WA restaurants are being urged to be trained and accredited to serve gluten-free meals.
A Melbourne cafe has become Australia’s first independent restaurant to gain Coeliac Australia accreditation for the growing gluten-free market.
The group is calling on the food service industry nationally to sign up for new online training and accreditation programs so staff can prepare meals that are free from contamination.
It says that despite claims of food being gluten-free, people with coeliac disease are still being exposed to contamination.
The group said that while gluten-free options were available at many food businesses, research showed that many meals might be compromised by cross contamination.
A members’ survey revealed almost half had fallen ill with gluten-related symptoms after dining out.
Coeliac Australia president Michael Bell said eating out was often a huge challenge.
“The risks associated with finding gluten-free options and then relying on the end product being free from gluten is too great for a large number of our members,” he said.
“The gluten-free consumer has had no way of knowing which businesses follow best practice for food preparation.”
The owner of Melbourne’s Mediterraneo Charcoal Restaurant, Michael Popovic, said he was prompted to consider the gluten-free market after a meal request from visiting tennis great Novak Djokovic.
He said the restaurant had sought accreditation because it had many repeat customers asking for gluten-free meals so it was important “to get it right”.
The chair of Coeliac Australia’s medical advisory committee, gastroenterologist Jason Tye-Din, said many patients were put off eating out because hospitality staff did not understand what gluten-free meant.
“This is concerning, as gluten is harmful to people with coeliac disease and increases their risk of serious medical problems such as osteoporosis, infertility and cancer,” Dr Tye-Din said.