Restaurateurs: Are your “gluten free” meals really gluten free?

By Mark Johnson

Here are a few tips from the Canadian Celiac Association – we wrote the book on gluten free.


  • Gluten free means no protein from wheat, rye, barley, or oats.
  • Gluten added to a manufactured product MUST be listed on the product label, in a CONTAINS statement or in the Ingredient list.
  • The listing must include the common name of the grain: wheat, rye, barley, and oats. All forms of wheat must be identified as “wheat” including spelt, kamut, triticale, red fife, freekeh, etc.
  • If a gluten grain appears in the May Contain list, the product is not considered gluten free.
  • Look for flour, grains, and cereals that carry a “gluten free” claim from the manufacturer. Some of these products are made in facilities that also process wheat. A flour mill cannot be cleaned sufficiently between runs to process both.
  • Gluten sometimes appears in unexpected places: broth, soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces, processed meat.
  • READ EVERY LABEL EVERY TIME. Ingredient lists frequently change.
Food Preparation

  • It takes less than 50 mg of gluten to cause harm to someone with celiac disease – a few crumbs of bread.
  • 50 mg of gluten can be transferred from dish to dish by cooking utensils, cutting boards, on a grill, in frying oil, in pasta water, on dirty gloves or aprons or even with airborne flour.
  • Use separate utensils, separate cutting boards, and separate pans for gluten free food.
  • Once a gluten ingredient or garnish has been placed on a plate, the plate is not servable as a gluten free dish. You must remake the plate with completely new ingredients.
  • Make sure all garnishes are also gluten free.

  • Notify the kitchen staff that a gluten free order has been placed, even for a dish that is naturally gluten free.
  • Simple contact with a gluten ingredient is enough to contaminate a plate for a gluten free guest.
  • Carry and serve the gluten free plate separately from the other plates at the table to avoid this contact.
  • Confirm that this is a gluten free dish with the customer when it is served. Don’t be concerned if the guest asks you extra questions – people who will become ill from a small amount of gluten tend are always concerned about your ability to serve them a safe gluten free dish.


Pocket Dictionary of Ingredients –

Pocket Dictionary for iPhone and iOS –

Cooking and Serving Gluten Free (workbook or training) –

Gluten Free Food Preparation online training –

Gluten Free Food Service for the Hospitality Industry – coming very soon, inquire at

Gluten Free Certification Program –



About David E. Fowler

Online marketing expert via I own and operate an internet marketing agency and consultancy targeting small businesses to optimize their internet marketing budgets. My focus is on setting up, monitoring, and optimizing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns be it on Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or Facebook Ads. I also provide ongoing web site management and update services, site redesign, content management, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing (SMM).