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Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Domino's Controversy Continues in NYC
Yesterday, the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University released this statement:
 "Recently ABC News had a piece on Domino's Pizza presenting a supposedly gluten-free item. This is not a product suitable for those with celiac disease and highlights the need for strict regulation of gluten-free foods. Apparently, Domino's Pizza received advice from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) on how to present this product. This also highlights the need for regulation at a government level rather than the food industry turning to lay groups. 
During this presentation, Dr. Peter Green was highlighted discussing the limitations of a gluten-free diet. This piece was a segment from an interview taken one year earlier and not related to discussion of the current "gluten-free" pizza issue.
Last night, Dr. Peter Green and nutritionist Suzanne Simpson from the Celiac Disease Center here in New York City appeared on Fox 5 News. While I feel the timing of the email statement and then the video is a little bit strange and delayed, it is nice to get some feedback from a usually quiet research center. For some reason I can't view the last 30 seconds of the video, but it is interesting to see this topic discussed so close to home.

Domino's Pizza gluten-free crust controversy 

Domino's Pizza is creating a buzz about gluten-free pizza crust it is now offering. However some critics say if you're allergic to gluten, you can't go anywhere near it.

Suzanne Simpson, a nutritionist, has celiac disease, which means she cannot eat gluten. If she does, it causes gastrointestinal pain, rashes, headaches and joint pain. She says the problem with Domino's is that the gluten-free pizza crust is made right next to the regular pie crust and there is a risk of cross-contamination.

If you order gluten-free online from Domino's, a warning pops up telling you that if you have celiac disease, don't eat the gluten-free crust. The company also issued a statement saying that "...while the crust is certified as gluten free, current store operations at Domino's cannot guarantee that each handcrafted pizza will be completely free from gluten."

The pizza is intended for people who have mild gluten intolerance, not those who have celiac disease.

In fact, Dr. Peter Green of the Celiac Disease Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center said the crust could be a danger to people who have celiac disease. He said feels Domino's is marketing the gluten-free crust because it is a trendy a diet fad.

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Of course Domino's is marketing this as a gluten free diet fad. If Domino's, a company with legal attorneys on standby and the ability to pursue training of its staff and supply every location (or at least those offering Gluten Free options) with separated utensils and supplies, was serious about providing a food that could be enjoyed by those who NEED to eat gluten free, they would have already done so. Instead, the company has made it clear that they have no intention of doing so.

The biggest issue I have with this whole issue isn't the fact that it's designed to cause people to think the product is gluten free or safe for "some people who can't really eat gluten"- it is the statement Domino's made, even at the announcement of their new product. They stated that they "had the support of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness," a supposedly highly respected organization that is currently THE authority of everything gluten free, including education courses, for this product. While stating that the product "is made with a gluten free crust" is absolutely protecting them legally (i.e. they do not claim the product to be gluten free),I am still of the opinion that it is not only misleading, but extremely irresponsible one way or the other.

On one hand, the NFCA is supposedly telling Domino's that they should market it in a specific way (as I'm sure their legal team did) to keep them out of trouble and make it known it isn't for those with Celiac Disease, but Domino's is claiming they "support their offering of Gluten Free Pizza." Even if the NFCA supports the IDEA of Domino's offering a gluten free pizza, for them to put their name behind a product that they KNOW is not safe for anyone who shouldn't consume gluten is irresponsible and, in my personal opinion, makes them lose credibility.

Granted, they are making it known this product is "not for Celiacs," but then, who is this for? Those who "maybe shouldn't eat gluten?" Maybe I have too high of standards when it comes to marketing or associations. But for me to know that the NFCA is "supporting" this product, which is misleading and will cause thousands of people to be "glutened" due to well meaning friends "treating them to gluten free pizza" or other potential hazards to the gluten free community, I don't find NFCA to be as reputable of a source.

For more information on this story and more, check out The Gluten Free Bartender!

Anonymous Josh Schieffer said...


You did it again! Breaking news on Gluten-Free Fun!

Anonymous Andrea S. said...

I'm so glad you to see this response to Domino's announcement about their GF pizza crust. As a former gluten free food manufacturer myself, I have seen that there are so many food manufacturers who are jumping on the gluten free bandwagon without truly understanding the needs of people who MUST avoid gluten (not those who choose to) due to Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Here's one example:

At a local entrepreneurship networking event, a woman told me that she was gearing up to launch a GF cookie line (like we really need more average tasting junk food!). When I asked her about her food preparation process, she said she was going to rent out space in a friend's BAKERY!! When I asked her how she intended to avoid cross-contamination with gluten particles she looked at me and said, "I'm going to use my own equipment. How about that?" When I replied that separate equipment wouldn't be enough if gluten-containing bread and pastries were being made right next to her she said, "These regulations -- they make it so hard." I did my best to explain that, sadly, it had nothing to do with regulations and had everything to do with not making people sick. I then said that she shouldn't market her products as GF since she clearly wasn't taking steps to minimize risks to patients with Celiac. (I couldn't help myself.) I later heard through the grapevine that she did it anyway. If you'd like to know her company name, please send me a private message. I’ll happily share the information.

Contrary to popular belief, I feel that all of this publicity about a gluten-free diet hasn't actually made it easier for people with CD and NCGS. The diet is now being seen and treated as a trend diet rather than one that is medically necessary. This is hurtful and dangerous for people with Celiac Disease whose strict dietary needs may no longer be taken seriously. I'm very glad that Dr. Green and Suzanne spoke out about this!!

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