While gluten-free dining options have been steadily increasing, new research has elucidated that there may still be gluten in your “gluten-free” foods. While packaged foods labeled as gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten, there is no similar standard for gluten-free restaurant foods.
A study, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology in March 2019, reported that a significant amount of restaurant foods classified as gluten-free contain detectable amounts of gluten. The study had participants use a portable device called a Nima Gluten Sensor to test their food. 804 users conducted 5,624 tests in an 18-month period.
The results revealed that gluten was detected in 32% of the foods that were designated gluten-free. Interestingly, the researchers found that gluten detection differed by meal and type of food with the most gluten detection occurring at dinner and more than 50% of pizza and pasta samples testing positive for gluten. Additionally, when stratified by region, researchers found that gluten contamination was less likely to occur in the West than in the Northeast regions of the United States.
These results support the fact that there is gluten contamination in restaurant foods. It should be noted that the Nima device is very sensitive and can detect gluten at 5-10 parts per million, which has unknown clinical significance for those with celiac disease. Nevertheless, this study highlights the prevalence of gluten contamination in restaurants and brings to light the importance of finding gluten-free menus you can trust. The study concluded that their “findings of higher rates of gluten detection in pizza and pasta provide practical data when providing dining strategies for patients with celiac disease”.