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  • Jefferson Adams

    Majority of Restaurateurs and Chefs Fail Basic Celiac Test

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Photo: CC--docksidepress
    Caption: Photo: CC--docksidepress

    Celiac.com 07/02/2012 - Dismal results on a simple, four-question quiz show that most chefs and restaurateurs lack the most fundamental knowledge of gluten-free facts and protocols; a reality that could leave many gluten-free diners at risk of gluten contamination.

    Photo: CC--docksidepressThe quiz was administrated at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), a non-profit organization that promotes awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.



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    Even though a large number of chefs and restaurateurs said they offered gluten-free options at their restaurants, less than 4 percent responded correctly to the gluten questionnaire.

    People with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance must avoid gluten from wheat, rye and barley, but fewer than half of the chefs could name a grain, other than wheat, that contained harmful gluten.

    The results showed that the chefs were both poorly informed, and unaware, said Alice Bast, founder and president of NFCA.

    In addition to asking chefs to name all three grains that trigger a reaction in people with celiac disease, the quiz asked what kind of oats are safe for those people. There were two other questions, one that asked chefs to identify a possible gluten-containing product (Worchestershire sauce) from a short list of foods and products, and another that asked if it was true that celiac disease was triggered by glucose (false).

    The results point to the need for more celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity training and awareness in the food industry, especially since the number of establishments seeking to offer gluten-free options for their patrons continues to grow.

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    At a Holiday Inn I explained gluten-free to the kitchen manager like this: if I rub your arm with spinach nothing happens. If I rub your arm with poison ivy you get a nasty rash. The mouth, throat stomach and lower bowel are slick. The small intestine is covered with brush like villi where food comes to a screeching halt and is digested. You might say I get a very nasty rash inside from Gluten Gliadin. It destroys my small bowel. Would you eat something that was on the poison ivy plate? She had heard of gluten-free but now she understood it in simple terms. (I know its not technically correct but it works).

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    This brief survey indicates the need for a more extensive test to see if wait staff and chefs really have been listening and "know their stuff", or as so often happens they make "nice, nice" and are guessing at what it all means. I especially liked the question about Worcestershire sauce. My favorites is soy sauce or hearing it's "all natural" which covers all in one statement. My response to the latter is, "so is arsenic all natural".

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    This was great to know but your article suggests there are only 3 grains that must be avoided: "In addition to asking chefs to name all three grains that trigger a reaction..."

     

    While I am sure most people who read this are already aware of things like spelt, I wanted to point it out for clarity's sake.

     

    Thank you for sharing this enlightening information with us. We really do need to ask the right questions in restaurants.

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    At a Holiday Inn I explained gluten-free to the kitchen manager like this: if I rub your arm with spinach nothing happens. If I rub your arm with poison ivy you get a nasty rash. The mouth, throat stomach and lower bowel are slick. The small intestine is covered with brush like villi where food comes to a screeching halt and is digested. You might say I get a very nasty rash inside from Gluten Gliadin. It destroys my small bowel. Would you eat something that was on the poison ivy plate? She had heard of gluten-free but now she understood it in simple terms. (I know its not technically correct but it works).

    Well said!

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    I hope the test was followed with information for them. I've found there's just no substitute for asking questions. At a restaurant in Sedona, Arizona last year, I saw gluten-free pasta offered as a substitute for regular pasta. I asked the waiter if the gluten-free pasta is cooked separately or in the same water as the regular pasta. I fully expected he'd come back and say "yes, it's cooked separately" but he came back and said all pastas are cooked in the same pot and same water.

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    This was great to know but your article suggests there are only 3 grains that must be avoided: "In addition to asking chefs to name all three grains that trigger a reaction..."

     

    While I am sure most people who read this are already aware of things like spelt, I wanted to point it out for clarity's sake.

     

    Thank you for sharing this enlightening information with us. We really do need to ask the right questions in restaurants.

    Spelt, emmer, kamut, farro, and others are actually varieties of wheat, although labels often imply they are an entirely different grain.

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    A nutritionist explained the gluten problem to a conference of pizza-chain owners. Domino's promptly came up with a gluten-free pizza - the crust rolled out with regular crusts. They clearly don't get it, but kudos for the attempt. I would explain it to them this way, "if you had a peanut allergy and your meal was made with just a little bit of peanut oil, would it be ok?" I know they are not the same thing (gluten vs Type 1 allergy), however, I was up all night for 2 nights in digestive agony after a restaurant visit. The server acknowledged that I was gluten-free, but apparently the chef did not.

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    Sadly, I know this article is very accurate. When we go out to train restaurants, hospitals, etc. the chefs and most dietitians and nutritionists really don't understand what gluten really is or that gluten is hidden in many things and the same goes for other food allergies. We do intensive training and they are all pretty much shocked when we talk about cross contamination and give them the list of hidden glutens and other hidden food allergens.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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