The Problem With Restaurants Offering “Gluten Free” Options

There is a problem going around that not a lot of people or restaurants or chefs are willing to talk about.  However, this problem is very serious for Celiacs and gluten free people like me.  Many restaurants are starting to offer gluten free food which is great in theory, because it gives us way more options for eating out.  Or so we thought.  In reality, many of these restaurants are not even remotely trying to use proper precautions or safety or taking the time to educate themselves and their staff on gluten free food and serving.  Instead, they simply hear of how “popular” the gluten free diet is becoming, and hop on the bandwagon in hopes of attracting more customers and more money.  Here’s the problem- lots of people are eating gluten free as a fad, or a diet they want to try out.  They don’t need it for health reasons, so when they go out they don’t question the servers, ask about cross-contamination, speak with the chefs, or even always eat an entirely gluten free meal- they might get a normal dessert.  This is a huge problem for celiacs, because the restaurant then doesn’t take us seriously or believes that it is not as big of a deal as we say it is.

In addition, Celiac (and other autoimmune diseases) are hard because we don’t present immediate symptoms.  While someone with a shellfish or peanut allergy is usually taken very seriously in a restaurant, a Celiac is not because we won’t go into anaphylactic shock.  Because the damage is being done on the inside and over a long-term period, we appear to be fine, even if we do experience some discomfort later on from the meal.  Not enough people who work in restaurants are educated about the seriousness of this, and it is an ever-growing and very concerning problem.

Most Celiacs know that there are only a handful of restaurants in their area that they can actually SAFELY eat at- no matter how many claim to offer gluten free options or even have a gluten free menu.  Thank you to those who are safe enough for us and take us seriously, because it is embarrassing as well as discouraging and scary for our health to go to a restaurant and be laughed at, not taken seriously,  be assumed to be a “fad dieter” or eat somewhere which doesn’t take safety precautions over and over again.  Sadly too many restaurants exist like this, and it actually limits our options more than expands them.  Next time you want to go out to eat with a Celiac friend or family member, just take this into consideration and remember how hard it is for us too- we didn’t ask for this, and we also didn’t ask for this headache when trying to choose a safe restaurant to go out to eat at.

Chloe Dyer

About Chloe Dyer

Chloe is a senior at University of Maine Orono studying Mass Communication and Political Science. In addition to writing for BDN, she is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus UMaine. She has known about her Celiac Disease for a little over a year and has been eating gluten free as well as sometimes dairy-free. She is from Chebeague Island, Maine, where she grew up, but has also lived in Cleveland, Ohio and Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria in addition to Orono.