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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.  

     

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    I am glad I live in Michigan. We have Passport Pizza and they have a gluten-free menu. The gluten-free pizza is in its own cooking tray so no cross contamination in the preparation area. It also cooks in its own tray and when the employees cut the pizza they have a separate cutter just for the gluten-free pizza and breadsticks.

    So Domino's can keep their almost gluten-free pizza because I will not be buying anything from them. Why even bother making something gluten-free if it's not completely gluten-free? It's the people with celiac disease that are truly in need of these products, not celebrities that 'choose' to eat gluten-free.

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    This is clearly another company making a dollar on the new diet fad. Capitalism - I get it.

    But, it's the NFCA endorsing this that I don't completely get. It's just going to confuse people even more. Taking action is great but this sounds a little half-assed.

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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

    Then I really don't think you should call yourselves the National Foundation for CELIAC Awareness. If you truly cared about those of us with CELIAC DISEASE, you would not even have an amber designation--you would only certify truly gluten-free restaurants. This is so disappointing and disheartening.

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    How is this different from eating out anyplace else?

     

    I will still eat this pizza. In fact, I have eaten two of them already. I live in a town with 0 gluten-free options when it comes to restaurants. The possibility of contamination at Domino's seems about the same as with anything I order from anyplace in my town. I applaud Domino's effort to offer a gluten-free crust, but yes, it would be better if they had a separate oven and preparation area.

     

    But really, most restaurants make my food around gluten containing items all the time, and I am usually ok.

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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.

    I had to pay £250 english pounds to find out that I was allergic to gluten. But when i told the doctors they just said the information would be added to my records.

    I went to a Pizza Hut in the UK and took my own sealed gluten free pizza base which they filled and cooked but I ended up ill due to the grated cheese being tossed in flour.

    Therefore the same could happen with Domino's?

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    Like any business, Dominos' goal is to make money by selling a product. Supply and demand should resolve this issue in time. I'm guessing the majority of people on a gluten-free diet are celiacs. If word continues to spread that their pizza is not safe for us, they won't sell enough gluten-free pizzas to make a decent profit. At that point, they will need to either pull the product from their line, or they will need to take steps to gain consumer confidence in the safety of their product by making modifications to their production process. My guess is that they set out to provide a product to ALL people on a gluten-free diet; however, they didn't do enough market research to understand the specific needs of their target consumers. I appreciate that they did try and that they consulted with a gluten-free expert organization -- just a little too late in the game. My personal opinion is that they should consider pulling the product (like California Pizza Kitchen did) to do more research, make modifications for a safer product, and then re-launch their gluten-free pizzas once again.

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    Guest Cheryl  Morris

    Posted

    While I was grateful that I found out how unsafe the "gluten-free" pizza is at Domino's, I am also grateful that they are at least in the first stages of providing truly gluten-free options. I think that it's wonderful that they are delving into the complicated process of understanding how to serve the celiac population. I hope that enough consumers show interest in their endeavors so that they will continue to move forward and in the future can actually serve celiac patients. In the meantime, I won't be eating there but will be keeping an eye on the situation and will continue to be hopeful. Baby steps are better than nothing.

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    I think everyone is reading the information incorrectly - the pizza IS gluten-free, however it's prepared in a kitchen with products that contain gluten. In such a litigious society - I doubt any lawyers would let a company make claims anything is 100% free of anything.

     

    Much like a company might say that an egg salad sandwich 'may contain traces of peanuts'. There's no way there are peanuts in the sandwich, but the company has to cover itself, just in case...

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    I went ahead and tried Domino's gluten-free crust pizza since I have missed take-out pizza so much. Being gluten intolerant I thought that I should be okay, considering the message that gluten intolerant people can eat it. THEY ARE WRONG! After just 2 slices, I had a gluten reaction and have been sick & bloated for hours. PLEASE DO NOT TRY IT!

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    I am so happy to see that most people feel as I do. I do not have gluten intolerance but have a natural food grocery that specializes in gluten-free research. We contact every manufacturer and request information about their gluten-free nprocedures. Are they a gluten-free facility? Do they test for gluten? What level PPM do they accept? In doing so we have found that most do not know what to do but are happy to put gluten-free on their label. We require that the product is tested at 20ppm or that the product is made in a dedicated facility to receive a No Gluten Added status. We don't make the product so we will not say gluten-free but we verify regularly that the product meets these standards.

    After years of hard work we now have a gluten-free bakery in a dedicated kitchen. We have found that cross-contamination is almost guaranteed when the facility is not gluten-free. It is hard for us to do all of this and see companies like Domino's hype up a contaminated product. They make those with celiac disease have a harder time to protect themselves.

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    Sent to NFCA:

     

    I have spent over 30 years of my life teaching myself and others about celiac disease. In the early days hardly anyone, including gastroenterologists, knew much about celiac disease. I am pleased that there are now investigators interested in celiac and that research dollars are now available for future studies.

     

    I don't believe that most folks remember the word celiac, but they do understand gluten intolerant. It is more descriptive in nature, thus easier for them to remember than celiac. My friends are now better able to understand my affliction and are anxious to help me stay gluten free as we dine out in public.

     

    I can't tell you how many of my friends have suggested we get pizza at Dominos. I was hesitant to do so, but decided to check out the local store. Sure enough, it didn't pass my visual inspection, but I decided to take the risk as I really couldn't see all areas of the kitchen. I ordered the pizza, and have been having a hard time since I ate it. All my personal typical symptoms of gluten poison happened within a day or two. I am recovering nicely, but I simply cannot understand why a company would make a gluten free product that isn't gluten free. Economics would be my best guess--sell pizza, make money!

     

    Now I have to explain to people that I can't eat Dominos because it isn't really gluten free. Well, the crust is--but not the preparation. This is really confusing. And I thought we had come so far on educating people. Not so. It is more confusing that ever to the average bear.

     

    I am really upset that you have endorsed Domino's on this topic. The separate ingredients may be gluten-free, but if the sum total of the dish or the preparation of the dish is not, it has to be declared as not gluten free.

     

    What will stop other food manufacturers or restaurants from copying Domino's approach to semi-gluten free? It is like being semi-pregnant!

     

    Please reverse your statements on Domino's Pizza. This somewhat gluten-free position is disappointing.

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    So I have several issues here.

     

    1. Unless you are using the gluten-free diet as a 'fad' diet then this pizza isn't ok. Who chooses to eat gluten free pizza if they don't have to? Not many people - certainly not enough to make a national chain keep it on the menu.

     

    2. By having the NFCA endorse this pizza IN ANY WAY misrepresents their stated goals. By the way – I briefly browsed the site and could not find any information on this ‘amber' certification and what it means. It also cheapens the plight for REAL celiacs who do get sick because when you certify a non-gluten free pizza. For those of us who have been around for a while we know that acts like this only hurt our cause and not help it. It gives the impression to uneducated people that it really is OK to eat a little gluten and that we are all hypochondriacs like they all thought to begin with…

     

    3. I now question ANY product certified by the NFCA and won't rely on their certification certifications seal from this point forward so they have jeopardized their entire client base (both manufacturers and consumers) by this irrational decision. Now that I think of it I have a lot of problems with products they certify so maybe even their ‘green' certification is a scam too.

     

    4. I can't seem to find one single way this is helping celiacs. Their mission and values statement says. I'm not sure how them certifying a non-gluten free product is meeting any of these:

     

    Mission:

    Through empowerment, education and advocacy, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) drives diagnoses of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders and improves the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet.

     

    Values:

    We believe in a patient-centered healthcare model that is grounded in science, promotes collaboration and supports a comprehensive approach to health and wellness.

     

    Strategies:

    Empowerment: NFCA empowers patients to take responsibility for their own health and provides the information and tools necessary to maximize their health and quality of life.

     

    Education: NFCA educates individuals, healthcare providers and the food industry to understand the needs of those maintaining a gluten-free diet and to support patients in seeking an improved quality of life, beginning with an accurate diagnosis.

     

    Advocacy: NFCA advocates for access to high quality healthcare, along with gluten-free food and drug safety standards, by providing training and resources to the food industry and regulatory agencies.

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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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