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    New Study Says One in Three 'Gluten-Free' Restaurant Foods Contain Gluten

    Jefferson Adams
    • A new study tells us exactly why people with celiac disease and other gluten-sensitive conditions have reason to be very careful about eating out.

    New Study Says One in Three 'Gluten-Free' Restaurant Foods Contain Gluten
    Caption: Image: CC--Johnn

    Celiac.com 10/15/2018 - If you’re on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, then you’re probably already cautious about eating out. A new study tells us exactly why people with celiac disease and other gluten-sensitive conditions have reason to be very careful about eating out.

    According to the latest research, one in three foods sold as "gluten-free" in U.S. restaurants actually contain trace levels of gluten.

    This is partly due to the fact that the gluten-free diet has become popular with many non-celiacs and others who have no medical need for the diet. That has led many restaurants to offer gluten-free foods to their customers, says study author Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, of Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center. 

    But, if this research is any indication, too many restaurants don’t do a good job with gluten-free. For the study, more than 800 investigators set out to assess the true gluten content of dishes listed as "gluten-free" on menus. Armed with portable gluten sensors, they tested for gluten levels that met or exceeded 20 parts per million, the standard cutoff for any gluten-free claim.

    Based on more than 5,600 gluten tests over 18 months, the investigators determined that 27 percent of gluten-free breakfast meals actually contained gluten. At dinner time, this figure hit 34 percent. The rise could reflect a steady increase in gluten contamination risk as the day unfolds, the researchers said.

    Off course, the risk is not all equal. Some restaurants are riskier than others. Unsurprisingly, the biggest culprit seems to be restaurants that offer gluten-free pastas and pizzas. Nearly half of the pizza and pasta dishes from those establishments contained gluten, according to the study.

    Why is that? Well, as most folks with celiac disease know all too well,  kitchens aren’t really set up to segregate gluten, and "sharing an oven with gluten-containing pizza is a prime setting for cross-contamination," says Lebwohl. Also, too many restaurants use the same water to cook gluten-free pasta as they do for regular pasta, which contaminates the gluten-free pasta and defeats the purpose.

    Moreover, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates gluten-free labels on packaged food products, there is currently no federal oversight of gluten-free claims in restaurants. 

    The results of the study will be presented today at a meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, in Philadelphia. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

    In the absence of federal enforcement at the restaurant level, the burden for making sure food is gluten-free falls to the person doing the ordering. So, gluten-free eaters beware!

    These results are probably not surprising to many of you. Do you have celiac disease? Do you eat in restaurants? Do you avoid restaurants? Do you have special tactics?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.

    Read more at UPI.com


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    Guest Rick M

    Posted

    I could've have told the Celiac Disease community that.  In fact I tell everyone I meet about how my health greatly improved since I've stopped the risky acts of eating out at establishments that are not 100% Gluten Free.

    My health and well being is far too important to me.

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    Guest KOz

    Posted

    I travel for work so unfortunately, eat out way too frequently.  You just learn to ask the right questions from the right people and walk out when you don’t feel it is safe.  

    However I would say it is frustrating to those who dine with celiacs, although it shouldn’t be.  They are like, the waiter said it’s gluten free, isn’t that good enough or the menu said it’s gluten-free, it is fine.  Trying to explain the reason I can’t take it at fave value is probably the most frustrating part for me.  

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    When eating in “gluten free” restaurants I still ask my food to be cooked separately in aluminum foil to avoid cross contamination.

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    Guest Laura

    Posted

    You do NOT want to eat beef that has been cooked on "foil".  It never reaches temps necessary to caramelize.  This results in meat having an "ashen" appearance & it becomes tough as a nail to chew.

    Traveling: Stay at hotels with kitchens. Buy prepared vegetable & fruit platters at the grocery stores. Stay out of restaurants! 

    4.5 hours spent on the toilet to expel gluten from the intestinal tract will put a dent in your travel plans.  

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    Guest Infrequent diner

    Posted

        I have a few go to places that I can trust. You do have to be clear and not afraid to verify. The find me gluten free app is helpful. The places I go to have rave reviews and with just an exception or two the owners have Celiac, so they really get it. Give great reviews to those who earn it, it will help others to find a place to eat. I have learned to decline workplace food and meals and eventually for the most part, it is accepted. Good luck in your journey. BTW Miralax is the only med all doctors seem to agree on if you have certain isues. Google it.

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    Guest Margie C

    Posted

    If I’m dining in an unfamiliar place I will usually order a baked potato with butter or a bowl of rice and sometimes steamed green beans or other vegetable, I generally stress to the waiter/waitress to please write gluten-free on my order and most of the time it works out well.  The anxiety level when eating out is huge!

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    Thank you for the article and posters comments all helpful. I humbly learned from the veterans here I seek for advice and from personal experience, It is best for me not to eat in restaurants. Yes even one owned by a gluten intolerant owner I got cc at. Apparently, he was not there the time I came in so my call ahead was null and void. The staff seemed confident and knowledgeable, but body said otherwise. I didn't bother to go back when owner there.  That was the last experience.

    As my beloved veterans taught me here that cooler , lunch bag, hotel kitchenette, RV travel seems best fit for my future. I do miss the eating outside sidewalk cafe very much, but will carry on. 

    Stay strong everyone and continued safety to all those work travelers. 

     

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    Guest SKUN

    Posted

    I have learned that gluten free pizza is not, ever.  Also, I ordered a gluten free pasta (delivered from a local restaurant that claims they have gluten-free food) and they stuck two big garlic knots on the top. Could not eat it at all. I travel too and it is extremely hard to find places to eat especially in convention centers-  they don't even know what gluten free is.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, and science. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and provided 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 Dangerous Grains by James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA.

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