Your Guide to Achieving an FDA-Approved Gluten-Free Menu
A short couple of months ago on August 5th and after quite a few years of consideration, the FDA released new regulations and a uniform standard for the term “gluten-free”. The truth is that even the best commercial restaurant equipment may not ensure that your food remains gluten-free. These regulations couldn’t have come at a better time, as restaurants offering gluten-free menus are popular and on the rise. So if you’re ready to stock up on restaurant equipment great for going gluten-free, it’s probably time to get familiar with the new rules.
In summary, the FDA defines anything termed as “gluten-free” must be “inherently gluten-free and does not contain 1) a gluten-containing grain, 2) a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten [ex. Wheat flour], or 3) a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten [ex. Wheat starch], if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food. Also, any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food must be less than 20 ppm.)
The last bit there about not containing more than 20 ppm gluten is the key here – being the globally agreed amount of gluten among researchers that should not cause adverse effects in people affected by celiac disease. It sounds slightly daunting, and you may find yourself questioning which piece of restaurant equipment even measures in “ppm”, but by following some simple steps you’ll be able to find yourself easily adhering to the FDA’s new guidelines by August 5, 2014.
1. Avoid cross contamination! This may seem obvious, but many don’t realize the ease with which gluten-free items may come into contact with items with gluten in them. Research evidence suggests that the tiniest speck of gluten can be transferred through contaminated utensils, restaurant equipment, deep fryers, etc. Just be mindful and thorough when handling your restaurant equipment if you plan to offer a truly “gluten-free” menu.
2. Thoroughly analyze all menu items to meet the gluten-free criteria. Even if you keep your restaurant equipment as clean and gluten-free as can be, it won’t amount to much if you haven’t made sure that your ingredients are positively “gluten-free” by FDA standards. There are many resources such as registered dieticians that will not only help you analyze your current menu, but also help you to build a tasty gluten-free menu.
3. Get commitment from and train management and all staff. A vital aspect of offering a gluten-free menu to your guests is ensuring that the entire restaurant staff is on the same page as far as handling restaurant equipment and storing, preparing, or serving gluten-free items. It is recommended that restaurants achieve this by having management and both front and back of house staff attend training programs such as the GREAT Kitchens Course (Gluten-free Resource Education Awareness Training). A committed and well-educated staff on the proper handling of food and restaurant equipment will make certain that guests can maintain trust and loyalty in your establishment.
4. Implement specific protocols and monitor adherence to procedure. You’ve gone through the trouble of analyzing your menu and training your entire staff to the intricacies of serving gluten-free items – it is now time to put that top-quality commercial restaurant equipment to good use by implementing very specific rules, so that everyone knows what the correct protocol is every step of the way. In addition to this, keep a keen eye and monitor the way the new rules are being executed, as your staff makes the proper adjustments and puts their training to use.