WHEN GLUTEN-FREE ISN’T GLUTEN-FREE – WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Oh, the perils of eating gluten when you’re Coeliac. Unless you’ve experienced them, it’s difficult to empathise. So if you’re a shop and you advertise your products as gluten-free, you’d better make damn sure they are.
If only I could say the same of a Bristol chippy I went to at the weekend.
I’ve put the letter I sent them below. Under the circs, I reckon I was pretty nice about what had happened (i.e. I didn’t go round to throttle them).
I’ll let you know what happens when they respond…
It is with regret I must inform you that the gluten-free fish and chips I bought on Saturday from your shop had gluten in them.
I have Coeliac Disease and was thrilled when I discovered your chip shop online, which came up first on a search engine for ‘gluten-free fish and chips in Bristol’. I telephoned before driving over just to check that separate fryers were used for the batter and so forth and I was assured they were.
However, several hours after eating the ‘gluten-free’ order, I suffered a severe bout of illness which is only ever caused by my eating gluten.
There is absolutely no possibility of my having eaten the gluten accidentally elsewhere. I have a gluten-free kitchen at home and this is where all my meals had been made for Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning.
I am devastated that this has happened. If you are not already aware of the effect of gluten contamination on a person with Coeliac Disease, it creates an excruciating pain which lasts for several hours and renders the victim helpless.
I had to cancel the rest of my plans for that day and suffer the consequences of having eaten from your shop.
If you have not already seen the latest guidelines on gluten-free products, the Coeliac Society has recently issued a statement of law:
“The term gluten-free can only be used on foods which contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten.”
I suspect one of the following reasons for my having had gluten from your shop:
The same tools were used to handle either the chips or the fish itself that were also used on products containing gluten.
The batter was made in the same environment where ‘normal’ flour was used, thus contaminating the gluten-free batter.
The batter or the fryer had gluten in it.
Given you state on your website that you change your oil on a daily basis, I would expect your hygiene standards to be excellent. However, the standards required to meet gluten-free requirements are different from merely having high standards of hygiene. I suspect what you should really be doing is advertising your products as “low gluten” and with “the possibility of cross contamination”.
The Coeliac Society confirms the following:
“The law does not specify that tests have to be done to prove foods are gluten-free, but recognises that good practice will involve testing. The exact nature of the testing will depend on the nature of the business. There is however a recommended test for analysing the level of gluten in foods. The authorities need to see due diligence and management of gluten to avoid cross contamination so that businesses can be sure that their procedures can produce gluten-free food.”
I would strongly recommend having your products tested before claiming they are gluten-free.
I would also be grateful if you could tell me why your products on Saturday were contaminated with gluten and how you will ensure this never happens to one of your customers again.