Celiac group takes issue with Domino's crust

by Jeff Gelski
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CHICAGO — The North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease has called out Domino’s Pizza for promoting a “gluten-free” pizza crust even though it is not recommended for people who have celiac disease and must avoid gluten.

“It is a complete exploitation of the term gluten-free and a total disservice to proclaim that a product is gluten-free when, in fact, it is not,” said Stefano Guandalini, M.D., president of the N.A.S.S.C.D., in a May 10 statement.

He said an end product must contain less than 20 parts per million (p.p.m.) of gluten to qualify as gluten-free.

The gluten level in the new Domino’s pizza crust is under 20 p.p.m., according to Domino’s. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness supports the availability of the new Domino’s crust, but the N.F.C.A. will not recommend the pizza for customers with celiac disease because it is prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure. Domino’s said the pizza crust is appropriate for people with mild gluten sensitivity.

“While Domino’s initially hoped to market the gluten-free crust pizza to celiac customers, N.F.C.A. informed them that this was too great a risk to the health of the community,” said Alice Bast, president of the N.F.C.A. “Since Domino’s cannot guarantee a pizza free of cross-contamination, N.F.C.A. worked with Domino’s to ensure that a disclaimer would be clear and visible to all consumers. In fact, the disclaimer pops up when you select gluten-free crust from their on-line ordering system.

“Domino’s staff has also been trained to read the disclaimer to all customers who request a gluten-free crust over the phone. The disclaimer specifically states, unequivocally, that the pizza is not recommended for people with celiac disease.”

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness seeks to drive diagnoses of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders and to improve the quality of life for people on a gluten-free diet. While an estimated 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, another estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, according to the N.F.C.A. Consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, triggers celiac disease.

The North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease was created in February. Membership is open to medical, scientific and allied health professionals in the fields of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The N.A.S.S.C.D. seeks to advance the fields of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders by fostering research and promoting clinical care, including diagnosis and treatment.

“A gluten-free diet is a serious medical treatment for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease,” Dr. Guandalini said in the May 10 statement. “The only people who benefit from a gluten-free diet have these medical conditions. As little as 10 mg of gluten in a day can trigger celiac disease activity.”

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