Is it OK to eat gluten-free pizza from a restaurant?

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: Is it ok to eat gluten-free pizza from a restaurant that bakes it in the same oven with regular pizza?

Answer


It is not safe to eat pizza that has been baked in the oven together with regular pizza if you have celiac disease. Unfortunately, restaurants seem to vary widely in the precautions they take to prep and serve gluten-free pizza. Pizza is a high-risk item for gluten exposure, a recent study on gluten-free labeled restaurant food found that 53% of samples of pizza had detectable levels of gluten (1).

Pizza can be very tricky because it involves a lot of flour, so if they make regular pizzas there will be a lot of flour in the prep area, as well as in the air. A clean separate area away from regular loose flour is required to prepare gluten-free pizzas safely. It is always important to vet the restaurants about their food preparation methods to minimize risk of gluten exposure.

When ordering pizza ask:

  • Is it a dedicated gluten-free kitchen or are regular pizzas also prepared?
  • Are gluten-free pizzas prepared separately and away from regular pizzas?
  • Are surfaces cleaned and clean/dedicated tools used?
  • Are staff members washing hands and changing gloves right before handling gluten-free pizzas and ingredients?
  • Is the gluten-free dough or shells prepared on site or purchased ready to use? If so, are they labeled gluten-free?
  • Is gluten-free flour used when they roll out the gluten-free dough?
  • Is gluten-free flour used to roll out regular pizzas to reduce cross-contact with flour in the kitchen?
  • Are dedicated containers with toppings used?
  • Are toppings vetted for gluten-free status?
  • Are the pizzas baked in a separate oven and on clean pans?
  • Is the convection feature turned off on the oven to prevent previous flour from circulating?
  • Are pizzas cut with a dedicated pizza cutter?

For delivery:

  • Are gluten-free pizzas put in separate boxes?
  • Are gluten-free pizza boxes labeled clearly?
  • Are gluten-free pizzas stacked above gluten-containing items?

Note: There is always going to be a high potential for cross-contact if they are preparing gluten-free pizzas in a kitchen where they are using gluten-containing flour for regular pizzas. In some restaurants they have bypassed this risk by only using gluten-free flour to roll out ALL pizza shells.

Read more about eating out at restaurants: https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/anxiety-around-eating-new-foods/

Reference:

  1. Benjamin A. Lerner, Lynn T. Phan Vo, Shireen Yates, Andrew G. Rundle, Peter H.R. Green, Benjamin Lebwohl. Detection of Gluten in Gluten-Free Labeled Restaurant Food. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2019; 1 DOI: 14309/ajg.0000000000000202

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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