Well it has been a newsworthy 24 hours in the celiac and gluten free department.  When Domino’s announced it was doing a gluten free pizza nationwide — the gluten free world stopped and listened….and then…reacted.

Yesterday’s Domino’s announcement basically said we’re making a gluten free pizza, but folks with celiac shouldn’t eat it.  And it came with a video disclaimer with a quote from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.  While disappointed that the pizza isn’t celiac-safe, I was happy to see that they worked with the NFCA to prevent another California Pizza Kitchen debacle which lead CPK to pull their gluten-free pizza within months of unveiling it.

So there are a few things I wanted to follow up on in light of yesterday’s news:

NFCA Working with Domino’s

The NFCA walked a fine line when working with Domino’s on this project in my opinion.  They are a celiac awareness group, helping a company prepare a “gluten free” product– that isn’t for celiacs.  I asked Alice Bast, Founder of NFCA about walking this very public fine line.

“Our main goal was to keep those with celiac disease safe,” Bast explained to me.  “When we first  spoke with Domino’s, we thought we would be helping them launch a gluten-free crust pizza for everyone to enjoy.  However, upon review of operating procedures, we realized we could not recommend this pizza for those with celiac disease.”  Bast added in the interview she knew the NFCA had a decision to make.  Domino’s then agreed to the disclaimer that it wasn’t for people with celiac disease.

Bast did mention that Domino’s did third party cross contamination studies of the gluten-free pizza and the results showed the amount of gluten exposure was very low and that people who didn’t need to worry about cross contamination could eat this product.

When I asked how the NFCA could support Domino’s gluten-free pizza, Bast said what Domino’s was doing fit in with their newly expanded GREAT Kitchens Amber designation which promotes communication about kitchen practices but doesn’t require the strict cross-contamination controls that the top, “Green” designation does.

“The truth is,” Bast said, “there are many restaurants today that label ‘gluten-free’ items on their menu and speak confidently about their ability to serve celiac consumers without having any idea of the cross-contamination they are committing.” — I thought of the same thing yesterday.  How many restaurants — many of them offering pizza — may be cross contaminating like crazy but still calling it gluten free with no additional education or information?  CPK comes to mind.  I did an entire post on what people should ask before ordering a gluten free pizza — for this very reason.

Then Bast said something that was alarming to me.  She was at the National Restaurant Association Show this weekend and “was shocked to discover how little chef’s know” about preparing gluten free food.  “So far, more than 100 chefs – many of whom said they have gluten-free option on their menus – took a 4 question quiz that we created about gluten free protocols.  Only two chef’s got all four questions right!”


“Would we prefer that the pizza be safe for those with celiac?  Of course,” Bast said.  “Unfortunately, that’s not possible  in this case, but we do believe that Domino’s is making a positive step by being up front about the risk of potential gluten exposure.”

Immediate Gluten Free Pizza Competition

In yesterday’s post I uttered the words….”it wouldn’t surprise me if another major chain will decide to do it right, with a separate cooking area, ingredients and oven — and trump Domino’s.” And sure enough….I published my Domino’s article and out pops this news release about Chuck E. Cheese!    The kids play/pizza joint just added Minnesota as a test market for a gluten free pizza and cupcake.

According to the news release, the work and technology involved to avoid cross contamination appears innovative, “The bake-in-bag pizza will remain sealed while cooked and delivered and until opened and served with a personal pizza cutter at families’ tables by the adult in charge….

Under the same procedure, gluten-free, chocolate fudge cupcakes naturally sweetened with fruits, vegetables and grains from Fabe’s All Natural Bakery will remain in pre-sealed, single-serve packaging through preparation and until opened and served at the table.”

This news was better received than the Domino’s news on The Savvy Celiac Facebook page, people were immediately making the comparison,  like from reader Carole, “This sounds so much safer than Domino’s. These are steps in the right direction.”

Media Attention

News of the Domino’s gluten free pizza made ABC News World News Tonight (which incidentally didn’t address the cross contamination issue) and MSNBC website…and FOX 9 in the Twin Cities asked me to come on and talk about it (and about our upcoming celiac fundraiser event) last night. They bought one of the gluten free pizzas as well as a prop, which was a great idea.   It was fun to discuss this with Heidi Collins (fellow celiac gal) and her colleagues on the air.    If the video is put on the internet, I will link it up!


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11 Responses to “Domino’s Gluten Free: NFCA’s Involvement and Immediate Pizza Competition”

  1. Great post Amy. I simply do not understand why the NFCA, who I know does great work. is still partnering with Domino’s. The whole thing is so…odd. It just sends a mixed message. And don’t forget…a lot of celiacs want to believe they can eat it. And they will…disclaimer be damned. The NFCA should have dropped their partnership and come out separately with a warning to all celiacs.

  2. What is so interesting about a GF product at Chuck E Cheese is that even if the kitchen practices are perfectly safe, the environment ouside the kitchen is crawling with gluten contamination. All those little fingers touch pizza, which then touch games/rides…so basically Chuck E Cheese is one big box’o gluten.

  3. I got excited there for a minute when you said MN was doing a test market for Chuck E. Cheese’s. But who wants to eat a pizza that was baked in plastic? And if you’re also dairy-free (which a lot of GF people are…) then you’re out of luck. I’ll stick to homemade and the occasional Pizza Luce or Davanni’s.

  4. Stephanie, Understood your concern about pizza baked in plastic. However, I will just throw out that it is a bit of an answer for parents who get thrown into the school fundraisers there. We stopped going, much to the disappointment of my celiac daughter because there was nothing to eat. Same with birthday parties. I had a hard time supporting a place where my daughter felt like an outsider. She’s now 13…so we’re not going to CEC anymore, but I have to say it appears to be a good option.

  5. Mallory, that place is a germ factory with all of those kids. Gluten or not, they need to wash their hands before eating! 🙂 And Gluten Dude, I know what you’re saying which is why I asked those questions. It is a challenging spot to be in. Thanks for reading!

  6. Thank you for posting this. I think we need to promote local restaurants that do it correctly. My husband (celiac) and I own a pizza place who offer gluten free pizza, pasta and other gf items. I feel we do a responsible job serving gluten free food free from cross contamination. We are constantly educating our staff and watching and enforcing safe food handling practices. We also hired a 3rd party to come in and certify our kitchen, which employed more safe practices…I wish we as a country would embrace the little guys who get it, not hoping another “big chain” will do it right. My husband was a victim of CPK unfortunately….however, it makes us proud to do it right, when everyone is failing miserably.

  7. Quite frankly I can’t take issue with NFCA partnering with Domino’s. The bottom line for me is that there is plenty I can eat. All I ask is for the information I need to make a decision about what that is. It seems to me that NCFA has made it possible for all of us to say “no thanks, it won’t work for me” very easily and without going through grilling the staff at Domino’s. Be thankful we know it isn’t for us and go to Luce if you want pizza or make your own. I applaud NFCA for helping anyone go though a process than in the end makes it possible to identify what is safe and what isn’t. I’d call that celiac awarness. Just because we didn’t get a GF pizza in the end is not reason enough for me to be critical. We are all responsible for what we put in our mouth regardless of any disclaimers. I

  8. What makes me upset is Dominos usage of the word “glutenfree”, and not safe for celiacs – that is what is sending me over the edge.
    Back in 2007 the FDA made the association of the term glutenfree to be used so there was a direct corellation between celiac and glutenfree, like a synomomus meaning. Equation- Gluten-free = Safe Food = Celiacs

    ** “A standardized definition for the term “gluten-free” can serve to protect the public health by providing consumers with celiac disease, and others who must avoid gluten in their diet, the assurance that the foods bearing this labeling meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA as to the meaning of “gluten-free”.”
    So when Dominos states their Glutenfree pizza isn’t safe for celiacs, it confuses me, and everyone else, because the term glutenfree is FOR celiacs benefit!

    There is no reason Domino’s can’t call their pizza low dietary gluten pizza, or low gluten pizza – that IS the end result isn’t it? Just because the crust is glutenfree – doesn’t mean the end result pizza is is glutenfree, or does anyone believe it will be? I heard some tested at the 20ppm, but what about the rest or ALL? What about when the pizza shops are extra busy or flour has spilled over, any testing done then? Employees are already stating they use the same cutter for regular pizzas on the glutenfree ones too – and the same hands reaching into the toppings for ALL pizzas, or the same ladle swirling sauce on a reg pizza then a so called glutenfree one, etc… a “common kitchen” to quote Domino’s.

    But Domino’s want that symbol of glutenfree because it is known to all to contain little or no gluten at all – so therefor more sales using the word glutenfree, there is more understanding of the word glutenfree, which translates into more profits using the word glutenfree, just jump on the “glutenfree” bandwagon for a buck at the Celiacs health risk. The tweeting this to celebrities was proof of this, no disclaimer was in the tweets on May 7, 2012.

    What about the celiac teenager that just wants to fit in? All his friends eat Domino’s now he can too?? No one is considering the tragedy here, or isn’t everyone thinking that – or is it just a glutening, they will get over it in a few days.

    What about the regular person who see’s glutenfree pizza – associates it with a friend and has her over for dinner to finally be able to serve something without hassle… thinking the host is helpful – how is the person to explain well I can’t eat “THAT glutenfree pizza” SO confusing.

    What about the newly diagnosed individuals who don’t even understand the disease yet, let alone cross contaimination, but sees “glutenfree pizza”?

    There are so many examples and so many people that are going to be confused and perhaps fall ill because of Domino’s usuage of the word glutenfree.

    I am truely sickened by Domino’s using the words glutenfree and NOT safe for celiacs… it is what it is – At end result the glutenfree pizza that is NOT made for celiacs – IS NOT GLUTENFREE at end product for sale to public, but it is called glutenfree pizza? SO the NEW equation goes- Glutenfree= Not safe Food = Not safe for celiacs

    Now, this is where I feel let down, and sold out by the NFCA – not explaining or getting the term “glutenfree” across to Domino’s – and to just what the word glutenfree means to celiacs. A Celiacs way of life is GLUTEN-FREE. It means EVERYTHING to me, it is my life, it is my daughters lives too. It is many of my friends lives. It is the difference of being ill and not being ill. It is the difference of the next time someone uses the term glutenfree – is it really glutenfree? Or is it dominos glutenfree?
    The mere mention of the word glutenfree I associate with celiacs.

    One more thing… does anyone else think it’s sneaking the way Domino’s is using – “glutenfree crust pizza”?? The whole pizza isn’t glutenfree – only the crust! So deceiving, like a play on words. This is a great example of misleading the public into thinking it’s glutenfree!

    I strongly feel that Domino’s needs to remove the word “glutenfree” from their pizza unless they can prove each pizza meets the required less than 20ppm. — then it is approved safe for celiacs if they choose.

    **Please note a reference to the FDA regulations on gluten-free from 2007 #19

  9. “Bast said what Domino

  10. It actually causes a terrible amount of confusion for folks we are trying so hard to educate. For example, my daughter’s grandparents send us articles about gluten free this and gluten free that. A release like this may give them the perception that they can order Domino’s pizza for my daughter–when in fact they cannot. It makes it that much harder and more difficult having to explain which places are safe and which ones are not when ‘gluten free’ is tossed around so loosely.

  11. Nice post, thanks.

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