How should I deal with dubious gf claims on a restaurant menu?

Hi. I've come over here from Thyroid UK to ask a question about eating out.

Just to clarify, I have not had a coeliac diagnosis, but am dealing with several related (autoimmune and vitamin deficiency) health issues and at the moment I'm gf by choice.

There is kind of a long story behind this. I'm having enough trouble getting my GP to treat me for what is definitely wrong with me, so I will ask for a coeliac test but not now and maybe not from this GP. In any case, I'm going to considerable lengths and expense to ensure I'm doing this properly.

My partner and I would quite like to go to our favourite restaurant for Valentine's Day. Noticed that their menu now says "All our dishes are gluten free" but they have wheat and wholemeal breads (and dishes containing these breads) on the menu. Had a chat on the phone and am still not sure they know what gf means.

I'm quite happy to have a friendly chat about what gf entails, but my feeling is that they're not bothered. If they do not respond to an offer of help/information, can anything be done to stop them from using this unequivocal gf statement on their menu?

Thanks in advance...

8 Replies

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  • The law has changed recently and applies to restaurants as well if they use the terms "gluten free" or "low in gluten" - see food.gov.uk/news/newsarchiv... on the Food Standards Agency website for more info - this includes downloadable factsheets - including one aimed at caterers.

    Be aware though that the gluten limits mentioned may still cause issues with sensitive coeliacs.

    I would try to meet with their manager/chef in advance, if this does not work, write them a letter spelling out your concerns. If they continue, call your local environmental health officer who will take this up on your behalf (your local council will have an environmental health division). They have the power to enforce this.

  • Thank you. That's just the kind of information I was looking for.

    I fully intend to have a chat with them - they are my favourite local restaurant after all! I tried to email them (easier to lay out the key concerns clearly than in a phone call) but the message kept bouncing back. Then when I rang, the chap I spoke to said the bread was made from "a different kind of flour." When I said that the menu listed several wheat and wholemeal breads, he said "I'll ask the chef" and put the phone down. I rang back but couldn't get through.

    So while I'd like to be able to communicate with them, I'm not sure if that's going to be successful, and in the meantime, their menu is still inaccurate.

  • Have a chat with your local council Trading Standards officer - they should be able to help. The restaurant is inaccurately labelling so it falls within their remit.

    Of course, try the conversation with the restaurant first, but it sounds as if they don't know what they are doing. It would be different if they were saying that any of their menu items could be adapted (though that would b unlikely even in an excellent restaurant).

  • Thanks for that suggestion.

    I'm going to give them a ring tonight when they open (I can't seem to get in touch any other way) and see if I can speak with the manager or get him/her to ring me back. Even a working email address would help.

    It's one thing to be ignorant of what gf entails; it's a different thing altogether to say you are informed when you're not.

  • I recommend seeing the mgr, asking questions, explaining what gluten free is - covering off cross contamination & pointing out their errors. If they don't make the right changes then environmental health vs trading standards will often go and visit them and helpfully explain the new law.

    We've reported 3 places since the new law came into force who appeared to be knowingly and deliberately labelling gf when it wasn't gf - despite us flagging errors. In those cases of flouting the law and risking coeliacs health we felt it right to report them. However we always recommend giving people a chance to improve things first. Some local restaurants can be fab if they make the food in house vs chains where they ship in food that they don't know the ingredients of is not so good.

  • Thanks for that. It's an Indian restaurant, so there are potentially lots of options that could easily be kept gf (in that flour isn't an integral part of most dishes). My concern is that, even if there is someone at the helm who wants to do this properly, they have gone about it the wrong way and there are too many people in the chain who don't know what's going on.

    Not to worry. I'm going to fight for my brinjal bartha! (Don't know what I will do without it!)

  • These are all great comments, but I'd like to offer an unrelated one - if your GP isn't helping you, it really could be a good idea to find a new one. If you move to a large practice with several doctors, you may find that different ones can help with different things.

  • Yes, that's in the pipeline. This is just that sort of surgery, but I never seem to be able to see the same GP and they let me down just before Christmas (GP failed to keep a phone appointment) so I'm going.

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