32% of gluten free food in restaurants contain gluten

My Mom sent me this article today. Thanks Mom, but we probably already knew this.

Approximately one third of all gluten free food in restaurants contain gluten according to a new study. This study is based on 802 Nima users with over 5,000 samples.

Nima has a reputation among the Celiac community as being highly inaccurate. The Gluten Free Watchdog published a comparative study regarding pre-packaged foods. (This is different than the headline above.) It compared results from FDA, Gluten Free Watchdog, and BIA to Nima’s results. Note that the FDA, Gluten Free Watchdog, and BIA use R5 ELISA testing method that has been scientifically verified. R5 ELISA testing is considered to be the gold standard in gluten detection. Nima is a lateral flow device, which is using a different testing method. Nima found gluten greater than 20 ppm in 24% of prepared foods. The FDA, Gluten Free Watchdog, and BIA only found gluten in approximately 5% of samples. There is a big discrepancy in the percentage of foods adhereing the the 20ppm between the three gold standard tests and the Nima.

Nima responds with their data saying they are 96.9% accurate based on a peer reviewed article in the Food Chemistry Journal. Nima further says, “Nima’s true positive rate (the amount of times Nima correctly identifies gluten) for food as quantified is 97.2% at 20 ppm and above when compared to the ELISA results. “

So, Gluten Free Watchdog says Nima is inaccurate. Nima swears they are accurate. My tie breaker is the Canadian Celiac Association’s Professional Advisory Council. They say, ” At the present time, the CCA Professional Advisory Countil DOES NOT RECOMMEND that people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity use the NIMA Sensor device to determine the gluten status of a food…”

With all of that being said, do I believe that 1/3 of the food we get at restaurants is contaminated with enough gluten to make us sick. Yes. Do I believe that 53% of pizza and 51% of restaurant pasta dishes have higher than 20ppm of gluten? Yes, absolutely. Please don’t order pizza or pasta out, ever! It is too dangerous. Fast casual restaurants (Chipotle) have less gluten than fast food (McDonalds) restaurants. Duh!

As Celiac sufferers, none of this should be surprising. We know each time we leave our house to eat we are playing Russian Roulette with our health. The world is not designed to accommodate our special food needs and that’s okay. Through trial and error, we know where we can go that is safe. I’m lucky I have a dedicated gluten free restaurant less than 1 mile from my house and they have fried chicken on Wednesday night! Yum!

I’m sure many of you have your own gluten free restaurants nearby or at least places you trust that can accommodate your needs. So, go where you know you are safe. Don’t order pizza or pasta at restaurants. And enjoy a meal out every once in a while, but not pizza or pasta, you’ve earned it!!!

PS – I think if you go to a higher end restaurant you are safer too! Steak places are awesome at gluten free – steak and baked potato, done!!

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