewing operating procedures we realized that we could not recommend this product for those with celiac disease, and we would need to urge those with gluten sensitivity to exercise judgment in deciding whether to order this pizza. We helped Domino's see that, too.

     

    Domino's heeded our advice to include a disclaimer for the celiac community, as we all felt it was critical to be open and honest regarding who could consume this pizza. In fact, the disclaimer pops up when you select Gluten Free Crust from their online ordering system, and staff has also been trained to read the disclaimer to all customers who request a Gluten Free Crust over the phone. The disclaimer states unequivocally that the pizza is not recommended for people with celiac disease.

     

    We can also assure you that the Amber Designation is not an easy designation to earn. We believe the Amber designation is a first step in addressing those restaurants who promote gluten-free options without training or even knowledge of cross-contamination. While we may agree to disagree about this approach, we believe we have put in place a system that can minimize the confusion, motivate an industry to train their staffs properly and, ultimately, move all restaurants to a Green Designation, including Domino's Pizza.

     

    National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

    I think you need to get rid of the "Amber" designation...to me if Domino's can get it anyone can. One good analogy is what if a national Italian chain launched "gluten-free spaghetti," but then cooked their gluten-free pasta in the same water as their regular wheat pastas...it seems they could get Amber Designation from you if they just told everyone about it via a disclaimer, right? The issue is that they are calling it "gluten-free" when the end product likely is not, and that they are using your name "NFCA" to back them up, implying that it is somehow ok and save because you are attached to it. Last, people in my forum are calling local Domino's and nobody is getting read a disclaimer, and this is only the first week, fresh after your extensive training, right? What happens a year from now...there is high turnover in that industry you know?

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    When Domino's approached us asking for help with the launch of its Gluten Free Crust, we absolutely hoped, just like all of you, that this pizza would be safe for all those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, after reviewing operating procedures we realized that we could not recommend this product for those with celiac disease, and we would need to urge those with gluten sensitivity to exercise judgment in deciding whether to order this pizza. We helped Domino's see that, too.

     

    Domino's heeded our advice to include a disclaimer for the celiac community, as we all felt it was critical to be open and honest regarding who could consume this pizza. In fact, the disclaimer pops up when you select Gluten Free Crust from their online ordering system, and staff has also been trained to read the disclaimer to all customers who request a Gluten Free Crust over the phone. The disclaimer states unequivocally that the pizza is not recommended for people with celiac disease.

     

    We can also assure you that the Amber Designation is not an easy designation to earn. We believe the Amber designation is a first step in addressing those restaurants who promote gluten-free options without training or even knowledge of cross-contamination. While we may agree to disagree about this approach, we believe we have put in place a system that can minimize the confusion, motivate an industry to train their staffs properly and, ultimately, move all restaurants to a Green Designation, including Domino's Pizza.

     

    National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

    Here's what I find most disturbing about all of the NFCA's responses to this criticism (both here and on their website): They appear to be far more interested in defending and rationalizing their actions than they are in accurately informing and protecting people with celiac disease.

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    This was the most informative forum I've read about Domino's and their "gluten-free" crust. As a celiac sufferer myself, I was ecstatic to hear that Domino's was putting out gluten free crust and not because I had missed out on delivery pizza - I have been purchasing gluten free pizza from Extreme Pizza in Modesto, CA for almost 2 years now. They have two kitchens that are completely separate; ovens, ingredients...everything. Of course they charge an arm and a leg for their gluten-free pizza (which is why I was excited about Domino's) but at least I know it's legit.

    While I agree that Domino's should make their disclaimer just as obvious as the words 'gluten-free' (I mean, come on now, stop teasing me! Before my diagnosis I was a beer and pizza kind of gal and now I'm genuinely frustrated that I can't…ever.) we HAVE to become advocates for our own health and STOP taking someone's word for it.

    For years my doc said that my celiac symptoms were in my head he has been replaced- if I took his word for it I'd be looped out on pills. Instead, I did my own research and sure enough, he was wrong. My new physician said that I had been undiagnosed for at least 10-15 years. I grew up believing every word my doc said, but now I know that regardless of what medical condition you have - it is best to research it for yourself. Maybe it's just me, but it was like pulling teeth to get a diagnosis - and I just can't take anyone's word for it anymore.

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    While I understand that this is upsetting, I think that the benefits of this are being overlooked. Just the fact that a large national chain is now offering an option for those with gluten sensitivity will generate huge awareness of celiac and gluten sensitivity. More and more companies will take interest in doing the same and many of those will implement the proper cross contamination procedures. Not every single restaurant or take out/delivery company has the space on premise to have a second kitchen. Other companies who learn about what Domino's is doing will understand quickly that by operating to serve gluten free at the level that they are able, that they will gain many more customers. While the NFCA may not have gone about this in an ideal way, this is a win win for celiacs in the bigger picture. Doctors are now just starting to acknowledge that the celiac problem is much larger than the medical establishment ever realized and most of those who are not C/or gluten sensitive have no idea what that is or what it is like. Humanity including the NFCA is in a learning curve and there will be growing pains and trial and error to get this right, but at least people are taking a step in the right direction. Anger and violent opposition are not really helpful to the process - a constructive and collaborative approach would go a lot farther.

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    Guest Christine Ford

    Posted

    I am very disappointed in the fact that the NFCA is not being black and white here....there is no gray!! Either it's gluten-free or it's not. I am trying desperately to educate our local restaurants in my community. Something like this goes against what I am doing. Celiac disease is serious!

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    I understand that in Australia, restaurants that prepare gluten based dishes in their kitchens can only claim 'low gluten' irrespective of whether the dish/ingredients are gluten free. This helps to serve as a warning for consumers, rather than expecting something claiming to be 'gluten free' is also prepared, cooked and served in a manner that ensures the final product is in fact gluten free.

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    As a new person diagnoised with celiac I am truly disappointed in NFCA and in Domino's Pizza. If I hadn't gone in and asked for info I would assumed that the pizza was safe for me to eat. What a disappointment. Gluten Free should only be put on truly gluten free products.

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    While I understand that this is upsetting, I think that the benefits of this are being overlooked. Just the fact that a large national chain is now offering an option for those with gluten sensitivity will generate huge awareness of celiac and gluten sensitivity. More and more companies will take interest in doing the same and many of those will implement the proper cross contamination procedures. Not every single restaurant or take out/delivery company has the space on premise to have a second kitchen. Other companies who learn about what Domino's is doing will understand quickly that by operating to serve gluten free at the level that they are able, that they will gain many more customers. While the NFCA may not have gone about this in an ideal way, this is a win win for celiacs in the bigger picture. Doctors are now just starting to acknowledge that the celiac problem is much larger than the medical establishment ever realized and most of those who are not C/or gluten sensitive have no idea what that is or what it is like. Humanity including the NFCA is in a learning curve and there will be growing pains and trial and error to get this right, but at least people are taking a step in the right direction. Anger and violent opposition are not really helpful to the process - a constructive and collaborative approach would go a lot farther.

    What about the celiacs who will eat Domino's "gluten-free" pizzas and get injured...and perhaps end up with lymphoma? They should not be using the term "gluten-free" if the end product is not...it is that simple, otherwise it will lead to serious injury for many people who do not understand this.

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    I was appalled that the NFCA got involved in this matter. It feels like they got some type of payback. In fact, as far as I am concerned the pizza truly is not gluten-free since the cross contamination will be occurring at a high level. Don't even advertise it as gluten-free.

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    We MUST assume that not everyone fully understands that "gluten-free" does NOT mean "safe for people with celiac disease" so by calling their crust gluten-free, that endangers the health of a LOT of people! LOW GLUTEN would be the more RESPONSIBLE thing to do here (GO AUSTRALIA!)...I'm very disappointed with NFCA. Maybe they need a good bout of gluten side effects for about a month straight to understand how irresponsible their decision was there........

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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