Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gluten-free Dunkin’ Donuts debate

When Dunkin' Donuts announced it was planning to roll out a gluten-free donut and muffin nationwide, we posted the news on our Facebook page.
Gluten-free consumers started responding immediately. Many rejoiced. Others paused to voice some concern about cross-contamination issues. And some complained that another unhealthy product was making its way into the gluten-free market place.

Here are some examples of what they said:

"Being from the northeast, aka the land of Dunkin, this is excellent news. Now kids and grownups near DD can more easily participate in school and office donut days."

"As the mother of a gluten sensitive child, this is excellent news! We don't often eat donuts but it is great that Eva won't have to feel deprived if we do!"

"Are they going to be kept in the wrappers until the customer consumes them? Cross contamination is a huge issue with places that claim to have gluten free products!"

"Cross contamination?"

"I wish people could understand to truly live a healthy life you need to give up those foods that are in the end going to just make you fat and cause different diseases."

"Sad part is, the media is calling these products "healthy." It may be safe for us celiacs, but it is nowhere near healthy."

The varied reactions don't surprise me. Whenever a mainstream company adds a gluten-free product, the ever-growing gluten-free consumer base demonstrates just how diverse it really is.

I suspect you would put yourself roughly in one of the groups above. I know I do.

Overall I am glad to have mainstream companies provide options for gluten-free customers. Part of the reason is the number of years my family has been contending with the gluten-free diet. Twenty to be exact. For much of that time there seemed no hope you'd ever be debating whether a gluten-free donut at Dunkin' was a good thing or not. You expected that the coffee was all that would ever be safe.

When you live with very few choices for a very long time I think you come to appreciate them more.

Like many in the United States, we have a Dunkin’ Donuts shop right around the corner. We go there every once in awhile, though not enough to pose a health risk to those in the family who are not gluten free. Now my daughter, who has celiac disease, can join us and have something to eat. I don't think she'll overdo it, just as other family members have not.

But she no longer has to eat something before we go or carry along something from home. She can still just have coffee if she'd like. The difference is she gets to choose just like everyone else.

In part that's possible because Dunkin' Donuts has taken steps to prevent the cross contamination that is a legitimate worry for those who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance. The company, which has been test marketing the gluten-free options for a few months, is offering products that are prepared in a dedicated facility and packaged to protect their gluten-free integrity. (We’ll have more details on the gluten-free products in a story in the Sept./Oct. issue of Gluten-Free Living.)

So count me in the column of those doing a little happy dance over the Dunkin' Donut news. I respect anyone who swears they will never eat a gluten-free Dunkin' donut or muffin because it's unhealthy. You have the right to make that choice. And now gluten-free men and women who would occasionally like to enjoy a donut and coffee for a morning meeting or a breakfast date, and the children who’d like to stop for a donut and milk, have a choice too.

Amy Ratner