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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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    Sounds like being "a little pregnant." Either you' re gluten-free or you're not! Obviously they are not. Has the NFCA become another big agency that can't be trusted? I look forward to their response.

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    The main problem with NFCA's seal of approval on this is use of the term "gluten-free." I think they should get rid of "amber vs. green" and replace that with "reduced gluten" vs. "gluten-free." What Domino's is pushing is not certifiably "gluten-free" in any sense of the phrase.

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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.

    This is right on the money. NFCA should also adopt this standard rather than "amber" and "green" certifications.

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    I stopped and talked with our local Domino's. I think if they put the crust on foil to fill with toppings and to bake, cut with a clean cutter and change their gloves before putting on the toppings we should be okay. We spend our winters in Florida and Tuesday is pizza night with our group. I take my gluten-free crust to the local pizza joint. They keep it on my foil and use a clean cutter and change gloves. I have never had a problem and think if we ask our locals at Domino's to do the same we will be okay.

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    This is extremely disappointing. It's hard enough to find truly gluten-free foods in restaurants. Domino's has no business advertising their lower-gluten pizza as gluten-free. It is not only misleading but potentially very confusing (and dangerous in some cases) to patrons and restaurant workers. It has been my experience in the past 6 years that many restaurant workers don't understand what gluten-free means (but many, thankfully, are very educated!). I have become ill too many times because of kitchen staff or servers who didn't really understand how important gluten-free food is to those of us whose health requires it. Domino's is just jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon and catering to the fad dieters. And then they charge more for the so-called gluten-free pizza! Very disappointing that NFCA is adding to the confusion.

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    It's disturbing that as the 'gluten-free' trend continues to 'roll,' various chains are jumping on the bandwagon but potentially making people sick due to cross-contamination or poor handling procedures. I try to avoid chains at all cost, since I have gotten sick after eating at many of them, even with gluten-free menu options available.

     

    The fact that the NFCA has given a gluten-free 'amber light' to Domino's is surprising and upsetting. We need safety for celiacs, not more grey areas.

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    There is really one real core issue, which is whether the DOUGH for both types of pizza crust will be rolled on the same tables, and we have no real information on this. Perhaps that is how Domino's wants it. I would be less concerned with common ovens and common topping areas than a common table to roll the two types of dough, and so should everyone.

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    Scott,

     

    We appreciate your concern with this matter, and we are thankful that you offered us the invitation to respond.

     

    To begin, we created the GREAT Kitchens expansion to addresses what we feel is a self-guided, unsupervised gluten-free movement that has spread nationwide. Our multimedia training program is designed to address the misinformation, confusion and a lack of understanding regarding the differences between gluten-free ingredients, cross-contamination and what is, in fact, safe for consumption.

     

    To accompany this training, we created a credentialing – A Green and Amber Designation.

     

    We created a Green Designation for those restaurants willing to go through the extensive effort of using gluten-free ingredients, putting their staff through comprehensive training and ensuring that there are strict cross-contamination controls in their kitchens.

     

    For all of those restaurants that are not prepared to meet these three standards, we offer the Amber Designation, which acknowledges that the restaurant is using gluten-free ingredients and has completed staff training to understand the health needs of those with gluten-related disorders. However, these restaurants cannot guarantee an environment free of cross-contamination. Instead, their staff is trained to communicate these potential risks, as Domino's has done by including their disclaimer in all communications about the Gluten Free Crust and posting the video that you noted.

     

    Domino's partnered with NFCA because they wanted input from gluten-free experts. Instead of launching a gluten-free product independently, they actively sought out the NFCA and its GREAT Kitchens program to understand the safest, most transparent way to go to market. NFCA helped Domino's realize that the handcrafted nature of their pizzas and current store operations cannot guarantee a gluten-free pizza free of cross-contamination. As a patient advocacy organization, we felt it was our obligation to ensure that the potential cross-contamination was communicated to consumers.

     

    The GREAT Kitchens program is taking the steps to address those restaurants who promote gluten-free options without training, transparency or even knowledge of cross-contamination. Ultimately, we hope to move all restaurants to a Green Designation. We need your support in encouraging your local restaurant to do just that. Ask them to go the extra mile.

     

    Again, thank you for the opportunity to respond. We hope to gain the community's support as we move forward with our mission to eliminate the self-guided restaurateur and educate America's restaurants on what it takes to fully meet gluten-free needs.

     

    National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

    I find I want to be mad at Domino's for getting my hopes up but really I feel they have been very clear in repeating "it's not safe for celiacs". In our family anytime I find a restaurant offering gluten-free options I never assume they know what it really takes and dig further. Well I will just have to wait until Chucky Cheese brings their truly gluten-free pizza to California.

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    here's my email to the NFCA: I am appalled by the NFCA's announcement of Domino's gluten-free pizza. There is no such thing as gluten-free if it is not made, cooked, stored, and distributed in an area that is devoid of ANY kind of gluten. Neither you, nor Domino's should lay claim to a gluten-free product from them. As one who suffers from celiac, I am totally disappointed and have lost faith in your organization.

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    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?

    I understand what the NFCA is trying to do here, but I don't think they quite got it right. They're basically making two categories, one for people who make some effort to avoid gluten, but don't mind if they ingest it occasionally. These are people that haven't been diagnosed with celiac (hopefully) but choose the diet because it either makes them feel better, or they're caught up with all the hype. The amber designation is meant for them. Then there are the people with celiac who are very careful to avoid gluten entirely because it makes them sick. The green designation is for them.

     

    The problem lies in the fact that they use the words gluten-free too freely in both designations. Gluten-free, truly gluten-free, means no chance of gluten being present in a food (except out of pure human error which no amount of training can ever prevent entirely). You CAN'T refer to restaurants with an amber designation as providing gluten-free food. I don't care what you call it, gluten light, low gluten, some gluten, etc. But when there is any known risk of cross contamination, the terms gluten-free shouldn't be in any way associated with that food or restaurant.

     

    It's fine if the NFCA wants to support the spectrums from gluten intolerance to gluten allergy, but they need to be clearly designated from each other. The press release stating Dominoes has a gluten free crust is incorrect. It's more accurate to state they have a pizza with low levels of gluten. Instead of "gluten free" with a disclaimer, just call it what it is so the Celiac community knows up front to stay away.

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    They are not supporting celiacs at all. This is just a game for those who choose not to eat wheat. What good is that? I feel for those who will eat it without knowing and become sick from it. I know Still Riding pizza crusts are gluten-free and they supply a dedicated oven for their users. Why are they even doing this is the real question. But the bottom line is dollars and nothing more. Just as Orange Leaf says, their yogurts are gluten-free, when many contain malt syrup as well as wheat. I have had no luck in getting them to post this in their stores either. Again, the bottom dollar is more important. How sad. It's hard enough to have celiac disease, but to have people not take it seriously is just wrong.

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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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