Saturday, May 19, 2012

NFCA Stops Use of Controversial Gluten-Free Seal

Controversy over Domino's pizza being sold as gluten free has prompted a national celiac support group to "suspend" use of the kind of certification seal it gave the pizza maker.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness announced that it will discontinue use of it's Amber seal. The seal is given to restaurants that get staff training regarding gluten-free meals but don't guarantee that meals are free from cross contamination in the kitchen.

The NFCA did not mention Domino's pizza in its announcement. But Jennifer North, NFCA vice president, said in an email that  Domino's will continue to offer its pizza made with a gluten-free crust and use its existing Amber seal. "We are assessing the process to pull (the seal) out of circulation," North said.

When the pizza was launched two weeks ago, both Domino's and the NFCA said it was not designed for those who have celiac disease because the crust was likely to be cross contaminated during preparation. Domino's said it was made for those who are "mildly sensitive" to gluten. North said Domino's has decided to keep selling the crust based on positive feedback from customers.

Meanwhile, the gluten-free community rallied to protest NFCA's certification of the pizza. More than 3,200 people signed an online petition, Ditch Amber, calling for an end to NCFA's two tier certification program. In addition to the Amber seal, the NFCA gives a Green seal to restaurants that meet much stricter requirements that include cross-contamination controls. Use of the Green seal will continue.

The Amber seal was widely criticized by gluten-free consumers who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance to patient advocacy groups to medical experts from respected celiac research centers around the country.

The NFCA said it will "conduct a review to determine the most effective and clearest way to warn the community of the risk of cross-contamination." The group said gluten-free diners are often unaware that the increasing number of restaurants that offer gluten-free menus are not taking steps to protect them from cross contamination.

Here is the full statement from the NFCA:
NFCA to Conduct Further Study on Amber Designation

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) launched its Tiered Credentialing system in April 2012 in response to a growing concern in the restaurant industry around cross contamination. While the NFCA recognizes the importance of alerting consumers to cross-contamination risks, the community response has prompted NFCA to reconsider the Amber Designation and related product labeling as an effective method to communicate these risks.

Given the public response and recent developments in this field, NFCA is suspending use of the “Amber” designation to describe a restaurant or foodservice establishment. We will conduct a review to determine the most effective and clearest way to warn the community of the risk of cross-contamination and the use of the phrase “Gluten Free.”

While we regret that confusion may have occurred in relation to the Amber Designation, we do welcome and appreciate the attention this important issue of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease has received through this dialogue.

We note that the education of the public, healthcare providers, the restaurant and foodservice industry, and those who are affected by gluten-related disorders has been enhanced by this recent media coverage concerning these designation and labeling issues, as have the interests of those maintaining a medically necessary gluten-free diet.

Amy Ratner


gfe--gluten free easily said...

Re: "The NFCA did not mention Domino's pizza in its announcement. But Jennifer North, NFCA vice president, said in an email that Domino's will continue to offer its pizza made with a gluten-free crust and use its existing Amber seal. "We are assessing the process to pull (the seal) out of circulation," North said." ... ah, the fly in the ointment. :-( In my mind, that means that the statement on suspending the Amber designation is misleading. Until that seal is pulled for Domino's pizzas made with gf crusts, the risk to those who eat gluten free is not mitigated. Hope that will happen in the next few days.

Thanks for announcing the suspension to all. It's been an interesting battle the last two weeks. All of us who fought the misleading designation were thrilled the hear of the suspension yesterday afternoon. It felt like a weight had been lifted. With that statement, I'm feeling some of the weight returning. :-( In regard to NFCA's statement on evaluating how to warn gluten-free consumers on risk of cross contamination, I don't need to be warned about that. All of us who are gluten free should know that is always there in varying degrees, unless one is eating to a 100% dedicated gf restaurant (happily, there are some great ones!). Instead, I'd prefer that that those efforts that were put into "front of the house" training, disclaimers, FAQs, and video creation in the case of Domino's be used to truly educate restaurant staff on cross contamination controls. The difference between Green and Amber should not be "strict cross contamination controls" and "The Gluten Free Crust pizza is made on the same pizza screen and uses the same makeline, ingredients, and utensils as all other pizzas. Employees use the same pizza peel and pizza cutter on the Gluten Free Crust pizza as all other pizzas." (The latter is per Domino's FAQs on NFCA's website.) In my opinion, the difference should be something more like, "we did everything we do for the Green designation (training of all; strict cross contamination controls with different pans, utensil, and such; etc.) but you should know that this pizza is made in a shared kitchen.

Thanks again!

Tipsfor Vino said...

Great Information. Thanks for sharing.