Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gluten-Free Tidbets

Specialized Food-Service Insurance Caters to Businesses Providing G-F Menus

According to Insureon, the leading online agent for small business insurance, a growing trend toward "gluten-free" menu items at America's restaurants and catered events is increasing the demand for a special kind of insurance designed to protect food-service businesses against lawsuits arising from bad reactions to food products.

The "gluten-free" trend is helping many establishments appeal to millions of Americans who are seeking gluten-free options for a variety of reasons, including gluten sensitivities (claimed by up to 10 percent of Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health) and celiac disease (diagnosed in about 1 percent of the U.S. population, or 3 million people). While offering more options for these customers makes for good public relations, it also opens the door to a new level of potential liability.

While any restaurant could face a lawsuit arising from alleged food poisoning or food allergies, those promising "gluten-free" menu items are at even greater risk of a lawsuit if a customer should choose these options and still have a reaction. Because there are currently no standards that define exactly what constitutes "gluten-free," some restaurants may be promoting a "gluten-free" product that is prepared in the same area as foods containing gluten, raising the potential for cross-contamination. While many people with sensitivities may not have reactions to small amounts of gluten, others with higher levels of sensitivity could have a severe reaction, raising the potential for lawsuits.


Shorter Gluten Challenge

While it is recommended that people who suspect they have celiac disease get tested before adopting a gluten-free diet, some people opt to go gluten-free immediately. If the gluten-free diet alleviates their symptoms, some people choose to then get tested. What many do not realize is that gluten must be present in one's diet in order for the celiac disease blood tests to accurately reflect the disease activity. As a result, doctors will request that persons already adhering to a gluten-free diet undergo a "gluten challenge."

Traditionally, doctors recommended an 8-week gluten challenge. But a new study has found the traditional 8-week challenge is longer than necessary for in many cases. Researchers from the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston randomly assigned 20 adults with biopsy-proven celiac disease to a 14-day challenge with 3 or 7.5 grams of gluten per day. After two weeks--and with just 3 grams of gluten per day (equivalent to 1½ slices of wheat bread)--over 75 percent of adults met the criteria for celiac disease. A lengthy gluten challenge is often very difficult for patients. The new finding may make the challenge more tolerable, say researchers.

Additionally, investigational drugs for celiac disease may be able to be tested in shorter, two week trials. The study was published online in Gut. 

-Beth Hillson Weekly Newsletter, August 22, 2012