February 01, 2020

Gluten-free restaurant food may contain gluten

For those with celiac disease — an immune reaction to eating gluten that can damage the nutrient-absorbing ability of the small intestine — it can be stressful to constantly look out for foods containing ingredients such as wheat, rye and barley. Unfortunately, a significant amount of restaurant food labeled as "gluten-free" may contain gluten, though possibly only very small amounts, according to a new study.

The study, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, used data from over 5,600 uploaded food tests. These were done at restaurants all over the United States using Nima, a portable gluten sensor. Results found that 32% of tested restaurant foods labeled "gluten-free" actually contained gluten. The biggest offenders were "gluten-free" pizza and pasta, which each contained gluten about half the time.

However, it should be noted that Nima is sensitive and is not a medical device. The Food and Drug Administration categorizes packaged foods as gluten-free if they are below 20 parts per million (ppm), but Nima will sometimes find gluten at levels far below 20 ppm.

Most people with celiac disease are not negatively affected by consuming less than 20 ppm of gluten. However, it's still true that eating out can pose a risk for those with celiac disease. Mayo Clinic experts recommend identifying yourself to the server as someone with celiac disease, defining it as a medical condition. Be wary if the waitstaff do not seem knowledgeable about the gluten-free items on the menu or seem very rushed. Try to avoid any restaurant that made...