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Some Gluten Free Advice by Joseph Bases

For those with Celiac Disease or gluten-sensitivity, it is exciting to see more and more signs in business windows that say, “Ask about our gluten free options” as it means that food vendors (pizzerias, restaurants, delis, bakeries et el) have been noticing the growing need for an alternative to wheat. However, it is important for those with these dietary restrictions to make sure these products are truly gluten free. By asking a few simple questions, you can be an informed consumer.

Gluten Free Pizza

Gluten free pizza has come a long way in the past few years. Generally the crusts are held frozen until needed then covered with your choice of sauce and toppings and voila, tasty, crunchy, chewy, gluten free pizza. But does your pizzeria use the same pot of sauce for both floured and gluten free pizzas? We have all seen pizza being made—form the dough, ladle on the sauce, put on the topping and bake. Now consider that every time that ladle touches a floured pizza some of that flour transfers to the ladle which goes back in the pot…the result is an increasingly glutinous pot of sauce.

Gluten Free Baked Goods

There are many commercially prepared gluten free flour mixes which are excellent but often are comprised of ground nuts, and legumes as well as various starches. Bakers who make their own mix can custom blend their flour to meet your needs avoiding potential allergic reactions to nuts, beans, starch or most often corn. What about crumbs? Bakers love cake crumbs. They dress up the sides of the cake, can be used in design and as an ingredient for filling. The problem is that once baked and ground, all cake crumbs look alike. Be sure that your baker keeps them segregated and has dedicated equipment such as scales, mixing bowls, pans, knives and spatulas.

Questions to Ask

A food vendor should think in terms of ‘gluten free’ and ‘non-gluten free’ foods, not gluten free and regular foods. There is a mindset involved here. Gluten free food is regular food; it just doesn’t have any gluten. Here are some of the questions that you should ask of those businesses that offer both floured and gluten free products:

• How are the gluten free foods stored and prepared?

• Is there equipment dedicated to gluten free production?

• Does the vendor use the same oil to fry gluten free and non-gluten free foods?

• How do they prevent cross-contamination of cutting boards and work stations?

• Do they set aside time to do gluten free food preparation separately from non-gluten free food?

Anyone offering gluten free foods should set up dedicated containers for sauces and condiment containers and have a separate toaster, as well as use dedicated equipment and pans. The same rules apply to that knife that has been spreading mayonnaise all day and has been picking up little crumbs that can’t be seen, but that will affect gluten free customers.

Over the next few years we will see an increase in people living a gluten free life style and the food service industry striving to keep in step with them. The input and guidance from gluten free customers, is key in providing a good experience for both vendors and their gluten free customers.

Joseph Bases is the owner of The Little Bake Shop, located at 491 Kings Highway in Valley Cottage, where he offers a variety of traditional and gluten free baked goods. He can be reached at 268-5511.

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