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National Restaurant Association - Avoid gluten-free glitches

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Avoid gluten-free glitches

Restaurateur Gregory Kahn knows how debilitating gluten can be for some people. A small amount of gluten – proteins found in wheat, barley and rye – can trigger severe intestinal symptoms in those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. One of them, his sister, has non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

As managing partner of Gregorio’s Trattoria, Kahn works to ensure his sister and others with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease can safely enjoy gluten-free meals at his two restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area. That means minimizing cross-contact with gluten-containing ingredients because some people are so sensitive to gluten that even a trace amount could trigger a reaction.

“The difficulty is we’re not a gluten-free kitchen,” says Kahn. “There’s a lot of airborne flour; we have hand-tossed pizza. The hard part is making sure there’s no gluten contamination.”

When an order for gluten-free pizza arrives, a cook puts on fresh gloves, takes a packaged gluten-free crust from the cooler and places it on a clean aluminum pan. The cook retrieves fresh sauce and cheese from a cooler to reduce cross-contact, instead of using ingredients on the line. The prepared pizza is cooked on the aluminum pan, rather than directly on the pizza stone, to minimize gluten contamination. When a fresh pie comes out, a team member inserts a small wooden tag to identify the item as “gluten-free” to the guest.

From the loading dock to the table top

To ensure an item is gluten-free, restaurants should implement protocols from the time they order ingredients from their suppliers until the time the food sits in front of the customer.

Restaurateurs need to assess their situation when designing protocols. “The procedures to prevent cross-contact depend on your operation, menu, products, equipment, risk assessment and training level of employees,” notes Beckee Moreland, director of the Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training Kitchens program.

For more information about serving gluten-free cuisine, reference the Manage My Restaurant articles below:

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