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      Frequently Asked Questions About Celiac Disease   09/30/2015

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Restaurant Won't Let Me Bring In My Own Food
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My job has organized a team lunch this coming week. I contacted the restaurant to find out if they could do gluten free. They didn't seem to know what I was talking about. I asked if I could bring in my own food explaining I was coming with a group and was doing this due to health reasons of being on an extremely restricted diet. They said no outside food was allowed. I find this annoying and would thus like to not attend the event as I also need to eat. I don't want to upset my team (especially as my job is on a contract that gets renewed every year - I need them to like me). I'm thinking I'll let them know what happened and that I'm declining because I want to be able to eat. Does this sound reasonable? I'm worried about them thinking I'm unsocial or not a team player. That restaurant just seems unreasonable to me and unfair I can't even eat anything. Any thoughts or suggests on how to handle this would be great.

Thanks!

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Could you eat before you go? Or wait until after? I usually don't ask if I can bring food to a restaurant. I don't bring anything big and messy. Just a discreet sandwich and I usually sit where ever is farthest from the waiter.

I would tell the " boss" of the meeting. Let them know you can't eat the food. I would think for business purposes, you should go.

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Unreasonable, maybe. But, they are in the business to sell food with service.

I don't know if you have other food restrictions, but you could order a plain garden salad (without croutons) and bring your own dressing.

A plain (uncut) baked potato, some broiled seafood or some steamed shrimp.

I often order a cheeseburger without a bun. But you should ask them to clear a clean area on the grill.

Can you find their menu on line?

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The restaurant is Indian and they only offer buffet for the meal I would be attending for. Although this is a team lunch I think the focus is more team building/fun then a 'real' meeting. Perhaps I should explain the situation to my supervisors and ask if they mind if I stay at the office so I can eat as well.

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Did you speak to the manager, or to whoever answered the phone? If you didn't speak to the manager, you could try calling again when it's not a busy time (i.e. mid-morning between breakfast and lunch rush or mid-afternoon, between lunch and dinner rush). When the person answers the phone, tell them you probably need to speak to the manager, because you have a work lunch coming up at that restaurant and have some diet restrictions. The person who answers may be more than happy to get the manager for you in that case. Hopefully they'll suggest something or offer to put aside a special gluten-free plate for you, or something... If not, they may have the authority to let you bring in something of your own to eat.

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I think it might be helpful if your co-workers and supervisors knew about you having to eat gluten-free, because I have found that most are willing to consider that when making restaurant decisions in the future. In fact, I have co-workers come up to me all excited to tell me about a new gluten-free food or restaurant they heard about, because as a celiac sufferer I am an exotic beast to them. There should be no reason to hide it from them. I'd prefer my co-workers think I'm not eating with them because I'm afraid of getting sick than they assume that I'm not eating with them because I'm a snob or have some sort of social problem.

When we go out to an Indian place with a buffet, I avoid the buffet because of cross-contamination fears, but since we have been to the same place numerous times I now know that they can make me chicken tikka masala that is gluten-free. The first time there I showed them a Triumph dining card and asked them to check the ingredients, and they did. I have to wait a little longer for mine to come from the kitchen while they all go to the buffet, but none of us have a problem with that. They also take my needs into account when planning Christmas or other lunches out. If we go out somewhere that I have not been before, I find the menu online and pick out 2 or 3 entrees that look like they are or could be gluten-free, print out my homemade dining card, write down the chosen entrees, and ask if they would check each of them for me. That way I don't have to take a lot of time explaining and looking over the menu once we get to the restaurant.

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I called the restaurant back and asked to speak to a manager. I again explained my situation and inquired if they could make any dishes that were gluten free. They did not understand what gluten is. For me that is a red flag to not eat there. I'm having too many healing issues as is, I can't risk being contaminated. I asked as they could not meet my dietary needs if I could at least bring my own food in so that I could eat with the group. They said no again. I have told people at work of my problem and 2 of my 3 bosses knows about it but of course it was the 3rd boss that scheduled the lunch. I'm trying to not let celiac disease be what I focus talking about at work. I'm frustrated with this situation. I appreciate people's comments and feedback. I'm not liking my options as I see them. :(

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It looks like your only option is to inform your third boss and try and get another sympathetic ear for the future. In the meantime, eat beforehand, order something to drink, and take some snacks in your purse to nibble on and make the best of it. They are not going to check what's in your bag as you enter and you should be able to eat something from it without attracting attention, especially if you take something that would not look too out of place, like chocolate cake or some such thing :lol:

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Bummer that you are not in Sacramento, CA. There is an Indian buffet restaurant there in mid-town, where it is gluten free, except for the optional naan bread. And the owner is knowledgable. A lot of Indian food is already or easily converts to gluten free, (except for the naan) so it sounds like there is a communications problem here (and they're running a buffet and don't care). The word in Hindi for wheat is Gehun and wheat flour is Gehun ka atta Wheat germ is Gehun ka ankur.

Lapsi is cracked wheat. So is Dalia.

Maida is plain, all purpose white wheat flour.

Rawa is semolina. so is Sooji, Suji, Rava.

Oats is Jow, Jau, Jai, or Jaun.

Barley is Jaun or Jaw.

Cornmeal is Makki ka Atta.

http://www.mamtaskitchen.com/glossary.php

Maybe your coworkers read this piece before selecting their meeting venue (written by a former grad student):

"How To Eat At An Indian Buffet"

http://milkmiracle.net/2010/09/25/buffet/

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One reason they may not understand... wheat is not as big of a part of the Indian diet. Yes, they use it for some things, but it's also not a cooking culture that uses wheat flour as a thickener in sauces, etc. Usually the only time I *can* participate in work functions is when we are doing Indian food.

That said, wheat flour can sometimes sneak in due to processing cross-contamination. I recently got glutened by rice from an catered Indian buffet (I should have known - pilaf contains more stuff, therefor a bigger chance for a problem, and I am SUPER sensative). I usually try to avoid anything with lentils (again, cross-contamination personal issue), but that leaves lots of things (chicken dishes are usually fine, veggie curries, etc.). You may want to actually stop by the restaurant and speak to someone on site before the function, they may be more helpful in-person.

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I also am super sensitive. I've gotten sick eating dishes in restaurants that were advertised as gluten free and was assured that they used the proper way to handle so cross contamination should not occur. So I'm really not for chancing it with a restaurant that doesn't know what this is about. It is too iffy for me. I'm having enough problems trying to heal without letting myself get potentially glutened. For me 'probably ok' is not good enough. I have a lot of damage in my body with other diseases because I've had this so long without knowing. I called twice and no one seemed to care. I think that's enough.

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Be very careful with Asian food that originally should be gluten free.

Many dishes have been Westernized to comply with Western taste.

Original ingredients tend to be more expensive than ingredients available in North-America/Europe.

It doesn't stop to amaze me how gluten and dairy end up in many Asian products offered in our supermarkets, while there is no trace of them in Asian countries.

About restaurants unwilling to accommodate dietary restrictions, I don't ask if it is OK to bring my own food, I just do it. Never had any problem while apologizing and asking for a plate.

Ben

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For restaurants, if they don't know what gluten is there's no way I'm gonna try to make them understand. Even if you explain what you need to be done to keep you safe they aren't goin to go buy new utensils and cookware. A lot of restaurants have told me I can't bring any food with me but usually I do anyway and just hide it if the waiters come around. I know it stinks to have to do so much work just to go out to eat. If you really feel uncomfortable about going then don't go. If someone with a peanut allergy was trying to decide if they should try to teach Five Guys how to make them make something for them to eat, they'd be crazy...and people would understand if they didn't go to Five Guys. Sadly, people can't see the effect gluten has on our body so they don't understand. Do what makes YOU feel safe. You're trying to make everyone else happy. Worry about yourself FIRST! Your health is important. :)

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I would probably just order a drink and sneak in something small like a Larabar or the gluten free Luna Protein bars. They are tasty and inconspicuous.

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I always ask for a plain grilled chicken breast and steamed vegetables at a restaurant where they don't have any gluten free items. I haven't gotten sick yet!

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I think you need to slap them with the Americans With Disabilities Act! If people have special needs, including diets, restaurants have to accommodate them.

Actually, many states have laws against bringing outside food into a restaurant in order to protect patrons. In this case, a restaurant being cautious isn't something I would get mad about. It's the law. It's frustrating, but it is a legal issue in many places. It says right on the gluten-free menu at Outback that "In states where it is permitted by law, if you bring your own bread, do not send it back to the kitchen, keep it with you at your table and build your sandwich there".

As suggested above, the best way is usually just to say nothing to the restaurant, order a drink, and eat what you brought quietly, so the waitstaff can pretend they have no idea what you're doing.

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I called the restaurant back and asked to speak to a manager. I again explained my situation and inquired if they could make any dishes that were gluten free. They did not understand what gluten is. For me that is a red flag to not eat there. I'm having too many healing issues as is, I can't risk being contaminated. I asked as they could not meet my dietary needs if I could at least bring my own food in so that I could eat with the group. They said no again. I have told people at work of my problem and 2 of my 3 bosses knows about it but of course it was the 3rd boss that scheduled the lunch. I'm trying to not let celiac disease be what I focus talking about at work. I'm frustrated with this situation. I appreciate people's comments and feedback. I'm not liking my options as I see them. :(

At times like this, it's best to just do what you need to do to be safe and apologize later. The important thing is to be part of "the team" not who is eating what. Be present in the moment. You'll be okay.

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Of course it is best just to sneak in your food and hope no one notices. That's what I do. But in certain cases like if you're going to be thrown out of a restaurant, you can tell them about the Americans with Disabilities Act. I almost got thrown out of a restaurant the other day. So if the manager actually did come out and tell me to leave, I legally can stay. . I just called the ADA and this is what they told me- since people with Celiac disease don't have the ability to process gluten, we are technically considered to have a disability. In the act it states that if a service that a place provides cannot be used by a customer due to their disability, the business must modify their regulations for us. So if a restaurant can't provide food for a celiac, they must allow us to bring our own food in. So in a worst case scenario, we have a legal right to have our own food. But normally, restaurants will let you bring your own food in :)

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Of course it is best just to sneak in your food and hope no one notices. That's what I do. But in certain cases like if you're going to be thrown out of a restaurant, you can tell them about the Americans with Disabilities Act. I almost got thrown out of a restaurant the other day. So if the manager actually did come out and tell me to leave, I legally can stay. . I just called the ADA and this is what they told me- since people with Celiac disease don't have the ability to process gluten, we are technically considered to have a disability. In the act it states that if a service that a place provides cannot be used by a customer due to their disability, the business must modify their regulations for us. So if a restaurant can't provide food for a celiac, they must allow us to bring our own food in. So in a worst case scenario, we have a legal right to have our own food. But normally, restaurants will let you bring your own food in :)

Victoria and Mindy are 100% correct ....as of 2008 Celiac is considered a disability. There was an article fairly recent on this forum about Pizza Hut having charges brought against them by a mother who brought a school group to the restaurant and a child brought in ....I think...MacDonald's fries. They were asked to leave.

I seldom eat out because of my many food issues...there are 2 restaurants where I go and order a salad with safe ingredients, and I bring my own salad dressing. I can also order spring rolls at another restaurant and bring my own soyless soy sauce. No one has ever objected, and I've never been asked to leave.I would never create a scene, I would simply state the facts if I had to, and continue to eat.

The article appeared Jan. 20,2012...google Pizza Hut Gluten Free child asked to leave....sorry, I'm not sure how to insert the link.

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Victoria and Mindy are 100% correct ....as of 2008 Celiac is considered a disability. There was an article fairly recent on this forum about Pizza Hut having charges brought against them by a mother who brought a school group to the restaurant and a child brought in ....I think...MacDonald's fries. They were asked to leave.

I seldom eat out because of my many food issues...there are 2 restaurants where I go and order a salad with safe ingredients, and I bring my own salad dressing. I can also order spring rolls at another restaurant and bring my own soyless soy sauce. No one has ever objected, and I've never been asked to leave.I would never create a scene, I would simply state the facts if I had to, and continue to eat.

The article appeared Jan. 20,2012...google Pizza Hut Gluten Free child asked to leave....sorry, I'm not sure how to insert the link.

http://www.celiaccentral.org/celiac-disease-in-the-news/Celiac-in-the-News/161/vobid--6945/

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In this state it is against health code regulations to allow outside food. That being said, we have been allowed to bring things in on occasion. But not recently. We actually haven't asked recently.

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But the law says that restaurants must change their regulations to meet the needs of those with disabilities!

They can change thier company regulations but can't change laws.

Through out the ADA is the doctrine of "reasonable accomadation". It spells out in some areas what that specifically should be. For example, when re-modelling or constructing a hotel, it specifies the width of doors, need for ramps, braille on certain signs, flashing lights as well as sirens for smoke detectors, etc. It does not say that a hotel must go to extremes to accomadate a disability. The hotel does not have to supply a personal attendant for a quadraplegic, for instance. That would not be "reasonable".

As far as I have been able to see, the digestive category doesn't seem to specify any particular universal accomadations. Maybe someone else has seen? Have there been any court rulings? I haven't followed it.

If you take your food into a restaurant, you can certainly bring up the ADA. If you are still asked to leave or throw out your food, you will need to comply. They can call the police and have you taken out. The only way to enforce your definition of a "reasonable accomadation" is through a law suit (probably in federal court). IF that goes your way or not, it could, in effect, be an ammendment to the ADA.

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Hmmm....that's interesting. :) I am not sure what to think now because I called the ADA and they said that a celiac has the legal right to bring in their own food. Let me call backand try to be more specific!

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