Gluten sensitivity: restaurants not accounting for it


Photo Credit: Photo via Cheryl Norris under Creative Commons License

Pictured are gluten-free sweet potato muffins with pecan streusel. These are a great treat to make for gluten sensitive people, by Bakes by Brown Sugar.

By: Victoria Sanchez, Reporter

What is gluten sensitivity?

Restaurant menus provide a limited selection of gluten-free items. Due to the lack of options, many individuals with gluten sensitivity, gluten allergies, or Celiac disease are feeling discouraged from exploring the public food scene. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide, but only about 30% are properly diagnosed.”

Barley, wheat, and rye all contain a type of protein called gluten.  Gluten is found in popular baked goods which include cookies, pasta, cakes, and others. Finding gluten-free options in shops and restaurants when one has gluten sensitivity can be very challenging. It’s unfair that eating gluten can cause reactions in people who have a sensitivity to it.

Gluten-free treats 

People now prepare or buy baked goods without the presence of gluten. Brands have redesigned their original gluten recipes to leave out this protein and not taste different. A simple Google search can detail hundreds of gluten-free recipes. A fan-favorite website is TheToastedPineNut, which details 50+ gluten-free recipes that will make sensitive individuals excited to eat again. 

Shoprite and Wegmans have worked to make gluten-free options more available in their stores. Although they may not be front and center in every aisle, they do exist. Brands like My Dad’s Cookies and Tate’s Bake Shop are delicious and offer numerous cookie options perfect for serving at a house party, and get this, no one will ever know. 

So, with all of these gluten-free breakthroughs, why haven’t restaurants done more on this rising issue?

Hearing stories 

Shanaya Fernando, a Colonia High School student says, “It has been hard locating a restaurant in the Woodbridge, New Jersey area that accommodates people with gluten sensitivity, like myself” she follows this with, “It has been discouraging to eat out with my family when I experience discomfort after eating certain foods, like pasta.”

Fernando is not alone in this experience, as is the case for many people all over the world. The lack of consideration for gluten-sensitive people is a growing issue in the restaurant industry. Fernando adds, “Health-conscious people, those with food allergies, and even certain religious beliefs should be factored into restaurant menus, after all, don’t they want more customers anyways?”

The action that has been taken in large supermarkets is great and definitely appreciated by food-sensitive people. However, everyone deserves a great experience when eating out, and offering certain food alternatives would just make it better. Shanaya should feel comfortable when traveling outside of her comfort zone and stepping into the restaurant scene. Action should be taken sooner than later.

“We don’t go out to eat because my son has celiac. If we do go to a restaurant, it must be a completely gluten-free establishment because of fear of cross-contamination. There are actually more gluten-free kitchens out of state than in Jersey and those that were in Jersey didn’t survive Covid,” English teacher Lindsay McNamara explained.