Celiacs: This Should Scare You

Dude Note: To honor Celiac Awareness Month and to help raise awareness of our disease, I will be attempting 31 blog posts in 31 days. My goal is simple: to make most of them not suck. If you’ve got ideas for a good post or if you’d like to guest blog, by all means, contact me. Your input is more than welcome. And if you know anybody with celiac disease, give them some extra lovin’ this month. They deserve it.

According to a recent NFCA study, here is something that should scare the crap out of you if you have celiac disease:

“Chefs and restaurateurs lack a fundamental understanding of gluten-free protocols, and it’s a threat to those with gluten-related disorders.”


Earlier this month, the NFCA quizzed chefs and restaurateurs on the floor of the National Restaurant Association Show, an international gathering of professionals in the food service industry, and the results were alarming. Many of the chefs and restaurateurs said they have gluten-free options at their restaurants, yet less than four percent of them responded correctly to four questions regarding gluten.

That’s right…4%.

Double Yikes!!

Less than 50% of chefs could name a gluten-containing grain other than wheat.

Do I hear a triple yikes??

Here are the four survey questions the NFCA asked the chefs:

Question 1:
Celiac disease is a genetic, auto-immune disease that is triggered by glucose. 
True or False?

Question 2:
Gluten is a protein found in what 3 common grains? Can you name all 3?

Question 3:
What kind of oats can be used in a gluten-free dish?
a. Steel-cut
b. Irish
c. Organic
d. All of the Above
e. None of the above

Question 4:
Look at the following list of pantry items. You have read the labels, but some ingredients might contain gluten. Find the trio that most likely needs verification by the manufacturer or distributor.
a. Cornstarch, Romano tomatoes, lentils
b. Olive oil, oregano, walnuts, apple cider vinegar
c. Rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, curry paste
d. Canned pears, basmati rice, tomato juice

Confession time: I’m not sure I know the answers to the last two questions.

But you know what? I’m not a chef.

And people aren’t putting their health in my hands.

But you would think more “professionals” would know their gluten ABC’s.

As I said, every time a celiac leaves the house, they put their health at risk.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

(Cue the scary music…)

Gluten Dude: The mobile app that puts your safety first!

All the tools you need for a simpler gluten-free journey, brought to you by a passionate celiac disease advocate who understands the challenges you face.

Find Gluten-free Restaurants

Thrive with Celiac Disease

Subscribe to the Blog

Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Let's Connect

Topics of Conversation


39 thoughts on “Celiacs: This Should Scare You”

  1. oi, oi, oi! That is pretty scary, indeed. But I’m not completely surprised, either. Just goes to show how seriously these restaurants take Celiac Disease: they don’t even know what it is, yet they are eager to have “gluten-free” menus to cater to those “trendy” dieters. And charge them extra. Ugh. There are only a few places that I’ll go to, but this makes me even more reluctant. I’m assuming this just applies to American restaurants?

    1. The Gluten Dude

      We just need to keep spreading awareness. The day will come. But we’re not even close to being there yet.

  2. I think the 3rd question is steel cut but like you, I’m not a chef or cooking pro either! Thanks another scare for the J this week! Lol

    Great post. Makes you really think…

      1. I know that. I was referring to the question and like I said I’m not a professional so I took a guess. Ive never heard of Irish Oats until today. And it’s quite obvious that I didn’t read the question correctly either. LOL Sorry. Rough night! Thanks for the article.

        BTW I can’t eat oats. I haven’t in months. I get rashes on my skin. And yes, the ones I used to eat were certified gluten free. Thanks again!

  3. Question 3: e, none of the above. The only kind of oats that can be used in a gluten free dish are gluten free oats, which could be GF steel cut, GF Irish, or GF organic.
    Question 4: trick question, all of those trios include ingredients that might contain or be contaminated with gluten.

    1. The Gluten Dude

      I have not tried to find the correct answers. A trick question would indeed be tricky. But your probably right. They should ALWAYS verify. As should we of course.

    2. Those are the answers I thought too. No oats and trick question, although any vinegar or processed food/spice mixture is suspect, at best! 🙂

  4. Every time we eat out we are risking our health. No matter where you go – just like you found out at PF Changs – and I have to say I believe I have not gotten the designated plates there every time either ( Winter Park, Fl ).

    The So called “Very Careful We Do Gfree Sandwiches
    Right” shop in Lake Mary, Fl that I went to on Thursday and was given someone else’s gluten sandwich scared the crap out of me. I had it in my hand – almost took a bite, but the tomato I did not ask for signaled me that something was wrong. All I got was a brief apology. I was more than ticked off….

    My wedding Anniversary was yesterday and where did we eat … Home … Home safe home. Had a delicious grilled steak, sweet potato and broiled asparagus on our beautiful Florida patio.

    This post is very important for all of us to share – great job. You always keep them short, informative and right to the point.

    1. The Gluten Dude

      That’s unreal Wendy about the sandwich. It’s really not that difficult to give us the right food. Honest.

      Happy Anniversary!!

  5. It doesn’t surprise me–my own FAMILY DOCTOR didn’t know that rye and barley also contained gluten. My OB/GYN thought celiac and gluten sensitivity were the same condition, i.e., didn’t recognize celiac as an auto-immune disease. (When I myself knew that from reading an article about it in Glamour, a womens mag, two years prior to diagnosis. I thought, “Wow, I’m glad I don’t have that.” Ha.)

    My horrible symptoms when eating out at most places with “gluten free” menus is indication enough that only I can be my own advocate. Where there is money to be made, a bunch of greedy jerks will be there making half-assed claims just waiting for the money to roll in. Any restauranteur or chef who actually cares will have read a book or hired a consultant/nutritionist to evaluate their menu and kitchen. I don’t consider myself a cynic, but it really isn’t surprising that 96% of these folks read a blurb on the Internet about what gluten free means and slapped a gf label on a menu. The sickest I’ve been since dx is when I’ve mistakenly trusted a GF menu and the waiter who assured me the chefs would be careful.

    1. The Gluten Dude

      There WILL be a day when they get it right. I know it will happen. We are just not remotely there yet.

      1. Never go to a cafe where they have gf cake baked by mother in law or sister. Twice I’ve done this in the uk and twice I got horribly sick.

  6. Something we’ve got to remember too;

    We’re always learning new things relating to gluten and coeliac disease, but then we’re constantly on the lookout for this type of information.

    Restaurateurs are not usually so consumed by this small portion of customers. There are many other allergies and conditions that they need to try and cater to, so they do the best they can. A good operator does at least, the less reliable operators prey on the less aware consumer just to pull in a few extra dollars.

    We can always hope that the basics should be known if advertised GF!

    Great article Gluten Dude!

    1. The Gluten Dude

      Hate to say it, but that’s why it always pays to go to the nicer restaurants. You spend more, but you get better food and more personal service…which ideally leads to a safer meal.

      1. Amy -The Quirky Gluten Free Runner

        That’s exactly what we do.

        I recall a friend complaining of how they went to a burger shop on vakay and they coudn’t get anything for their child to eat (who had a couple food allergies, not celiac) and they were surprised that they went to the steakhouse next door that was more expensive and had a better attitude.

        We rarely eat at the homestyle mom/pop places and that makes me sad, as they have the best /freshest/realest (is realest a word?) food.

        However, we know that spending $40 on a meal for me is going to assure us a GF meal in a place that makes each meal individually from fresh ingredients versus a fast food chain that has prepackaged meals and they can’t leave something out of the sauce, etc.

  7. Miss Dee Meanor

    Six months ago I was with my family at a Red Robin in Charlotte, NC, and was ordering from the gluten-free selections. I quizzed the waiter who obviously knew nothing about gluten or cross-contamination so I asked to speak to the manager. The manager answered the questions right, indicated that they were trained in safety, and told me hamburger was cooked on a separate area. She aso added that their GF hamburger buns were the tastiest she had ever had.

    My burger came out and before I took a bite I happened to notice that my bun had little sesame seeds and looked just like everyone elses. I called her back to question it and sure enough I had the regular bun. I then had to go into a LENGTHY description of why they could not take that burger and merely switch buns. She seemed annoyed. Ultimately my trust was blown so I watched my husband, our daughters/spouses, and my granddaughter eat while I held the four-month-old granddaughter and ate nothing..

    They felt bad, I felt bad, and after a fun day our evening ended on a sad note. Even worse we only chose Red Robin because my loved ones were searching for a place where I could eat safely. They wanted to eat at a different restaurant..

    I want to tell the “celebrities” who adopt this as fad diet and food preparers/servers who think this is a “celebrity fad diet” that THIS is our life..Our problem doesn’t just affect us, it affects everyone who is in our lives. Thankfully I noticed it before I took a bite. If I had been the only one getting a burger, I would have never known to even question the bun after the manager’s glowing description.

  8. Good post and important topic to be aware of! This issue is why I recently wrote an article on How Gluten free aware are gluten free restaurants which I got some interesting (at a some points worrying) feedback from.

    It’s hard to believe that most of the restaurants which include gluten free options on their menus have done as much research as is necessary (and as we as celiacs would do when preparing and cooking a meal) to ensure all of the ingredients they are using are in fact completely gluten free and safe for celiacs.

    Are they certain that the nuts they use in ‘gluten free’ dishes weren’t made on shared equipment with wheat?, etc, etc, etc

  9. Not only do I worry now about cross contamination within the restaurant, but as mentioned above I also now worry about where they are getting their products from: nuts ( so often contaminated), rice, spices etc. Are they worried about shared equipment and facilities? I seriously doubt it.

  10. This is so scary! You are right! There really needs to be more education within the restaurant associations and hopefully in the culinary schools. I called up a nearby restaurant that serves gluten-free pasta a few weeks ago and asked what procedures they have in place to prevent cross-contamination of gluten. The chef, incredulously, almost yelled into the phone, “I’ve been managing kitchens for over 20 years and have never had someone ask about cross-contamination of gluten. There is no cross-contamination of gluten. It isn’t an oil like peanuts that stays on stuff and contaminates. Gluten is fine!” Okaaaayy. That told me all I needed to know about whether I could eat there safely!
    You know what scares me more though than this lack of info in the restaurants? It is the lack of understanding about celiac disease among doctors! I was at a neurologist for my migraines and of course let him know about my celiac disease. At the end of the appt., he said, “So you feel a lot better by not eating bread and pasta?” He seriously had NO CLUE! Now that is scary!

  11. The Gluten Dude

    Ignorant chefs and ignorant doctors…two of our many challenges that we must keep trying to fight through.

    1. Ignorant doctors make me very angry … A feeling that is not typical of me. Being overlooked and told it was all in my head for several months is why I have no clue where I fall on the spectrum. So very much agree that we need to educate the medical community more so as once we do maybe then the restaurants will take us more seriously.

  12. Worcestershire sauce usually contains gluten. I think it contains soy sauce, but I get brands that say gluten free right on them. Some do not say they’re gluten free, and you shouldn’t risk it. I think the reason it might contain gluten is because of soy sauce or caramel color, not sure. Be careful!

  13. Thanks, just found the blog and I love it.

    Of course you are always going to be taking a chance whenever you eat someone else’s food – you didn’t buy the ingredients at the store, or prepare it…it’s out of your control.

    I don’t have Celiac, but I have an allergy and/or intolerance to foods with gluten… I avoid it, but not to the extent that I probably should. I have also found, like some said, that going to a more expensive place is usually better for avoiding gluten. They not only tend to know what gluten is and what it’s in, they know all their ingredients and where they’re from, and they make it a point to make something you can eat. They are proud of their work. I have never had any trouble at Outback or PF Chang’s, either. But I can’t afford to eat out at Outback or other expensive restaurants every week.

    When we’re at home, I usually have a few local places where I know the menu very well, and I know what to avoid, and I always tell them not to put flour or bread or whatever on it… but I am not one who cares much about slight contamination. I only care if I get sick, and I am usually ok with very small amounts. I do try to avoid it as much as possible, though.

    We used to eat out quite a lot, but now we only eat out once or twice a week at most, unless we are traveling. We usually travel to big cities so I can usually find some gluten free places wherever we go.

    We were in Atlanta last week and went to Legal Seafoods. They are mostly a new england chain. I had tried their gluten free clam chowder a few years back and was not really thrilled with it, but when I went the other day, they were very knowledgeable and helpful, and the food was good. They had delicious gluten free muffins that they brought out. Again, not a cheap place.

    I wish every town had a restaurant like Zero8 in Montreal – they have none of the most common 8 allergens on their menu. Delicious food!! Including some great locally made gluten free beer. Made me want to move to Montreal.

    Another place I love is the French restaurant Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris hotel and casino in Vegas. Delicious gluten free bread!

    I think that cities tend to have more “health food nuts” and thus more options on their menus and in their stores. California and Colorado are probably the best in that regard.

    We’ll know that we have won the battle when places like Applebee’s or Denny’s have not only gluten free menus but separate gluten free areas for the preparation, and the people who work there are trained and know what gluten is… but even still, there will be a risk because, it’s not that they want to poison you, they are just not motivated to care all that much.. that kind of thinking comes from the top down, so it’s probably the people in charge of the restaurant chains that don’t care enough to do something about it. Or they think we’re such a small group or that it’s a fad…

    But even if the people at the top care, the minimum wage worker or person barely living on their tips is not going to be a future brain surgeon 🙂 or care enough about their job to really want to make sure you get the right order (a lot of times, they can barely get the order right no matter what you order, or why). And I’m saying that as someone who used to work a lot in fast food and restaurants…

  14. PS Thai places usually are pretty good, I’ve found, about preparing your food the way you want it, and they usually have rice noodles or other gluten free dishes… but I don’t know about cheap Thai places, haven’t been to too many of those. Korean, too. A lot of the nicer Asian restaurants make their own soy sauce so they don’t put wheat in it.

  15. Oats has to be pure oats in order to be gluten free. All other may contain wheat during the packaging process. As far as I am concern. Just my few cents. 😉
    And question 4 it may be answer 3.

  16. I have a near 18 yr old that is diagnosed coeliac, I am allergic to tomatoes (anaphylactic) I have trouble explaining his problem so we dont eat out much, i try to make good tasty food for him and all he whinges about is missing bread, and if they dont believe that one the responses I get for my allergy defy logic..how?why? like I actually signed up willingly for this!! I am married to an Italian tomatoes are big for them, needless to say because of the nature of eating out(or just my control issues) we really no longer eat out much unless the place takes both problems seriously. So far everyone is supportive and trying to get their heads around this. Certainly no fad. Have a friends husband with crohn’s disease and her daughter has fructose malabsorption, I am in good company and have the easier edge of this wedge I think

  17. As always GD you are our advocate and I remember when I found your blog in March of 2012 after being diagnosed with celiac and felt finally there is someone who understands.

    About the bread post, I bought bread recently from Kinnickinnick (sp?) and it had the same darn holes. I took pix and sent them. They will replace it though. I am lucky enough to have a Thai restaurant near by that is certified GF and an Italian rest. that has a dedicated GF pizza oven and they use Udi’s crust, but yes, I find it amazing that these chefs did not really know much about celiac disease or gluten intolerance or what the hell contained gluten!

    While I am thinking about it, how about going up against pharmaceutical companies and Congress? a lot of the generic pharmaceutical’s can’t say for sure that their drugs are GF b/c of suppliers, blah blah blah, and the regular meds costs up the wazoo. a bunch of crock if you ask me. This is huge actually, ……just saying.

    Thanks again for all you do.

  18. Hi GF Dude! This is my first time postinng here. I don’t eat out anymore because of cross contamination. It is everywhere. Even if ALL of the ingredients are carefully checked (many don’t know about gluten in spices) there are issues with other products’ manufacturing practices, crumbs or remnants of other meals in the work area, the pots and pans, same gloves, cutting boards, etc. The list goes on and on. Even in the pricey places. I just don’t go. It is hard but I want to live long enough to see my kids grow old.

  19. 1 is true
    2 is wheat, barley, and rye.
    3 is d. none of the above. it has to be grown on an only oat field
    4 has to be c, Rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, curry paste

    i am writing my answers down before looking at comments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

Follow me on this journey

I hate to drive alone

Download my app

And live a better gluten-free life

Send me a message

I'm all ears

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Please type your message.

© 2024 Gluten Dude: The Naked Truth About Living Gluten Free | Legal Stuff

Scroll to Top