A diagnosis of celiac disease usually means that you’ll have to give up some of your favorite foods… at least until someone comes up with a gluten-free version. While I’m still waiting for someone in New York to bake or import gluten-free croissants (the only ones I’ve found so far were in Spain), I have found one source for celiac-safe butter tarts, and many for delicious pizza.
On my last visit to Toronto, I was delighted to hear that Pizza Nova, a southwestern Ontario takeout pizza chain, had started to offer a gluten-free crust. The popular Pizza Pizza chain began to offer this last year in its Ontario and Quebec outlets, and I’d hoped that the success of the program would inspire others to create products for celiacs. However, when I went to order from Pizza Nova, I found cause for concern. The company provides a helpful PDF document on its website to alert customers to allergens in their pizza toppings and other food products; it’s a pretty comprehensive list, covering peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, milk products, eggs, fish, seafood, soy, sulphites, wheat, and gluten (wheat and gluten are listed as separate categories on the chart). Each ingredient is rated from zero to 3; zero means that the allergen is not present, 1 means that the allergen was present in the factory, 2 means that the allergen was used on the same production line, and 3 means that the allergen is present in the product.
What I noticed on the chart was that there are discrepancies in the ratings for the wheat and gluten categories. Pepperoni is rated 1 for wheat content but zero for gluten, as is the sautéed spinach and the ketchup. The chicken wings and the Hellman’s blue cheese dip get a 2 for wheat, and zero for gluten. The veal cutlets get a 3 for wheat — meaning that they absolutely do contain wheat — and a zero for gluten. By definition, if a product contains wheat, it contains gluten (though the reverse is not true, since a product could contain gluten — say, in the form of barley malt — and yet contain no wheat). I once encountered a product that was made from “gluten-free wheat”, and I know that there’s ongoing research in this area, but I don’t think that’s the issue here.
In the end, I was worried about the information that didn’t add up, and I decided to order from Pizza Pizza instead. If you read my earlier post about that chain’s offerings, you know that you need to think carefully about which toppings to get (since Pizza Pizza’s “classic” pepperoni contains gluten but the New-York-style pepperoni doesn’t, for example). This seems like a great time for a reminder: just because a place offers a gluten-free pizza crust does not mean that all of its toppings and accompaniments are celiac-safe. Food for thought.