Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Funny things about being a Coeliac #9 - Menu disclaimers

There are a wide-range of disclaimers on food menus and as someone with Coeliac Disease I am always searching for that holy grail line printed on them - "Suitable for Coeliacs".

Coeliac Disease is a life-long autoimmune disease. It's not an allergy, intolerance or faddy diet choice. So it means people with Coeliac Disease must avoid eating gluten and gluten cross-contamination at all costs.

The Quayside in Whitby caters for Coeliacs with Gluten Free fish and chips
How I'd like things to be in more places. This was on the window of the Quayside Fish & Chip Restaurant and Takeaway in Whitby where we had a brilliant gluten free meal

We had a very nice meal at Pierre Le Bistrot in Nottingham earlier this year and I spotted a new dislaimer on the menu there. Warning of the "air-born allergen" that is 'gluten', it read "Please note no gluten-containing ingredients are used in these recipes. However, as gluten is an air-born allergen and it is used in other recipes in our kitchens, we cannot guarantee against contamination. Please feel free to ask us if you would like to know the steps we have taken to minimise cross contamination regarding gluten in our kitchens." The food and service we received was great and looking at the Pierre Le Bistrot website they are 'Proud to be working with Coeliac UK'.

Emily and I have also recently found some places with gluten free options, but upon looking on the menu the only gluten free 'choice' is a bowl of olives!?

There's also a real mix of how places state the allergens on menus. Among those we've seen are:
- Gluten Free
- No Gluten Containing Ingredients
- GF
- G (to denote 'Contains gluten')
- G (to denote 'Gluten Free')
- C (to denote the Coeliac options)

At a restaurant in Newcastle this year we spotted some Allergen Information that said "All dishes are prepared in the same kitchen with risk of gluten exposure, so we do not recommend any dishes for customers with celiac (sic) disease. We ask that customers with gluten sensitivity should exercise judgement before ordering." This basically means - Coeliacs Stay Away!

Most of the places we've found also contain the 'cannot guarantee against cross-contamination' caveat.

On Twitter I recently spotted a tweet from GFreeRadio that highlighted that you have to agree to a couple of disclaimer statements before you can even see the Gluten Free menu at Frankie & Benny's!

Their gluten free menu is 'Accredited by Coeliac UK', but still has the following warning "To reduce the risk of cross contamination from allergens during preparation there are controlled procedures in the kitchen. Every care is taken to avoid any cross contamination when processing a specific allergen free order. We do however work in a kitchen that processes allergenic ingredients and do not have a specific allergen free zone or dedicated fryers. All dishes on this menu are subject to ingredients availability."

As well as the two statements you need to agree to (akin to signing your responsibilities away as if you're about to embark on a Mega Death Chilli Eating Food Challenge off a show like Man V Food) I noticed the line "Wheat and gluten ingredients which are deep fried will use the same fryers in our kitchens as dishes not containing these ingredients - there may be risk of cross contamination which may therefore affect extremely sensitive sufferers." This statement isn't particularly well written. Does it mean that 'normal' diner's gluten and wheat containing food could be cross-contaminated by 'gluten free'!?

Its all a shame really, as many Coeliacs do still like to dine out, have disposal income to actually buy food but have virtually nowhere to safely spend their money!

On the bright side there are some very good restaurants out there and more are opening up to be solely gluten free, such as Vozars in Brixton, 2 Oxford Place in Leeds and the new Nibsy's Coffee Shop in Reading. Its really good to know more places are opening that can cater for the strict gluten free diet required by Coeliacs . And if they help to take away the majority of the anxiety that accompanies any eating experience then that's great too.

Thanks to Patrick at GFreeRadio for pointing out the Frankie & Benny's menu. Check out the GFreeRadio website and Twitter for more details of the informative and entertaining weekly podcast.

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