Would you like some gluten with that gluten-free meal?

Last night my friends and I went out to a local eatery for dinner. I’d been there before and noticed that their gluten-free labelling wasn’t the best. So I ate my dinner at home beforehand.

Ooh and then I saw chips on the menu. You know how much I like chips right? SO VERY BLOODY MUCH!!! OMG, GIVE ME CHIPS! and they were labelled ‘gluten free’ <squee>. 

I asked the waiter if they were gluten free (cos you should always double check), he said yes. Then I asked if they were cooked in the same vat as the regular gluteny food, and he replied yes. 

The waiter was really lovely and checked with his manager as he wandered past who also assured me that the chips were gluten free AND cooked in the same vat as gluteny food and added that there was a risk of contamination because of this.

If there’s contamination (which there’s a pretty high chance of in a shared vat of oil), then the gluten free chips are no longer gluten free once they make contact with the oil. And should therefore not be labelled gluten free. 

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve spoken about this topic before (when I was in a grump).

Gluten free labelling in New Zealand is defined as being 3ppm or less of gluten. That’s a tiny amount. And WAYYYYY more than you’d expect to find in a vat of shared oil.

So if you’re a restaurant or cafe owner using the term ‘gluten-free’ please think carefully first, because you could accidentally make someone really sick. And it’s not just coeliacs who are at risk – some people who are super gluten intolerant also can’t handle contamination.

What could you do as a cafe or restaurant owner instead?

I suggest using the label ‘low gluten’ in this instance. This makes it clear that the product still contains or could contain gluten, it keeps your customers safe.

Also, if you want to serve gluten-free food, you can get some great advice from Coeliac NZ who have a dining out programme, or even get yourself and your staff certified through the gluten management association.


How can gluteys keep themselves safe?

Ooh I’ve written about this a few times, so check out my infograph and post here for general eating out guidelines, my guide to surviving work dos here and some advice on speaking up here.


As for me … I didn’t order the chips. I had a cup of tea instead. It was nice, but chips would have been so much better!


Additional resources and reading:

The Food Act and GF Best Practice

Food Act 2014 (Ministry for Primary Industries website)

Food industry resources (Coeliac NZ)


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4 thoughts on “Would you like some gluten with that gluten-free meal?

  1. So are you saying that technically under the labelling laws chips or whatever from a shared vat would be "gluten free", but that those levels of gluten are still enough to make people sick; and therefore the labelling law should be tougher? (Or did you mean to say that 3ppm is way LESS than what is in a shared vat, so they shouldnt have labelled it GF?)


    1. Hi Sonia, if they’re cooked in a shared vat they are no longer gluten-free and could potentially make people sick. So they shouldn’t be labelled gluten-free.
      3ppm is the current NZ definition of what ‘gluten-free’ is. The shared vat is most likely to have way more gluten than that, which makes it unsafe.


  2. I am a Coeliac and I have never been contaminated by having chips cooked in oil that has had non-gluten free in it…as long as the chips themselves are not covered in flour / batter etc I have been fine.


    1. Hi Ruth, everyone’s level of sensitivity is different. Many people do react to chips cooked in this way, hence why labelling of gluten-free must adhere to the rules outlined by NZ food standards. I’m totally jelly that you get to eat chips 🙂


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