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Inspired by recent controversy surrounding Domino's Pizza's new gluten-free crusts, CeliAct, producers of nutritional supplements for people with celiac disease, conducted tests on the pizza to see if it contained gluten.
Using a lab with strict gluten thresholds, CeliAct tested Domino's new pizzas from three major cities. Two of the pizzas had no detectable gluten, while a third had trace levels considered safe by nearly all standards.
Domino's gluten-free pizzas were rolled out in the beginning of May. The offering included an asterisk, however, as it was labeled with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness' Amber Designation, meaning it is suitable for those with gluten sensitivity but not for those with celiac disease.
The discrepancy set off a firestorm and eventually caused the NFCA to suspend its Amber Designation. In a statement the NFCA said: "Given the public response and recent developments in this field, NFCA is suspending use of the 'Amber' designation to describe a restaurant or foodservice establishment. We will conduct a review to determine the most effective and clearest way to warn the community of the risk of cross-contamination and the use of the phrase 'Gluten Free.'"
"There was a huge debate about whether Domino's gluten-free pizzas contained gluten or not," said Max Librach, co-founder of CeliAct. "So we decided to use our lab to see for ourselves."
Pizzas from Domino's units in Boston and New Orleans came back undetectable for gluten (with a detection threshold of 3 parts per million). Pizza from Washington, D.C., contained 7 parts per million of gluten. To put these numbers into perspective, the widely respected Gluten-Free Certification Organization uses a threshold of 10 parts per million to determine if a food is gluten-free.
National celiac experts and support groups have urged the FDA to use a threshold of 20 parts per million in their gluten-free labeling laws.
"This does not mean that we endorse Domino's gluten-free pizza for people with celiac," said Zach Rachins, co-founder of CeliAct. "Instead, we just wanted to know if the gluten-free community should be any more critical of Domino's than it is of other national chains with gluten-free offerings like Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang's, or Legal Seafood. Other restaurants that have gluten-free menus don't have dedicated gluten-free kitchens. We thought the backlash might have just been in response to how Domino's communicated their warning to celiacs."
More details about CeliAct's experiment are available online.
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