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NFCA to Suspend Use of Amber Designation After Domino's Controversy 05/23/2012 - In April 2012, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness debuted its Tiered Credentialing system, whereby restaurants can be awarded varying levels of a gluten-free designation. The system has spawned much controversy, as many sufferers of celiac disease argue that there should be no flexibility with the gluten-free term. Many argue that a food either contains gluten, or it does not: leading people to believe gluten-contaminated products are gluten-free could be harmful to celiacs.

Amber DesignationThe issue came to a head when the NFCA awarded Domino's 'gluten-free pizza with an 'amber' gluten-free designation. The controversy is in the preparation: while Domino's may use gluten-free ingredients to make the crust, no extra effort is put forth to avoid contamination (hence, their 'amber' credential rather than 'green', which would be awarded to restaurants who take more care to avoid gluten contamination). Such contamination is almost assured given the volume of gluten flour present in a typical pizza restaurant kitchen, so many have argued that an 'amber' designation is really only useful to people who are gluten-conscious, but do not suffer from any form of gluten sensitivity. 

A number of celiac disease experts have come forth to denounce Domino's crust and the NFCA's endorsement of it. The NASSCD has even gone so far as to accuse Domino's of “exploitation”, given the gluten-free diet's recent surge in popularity. 

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Domino's or the NFCA might argue that their crust was never intended for those with celiac disease, and that the 'amber' designation indicates that, but as Dr. Steven Guanalini, president of NASSCD argues,“there should be no need for disclaimers. The threshold has to be set at the same level for everybody for the term gluten-free to be meaninful.”

In what may be viewed as something of a victory for the celiac community, the NFCA announced that in response to overwhelming public pressure, it is suspending use of its “amber” credential. According to their press release, they will "conduct a review to determine the most effective and clearest way to warn the community of the risk of cross-contamination and the use of the phrase 'Gluten Free'". It is still unclear what this means for Domino's.

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11 Responses:

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said this on
24 May 2012 11:08:41 AM PDT
Many foods that are labeled gluten-free are not actually free of gluten. I don't trust the labels, because there is no standard for what gluten-free actually means. So it can mean whatever a company wants it to, not what celiacs think it means. The FDA has really dropped the ball on truth in labeling. I have had gluten reactions a few times to products that were labeled as being gluten-free, when they were actually gluten light. Now, I avoid them, because they are not worth the misery and damage they can cause.

David Bennett
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said this on
28 May 2012 11:19:26 AM PDT
As a mild coeliac, I think there should be SOME flexibility out there, but it has to be clearly understood and monitored. Here in Britain, gluten-free is now defined as <20ppm. There is also low-gluten, which I can tolerate in moderation, defined as <100ppm. OK, I'm "lucky", but the standards have to cover the whole spectrum.

I have no connection with Domino's - in fact, I don't really like pizza.

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said this on
28 May 2012 11:31:11 AM PDT
I think all of us who actually have celiac disease know that "Gluten Free" on the label means absolutely nothing. All you have to do is get deathly ill a few times to learn that lesson. Always, always read labels, and realize that marketing is driven by greed and not altruism. And yeah, I'm a graphic artist and do food labels, I know this game pretty well.

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said this on
28 May 2012 7:15:47 PM PDT
Domino's and many other companies that serve and sell food are definitely exploiting the term "gluten-free". I think it must stop. There should be one meaning for the term so that celiac sufferers can be sure of what is safe. The trendy folks who "go gluten free" because it is popular need to understand celiacs are not avoiding gluten to be hip, we need to not eat poison!

Susan Swearingen
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said this on
28 May 2012 7:31:10 PM PDT
I am quite pleased to get rid of the amber designation. All I want to know is if I can eat it without compromising my health. If not, it is not gluten-free.

watermellon man
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said this on
28 May 2012 8:13:00 PM PDT
I have celiac disease and I can tell you that you better be on your toes when you buy pizzas. Some places that sell "gluten-free" pizzas have flour all over the kitchen and it does get on your order.
Have you ever looked in a Dominos kitchen? I would not take a 3 item pizza from them even if they paid me. I don't need the misery.
A standard has to be set and if companies want to "jump on the money bandwagon" then they have to compete fairly and not screw us up.

BK Simmons
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said this on
29 May 2012 1:31:47 PM PDT
I have made reading the total list of ingredients on packaging a PREpurchase requirement and especially if the food has toppings, sauces or unique contents. You have to learn what terms are used that may not be the norm. If in doubt, I either do NOT buy it or before I eat it, I call the manufacturer's dietary 800 number on the box and ask specific questions. If I am told that they do not know, I do not eat their product. After all, I am the one who suffers the consequences, not them. Keep a list of safe for you food products/ foods that have caused you to react.

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said this on
29 May 2012 2:30:08 PM PDT
Very sensible - keep it simple!

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said this on
29 May 2012 3:05:45 PM PDT
I eat McDonald's Fries and Kikkoman soy sauce and don't have a problem. Both are "made" with wheat, but at least one of them, the wheat goes through a distillation. Amber on those please.

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said this on
30 May 2012 7:49:31 AM PDT
What about the pizza toppings? When I ordered a gluten-free crust from Domino's the clerk stated that some of the toppings on the "meat lover's" were not gluten-free, but she could not tell me which ones!

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said this on
31 May 2012 3:05:01 PM PDT
I think this is a good thing. I just don't see the point of making a "gluten free" pizza that is not safe to eat because of potential cross contamination. It's a shame that they can't go to the extra effort to create a separate part of the kitchen for the gluten-free pizzas and toppings. It they can't do this, then it is not worth the risk.

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Make sure that you ask the doctor how long she has to stop the supplements before you have her levels tested and be sure to take them all with you when you have the appointment so the doctor knows what she is taking.

Talk to your doctor. With your family history and symptoms he/she may be able to diagnose based on resolution of your symptoms and family history. Also check with your local hospital if it has it's own lab. Mine covered any labs at a greatly reduced cost based on a sliding fee scale. Did you have an MRI before they did the spinal? Celiacs with neuro impact will have white spots on an MRI that resemble the lesions found with MS. Many neuro doctors don't know this. I went through what you did and they did a spinal on me also based on the MRI results. If my doctor had know what the UBOs (unidentified bright objects) were I would have been diagnosed a couple years sooner than I was. Make sure if you supplement that you ask your doctor which ones you need to stop taking and for how long before they do a blood test to check levels. Sublingual B12 is a good idea when we have nervous system issues, but needs to be stopped for at least a week for an accurate blood level on testing. I hope you get some answers and feel better soon.

Thanks for that. Will get her tested for deficiencies. I did take her to a naturopath and get her on a bunch of vitamins, but she never was tested via bloods, so will get on to that, thanks

Hi Could a mod please move this post: and my reply below to a new thread when they get a chance? Thanks! Matt

Hello and welcome Firstly, don't worry about it but for ease your post (and hopefully my reply) will probably be moved to its own thread. That will make it easier for others to see it and reply and also help Galaxy's own thread here on track and making sense. The antibodies that the celiac tests look for can drop very quickly, so... maybe? Celiac is difficult to test for, there are different tests and sometimes someone doesnt test on one but does on the other. If you can get a copy of the tests and post it here the community may be able to help explain the results. It may have shown damage to the villi, the little tendrils in your intestine that help you extract nutrients from your food. Celiac is one, but not the only, way in which they can get damaged leading to a vast number of potential symptoms and further making diagnosis a tricky proposition. Definitely, there's a connection. Here's a page that explains it in detail: Fantastic It sounds as if your doctors were happy to diagnose you on the basis of the endoscopy? It may be then that you've found your answer. I hope so, you've clearly had a rotten and very scary time. I'm sure with the positive reaction to the diet you want to go on and get healthy, but I would only add that you should discuss this with your doctors, because they may want to exclude other potential causes if they've not confirmed celiac at this point. Check out the advice for newly diagnosed here: To your family I'd simply say that celiac is a disease of the autoimmune system, the part of our body that fights diseases and keeps us safe. In celiac people the autoimmune system see's the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, or rye grains as a threat to the system and it produces antibodies to attack it and in doing so attacks it's own body as well. It's genetic in component so close family members should consider a test if they have any of the many symptoms. There's roughly 1 person in 100 with celiac but most of them don't know it and are risking getting or staying sick by not finding out. There's further info for them and you here: I'm going to ask a mod to move your post and my reply to a new thread, but wanted to give you an answer first The good news is you've found a great site and there will be lots of support for you here. You've also got 'lucky' in that if you're going to have an autoimmune condition, celiac is a good one Most react really well to the gluten free diet and you will hopefully have much more healing to come! Best wishes Matt