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What to do if You’ve Been Glutened at a Restaurant

What to do if You’ve Been Glutened at a Restaurant

Now as most of you celiacs know, going to a restaurant can be an adventure in fear and anxiety. Really takes about half the fun out of eating out. Now let’s assume you get glutened from a restaurant. What do you do? What are your next steps? How do you respond?

Here’s an interesting email I recently received that asks these same questions. See below for my thoughts.

Dude – thanks for all the advice over the last 2/12 years since I was diagnosed w celiac. Have not seen this topic addressed on your sites: what do you do when you get glutened at a restaurant? This occurred at a rock-solid reliable favorite – it was crazy busy, not the best of circumstances, and stuff happens.

Do you contact the restaurant as a teachable moment? Do you let it go? File a complaint? Your experience and insight are appreciated.

Short answer: Yes. Kind of. No.

Long answer: While lord knows I’ve been hit over the years from eating out, there is only ONE time where I knew a restaurant effed up. Because they told me…as soon as I took my last bite. Here’s the quick story:

So I walk in to a sushi restaurant and go through my usual spiel with the manager.

“Are you familiar with gluten?”
“Is the sushi rice cooked with soy sauce or just vinegar?”
“Any chance of cross-contamination in the kitchen?”

Blah, blah, blah, blah…

It all seems safe. So I order my usual dish: three salmon and avocado rolls. I ask for the spicy mayo sauce on the side and again ask about the sauce to make sure it is ok. I am assured it is.

Mrs. Dude and I eat. Mrs. Dude and I enjoy.

As I take my last bite, the manager comes over and informs us there’s been a mistake. The spicy mayo sauce does have gluten in it. Our jaws hit the floor. “You’re telling me now??????” (Dude note: I have never had spicy mayo since.)

Guess what the manager did next? Let’s play multiple choice. Did the manager…

a) give us the check, charging us full price for both of our meals?
b) charge me a dollar extra for my poisoned sauce?
c) both of the above?

If you guessed C, you guessed right.

Now this is the first time I had ever known that I had gotten glutened so I had no idea what to expect. Would I start projectile vomiting on the table? Would I die a slow, tortuous death? Would I spend the next 5 days in the bathroom?

So what happened? Well, at first…nothing. That night…nothing. The next day…nothing. Was my GI doctor wrong? Maybe I don’t have celiac and it’s all been a big mistake. I’ll need to change my blog name to “Gluten Eating Dude”. And then on the second day…BOOM! Like a ton of gluten free bricks. Pure exhaustion. Stomach pains. Anxious. Just a mess. I was a physical and emotional wreck. Lack of focus. Lack of patience. Couldn’t sleep enough. And it lasted for SIX MONTHS. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

And what did I do with regards to the restaurant? A big, fat nothing.

What should I have done? Good question. Though looking back, I cannot believe I paid for my meal.

So here’s my advice. Unless you are 100% sure the restaurant glutened you, I don’t think you say anything. You don’t want to be accusatory unless you have facts to back you up. If you are indeed positive they messed up, yes, you definitely ask to speak to the manager or owner and let them know. It’s a teachable moment indeed and if you can prevent the next celiac from getting sick, at least some good may come out of it.

And then yeah…you let it go. No need to carry it around with you. Getting glutened is exhausting enough. Carrying the anger along with it won’t help you heal.

Do you file a complaint? This gets a big “it depends” answer. In your situation…no. Like you said, their game is usually on. But if the restaurant is callous about gluten-free, if they are not taking any precautions regarding cross-contamination, if their reason for offering gluten-free seems to be profit over people, then heck yeah, file away.

My two cents. Agree? Disagree? Do tell.


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