Papa John’s Warns Gluten-Free Customers: Don’t Try Our Gluten-Free Pizza
One advocate for people with celiac disease said the company wants to cash in on the “gluten-free craze in an inauthentic way.”
Making a gluten-free pizza that’s truly safe for gluten-intolerant consumers has proven a challenge for all pizzerias, but especially for the Big 3 chains.
Papa John’s has warned people with celiac disease not to try its new gluten-free pizza, inspiring a flurry of negative stories in the national media.
The gluten-free crust, which took two years to develop, is made with sorghum, teff, amaranth and quinoa in a gluten-free dedicated facility. But Papa John’s doesn’t recommend that diners with celiac disease or a serious gluten intolerance order the pizza because it may become contaminated with gluten-containing products once it reaches restaurant kitchens.
“Operationally, Papa John’s employs procedures to prevent contact with gluten,” the company said in a statement to the press. “And while the crust is prepared in a separate gluten-free facility before being shipped to stores, it is possible that a pizza with gluten-free crust could be exposed to gluten during the in-store, pizza-making process. Therefore, the brand does not recommend its Gluten-Free Crust made with Ancient Grains for customers with celiac disease or serious gluten intolerances.”
Domino’s warns people with celiac disease against trying its gluten-free pizzas for the same reason. “It wouldn’t be entirely honest to guarantee that pizzas made with this crust are absolutely gluten-free,” the company states on its website.
Pizza Hut, on the other hand, partnered with the Gluten Intolerance Group to create a certified gluten-free pizza and does not warn those with celiac disease against eating it. As Entrepreneur reported in 2015, Pizza Hut’s gluten-free ingredients are kept in designated gluten-free kits, and employees are required to prepare the pizzas with gloves, bake them on parchment paper and use a designated gluten-free pizza slicer. But the company still admits that its restaurant kitchens aren’t gluten-free environments and doesn’t guarantee that “any menu item will be completely free of gluten.”
Marilyn Geller, CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation, said Papa John’s customers should heed the warnings about its gluten-free pies. “I would believe them, and I wouldn’t eat it,” she told USA Today. “Really, people have to go to the pizza parlor website. They have to speak to the manager. They have to advocate for themselves.”
Nikki Ostrower of NAO Nutrition said Papa John’s was sending a mixed message to its customers. “If Papa John’s has a gluten-free crust but is suggesting that folks who have celiac or gluten intolerance stay away from it, then it’s very confusing,” Ostrower told CNBC. “Anytime a company advertises that a product is gluten-free, then anyone who has celiac or gluten intolerance should be able to enjoy it. It sounds like Papa John’s is trying to get in on the gluten-free craze in an inauthentic way.”
Then, again, is there really an authentic way to cash in on a food craze?