Dining out is one of my greatest loves, always has been. So when I had to change my diet to include gluten free as well as my choice to be vegetarian and my lactose intolerance I genuinely thought, well that’s my dining out stopped!
It was hard enough to find places to eat to accommodate 2 restrictions, adding in the 3rd was really hard. However, it appears the UK and the rest have the world have caught up and now can provide vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.
The problem is its becoming a minefield of folders and tablets, gluten free and non-gluten and hundreds of “oh, you’ll have to speak to the manager” conversations!
So whats the issue….
So far I’ve bumped into 3 different terms when dining out:
- Gluten free
- Very low levels of Gluten
So what is the difference?
In 2012 a new law was put in place that stated all products must be labelled with their gluten contents. The law covered all food from factory packed to cafes.
According to the law any product described as “gluten free” must contain less than 20 parts per million or less of gluten or less; “very low gluten” must be 100 parts per million of gluten or less; “non-gluten” foods are food that do not contain gluten deliberately but may have it in due to cross contamination, manufacturing processes or preparation areas.
So depending on your severity of your gluten allergy depends on how ridged you need to be.
For myself, as I am currently not formally diagnosed as having Coeliac Disease as I could not tolerate the tests but I am very careful about the amount of gluten I have. I always stick to gluten free options. However, I have eaten from establishments from their non-gluten free menus with variable results.
All these different terms can be confusing, not helped by a folder being shoved under your nose or a tablet to scan through, the pressure can be annoying!
However, we need to know the differences as for some it can be dangerous to be contaminated. Recently I took a trip out with the fam and we stopped at a road side Starbucks. I have had many a Starbucks in my life as its my favourite coffee shop, but this day the establishment we went to was very busy and the servers appeared rushed off their feet. We ordered coffee and I always like to order mine because I then know I’ve remembered to say soya and decaf, then I always re check after the order has been taken and made. This day I didn’t re ask after it was made and as you can guess they gave me caffeinated coffee, which I have a big problem with. I spent the next several hours feeling super unwell and away from home anxiety ridden as I was at first unsure why I was feeling so unwell. So its not just us that can get confused, so we need to make sure we are hyper vigilant when It comes to our allergies.
Obvious? I think not….
One of the best ways you can make sure your meal is within the law for gluten free is by looking for this symbol:
This is the Coeliac’s UK Gluten free label. This symbols means the menu is gluten free in the eyes of the law and the eatery meets all the standard required to make/prepare gluten free food and the staff have the appropriate training. I have seen this symbol in a few restaurants but most just gluten free or non- gluten on the menus.
What I have found is that when I am ordering some place I can not order from a “normal” server I have to order from the manager, which can add to the embarrassment and sometimes the waiting time. I understand that they want to make sure that my order is dealt with thoroughly but jeebs how to make someone feel even more different!
Due to the changes in the law all food producers must clearly write if there is risk of contamination, for example no separate areas for gluten free preparation, therefor at risk of contamination.
Which they do, occasionally.
I’ve found most of the bigger establishment do write in small writing on there menus, however smaller establishment either tell you on ordering or don’t and you have to ask.
Either way I tend to ask.
I love dining out and am super happy that I can as restaurants and eateries are making it easier and safer for us with allergies to do so with support from changes in the law. However, with changes in the laws comes added confusion, so be vigilant and be wise in your choices and if your unsure don’t risk it.
Eat safe and be merry!