I would like to wish all of you a Happy and safe Thanksgiving!
I wrote about Nima, a new device that will test for gluten in foods, a few months ago. I thought it was a great idea. Finally, a way to test foods in a restaurant setting. Finally, a way to be safe. Or so we think.
The folks at Beyond Celiac just put up an article on how they put Nima through its paces. It turns out that Nima is a double edged sword. You can read the entire article here.
Their experience with Nima was not what they expected. They started by testing takeout from a favorite Thai place that they frequently ordered from. Their Pad Thai and their curry came up with gluten. They were somewhat surprised at this.
The next encounter and test occurred at a local pizza restaurant. Brussel sprouts were ordered, and you guessed it, they came back as having gluten. The chef was angry at this accusation and adamant that this was impossible. He finally admitted that the Brussel sprouts were roasted in the pizza oven. Ummm, duh, gluten, dude!!!
This brings me to something I have said many times in my posts. If you are dining out, especially if you are celiac, you must be prepared to be glutened. There is no “safe” restaurant. No matter what the chef or staff tell you, no matter what the menu says and no matter how careful they are, there is always a chance that something minuscule might be missed. Unless a restaurant is advertised as completely gluten free-that no wheat products are used-expect cross contamination.
I have severely curbed my dining out because of this very reason. I have complete control when I make food in my own kitchen. It terrifies me not only to go to a restaurant but also to join friends and family for a meal. Being sick in someone else’s bathroom is embarrassing, to say the least. I try to bring my own food whenever possible to eliminate this possibility. Even though well intended, people that do not have celiac or gluten intolerance really have no idea what ingredients to avoid. Besides that, it is too much to ask for someone to change their way of preparation and cooking just for you. Ingredients and cooking methods must sometimes be completely overhauled from what they are used to. It is much easier just to bring your own food, but you can’t do that in a restaurant.
After reading about the Brussel sprout incident, I am even more convinced that dining out is really not as safe as we think it is. In the article, the author states that upon further reading up on Nima’s instructions, Nima can give false positive readings. In other words, Nima can detect gluten in samples with trace amounts of gluten; less than 20 parts per million-the legal threshold for labeling a food gluten free. So the foods they tested could have been over, or under that amount. In my opinion, using Nima could make you much more paranoid than you would have been without it.
Where do we draw the line? Do we just go out, have a good time, and hope for the best? Or do we test every morsel before we put in our mouth? You have to find your own level of comfort. If you have celiac disease, even a grain of gluten could be devastating to your health.
Nima is not a perfect science. It is a good idea but needs fine-tuning. It can be a tool, but don’t let it run your life. Or ruin it.