May 11, 2012

Domino's Gluten Free Pizza. Neither a Domino, Nor a Gluten Free Pizza. Discuss.

OK, well the gluten free world is a tizzy over Domino's announcement of a gluten free pizza....that is not safe for celiacs.

I am so torn over this issue for a couple reasons.
  1. I've never eaten Domino's Pizza in my life. I was 18 when I found out I had celiac, so I had plenty of chances to do so, but I'm from Chicago. Born and raised, and still here. There was/is no reason for me to eat such inferior pizza ever. Sorry, Domino's, but it's true. There are a handful of mom 'n pop Italian restaurants within blocks of my home, work, friends' houses, etc. 
  2. I want to say something like, "well, celiacs can eat/have eaten safely at other restaurants that do not have "gluten free" menu options and there is the possibility of gluten cross contamination in those kitchens. Even restaurants with gluten free items still serve gluten counterparts. How is this any different?"
I guess what's different is that if Domino's is going to go through the GREAT Kitchens program with an organization named National Foundation for CELIAC AWARENESS and then say, "well this isn't for celiacs", then wtf? 

Yes, it's true that some restaurants will throw a gluten free label on their menu or product with no idea why other than "everybody's doing it". It seems that Domino's was really doing their homework by participating in the GREAT Kitchen program, so they are aware of the reason why; however, gluten intolerance or a sensitivity and wheat allergies are no laughing matter either.

If you try to place an order online you get this message:

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Take a peek at some screen shots from their gluten free FAQ page:

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Did you find any mention about how the gluten free ingredients (I'm assuming a premade crust?) is stored? Or the precautions the employees go through (like washing their hands, changing their gloves, maybe throwing on a quick plastic apron), or how a gluten free order is handled once it's taken?

Watch this short video too and see if there is any indication about separate baking pans, spoons, or pizza slicers.

With all those disclaimers, warnings, red flags, flashing lights, bells and whistles I think I'm more miffed about how those topics are completely ignored!

I know of several great restaurants in Chicago that offer a gluten free menu along side their regular gluten filled menu, but they are more than happy to explain the cross contamination processes and how their gluten free items are prepared and safe for gluten free people of all eating reasons backgrounds.

How could Domino's, after all of that, not even mention one word about the preparation process?

I'll give you a topic: Did Domino's go about correctly with their disclaimers? Or are they wrong because they did not disclose issues like separate utensils, pans, etc.? Do you guys even like Domino's Pizza? Is this a bigger deal than it should be?

While we're on the topic of chain pizza restaurants doing the gluten free pizza thing, I'd like to give a round of applause to Chuck E. Cheese (where a kid can be a kid) for addressing this issue with the info we're looking for! 

Yes, they are using Conte's pizza, but 
  1. Have you had Conte's pizza? It's delicious.
  2. It comes in a frozen bake-in-bag presealed packaging. The bake-in-bag pizza will remain sealed while cooked and delivered and until opened and served with a personal pizza cutter at families' tables by the adult in charge.
Also, they will have cake for those kiddies! 
  • Under the same procedure, gluten-free, chocolate fudge cupcakes naturally sweetened with fruits, vegetables and grains from Fabe's All Natural Bakery will remain in pre-sealed, single-serve packaging through preparation and until opened and served at the table. 
I haven't been to Chuck E. Cheese in a million years, but it was a big deal back in the 80s (when it was ShowBiz Pizza) for classmates' birthday parties, and I'm sure if it's still in business, that's still the same reason.  If I was diagnosed with celiac when I was younger and going to those parties, I would be bummed that I couldn't eat pizza and cake with everyone else. Granted, I was scared to death of the Pizza Theater robots in the restaurant area, but that's not that point. The point is, this is fabulous news for gluten free kids! Thanks, Chuck E. Cheese

So, I really want to know your thoughts on all of this! I've been reading other blogs, message boards, tweets, and facebook posts and everyone has an opinion on this. Discuss! 

Special thanks to Mike Myers for being the fabulous Linda Richman on SNL.
and Tania for magical Linda gifs!!! 


Caryn said...

We have no plans to try Dominoes, but thanks for the heads up on Chuck E. Cheeses! I had no idea they had that option. My 5 year old will be so excited the next time he gets a party invite for there!

Carly, Reference Librarian said...

Those robots were scary!

I wouldn't eat regular gluten filled Domino's Pizza

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Betsy, there is no discussion on those cross contamination controls because there are none. Yes, that's right ... NONE. You can read that via this link: Specifically, "The Gluten Free Crust pizza is made on the same pizza screen and uses the same makeline, ingredients, and utensils as all other pizzas. Employees use the same pizza peel and pizza cutter on the Gluten Free Crust pizza as all other pizzas." There is not even an attempt to prevent cross contamination. I had a conference call with NFCA personnel, Jennifer North and Cheryl McEvoy, and they confirmed this info is true. The training that is being given, that we all expect to be on cc controls, is actually training that the "front of the house personnel" (Alice Bast's wording) give the disclaimer that there "may be" cross contamination and that they understand/warn that only those with "mild gluten sensitivity" may be able to eat this pizza safely. Any one of those shared factors would be a concern, but all of them? There's no way this pizza is safe. Although NFCA personnel, including Alice, are stating that Domino's did testing and the "majority" of the gluten-free pizzas tested less than 20 ppm. Well, a majority is only 51% and I suspect that Domino's *might* have stepped up their game, so to speak, because they knew these tests were being conducted. I will never eat Domino's "gluten-free" pizza and I will never recommend that anyone who is eating gluten free for health reasons consume it either. Both Dr. Fasano at U of MD Celiac Research Center and Cynthia Kupper at GIG have released statements saying that this pizza is not safe for those eating gluten free.

Thanks for the post, Betsy. The more awareness the better!


Betsy Thompson said...

Shirley, thanks for all of that info! I can't believe that they can't set up ONE little designated area with separate ingredients, pizza cutters, and pans. Is it seriously that hard? They need to take a tip or 2 from P.F. Chang's!

Betsy Thompson said...

They totally were! I wonder what that stage and those robots look like now.

Betsy Thompson said...

Yeah, I wasn't going to either. Hooray for your little guy! You'll have to let me know how everything goes when you eventually end up there.

susanelizabeth31 - Pretty Little Angel Eyes said...

While I understand that any "chain" offering a gluten free menu in conjunction with their mainstream menu canNOT guarantee anything is gluten free except the ingredients, I'm confused by this. Why would the NFCA dare slap gluten intolerant and celic patients with this? This is not the NFCA's first offense this year and is a major setback in their trustworthiness.

Jason (Gluten Free / Dairy Free NJ) said...

I think the biggest issue is the false expectations. I've had more than one friend happily point out that Domino's now has a gluten free pizza and I had to explain to them that, no, they do not. It's nice that Domino's has a disclaimer, but it should be before you see that they offer a 'low gluten' pizza not after.

I'm gluten intolerant and as such I'm also a little disappointed in the NFCA for essentially saying, "well Domino's, your pizza isn't safe for our constituants [Celiacs] but you know who you can poison with it? Those gluten intolerant folks." This just perpetuates the myth that those with gluten intolerance/sensitivity can be safely exposed to small amounts of gluten. We can not!

Al said...

If you can't guarantee it, it's not gluten-free. So just call it a corn (or whatever it is) crust and get on with it. It's like "free*" with the asterisk at the bottom telling you the required purchase to get the free item. It's not really free, is it? And cigarettes aren't a health product, as they originally tried to market them. That's why health warnings are required on the boxes. So just stop trying to pull a fast one over on the public!