Celiac in the News, Miscellaneous, Resources & Organizations

Worried About Cross Contamination At Restaurants?

12 Comments 25 April 2012

I was invited to attend a conference call this morning with a few other bloggers in order to get the scoop on the new restaurant education initiative the National Foundation For Celiac Awareness has created. It’s very exciting!

Please read the official press release below about the NFCA’s redesigned Gluten Free Restaurant Training Program (aka GREAT).

I’m sure you will have questions. I do. Feel free to ask away in the comments and I’ll keep you apprised of the details and how this is rolling out. And thank you in advance for helping to spread the word on this!


New Credentialing Designed to Increase Food Safety Practices for those with Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity and Gluten-Free Nutritional Preferences.

Ambler, Pa. – April 25, 2012 – National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), the non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and improving the lives of those of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, announces a gluten-free credentialing program that will enable restaurants to manage the growing interest around gluten-free menu items. There are inconsistent standards, a lack of understanding of the medical elements of a gluten-free diet and too often, a lack of transparency about kitchen practices within the restaurant sector that has put the health of patients with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity at risk.

“Gluten-free families, especially those who are newly diagnosed, struggle with maintaining the diet even at home,” says Dr. Ritu Verma, Pediatric Gastroenterologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of NFCA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. “While eating out is such an integrated part of our social fabric, the lack of consistent standards creates a stressful experience that erodes confidence and leaves many families preferring to opt out. I even see families that choose to forgo vacations and traveling because they can’t be sure that safe food will be readily available.”

Having trained chefs and restaurants across the U.S. for five years with its Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training, GREAT Kitchens, NFCA releases today an expansion of this program. Its focus is on the restaurant sector, which is highly motivated by the gluten-free movement but doesn’t deploy consistent practices and cross-contamination controls. The updated and expanded online training program will go live on May 15, and will include five multimedia modules providing comprehensive education and real-world tools that will enable restaurants to accommodate a diverse population of people who are eating gluten-free and have individualized needs.

“Comprehensive tools are needed to train both the front and back of the house in a way that brings consistency to this ongoing challenge,” states Chef Carlyn Berghoff of Berghoff Restaurant & Catering Group in Chicago. “The more confident a restaurant and its staff are about their gluten-free offerings, the better it will be for the celiac diner and their loved ones.”

GREAT Kitchens addresses the lack of understanding about gluten-free food preparation and proper serving practices within the restaurant industry. NFCA, which operates the URLs CeliacCentral.org, CeliacLearning.com and GlutenFreeHotProducts.com, created GREAT Kitchens with a focus on tools to educate the entire kitchen staff on safe gluten-free food handling. In conjunction with the new training program, NFCA has also created a consumer based tiered credentialing system to guide those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity to fully understand a restaurant’s gluten-free practices. Restaurants that complete the training will be credentialed with NFCA’s Great Kitchens Amber or Green designations.

“Our program stresses the essentials of gluten-free safety from field to fork for restaurants nationwide,” states Alice Bast, President of the NFCA. “It’s a complex issue that many with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity face. I know I face it on a daily basis. Dining out is always a challenge and many of us prefer to dine at home rather than put our families at risk. There is an element of trust that one must have with the restaurants they patronize. We need to keep our families healthy. Our hope is that this educational program will lead to safer foodservice practices in restaurants nationwide so that customers may have full confidence in their favorite establishments.”

Whether a customer suffers from celiac disease or has non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the GREAT Kitchens program addresses customer needs with this new credentialing system that focuses on a restaurant’s ability to consistently provide a gluten-free meal. The credentialing system includes:

• Green Designation – This designation is for restaurants with robust gluten-free protocols that meet the needs of diners with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. They have comprehensive training of wait staff, managers and kitchen staff, have verified the gluten-free status of incoming ingredients and have instituted strict cross-contamination controls. Current restaurants that are Green credentialed are Bar Ferdinand in Philadelphia and Berghoff Restaurant & Catering Group in Chicago

• Amber Designation – This level requires ingredient verification and basic training of wait staff and managers. Kitchen practices may vary with this designation, level one of the tier system, meaning those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity should ask questions and exercise judgment when dining at an establishment with an Amber Designation. Currently, the Green Sage Café in Asheville North Carolina is credentialed at this level.

“We want to bring as much transparency as possible to kitchens across the country, so that those we support have the utmost trust in the dining choices they make,” continues Bast. “Our goal will always be to make gluten-free food affordable, accessible, safe, tasty and understood.”

For more information on the GREAT Kitchens program visit www.CeliacCentral.org/GREATexpansion


About National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

About the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)

Through empowerment, education and advocacy, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) drives diagnoses of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders and improves the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet. NFCA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and a leading resource for information on celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, offering free information and support materials for patients and families, as well as accredited training for food industry professionals and healthcare providers. Visit www.CeliacCentral.org for information.

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Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Kathleen Phillips says:

    This is a HUGE concern of mine. Trusting the people that prepare my food at restaurants is difficult. We recently took a trip to DC and I found it extremely hard to eat dinner and then travel back to our hotel— I was so worried about not feeling well on the way back that I made myself sick. I hope more restaurants seek out this certification, it would really put a lot of us at ease.

  2. 2
    Erin says:

    Cross contamination leads to much stress in our household. Eating out is nearly impossible. The majority of restaurant employees are not even familiar with their gluten free offerings let alone contaminating them! I am happy to see this article.

  3. 3
    Lynne L says:

    I’m happy too, because most places here don’t even know what GF is. However, you have an advantage over us here in Ontario, Canada. GF is only just becoming more recognized here & we have a LONG way to go b4 we get to that point. Our province of British Columbia, especially in Vancouver, is way way ahead of the game.

  4. 4
    Sam 45 says:

    A lot of restaurants don’t care if they cross contaminate your meal. If you ask for NO bread products on your salad or anything that you order, they just take it back to the kitchen after they have tried to serve you and remove the gluten products and re-serve it to you. (I’ve watched them.)
    Some restaurants request that you don’t “darken their door” with your presence if you ask what is in one of their selections.
    Others go out of their way to help with your selections and make sure that your meal is not cross contaminated.

  5. 5
    Cyn says:

    Being new to having gluten intolerance, there are only a couple of restaurants I’m comfortable with going to. The reason is I’ve worked with the staff to really keep things GF and to prevent cross-contamination as much as possible. But as the others have mentioned, if this certification was made available and restaurants were to post it in stores and online, it would be really nice. It’d give me another way of knowing I can make a safe choice while traveling and when I want to take people who visit me out to eat.

  6. 6
    Lindsay Lochte says:

    There are a ton of restaurants in Baltimore City that designate which meals are gluten free but there is always fine print explaining that they can’t guarantee the way the meal is prepared is gluten free! There are a few restaurants few that pride themselves in going the extra mile for me to make my food… and I always return there for a night out! They have a huge gluten free followers because they are trustworthy! I bet they would definitely want to be certified!

  7. 7

    I’ve seen an explosion of restaurants here in NJ offering ‘gluten free’ in the past year. When you begin to look more closely it is hard to tell whether or not they really get it. This will certainly help!

  8. 8
    Fay says:

    Here in Ithaca, NY folks are getting the message loud and clear. I suppose that is because we have a huge natural food consumer group here and we are not afraid to ask for GF food wherever we eat. This certification would be something many of the restaurants would go for. Keep me updated and I will try to help encourage the curriculum to local restaurants. Thanks.

  9. 9
    John L says:

    I hope people realize more about cross-contamination. I like the color coding idea.

  10. 10
    wendy says:

    Coming from food and bev…. i would not trust anybody to prepare my food. Trust me.


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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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