Could we be another step toward greater gluten-free awareness at restaurants?  Possibly, after hearing some rumblings coming out of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) conference that ended just a few days ago.

At the recent conference, it appears attendees got an ear full about accommodating gluten-free diets.  An article on Medill-Northwestern’s website said the trend for restaurants in 2010 appears to be going toward healthier foods, “locally-sourced produce and meat…sustainable farming, and gluten or allergy-conscious choices [on the menu]…” according to the NRA.

One attendee observed that people also seemed more educated about gluten-free needs.

“Everybody knows somebody that’s a celiac,” Chuck Cundari, president of Canbrands Specialty Foods told Medill-Northwestern. “[Restaurateurs] are saying, ‘That’s something I should have in my restaurant.’ It’s not a want, it’s a need.”

No doubt it helped to have the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness there– standing prominently with its own seemingly enormous area called the “Gluten-Free Showcase Pavilion” and hosting an educational session called Gluten-Free: Easy As ABCDE. A news release about their seminar said they would “…demonstrate a business case for restaurants and the food service industry to invest in the gluten-free consumer base, and provide solutions for multiple business models featuring some of the best products, services and solutions on the market today.”

From the looks of the NFCA’s photo album, it highlighted many different companies. To see more, check out this video they posted.

It remains to be seen whether this exposure will prompt restaurant owners and managers to work with the gluten-free movement. It can be a huge change for them especially if they are going to do it right — with designated gluten-free space and utensils to keep cross contamination to an absolute minimum.

Nice job NFCA for raising awareness.

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