Domino’s released a gluten-free pizza crust earlier this month and it has created quite a stir in the world of celiac. Here are the facts as I understand them:
- Domino’s wanted to create a gluten-free pizza and sought out partnership from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).
- I don’t know why Domino’s wanted to create a gluten-free crust.
- NFCA is an advocacy group that, among other activities, certifies foodservice kitchens as gluten-free.
- NFCA has two designations for kitchens:
- Amber, which is a kitchen that provides gluten-free foods but does not have the capacity to prevent contamination from gluten, but DOES have the ability to understand and communicate this risk to people with celiac who order gluten-free foods.
- Green, which is a kitchen that provides gluten-free foods AND is able to prevent gluten-contamination of these foods.
- Domino’s was given an Amber designation because they are not able to prevent gluten from contaminating their gluten-free crusts. The gluten-free pizza is prepared on the same line, with the same toppings and in the same oven as a gluten-containing pizza, which means that the pizza is not appropriate for those with celiac disease.
- Domino’s addresses this on their website: https://order.dominos.com/en/pages/content/customer-service/glutenfreecrust.jsp
From the NFCA website statement regarding Domino’s pizza:
“NFCA consulted with Domino’s on this launch and after reviewing operational procedures, we decided that we could not recommend this product for those with celiac disease. We urge those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity to exercise judgment in deciding whether to order this pizza.”
As a result of NFCA’s involvement and demand for transparency in the limitations of Domino’s operating procedures, Domino’s has trained its staff to warn anyone ordering the gluten-free pizza that it is not free of gluten from contamination and when you order online a disclaimer appears warning that the pizza is not appropriate for those with celiac. This is a heck of a lot more than you usually getting when ordering gluten-free foods.
Unfortunately, in response to the public’s confusion and frustration with the Amber designation, NFCA has suspended the use of the Amber designation.
What Does Gluten-Free Mean on a Menu?
In searching for the silver lining, I realize that there’s nothing like a bunch of media attention to get people moving in a different direction. I hope that restaurant owners all over the country are now reconsidering their gluten-free options. For example, there’s a local restaurant that identifies gluten-free options on their menu. One of the taco plates that is marked gluten-free contains, “drunken beans”. I ordered this taco plate with drunken beans and then asked, “How do you make that gluten-free?” The response from the server: “oh, those aren’t gluten-free; we make them with beer.” Hmmm, but it was marked as gluten-free and the server didn’t provide that information when I ordered. That’s not right.
I commend the NFCA for advocating for transparency in foodservice operating procedures. It is rare that a restaurant is able to alert it’s customers to the risks associated with eating gluten-free items. If you are going to identify something as gluten-free then it should always be gluten-free, from ingredients to contamination. Since this is not reality, I find the increased availability of gluten-free items on menus as a risk to those with celiac disease. Identification of gluten-free on a menu does not mean that the food is being prepared in a manner which prevents gluten-contamination, and sometimes doesn’t even mean that the item is free of gluten-containing ingredients!! Domino’s and NFCA were smart enough to realize the limits of their gluten-free pizza and worked dilligently to ensure that customer’s were informed about the risk of eating the gluten-free pizza. Not all restaurants do that.
What if NFCA hadn’t been involved?
I wonder what Domino’s would have done if they had not consulted with NFCA? Would they have released the gluten-free pizza crust without any warnings? Would those with celiac be congnizant enough to ask how the pizza was being prepared?
At least NFCA advocated for us so that we would know that the Domino’s gluten-free pizza is not right for us. I fully support transparency, it’s the only way the we can eat out. It’s infuriating to read a menu, see gluten-free, order it and then realize that it’s not really gluten-free. At least Domino’s will be up-front about it.
I hope that this brings NFCA more support to continue working in the foodservice industry to improve operations and make it easier to eat out.
So who can eat Domino’s gluten-free pizza?
Someone who has does not have celiac, yet chooses to eat gluten free. Why did Domino’s make a gluten-free pizza even though those with celiac can’t eat it? Probably because gluten-free is a fad. Which is annoying, but maybe the next big chain will do it right.
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