ZEFFIRELLI - Gluten Free Menu (with a DISCLAIMER?!)

Gluten Free offerings at ZEFFIRELLI - Canberra's No.1 Italian Restaurant

I have recently been researching some businesses in various parts of Australia that offer gluten free. One notable place is ZEFFIRELLI (aka Canberra's No.1 Italian Restaurant). Situated in three suburbs; Belconnen, Dickson and Manuka; this establishment offers various meal options, including pizza, pasta, steak and more! It is quite a trendy social venue for a variety of local Canberrans and visitors alike. A great place to dine!

Furthermore, they offer a gluten free menu, which is great for those who require a gluten free diet. Many establishments such as this are becoming more coeliac aware and accommodating to various individuals' needs. Curiously, I browsed this gluten free menu to see which sorts of meals were on offer. I perused various menu items to see what was on offer, observing any fine print, and unfortunately found a disclaimer beneath the final item on the final page.

FALSE 'Gluten Free' Menu at ZEFFIRELLI

"Our Executive Chef has undertaken considerable research in endeavoring to provide gluten free options for our customers. In some instances however we are reliant on the products and ingredients purchased from external suppliers and whilst we try to ensure that these are gluten free, Zeffirelli pizza restaurant does not accept any responsibility whatsoever if such products contain traces of gluten."

I, myself, was quite GOBSMACKED after observing this statement, to be honest.  Is there any point in offering a gluten free menu if gluten intolerant customers don't even know whether an item may or may not contain gluten?  Who does Zeffirelli think they are to EXPLOIT a niche market without even taking the appropriate precautions to ensure the accuracy of the information.  This is a very weak gluten free dining venue indeed.  One who promotes gluten free fare in Australia as such MUST be able to ensure that items labelled as gluten free are, in fact gluten free!

Excerpt from FSANZ (page 15) http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/ACF2A90.pdf

Gluten Free Labelling Laws

Claims in relation to gluten content of food

(1) Claims in relation to the gluten content of food are prohibited unless expressly permitted by this code.

(2) A claim to the effect that a food is gluten free must not be made in relation to a food unless the food contains –
-- (a) no detectable gluten; and
-- (b) no –
-- -- (i) oats or their products; or
-- -- (ii) cereals containing gluten that have been malted/their products.

Have they not a clue of the implications of coeliac disease in one's lifestyle?  Individuals who require a gluten free diet, particularly coeliacs (who form a vast majority of the gluten free market), must avoid ALL gluten.  The cannot even consume "trace amounts" of gluten and be guaranteed to not have a reaction (SILENT OR NOT!) let alone products that may actually "contain" gluten due to certain information from their suppliers (or LACK OF IT!!).

I am very disappointed that this is the case at ZEFFIRELLI and I encourage any Canberran or visitor to the region with Coeliac Disease or any other medically diagnosed intolerance or allergy to be sure and play it safe.  I would NOT recommend this venue to anyone with such food issues.  It's pretty obvious that if they aren't confident that their so called 'gluten free' meals aren't completely gluten free, then why should we be confident in dining with them?

Leave your views in the comments and let me know, Zeffirelli, of your position with regard to this illegal form of false 'gluten free' advertising on your menu.  We'll see what comes of it.

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Discussion 11 comments

Not impressed 6 years ago

I have celiac disease, and I get very sick if I eat even a tiny bit of gluten. I understand the seriousness of it. But I really think you need to stop posting these angry, vitriolic rants. This is not helping anyone. I've seen you posting links to your rants all over facebook for about a month now, so it's not just this. The thing is, these restaurants are putting disclaimers in their menus because they see things like this all over the internet are terrified of people suing them. The fact is that a restaurant cannot give a 100% guarantee of food being free from gluten unless they have complete control of the supply chain from the fields to the table and they also do not serve any meals with gluten in them. This is simply impossible. These restaurants are doing the best they can to work with us, and you are accusing them of trying to hurt us. What you should do if you are concerned is talk to the chef of the particular restaurant you are thinking of eating at, and determine whether you are comfortable with his or her understanding of cross-contamination and ability to prepare your food safely. Angry accusations do not help anyone. We need to learn to co-operate and discuss things calmly if we want to educate the world about our disease and have people understand us. Things like this only make us seem unreasonable and lawsuit-happy.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Not Impressed - I can fully understand and appreciate the difficulties restaurants face in being able to guarantee 100% gluten free food. It is very difficult and I feel for the fact that some individuals are unable to risk eating out for such reasons.

I never stated any intention of suing any business, and it's certainly not what I would ever do. Businesses need a chance, and I'm aware that there are issues regarding coeliac disease that need to be taken into consideration. In posting these articles, I have always done so knowing that it can be impossible in some instances.

At the end of the day, however, This article was about false advertising. Here in Australia, it is against the law to claim food items as 'gluten free' when they may not fully be gluten free as outlined in the above article. If they cannot guarantee any item made on premises to be gluten free, then they should not produce a gluten free menu. It doesn't matter whether they are making life easier or not. You cannot falsely claim 'gluten free' status when a product may affect one with coeliac disease. How hard is it for society to understand this?! Would they do it with Peanut Allergies? Seafood Allergies? Not that I know of, and something would certainly not be marked on a menu as 'peanut free' with a disclaimer attached now would it?

Society severely underestimates the severity of Coeliac Disease. All gluten must be avoided to treat this condition. Although one may not experience noticeable discomfort or other associated symptoms, it is still possible that damage within the small bowel has occurred that can take up to three weeks to heal.

I hope this helps clarify some of your concerns about my posts. I will try not to rant about it so much on Facebook in future ;)


Erin 6 years ago

Oh My! It is hard enough to eat out as a Coeliac without stupid stuff like this!


Angela 6 years ago

Gluten free means gluten free. I think the labelling is misleading and dangerous. Dangerous, because as a newly diagnosed Coeliac (myself 4 years ago) just learning about the disease, you can easily be snowed by this kind of doubletalk into eating something you shouldn’t. I will be very careful from now on.


Dr. Peter Osborne 6 years ago

Always best to prepare our own food and not rely on the possibility for others to make mistakes.

Cheers,

Dr. O


Connie 6 years ago

Seriously, your posts are all exactly the same but "insert new company name here". I think you need to stop ranting on and understand why companies need to cover themselves. If they say something is Gluten Free, it is going to be Gluten Free, but in this day and age, unfortunately everyone needs to cover themselves. Honestly, buy an oven and some tupperware and eat your own food. I 100% agree with Not Impressed.


Mick_J 6 years ago

Have to agree with Connie and Not Impressed these rants need to stop, your going to create so much fear that no resturaunt will won't to advertise gluten free in fear of being sued.

The only solution is for you to eat at home, don't ruin it for us coeliacs who can make jugement on what food we can and can't eat while out.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for commenting, Connie and Mick_J.

Perhaps if you looked more closely at the "gluten free labelling laws" you may better see where I'm coming from. I am coeliac myself and am quite sensitive to all traces of gluten (even wheat glucose syrup in certain forms and amounts - but that's for another time).

As for my posts being similar, I neither copy nor paste text from other articles previously written. In fact, each article is written according to various circumstances from start to finish.

Based on my experience, food service/restaurant type businesses do NOT use disclaimers to cover themselves like manufacturers do. If they use a disclaimer claiming that 'absolutely no responsibility is accepted, etc.' THEN there are obvious concerns regarding staff awareness and cross-contamination control. I personally don't have a problem with businesses using disclaimers with regard to common allergens. In fact, it almost becomes a must in today's society as a form of protection for the business, as you say.

My objection is that according to the Australian/New Zealand food law, a food item cannot legally be labelled 'gluten free' if the product contains detectable gluten, oats or malted cereals such as malted barley as outlined in the article above.

Furthermore, you may not have realised that legally, THE GLUTEN FREE TERM OVERRIDES ANY INGREDIENT LISTED THAT IS DERIVED FROM A GLUTEN CONTAINING CEREAL.

{So In fact, I could, quite rightly, ASSUME that the "GLUTEN FREE" term on the menu DOES override the disclaimer on the final page. However, you would know as much as I do that I did NOT come down in the last shower of any commenter on this page, in fact. So I would be very naïve to use that approach in my daily life.!}

There are also many restaurants and dining venues that DO take the coeliac condition seriously and are able to guarantee the gluten free status of such products. I take my hat off to them. They may become few and far between in the future...

As for me 'ruining the 'dining out' experience for coeliacs', there has been much influence on restaurants from the 'gluten-free' population who have instructed chefs and society that 'a 'little bit' of gluten is ok...'. This has been going on for years and many of these individuals have been 'faddish' in their gluten free diets (i.e. losing weight, looking cool, adopting a trend, etc... (read my hub on gluten free categories for more: http://hubpages.com/hub/How-Gluten-Free-Are-You)). Some chefs in society will take any shortcut possible and may not properly prepare one's 'gluten free' meals. I have often been asked when dining out "How 'gluten intolerant' are you?" by several waiters and waitresses at an ever-increasing rate. When I tell them it needs to be avoided entirely, I sometimes get a somewhat negative response. It could be my experience only, but it's a sad truth, that I think we will all have to face.

However, I will NOT be faced with a "GLUTEN FREE" menu that has a disclaimer on the bottom of it whatsoever! It is NOT right. It is NOT fair that we coeliacs are exploited as a niche market; and worst of all, this form of false advertising is ILLEGAL.

I appreciate your input. Hopefully the above has cleared up some of your concerns regarding my post. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.


Tony Hill 6 years ago

My celiac attacted my brain and caused me have gluten ataxia ( I could not walk) I agree that the place should not have a gluten free menu unless the staff are very well trained or the place is 100% gluten free. One thing that drives me crazy is other Celiac's telling the servers " NO problem I am a mild case" So now we are training the staff a little is o.k . There is never a mild case of celiac 60% of all celiacs show no symptoms but the damage is being done . I think we should work with the resturants and not fight them on this . I have met so many people with celiac that claim they can eat french fries cooked in the same oil that has had gluten . again they are sending the wrong message to servers this makes it hard for all of us .


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for commenting, Tony Hill!

Servers need to know what coeliac disease and not believe 'mixed messages' about the implications or treatment required.

I try to work with these restaurants as best I can, outlining that a food item cannot be labelled as 'gluten free' if it isn't under the Australian food law. Most do not seem to take any interest whatsoever. At the time of this post along with many others, I have immediately notified the applicable businesses (generally via email) to ensure their awareness of the article. This is 'the' opportunity for them to explain 'their' position with regard to breaching of Australia's Gluten Free Labelling Laws.

I never try to hide anything from a business that I say about them, even though I, quite rightly, could do so. These steps are taken to, as you say, work with businesses to help build a better future for our Coeliac community.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

If a food isn't gluten free, or should there be any question regarding whether it might contain *traces* of gluten, it means that an ingredient used in the product is not (or may not be) gluten free thus rendering the product as 'not gluten free'! It doesn't matter that 'due care is taken' in this regard if the end product contains traces of gluten. As well as this, our laws simply DO NOT permit products to be labelled 'gluten free' when they aren't!

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