Chevys Fresh Mex launches gluten-free menu

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Domino's PIzza and Chuck E. Cheese have also launched gluten-free poducts

Chevys Fresh Mex this week became the latest restaurant chain to launch a gluten-free menu in its company-owned locations.

Chevys’ launch follows the debut earlier this month of Domino’s Pizza’s new gluten-free crust and Chuck E. Cheese’s test of new gluten-free products, including a pizza and a cupcake.

The new menus, which cater to those with gluten-related disorders, have also raised controversy over whether restaurants can accurately label a menu item “gluten free” if there is a risk of cross contamination.

Wheat, rye and barley are the three sources of gluten protein that can cause health problems for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. For guests with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can damage the small intestine, even minute amounts of gluten can cause serious harm.

At the heart of the controversy is the lack of any legal definition of what it means to be “gluten free,” though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed rules that have yet to be finalized.

Gluten-free dining — whether by choice or necessity — is becoming increasingly popular, and restaurants are eager to tap into the trend. A report by market research firm Technomic Inc. in December found that references to gluten on restaurant menus jumped 61 percent from 2010 to 2011.

At Chevys, the gluten-free menu was designed with guidance from nutrition consulting group Healthy Dining. Chevys also developed a company-wide training program to teach staffers proper food handling for gluten-free guests.

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