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Would You Like Gluten With That?

Researchers find that 1 in 3 “gluten-free” items at restaurants has enough gluten to exceed federal standards.

A recent study underscores why dining out is a minefield for anyone with celiac disease or nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Researchers using portable gluten sensors found that about one-third of more than 5,600 “gluten-free” menu items in restaurants contained gluten levels exceeding 20 parts per million, the Food & Drug Administration standard for labeling food “gluten-free.” Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center presented the findings at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting.

The problem is that gluten gets around: A chef may use gluten-free pasta, but cross-contamination can happen if it’s cooked in the same pot used for regular pasta or if gluten-free bread shares a cutting board with regular bread. Clearly, kitchens
will have to set up dedicated gluten-free workspaces and restaurant staff will need better food-handling practices if sensitive diners are to eat in peace.

Note: The levels of gluten found in the study are not a problem for people who eat gluten-free as a lifestyle choice and not because of a diagnosed condition.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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