Domino’s pleases then teases the gluten free community

Tonight when I go home, I think I’ll announce at the kitchen table – in front of my wife and 5 kids – that we’re going out for ice cream and sorbet after dinner.  Later, when my kids start asking if it’s time to go, I’ll tell them “Yes it is… but I just meant mom and I.”  Why would I do such a thing?  I’d like to know how the management of Domino’s feels right now.

On Monday, Domino’s made headlines with a bold press release pronouncing “Domino’s Pizza Becomes First National Pizza Delivery Chain to Offer Gluten Free Crust.”  Buzz and excitement swirled around the online gluten free community faster than you could find the phone number for delivery.  However, the enthusiasm came to a crashing halt, with some members of the celiac community feeling like they were “slapped in the face,” upon recognition that Domino’s was saying the new gluten free crust pizza was only safe for those with a “mild gluten sensitivity.”  The new reaction: uproar.

As in much of life, there are two sides to every story.  On one hand, I give Domino’s, partnered with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, FULL credit for trying very hard NOT to mislead anyone.  They were very upfront and bold in stating this pizza was not safe for those with celiac disease or anything beyond a mild gluten sensitivity.  The press release said it.  The disclaimer on the bottom of the press release said it.  The video they released about this new product said it.  And apparently, their front-of-the-house staff is now trained to say it.

From their press release: “In an effort to remain open and informative about Domino’s Gluten Free Crust, Domino’s has created a video on YouTube that allows customers to decide whether this product is suitable for their diet.”  Here is the video:

The disclaimer on that sign in the video is also on the bottom of their press release.  It says: “Domino’s pizza made with a Gluten Free Crust is prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure.  The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness supports the availability of Domino’s Gluten Free Crust, but cannot recommend the pizza for customers with celiac disease.  Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise judgment in consuming this pizza.”  As you can see, Domino’s went above and beyond what most companies would do to tell some people NOT to buy their product!

And let’s remember too that Domino’s released this gluten free crust only after undergoing a credentialing program from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) AND with the apparent blessing of the NFCA that this product would fill an important gap for some in the gluten free community.

My point (at the moment) isn’t to debate whether or not the NFCA was right to endorse this product (which they did most boldly in an article from Nation’s Restaurant News, “Domino’s debuts gluten-free pizza crust“), but rather to suggest that I think Domino’s believed they were doing a great thing for the gluten free community in releasing this product.  Imagine for a second that you’re like most Americans who don’t know much about celiac disease, gluten sensitivities & intolerances, food allergies, etc.  You decide you’d like to develop a gluten free pizza.  What would you do?  How about going to one of the top celiac disease organizations in the world and consulting with them.  You might even go through a program to receive a credential from them and ask if they would be willing to endorse your new pizza as being appropriate for the community.  If they agreed, you’d probably assume you did a great job.  In my mind, Domino’s took the best steps a company could take without having prior knowledge of gluten intolerance and how to accommodate those with it.  If you disagree, you might want to question the experts who gave Domino’s their guidance and ultimate endorsement.

That all said, let me now address the other side of this story.

I wrote an AllergyEats Blog post last November entitled “Celiac and gluten-intolerant guests should be careful of gluten-free menus” with the subtitle “Some restaurants aren’t offering true gluten-free meals, so always be vigilent when dining out.”  The main point of the post was that restaurants across the country were rushing to come out with gluten free menus in order to capture this “new trend” while not understanding that “gluten free” doesn’t just refer to the ingredients, but to the process and procedures as well (this applies to any food allergy too).  As a result, these restaurants were getting celiac disease customers sick quite often.

Looks like Domino’s is just the latest to make this same mistake.

Domino’s HAS developed a true gluten free crust that I would venture to guess would be safe if cooked in your gluten free home (it is made from rice flour, rice starch, potato starch, and water).  However, like the other restaurants referenced above, Domino’s is not addressing the issue of cross-contamination beyond warning customers that “current store operations at Domino’s cannot guarantee that each handcrafted pizza will be completely free from gluten” and “even as clean as we keep [the kitchens], there are trace glutens present.”  And let’s face it, that shouldn’t be a shock.  Domino’s has over 5000 units, some quite cramped, many of which are franchised, and often run by very young adults.  But I won’t give them a hall pass for that.

The bottom line is that they should either do it right or not do it at all.  Despite all their disclaimers, the term “gluten free crust” is going to confuse some celiac customers and thus this product IS going to get people sick.  Very sick.  (This also will not do wonders for their business reputation.)  Some restaurants will just NEVER be able to appropriately accommodate gluten free customers or those with specific food allergies.  That’s okay.  Much worse is to do it just 50% of the way.

And that’s what surprises me about the endorsement from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.  They are the experts.  They are the advocates.  And I’m sure they went into this feeling that if the millions of individuals with mild gluten sensitivity (I’m trusting others for that number) could now enjoy a new pizza option, their organization should enthusiastically embrace it.  But to me, the alarm bells go off immediately with Domino’s using the moniker “gluten free.”  In my book, that implies a gluten free product or meal, not just gluten free ingredients.

Interestingly, Alice Bast, President of the NFCA shares the following two back-to-back quotes in Nation’s Restaurant News.  “You have got to do this the right way or not at all” followed by “I will not eat [this gluten free crust pizza] at one of the restaurants because they can’t guarantee that it’s gluten free because of the possible cross-contamination.”  Now, the NFCA is a wonderful organization and a valued partner of AllergyEats, but even partners are allowed to respectfully disagree and I most certainly do disagree with the NFCA giving their blessing to this product, even though I am sure the organization did what they felt was right for millions.

Can we all understand yet why the celiac disease and “more than mild” gluten intolerant community is so infuriated?

Another great celiac disease organization, and AllergyEats partner, the Gluten Intolerance Group, decided to post an official statement about this new Domino’s gluten free crust pizza.  In it, Cynthia Kupper, Executive Director, shares the following quotes.  “Food services should approach gluten free meal options the same way they handle allergens.  There is only one option – food that is safe for all persons living gluten free, no matter why they are living gluten free.”  “While GIG [Gluten Intolerance Group] appreciates Domino’s desire to offer a gluten-free pizza, we do not feel the effort put forth demonstrates a true commitment toward making a safe environment for producing gluten-free food.”

Now that’s a lot to digest.  Oh… sorry… bad pun.

Time to share YOUR thoughts!  What do you think about this new gluten free crust pizza?  Is it better to at least accommodate the “mild gluten sensitive” patrons if you can’t accommodate all?  Is the NFCA right in endorsing this product?  And if you are gluten free, would YOU eat this pizza?  Please click Comments or Reply below and tell everyone what you think.

And while we’ve got your attention, please take just a moment to go our parent site, AllergyEats (, to rate any restaurant experiences you’ve had recently.  Rating a restaurant only takes a minute yet increases the value of AllergyEats for our entire food allergy and intolerance community.  Thanks to your support, AllergyEats has become a critical resource for many families dining out with food allergies, but we have a long way to go to broaden and deepen our restaurant coverage with your ratings.


    food challenged foodie

    They should at least call it a different name, low gluten or de-glutened. If you are going to call it gluten free, it should be gluten free. Not everyone reads the fine print!


    They’re hopping on the GF bandwagon, just like everyone did with Atkins. It doesn’t do anythign to address real problems or any other food allergies. They want press/advertising that says they care… but they don’t really care.

    I call shenanigans on gluten-free menus in general. It should be a starting-point, not a “we’re doing this to shut you up” kind of move.

    FDA is Pointless

    I could not agree more with your comment that Dominos “should do it right, or not do it at all.” By going only part of the way toward labeling and advertising, Dominos – along with a host of others – actually makes it more dangerous.

    Here is another example: yesterday at the supermarket I read the Entenmanns’ label on the ‘Little Bites’ muffins. The top allergens were in bold. No nuts listed, no ‘made in a facility’ warning. Specifically because the top allergens were bolded, I believed that Entenmanns would put a ‘made in a facility’ warning on the box if needed.

    I have fed my kids Little Bites before based on the labeling, but because I was buying safe snacks for my son’s school, I wanted to make extra sure and called them. Customer service rep said peanuts would be listed as an ingredient if present and there would be a warning if any chance of cross-contamination on the production line. Slightly disingenuous because she then said Entenmanns uses no peanuts in its products.

    She said Entenmanns uses treenuts, and any of its products may contain treenuts and there is no ‘may contain’ because (basically) the FDA does not mandate it. I asked her if the corporation realizes how dangerous that policy is, because parents will see that they bold allergens and parents will then assume Entenmann is labeling for allergens, including cross-contamination, such that consumers can determine whether they can safely eat (or not eat) their products.

    It’s get even more infuriating. Here’s the disclaimer verbatim from their web site:
    We assure you that we adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices as established by the FDA. We take abundant precaution to prevent cross contact of allergenic ingredients between batches and, our bakeries are inspected to ensure that they meet or exceed all regulatory and baking industry standards. We understand that highly sensitive consumers need to know when there is even the remotest possibility of inadvertent cross contact of allergenic ingredients during processing. To that end we disclose that the following allergenic ingredients are used in some of our manufacturing facilities and that inadvertent cross contact is remotely possible: milk, eggs, soy, almonds, walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts (filberts). Wheat is used in all of our facilities and all of our products as an ingredient. Please refer to ingredient labels on our products for full disclosure of the ingredients used in that product.

    So here’s how Entenmanns keeps it’s customers (including children) “safe”: despite the high risk of cross-contamination, they aren’t going to label for it and they are going to trick customers into believing the product is safe by taking one step (bolding ingredients) but not performing the second, equally-important step of labeling for cross-contamination.

    It’s not just confusing, it’s dangerous. Again, do it right or don’t do it all.


    I’m always looking for a new place to try but I wont be going to Domino’s ever again they lost a family of four as customers instead of just one. You have to wonder if they can’t get this right after going and talking to the pro then what else are they screwing up on?


    I disagree with you. I feel it is a blessing to those of us who do not have Celiac but either prefer to stay away from wheat (me) or are allergic to wheat but not gluten (my son). I have a friend who has two sons who have gluten intolerance, and they eat it with no negative reaction, as well. I am kind of irritated that because it doesn’t meet your specific needs, you feel it shouldn’t exist at all. Well, what about the rest of us who aren’t Celiacs? I mean, should we no longer have stairs because ALL people can’t use them? Or doorknobs, since they’re only useful to the majority – but not all – of the population? Should we just stop selling wheat altogether? And peanuts? What about strawberries?

    I understand that NFCA probably shouldn’t be endorsing this since it does NOT work for Celiacs and they are SPECIFICALLY focused on celiac disease. However, GIG – who should be focusing on the wide range of gluten intolerances – attacking their attempt and saying it should be “all or none” is ridiculous.

    We in the allergy community cannot expect everyone to bow to our individual needs. It would be absolutely impossible to do so. I applaud Domino’s for doing this, and for doing everything they can to let people know that – while cross-contamination cannot be completely prevented – this is their first attempt at meeting the needs of a diverse population. Let’s encourage Domino’s to go further with this and take the next step to make it safe for all gluten-avoiders, rather than ridiculing them for trying.

    Cynthia Kupper

    Karmin, The challenge we face with gluten sensitivity is that there is not enough research to fully understand the condition. We really don’t know if these people are more sensitive or not (some research suggests they are). We don’t know if they will have other consequences from eating gluten or not. We really don’t know if it is gluten, or some other protein in the grains that is a problem.

    What we do know is that not everyone has symptoms and symptoms are not a good measure of what is happening in someone’s body. There are many people with celiac disease who do not have symptoms and will suffer health consequences from ingesting gluten over time. This could be happening to those with gluten sensitivities as well. So until such time that we know for sure that a low gluten diet is a possibility for gluten sensitive people, the high road is to restrict gluten to the same degree we do with other forms of gluten-reactive disorders.

    I do believe in the future, we may see a further distinction in how these conditions are treated…but today we just dont know, and it is pure speculation on my part.

    Compare this to diabetes – at one time everyone followed a very strict calorie and carbohydrate controlled diet. They weighed their food. Today we know some with diabetes can be treated with diet alone, some with pills and some require insulin to live. I believe with gluten-related disorders we will get to a similar place, but we are not there today. So we are still being as strict as possible for the benefit of everyone’s health. I would not be willing to risk my health, your health or that of anyone else. What we choose to do as individuals is different. If you choose to eat a contaminated pizza, it is your choice, and hopefully it is an educated choice. But it is not something that an organization looking out for the best interest of the masses with gluten-reactive disorders or a health care provider can endorse without the support of research.

    Always make educated choices when it comes to your health. We live by the decisions we make. Good health to everyone. Happy Mothers day.
    Cynthia Kupper, RD


    WHAT THE HECK IS LOW GLUTEN ??? If I eat any gluten it makes me sick this is not the first time I have seen this statement I saw it at Hoolihan’s also I asked what was the criteria that they used to determine that it was LOW GLUTEN and what amount of gluten was acceptable ????
    Ughhhhhh all I can say is that obviously someone does not understand what it means to be sick with either Celiac’s or Gluten intolorance because the last time I got GLUTENED… by food that was supposedly safe I was sick and in pain later…


    It is things like this that make eating out a pain…


    I agree- they are just going to anger and confuse their customers with this ridiculous “low gluten” product.

    Derek Fine

    I’m a Celiac so this isn’t right for me. I’m confused about why the NFCA would have anything to do with this.

    Maybe this is all after the fact of the initial launch, but as I researched this today it seemed clear that Domino’s was offering a gluten-free crust, not a gluten-free pizza. If you try to order on their web site, it lists this as such and then pops up a warning that you have to close before continuing. Domino’s has a right to sell and promote a GF crust on their menu and give consumers a choice.

    This anger in the Celiac community should be addressed more at the NFCA for ‘supporting’ a GF product that is not for Celiacs.

    Here is a link to info on Domino’s web page


    Hello All: Do not eat the pizza if you have Celiac or are “gluten sensitive”. I know two out of two different gluten free families that became violently ill within minutes after eating the pizza. Just viewing the tape making pizza shows obvious contamination issues. They are being negligent with or without the disclaimer. If you are one of the unlucky 50% of celiacs that don’t feel the intestinal pain after ingesting gluten, Dominos pizza may be a slow and/or silent poison.

    Rocky Craig

    Close but no cigar, at least for the NFCA “Amber” designation.

    “Gluten free” starts with ingredients but stopping there is a mistake. We believe in training for the entire process of meal preparation because cross-contamination is a clear and present danger.

    Twenty parts per million (20 ppm) of gluten is enough to trigger a reaction in a celiac-afflicted diner. How much is 20 ppm? Imagine one drop of food coloring in a gallon of water. You can’t see it or taste it, but those with CD will know it’s there.

    Visit to learn more about full spectrum training, including allergens.

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