Contact us

As a food service professional, how do you need to react to increasing demands for gluten-free menu options?

As a caterer, you will be accustomed to requests for gluten-free meals, but food laws and differing customer requirements can cause confusion. These FAQs provide caterers with quick answers to common questions when catering for people requesting gluten-free food and help with compliance.

What is a gluten-free diet?

A gluten-free diet is one where all gluten-containing cereals (wheat, rye and barley) and foods made from these must be avoided. Other foods such as processed meats, ready meals and confectionery may also contain gluten so should be checked and avoided too if they contain gluten.

Why do people request gluten-free food?

People follow gluten-free diets for many reasons. Those who have been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis must follow a strict gluten-free diet as this is the only treatment for these conditions.

Others may follow a gluten-free diet because they experience gluten-associated food intolerance or sensitivity symptoms. Thanks to celebrity endorsement, gluten-free diets have become popular as a lifestyle choice so some people may choose to follow a gluten-free diet for the perceived health benefits.

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease (pronounced see- liac) is an auto-immune condition

that affects people of all ages and requires a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Those living with coeliac disease cannot consume any gluten because eating food that contains gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Those with coeliac disease must avoid gluten in their diet to prevent poor absorption of nutrients that can lead to long term health problems such as osteoporosis and bowel cancer.

In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 100 people have a coeliac disease with many people not yet diagnosed.

Can oats be included as part of a gluten-free diet?

People with coeliac disease are advised to consume gluten-free oats to reduce the risk of consuming any gluten present due to cross-contamination in processing.

Suitable oats for people diagnosed with coeliac disease will be labelled ‘gluten-free’ as these guarantees that they contain less than 20ppm of gluten.

Some people with coeliac disease may react to gluten-free oats so they may request to avoid these too.

Can you ignore ‘may contain gluten’ warnings on labels?

Foods with ‘may contain gluten’ are not suitable for people with the coeliac disease even if gluten-containing cereals are not listed as an allergen. This is because small amounts of gluten can cause damage to the gut lining.

Manufacturers and retailers will add ‘may contain’ warnings to labels where there is a potential risk of cross-contamination during food production.

Caterers – your quick checklist

  • Offer a range of naturally gluten-free foods such as potato, pulses, rice, polenta, corn, and quinoa
  • Check your chefs, catering, and front of house teams understand gluten-free requirements
  • Ensure your teams follow the necessary controls required to provide safe gluten free food
  • Check oats are labelled gluten-free
  • Look out for ‘may contain gluten’ warnings on labels and avoid products which contain any of the gluten-containing cereals listed in the ingredients
  • Make it clear to customers with allergies to ask for information on allergens and ingredients used

More information and guidance on how to provide gluten-free food is available here

We are here to help you

The Pelican team is ready to provide you with support in sourcing suitable gluten-free products. And our menu management system, Pi, already helps operators to easily manage and share allergens & nutrition information with their customers!

Contact our team on 01252 705214 or if you need any support or would like to book a demo – we are here to help.

Handy references

Coeliac UK: About Coeliac Disease

Coeliac UK: Guidance on Oats

Find out about your legal responsibilities as a caterer, around gluten-free food here

Other Related Resources

Contact us