Sunday, June 12, 2016

Gluten Free Menus And Their Risky Disclaimers

Living with a gluten related auto-immune disease, wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance can be extremely difficult. None of these are the same though yet that have a lot in common. From Celiac Disease to a wheat allergy we all decide on different lifestyle choices. Some illnesses can be life threatening and others are not because you can treat yourself and remove risks. A very common everyday risk remains though, when you dine in at a restaurant and order from a gluten-free menu or from a server explaining their GF options, there is little to no chance you're receiving a 100% gluten-free meal. In turn, you have accepted the responsibility for potential G.I. intestinal trauma, diarrhea, exhaustion, or another delayed auto immune reaction. A restaurant may provide you with a degree of 1-on-1 attention to make you feel safe, warm and fuzzy, but the risk is real, every time, you're taking a conscious risk of cross contamination in the kitchen. These decisions are very risky!

Example of a gluten-free menu & disclaimer... a complete contradiction of gluten-free definition.

Gluten Free Anxiety

I've seen first hand, read on Instagram and debated throughout social media different gluten free risk assessments from those with Celiac, gluten intolerance and other gluten lifestyle choices. Most often these consumers live without fear yet very unhealthy by taking on a lot of gluten risk eating out at restaurants and people's homes.  Nobody wants to stay at home when friends go to a hot new cafe, restaurant or bar. Or the anxiety related to turning down food at a family member's house because of the cross contamination! Aye. I know this so well. Therefore fitting in and joining your peers out on the town is vital to relationships of all sorts, personal and professional, or is it? Being high maintenance at a restaurant is both very challenging and uncomfortable for everyone involved yet many gluten free consumers live very risky lives with their illnesses, are you one of them?

Today is June 2016, but this is from Jan 2015. Disclaiming that there is risk of cross contamination, oye!

Gluten Free Menu Disclaimers
Say No. Stop trusting restaurant menus.

As noted above from Mission BBQ's gluten-free menu disclaimer, "There is always a risk of contamination". Is this bizarre, normal or is this a federal offense to confuse, trick or lie to customers, I'm unsure? Nearly all gluten-free menus have a disclaimer. A disclaimer protects the establishment of risk taken by the consumer. These owners may be very nice people, trained chefs, smooth talkers capitalizing on the gluten free world wide trend, but their kitchen is a risky place for someone with a gluten related illness, and I'm tired of this, aren't you? How can a person with a known gluten-free health concern knowingly trust food at a restaurant from complete strangers who have disclaimers? Customers are knowingly or naively risking their health for... socially acceptance?

Mislabeling Gluten-Free is A Public Health Dilemma

For some reason FDA is still too slow to make a law about gluten related food handling. My solution is to either stop claiming gluten-free food at restaurants (not consumer packaged goods because they can test for gluten ppm), change the menu to "Reduced gluten menus" or install two kitchens. Kinda gluten-free, contaminated gluten-free or not guaranteeing gluten-free is not a legal gluten-free menu. Gluten is a public health dilemma. 

Gluten Can Be Lethal

The constant intake of gluten can cause severe and fatal detriment to your health such as malnutrition, dehydration, malignancies, pregnancy complications, immunodeficiency, auto immune disease. Who would do this to themselves - I ask myself over and over.

Risky Behavior & Gluten Free Trends

Are these types of everyday behaviors leading to the gluten free popularity or damaging the lives of those with auto immune diseases like Celiac Disease and beyond? All of these conscious risks taken by "gluten-free" people is starting to sound more like a serious world wide epidemic but when will it tip?
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease nearly 20 years ago and chose not to eat out at restaurants pretty much at all with minor exceptions. I choose to live healthy and be in control by bringing my own food/beverages or eating ahead of time. At restaurants I always call ahead, speak to a manager and chef and listen to their gluten free approach. I then may ask what is the lowest risk possible in the kitchen and I debate with the chef when I disagree. Also ask how much gluten flour is in the kitchen because flour goes airborne and contaminates everywhere. Does the kitchen clean utensils, aprons, gloves regularly? Likely no! I've worked in a restaurant, they're organized chaos at best.  So what do I do at a restaurant? I think about what was told to me and choose to either dine in, not eat or simply leave taking the least risk possible. Saying NO is critical after these conversations if the restaurant is uneducated and full of sh**. If I choose to eat there I still take on risk because it's not a gluten free kitchen, but sometimes it's necessary, right? How often are you taking on these risks and how do you feel? Only you can know how healthy you truly are.

Good luck out there!

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