Papa John’s recently released their gluten-free pizza crust as an option in certain test markets. But the nationwide chain recommends that gluten-intolerant consumers and people with celiac disease refrain from eating their “Gluten-Free Crust with Ancient Grains.”
We know Papa John’s’ main priority isn’t quality control, but come on. Gluten-free pizza that isn’t safe for people who can’t eat gluten? What’s the point?
The crust is gluten-free — it’s made with sorghum, teff, amaranth, and quinoa, and it omits wheat entirely. However, “it is possible that a pizza with Papa John's Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust is exposed to gluten during the ordinary preparation process,” said a representative of Papa John’s to CNBC.
The chain told the Huffington Post that the crust was designed and tailored for their more “gluten-aware customers,” not for those with a gluten allergy.
So essentially, the crust caters only to customers who make a lifestyle choice to adhere to a gluten-free diet but who don’t possess any real intolerance. This category of consumers has come under fire from many communities, especially those who really are intolerant to the omnipresent compound. The diet has even been rumored to be harmful, pointless, and a mere fad — except to those with a serious allergy who, upon eating gluten, experience painful symptoms and potentially even death.
“Gluten-free is often referenced as a ‘fad’ diet, along the same lines as Atkins or South Beach, but that could not be further from the truth,” laments Chris Rich, vice president of development at the Gluten Intolerance Group. “For the 1 in 100 who have celiac disease, gluten-free diets are their only option.”
Papa John’s decision to market gluten-free crust that isn’t appropriate for those with celiac disease caters to the notion of ditching gluten as a petty trend, rather than a legitimate medical concern. They are rejecting taking the responsibility to cater to a different set of gluten intolerant consumers.
“Our note to our customers with celiac or serious gluten intolerances was out of an abundance of caution because transparency about our ingredients is core to our beliefs at Papa John’s — and because it’s an industry-wide issue,” Papa John’s explained.
Industry-wide is correct: Domino’s has also released similar warnings on their gluten-free products, claiming that they “do not recommend it for those with celiac disease.”
So despite the undeniable usefulness of America’s gluten awareness to celiac sufferers, it seems there are still many planes of the food industry in which they cannot eat without severe caution. And there are still many restaurants unwilling to take precautionary steps to diversify their menus.
“I would have much preferred that Papa John’s completed the proper due diligence,” concluded Rich, “rather than hopping on a bandwagon for the purpose of an extra dollar.”