A Conversation with Betsy Craig, MenuTrinfo, on Creating a Gluten-free Menu

Betsy Craig Menutrinfo gluten free

Betsy Craig is the founder and CEO of MenuTrinfo, a nutritional analysis service, in Fort Collins, Colorado. Craig works with restaurants to obtain MenuTrinfo’s gluten-free menu certification.

The desire for gluten free has gone so much past Celiac Disease and into a choice diet and people are eating gluten free for any number of reasons. Even in a pizzeria where flour is flying, it is possible to serve gluten free. You can capture those sales and the sales that come with that one individual. Most people do not eat alone, so there is a bigger ticket than just the one cover.

I get asked all of the time, ‘is this a trend or is this something that is going to go away? It seems like a fad, a new Adkins.’ I think I have heard it all. People are choosing to step away from wheat, step away from gluten and feel better. We absolutely do not believe this is a fad or is going to disappear in a year.

We help our clients source the product and identify down to sub-particle ingredients so that there is, in fact, nothing that contains gluten. If we have a client that comes to us and wants to offer gluten-free pizza that is pre-made — even if it is labeled gluten free — we still want to check it. If they want to offer something they create in their own kitchen, we have to go to every single product and research all the way down to sub-particles. Things like spices have to be looked at to see what spices the manufacturers use. We can’t just say spices are gluten free. We have to go deeper. We really recommend that a restaurant employ a registered dietician or someone like ourselves who are used to doing it to make sure that a gluten-free menu really is gluten free.

It is amazing how many people eat something containing breading or gluten. They don’t know it when they are eating it and the restaurateur doesn’t need to be misrepresenting. We say 90 percent of the gluten-free menus we certify are not gluten free when we start. They are gluten free when we are done. But, it is amazing where we find those particles hidden.

So after many, many years, the FDA finally released the regulation. Gluten-free regulation is that something has to be 20 parts per million or less to be considered gluten free and that is what we certify to. There is no national certification. We put our name and reputation on (our gluten-free certification).

There are a lot of ways you can (keep something gluten free) — washing hands, changing gloves, putting covers over the top and lining a pan. Yes, there is flour in a pizzeria, but if you wash and sanitize a surface and then make a product, bag it up and keep it covered, by the time it gets to the table — as long as it stays covered — it’s fine.

Because we live in such a litigious society, you absolutely have to have a disclaimer. But the disclaimer can change based on the efforts and the lengths you go to provide a gluten-free menu. There is nothing wrong with a disclaimer, especially if you can prove best efforts. And that is where something like a seal helps — this is gluten-free certified. So you can give the comfort, but say that we are making our very best effort.