Friday, August 17, 2012

Gluten Free Menus Expand at an Astounding Rate in Sacramento, California

Gluten Free Menus Expand at an Astounding Rate in Sacramento, California (revised)

If you Google "gluten-free restaurants," you're bound to find a selection of gluten-free menus and gluten-free yelp reviews. During the Summer of 2012, Midtown Sacramento has expanded its number of gluten free options at an astounding rate. Melanie Weir, owner of California's first Gluten Free Specialty Market has a yelp account that focuses on the Sacramento, California area. Many tips and notes are mentioned regarding gluten free menus and potentially gluten free options. According to Melanie, the Midtown Sacramento and Greater Sacramento area are getting safer, but precautions should still be made, especially for individuals with celiac disease, gluten sensitivities and food allergies.

Photo: CC - Unique Hotels GroupMany times, restaurants, bakeries and deli’s offer gluten-free options like salads (with menu side notes like: order salad without croutons or order meat without bread). Just because a restaurant offers a gluten free accommodation, doesn't mean they understand what the term gluten free means. The label gluten free is not regulated on packages, nor is it regulated on restaurant menus.
Three Celiac focused organizations are currently involved in training and evaluating the safety of gluten free options within the Sacramento, California area and beyond: (1) The Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) (2) The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).  Additionally, The Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), CSA and GIG, host regional support groups to help individuals with Celiac Disease transition into a gluten free diet.  Many of these groups also offer support to individuals with gluten intolerance or gluten allergies.  Organizations specific to food allergies including gluten include: The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and the Food Allergy Support of Sacramento (FASS).

Having multiple organizations available to train and educate communities allows for a peer reviewed monitoring system. For example: the NFCA approved a corporation's gluten free pizza as safe for individuals with gluten sensitivities. Within days, meetings were help by Celiac and Gluten Free research centers through the United States and NFCA was asked to remove their safety label. Research has shown that many individuals with gluten sensitivities are more sensitive than individuals with Celiac Disease. For this reason, informing people that gluten free options are safe for individuals with gluten sensitivities is misleading and potentially life threatening. If we define gluten-free as less than 20ppm, then restaurants need to be trained well on preparing and presenting gluten-free options on their menu.
  1. Firstly, suppliers must be contacted regarding each ingredient used in a gluten free dish. Gluten is not just wheat, it's found in hundreds of other names of products; gluten has many names and is masked by many names like starch, cellulose or guar gum.
    For reference lists of gluten containing ingredients, go to:
  2. Ingredients must be stored as safely as possible.  If a glutenous sauce spills into a rice cooker, the rice in that rice cooker is no longer gluten free, even if an individual attempts to scoop the sauce out of the rice.
  3. Meals must be prepared in a safe environment. See below for examples.
  4. Clean hands. Gloves are usually a good option.   
  5. Clean cooking area (hot sterilized pan, no cast iron)
  6. Clean toaster oven or stove.  A screen or separate toaster must be used to prevent contamination with gluten containing bread crumbs. 
  7. Separate clean gluten free water must be used to boil pasta or vegetables.
  8. Wood cutting boards and cooking utensils must be dedicated to only gluten free items.  If a wooden utensil or cutting board is used on a gluten containing item it will contaminate a gluten free dish
  9. Train Staff: It is important for restaurant managers to remind staff that before preparing any gluten free dish staff should: wash hands and/or using fresh gloves, using only hot sterile clean utensils without slots, NEVER hold bread on top of a gluten free plate and never hold a gluten containing plate on top of a gluten free plate.
Take note of the following examples when planning and preparing a gluten free dish*:
*please note this is only a partial list

Preparing Salads
  • Use of a Separate Strainer: Using a strainer that has been used for pastas or other gluten products, can result in cross contamination.
  • Salad Dressing: Many salad dressing utilize gluten containing ingredients like malt vinegar, spices, natural flavorings, wheat, etc.
  • Vegetable Chopping Board: A vegetable chopping board must either be completely sterilized or a gluten-free dedicated board must be used.
  • Knife: Knife must be sterilized with heat before being used on gluten-free ingredients.
  • Prep Area: Salad prep stations are often housed beneath shelves filled with bread.  If bread is stored above the salad prep area, then the area cannot be safely maintained as gluten-free.  On an additional note, croutons and other gluten products should not be allowed in the gluten-free prep area (1/6th of a bread crumb is all it takes to be contaminated with gluten).
  • Salad Toppings: If a topping like chicken, nuts, tofu, peppers or onions are saut├ęd or prepared on a grill, then the grill and the ingredients must be maintained as gluten-free.

Gluten-Free on the Grill
  • A grill must be cleaned before a gluten-free product is cooked on it. A separate area for gluten free foods to be cooked is ideal, but not always possible in restaurant settings.
  • Many meats are marinated in sauces containing gluten before they are cooked.

Gluten-Free Pasta & Veggies
  • Gluten Free Pasta must be prepared in clean water and may not be prepared in water that has been used for any gluten containing product.

Gluten Free Pizza &  Bakery Products
  • If an exhaust fan is used in the oven, a screen must be used.
  • Pizza toppings for gluten free pizza should be housed in a separate area.
  • Cannot be prepared in a facility that uses gluten containing flours, because flour dust in the air settles on food.
  • Mixing utensils, wooden spoons, scrapes in bowls and cutting boards must be sterile or maintained for just gluten-free products.

    Train staff on cross contamination. 

      There are several ways of training staff: 
      (a) GIG has a restaurant certification programs
      (b) CSA offers a restaurant training program
      (c) Melanie, from Gluten Free Specialty Market in Downtown, Sacramento hosts classes and workshops on starting a gluten free diet and on dining out gluten free. 

      Current classes helpful for Kitchen Managers include:
      Setting up your Gluten Free Kitchen.
      Gluten Free Label Reading (first class is in late August)

It is fabulous to see a large number of gluten free options available at restaurants and bars throughout Sacramento. Many restaurants are aware that our store provides locals with grocery options, but are unaware of the services we provide to encourage gluten free safety and gluten free education to restaurants in the local Sacramento area. Additionally, we provide support to restaurants that are providing their patrons with gluten free options including: 

(1) announcements of gluten free options to our customers (in store and by email)
(2) announcements on our Gluten Free Sacramento facebook and twitter page
(3) free listing on our gluten free dining guide
(4) co-hosting gluten free dining events
(5) advertisement options on our gluten free map, scheduled to go to print in the Fall/Winter of 2012

Gluten Free Events have included: our gluten free beer and cider tasting during Sacramento Beer Week at the River Rock Tap House 2326 J St, Sacramento, CA 95816 (916) 273-4930

Gluten Free Future Events Include: our first ever Pop Up Restaurant event scheduled to happen in October at The Melting Pot 814 15th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 443-2347

Stay tuned with Gluten Free news in Sacramento by connecting with the Gluten Free Specialty Market online. Since the market opened it's flagship store on J Street in 2008, the midtown Sacramento area has followed suit and has become the most gluten-friendly city in California. (specials and current happenings) (Store Facebook Page) (Store Twitter Page) (Sacramento Events Facebook Page) (Sacramento Gluten Free Twitter Page) (recipes and gluten free ideas)

Gluten Free Specialty Grocery Market
2612 J Street, #1
Sacramento, CA  95816

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