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Gluten-Free Dining Out 04/16/2012 - Can I eat our at restaurants if I’m on a gluten-free diet?

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Eating out gluten-free is not as easy as it seems.  If you Google "gluten-free restaurants," your bound to find a selection of gluten-free menus and gluten-free yelp reviews.  However, a global definition for gluten-free does not exist in the restaurant world.

Photo: CC - Unique Hotels GroupMany times, restaurants, bakeries and deli’s offer gluten-free options like salads (with menu side notes like: order salad without croutons or order meat without bread).  If we define gluten-free as less than 20ppm, then the following factors must be followed to ensure safety from gluten contamination (please note this is only a partial list):

Eating Salads Out

  1. Use of a Separate Strainer: Using a strainer that has been used for pastas or other gluten products, can result in cross contamination.
  2. Salad Dressing: Many salad dressing utilize gluten containing ingredients like malt vinegar, spices, natural flavorings, wheat, etc.
  3. Vegetable Chopping Board: A vegetable chopping board must either be completely sterilized or a gluten-free dedicated board must be used.
  4. Knife: Knife must be sterilized with heat before being used on gluten-free ingredients.
  5. Prep Area: Salad prep stations are often housed beneath shelves filled with bread.  If bread is stored above the salad prep area, then the area cannot be safely maintained as gluten-free.  On an additional note, croutons and other gluten products should not be allowed in the gluten-free prep area (1/6th of a bread crumb is all it takes to be contaminated with gluten).
  6. Salad Toppings: If a topping like chicken, nuts, tofu, peppers or onions are sautéd or prepared on a grill, then the grill and the ingredients must be maintained as gluten-free.
Gluten-Free on the Grill
  1. A grill must be cleaned before a gluten-free product is cooked on it. A separate area for gluten free foods to be cooked is ideal, but not always possible in restaurant settings.
  2. Many meats are marinated in sauces containing gluten before they are cooked.
Gluten Free Pizza & Bakery Products
  1. If an exhaust fan is used in the oven, a screen must be used.
  2. Pizza toppings for gluten free pizza should be housed in a separate area.
  3. Cannot be prepared in a facility that uses gluten containing flours, because flour dust in the air settles on food.
  4. Mixing utensils, wooden spoons, scrapes in bowls and cutting boards must be sterile or maintained for just gluten-free products. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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11 Responses:

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said this on
17 Apr 2012 7:10:17 AM PST
It isn't necessary, according to the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) to have the toppings for a gluten-free pizza stored in a separate area.

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said this on
23 Apr 2012 11:16:52 AM PST
Use common sense: if the toppings are not stored seperately they may become contaminated. Who cares what the GIG says. People need to learn to think for themselves.

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said this on
23 Apr 2012 7:33:51 PM PST
Yes. this is according to GIG but to be "glutened" just because one wants a pizza is not worth it. (Believe me I know.)

Gloria Brown
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said this on
23 Apr 2012 6:29:14 AM PST
Though once not so sensitive, I now get sick just sitting in a restaurant from breathing gluten which has become suspended in the air and forgetting to wash my hands afterwards from gluten oils on my fingers have picked-up, creating a second-hand contamination (so to speak).

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said this on
23 Apr 2012 2:04:23 PM PST
I understand the cleanliness and cross-contamination concerns, but I don't see why knives and cutting boards must be sterilized. Sterilization kills bacteria and viruses but does not get rid of gluten. If you heat a knife that has gluten on it, you will just end up with toasted gluten! Careful washing is sufficient to rid utensils of gluten. Sterilization is not necessary.

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said this on
23 Apr 2012 5:13:21 PM PST
I'd like more info on heat sterlization. Sterilized gluten sounds like a cross-contamination misunderstanding. I wouldn't eat wheat pasta even if it' sterile. Why not thoroughly wash and rinse knives (assume design and materials don't dictate the knives cannot be adequately cleaned)?

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said this on
24 Apr 2012 12:40:38 AM PST
What's this about sterilizing and heating the knife? This has nothing to do with gluten. I find it annoying when others, let alone others on a gluten-free diet, don't understand the difference between a pathogen and a protein. You cannot "kill" gluten with heat. This might seem like a small matter to pick at, but when we don't understand our own diet and promote ignorance like this, how can we expect other people to understand and take us seriously?

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said this on
18 May 2013 10:57:34 PM PST
Gluten is a protein, all proteins can be denatured with heat: that is their logic.

Suzanne Thomson
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said this on
12 May 2012 11:41:48 AM PST
That's a good checklist and it would be great if all restaurants followed these procedures, but in reality I am not convinced that they do. I seem to get glutened every 1 in 3 visit to a restaurant.

I'm also confused about the sterilization of the knife part though! Washing it would make more sense.

Joy Rogers
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said this on
31 May 2012 1:50:39 PM PST
As much of an issue for me is the restaurants that say they have gluten-free items or a gluten-free menu, but seem to be using it as a ploy. I've been to a number of restaurants that claim to provide gluten-free items, but the reality is their choices boil down to either a stripped-down salad or a bland piece of meat and steamed veggies while still charging the full menu price. Grrrr... seriously?! It's not that hard to cook hearty, flavorful meals! I've figured it out, and I am sooo not a trained cook!

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said this on
16 Aug 2012 8:21:17 PM PST
I know how cross contamination can happen. I am not sure how this helps me dining out as I am not in the kitchen cooking myself.

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