Gluten & Celiac Disease

Gluten Basics


1. What is Gluten?


Gluten belongs to a group of PROTEINS called prolamins, and consists of the two proteins gliadin and glutenin.  Wheat and many other cereal grains naturally contain gluten.


Gluten gives dough its characteristic stretchy properties and is water soluble.


2. Which grains and flours CONTAIN GLUTEN?


  • Barley (including barley malt)
  • Bulgur
  • Durum wheat
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale (cross between wheat & rye)
  • Wheat (including bran & germ)
  • White flour


Note: Other grains may contain gluten, so if you are not 100% sure, consult with the food manufacturer.


3. Foods that usually have WHEAT (and gluten) as an ingredient:


  • Pasta, orzo, etc.
  • Couscous
  • Bread
  • Flour tortillas
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pastries
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Gravy
  • Dressings
  • Sauces
  • Beer


Many other processed foods contain gluten in varying quantities, so check ingredient listings carefully or look for “gluten-free” labeling.


4. Which grains are GLUTEN FREE?


  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn, cornmeal, polenta
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Montina
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Tapioca
  • Teff
  • Wild rice


5. What about OATS?


Oats are inherently gluten-free, but are frequently contaminated with wheat during growing and processing.  (Several companies do offer pure, uncontaminated oats.)  The safety of oats in a gluten-free diet has been an issue of some debate; however, many people with celiac disease can tolerate a moderate amount of uncontaminated oats.  Caution should be observed if you intend to feature oats as a “gluten-free” item on your menu. 

The FDA now defines "gluten-free" as
less than 20 parts per million.

Gluten and Celiac Disease


As defined by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (


Celiac disease…is an autoimmune disorder triggered by
consuming…gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and
rye. When a person with celiac eats gluten, the protein
interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food by
damaging a part of the small intestine called villi.  Damaged villi make it nearly impossible for the body to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, leading to malnourishment and a host of other problems including some cancers, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, infertility and the onset of other autoimmune diseases.


Celiac disease (CD) is treated by adhering to a lifelong
gluten-free diet.  There are no medications or “cures”
for CD.  For those with CD, eating any amount of
gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine,
and can also cause serious conditions including malnourishment and anemia. 

Resources for Gluten-Free Menuing


If you plan to introduce gluten-free menu items, there are many resources and tools available to you.


One excellent resource is the GREAT Kitchens program ( developed by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).  This comprehensive course teaches foodservice professionals the essentials of gluten-free food preparation and cross-contamination avoidance.


Professionals who complete the five-module package are then eligible for GREAT Kitchens recognition.  This training costs only $100.00.


Links to Learn More:

1 out of 133 Americans has
celiac disease

An estimated 6-7% of Americans have gluten sensitivity

3 Key Steps for Gluten-Free Menuing


1. Develop gluten-free menu items


Select gluten-free recipes that are real and delicious, rather than “quick fix” substitutes that are lacking in flavor.  For example, if you have eight appetizers on your menu, make one or two gluten free.  Likewise, if you have twenty entrées, make five or six gluten free.


Some of your local suppliers, such as bakeries, have gluten-free offerings you can easily integrate into recipes.


2. Isolate storage and preparation of gluten-free ingredients


If possible, dedicate a portion of your line to gluten-free preparation.  Separate and identify gluten-free ingredients in storage areas to avoid cross-contamination.  Before preparing gluten-free foods, utensils and equipment should be properly cleaned and sanitized to prevent cross-contamination.


3. Educate and train staff


Training staff on the risks of gluten contamination and proper preparation methods is paramount.  Get your staff to buy into the program in terms of increased sales that come from a broader and more satisfied customer base.  Post charts that spell out ingredients and menu items that contain gluten and those that can be prepared gluten free.