This Examiner was excited that California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) was adding a gluten-free crust to its menu. There is a location five minutes from my house and since we don’t care for the gluten-free crust at the only other local place it seemed we would have a new local place to go eat pizza.
Fast forward to a lunch date with a good friend where we both ordered the gluten-free pizza. The gluten-free crust was just ok for me, but my lunch date really enjoyed it. After lunch was over this Examiner experienced common symptoms from cross contamination, which are headache and hot flash. Since this Examiner was just recovering from a sinus infection it was hard to tell if it was from my sinuses or cross contamination.
Then this Examiner started to see negative information about the pizzas online. Post after post referred to their unsafe handling procedures and unhelpful responses from the corporate office. Now this Examiner is certain she experienced cross contamination from her ‘gluten-free pizza’ at CPK.
There is always a possibility of cross contamination in a restaurant unless it is 100% gluten free, but why bother having a gluten-free crust if your gluten-free menu states it is not recommended for people with Celiac Disease, but for those just simply trying to avoid gluten. Now don’t get me wrong, we are used to seeing disclaimers on gluten-free menus, but this is a little ridiculous.
It isn’t enough to change gloves, use foil on the pan, and use separate spatulas and pizza cutters. The ingredients also need to be segregated. Anyone preparing a pizza with a gloved hand that touches a gluten crust then transfers gluten particles to that topping. Using the same ladle for sauce on all pizzas results in cross contamination from the ladle touching the gluten crust and then being put back into the container. The pizzas also need to be cooked on the top rack to prevent any gluten crumbs spilling down on a gluten-free pizza.
There are a number of local places where this Examiner can eat safely prepared gluten-free pizza. Why is it so difficult for a national chain to consider researching safe handling procedures before the product is launched? They spend so much time producing/adding the gluten-free product to their menu, but they fail to consider how it will be prepared and served to its guests.
This is a huge disconnect and one that seems to be a common problem with chain restaurants that introduce gluten-free products. They roll out the product first and only when the complaints seem to mount do they take action. The same issue happened with Jason’s Deli and they worked quickly to correct the problem. CPK has been very active on Twitter lately and has assured ‘us’ they are working to complete safe handling procedures. Why is it up to the gluten-free consumer to point out the mistakes they are making?
Until safe handling procedures are defined and rolled out this Examiner will not be going to CPK. Sure they have good salads, but we are not going to give our money to a restaurant that isn’t able to safely prepare a prominent new gluten-free menu item.
CPK may not be able to recover from this blunder.