I woke up refreshed for the first time in a few weeks, thankful that the stress of the semester of grad school is done. But, I’m currently getting a 98, so it’s all worth it, right? A low hit right after lunch when I realized, aka my body told me, that something about lunch wasn’t right. Might be the dressing, might be parts of the salad, but either way my gut isn’t happy. Sigh. I can see how some people say this disease sucks. High again after work as trampoline dodgeball was a blast, even if our record was 1-6 for the night. Low came when I noticed that my gut was bloated. Sigh. Times like this when I wish I was normal. As Chrissy over at Glam Without Gluten says, “I did not pick Celiac, it picked me.” Today seems to be one of those days for me when it is hard living with something that I didn’t ask for. Sigh. Oh well, on to more positive things.A hot topic of discussion today within the Celiac Disease and gluten-free social media community today was a petition for the National Foundation of Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to drop it’s “Amber” designation when certifying restaurants. This petition was started by the good folks over at 1in133.org. But honestly, I’m torn on this issue. Here’s why:
On one side, I understand the restaurant industry, from working in multiple roles – host, busser, waiter, back of the house, and now food supplier. I know what goes on behind the scenes when no one is looking (really, it’s not bad like the moving Waiting). I also know that restaurants can take shortcuts if and when the kitchen is overloaded with orders. I also understand that those shortcuts can lead to cross-contamination. So I see the need for clear, easy-to-understand designations to determine if a restaurant is safe for those of us with Celiac Disease.
On the other side, I want, wait, no, need the words “gluten-free” to mean just that – 100% free of gluten. No substitutes. No question about it. Just 100% free of gluten. Looking at package labels, “gluten-free” doesn’t mean gluten-free ingredients but produced in the same facility/line/room/building as other foods with gluten ingredients. Thanks to fad dieters, marketers are placing that labeling on pretty much anything with gluten-free ingredients. OMG, did you know that oranges are gluten-free?!? Let’s put “gluten-free” on our label – we’ll sell millions! However, that’s packaged consumer food. Restaurant certification is a lot harder, especially because it is an industry with a high turn over rate.
So, I go back to the other side. I applaud NFCA’s efforts to attempt to certify restaurant kitchens as “gluten-free.” Props to you NFCA, that’s a big undertaking. I certainly don’t have the time/money/energy to do that. (Do any of you, dear readers?) I can understand how it’s modeled after a system that people should know already (I believe most states have a process where restaurant health inspectors rate a restaurant from A, B, C, or green, yellow, red and have a sign displayed in the front of the store. Well, at least out here in California). I can see the need for different levels of certification, even if it serves as a warning sign. However, that sign may be wrong.
To the left is NFCA’s logo for an “Amber” certification seal that is given to restaurants if they reach this level. I look at this, and see it like a “gluten-free” call out on a packaged product, but the allergen statement says “May contain wheat ingredients.” It’s misleading, and can be confusing if a restaurant patron doesn’t do their homework beforehand, ask the right questions prior to ordering food, and take the label at face value. I see this as packaged products people buy because it says “gluten-free” on the face of the product, but don’t actually take the time to read the label or use an app like ShopWell to see if the product is truly gluten-free. So now I’m back on the side of the petition.
Currently (1:11 am PDT on Tuesday, May 15, 2012) there are 2,155 signatures of this petition. I get it. The sign is confusing. I’m just not sure that ditching the entire Amber certification is the way to go. Maybe it needs to change to a “Pending” status. As in “This restaurant is pending certification of being a gluten-free facility. Staff is being trained on the necessary precautions, and the NFCA is working this with restaurant to fully achieve green, Gluten-Free status.” That would accomplish several things: 1.) it clearly defines for us what is going on with this restaurant; 2.) it communicates that the restaurant is not actually 100% gluten-free – yet; 3.) it allows patrons that are gluten-free can apply pressure on management to become certified; and 4.) it shows that the NFCA believes that this restaurant is making progress on it’s journey of becoming gluten-free, but it’s not quite there. Something similar to this is used in both the project management and engineering industries. There is a ‘baby-step’ certification or license that says you aren’t a full-fledged project manager or engineer yet, but you’re working on becoming one.
At the end of the day, what does this mean? Was this post a way for Brian to decide if he should sign the petition? Kinda, but not really – had my mind made up earlier, but needed to put logic behind it. Here’s my stance: Yes, I do think that the certification needs to be changed. Should the Amber level be taken away completely? I’m not so sure. I can see how it is beneficial, and confusing at the same time. Do I think that the confusion should be clarified? Absolutely. And that, I believe, is the crux of the reason behind the petition.
Thus, to help eliminate confusion among the words “gluten-free,” and to ensure others can suggest restaurants that are truly safe for us to eat, please sign the petition linked below. I’m #2,161.
It should be noted here that these opinions are my own, and do not reflect the opinion of my employer or anyone else that I interact with. Also, I’m all for good, honest, open communication of all viewpoints of this or any issue covered on this site. If you agree or disagree with my opinions, to any extent, please comment below – I’m deeply interested in sharing this conversation with you.
Here’s my day:
7:02 Alarms off and awake. Feeling a lot better than last week.
8:30 Chef brought in french macaroons from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Too bad I can’t eat them – they look delicious.
9:00 Pamela’s Whenever bar for breakfast. Yes, there’s a pattern. Yes, it’s probably for a blog post. Yes, I’m a creature of habit. Yes, I’m writing this sentence to see if you actually read down this far . Which I know you do. Right?
9:15 Normal-ish BM. Still not 100% over whatever got me yesterday.
10:42 Called conference hotel for next week again. Still haven’t heard about meals. Was told that conference banquet manager would call me back, but know about my special dietary needs. We’ll see if they do call me back.
11:40 grab lunch from local deli. Chicken chili lime salad, black beans, red onions, tomatoes, delish. Did bring my own lunch, but need to save that for an early dinner prior to dodgeball tonight.
13:45 Eh BM. hmm…insides still recovering from yesterday, or dressing on salad at lunch not ok? Time to check with deli…
13:53 Talked to conference hotel. Should be getting email later about their specialty diet meals. They sound good and mighty tasty, so interested in what there will be available, and if it truly is Celiac Safe.
15:03 Talked to admin about meeting tomorrow and lunch being served – pizza and salad. Thankfully it’s not Domino’s and don’t have to explain why I can’t eat it. However, the restaurant doesn’t have gluten-free pizza, and don’t trust their prep locations/salad dressing, so tell admin that I will pass on lunch tomorrow. More for the rest of the office, right?
15:30 Tried for a BM, but nothing. Stomach a strong smoldering fire. Yay.
16:35 Very early dinner. spinach salad, cranberries, red onions, avocado, swiss cheese. Need protein bar as we ran out of lunch meat last night.
18:00 BM. Not normal, but the I’ve-been-glutened-normal. Yay. Stomach still a smoldering fire.
18:30 KIND bar for protein to sustain me through trampoline dodgeball.
21:15 Having frozen yogurt from Cold Stone w/ dodgeball team.
22:27 Shopping in Safeway to get a few items – shame Sprouts is closed because I would be done right now. Safeway’s “gluten-free” labeling is…eh. Really have to try and look for it, but it’s color coded, so that helps. Need lunch meat and salad dressing, mainly. After scanning shelf racks for color coded gluten-free tags, and not finding much, use ShopWell to find the best salad dressing at Safeway for me. Picked a new brand/flavor – we’ll see how it tastes tomorrow.
23:30 Discuss day with fiancée, and how my stomach is now bloated and not as flat as it was Sunday morning. One of her quotes tonight: “Guess you’ll need to treat everything as guilty [of having gluten] until proven innocent. You’re having too many issues not to.” Stomach is still a smoldering fire. Best way to describe it: Take the feeling of you being so full that you think a BM will relieve the pressure. Mix is with the feeling of your bladder being so full you could pee like Austin Powers after being unfrozen. Now, realize you can’t have a BM or even pee. That’s how it feels right now.
23:45 Start this post, and make lunches. Need sleep for presentation tomorrow morning (which reminds me, still need to finish some slides…)