Sort of gluten free pizza

Domino’s Pizza in the States have launched a pizza made from a gluten free crust. You can learn a lot about it on their FB page, but the crust is made from rice and potato flours and starches, with water, olive oil and a few other ingredients.

And they appear to be rather proud of it, if this video starring their CEO is anything to by. On Monday the 7th May, their twitter stream provided ample further evidence of this, as they sent messages to a rollcall of stars who have mentioned dietary or gluten issues in the past: Gwynneth Paltrow, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Miley Cyrus …

dominostwitterBut if you’ve already clicked on the links I’ve included you may have learned that all is not quite what it may seem. The product comes with a caveat. “Domino’s Pizza made with a Gluten Free Crust is prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure,” they tell potential customers.

Accordingly, although in the video the CEO calls the product “our new Gluten Free Crust Pizza”, he warns in a disclaimer that it is not suitable for coeliacs, due to the possibility of cross contamination in a kitchen where ordinary gluten-containing pizzas are handled.

Not everyone is happy about this, and it’s not difficult to see why. Michelle, on her blog, is left sighing in exasperation; it’s “minimising the seriousness of celiac disease,” she says.

Like her, I am left wondering who this pizza is actually for. Is it aimed at lifestyle gluten avoiders, who think going gluten free is the way to better health and weight loss? One can hardly dub most pizza a health food – and besides, most of the calories come in the toppings, not on the base.

Is it for those with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity – which experts are now beginning to recognise? The problem with this is that we don’t yet know enough about the condition to appreciate whether or not trace gluten is enough to cause problems in those with NCGS, as it does in those with coeliac.

“It wouldn’t be entirely honest to guarantee that this pizza is absolutely gluten free” we are told in the video.

This statement begs this question: what is Domino’s definition of both ‘gluten free’ and ‘absolutely gluten free’?

In Europe, ‘gluten free’ is now a protected term, and means under 20 parts per million of gluten. This is an absolute definition – albeit raised a few notches from the intuitive 0 parts per million that the ‘free’ would ordinarily imply.

The thing with absolutes is that they are unqualifiable. You can’t have ‘very’, ‘quite’, ‘complete’ or ‘a bit of’ an absolute. You can’t be very dead, or quite pregnant, or a bit unique. You’re either dead or alive, pregnant or not, unique or not.

Equally, something is either ‘gluten free’ or it is not.

And so when expressions like ‘absolutely gluten free’ are used – that is, adding an ‘absolutely’ to a term which should be ‘absolute’ by definition, and therefore suggesting there are degrees of gluten-freeness – it exposes the weakness of the American labelling situation. Without a legal and protected definition for ‘gluten free’ like we have here, these sorts of situations can arise, and there is I think a risk of confusion.

Some have praised the sense, honesty and clarity of Domino’s, both in consulting with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (who, curiously in my view, have stated that they “support the availability of Gluten Free Crust at Domino’s”) and in their communications with the public.

To some degree I can see where they’re coming from, but my concerns remain that some coeliac customers may risk it, despite the clarity of both Domino’s and NFCA in warning against it. And the effect this may have on the perception the ordinary public have of those at the more extreme end of the food sensitive spectrum is up for debate too – not to mention the consequences for catering in general.

Overall, this is an interesting development, because it seems to me that lifestyle gluten avoiders are being targetted. What is essentially, in UK terms at least, being offered is a ‘no gluten containing ingredients’ product, and I wonder whether similar products will start being produced in the UK, both in catering and on-shelf, targeting the ‘softer’ side of the ‘free from’ clientele. Such products would be cheaper and easier to produce, I imagine, given strict anti-contamination protocols will not be necessary. How would such foods be received? Would they be stocked in Free From aisles? Would they be permitted in the FreeFrom Food Awards…?

My eyebrow remain raised on this one, and it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

Meanwhile, our American friends need to decide how to act on Domino’s request to “Get it, enjoy it, read the disclaimer.

I’d say read the disclaimer first before getting it and enjoying it, don’t you think?


  1. Hi I'm a GF blogger and a coeliac and was outraged at this latest dieting fad. Here's my blog post link
    I'm from Australia and went to a new pizza place where they sell GF bases but have a list of 5 different toppings that contain gluten but I was told I could eat what I wanted. I soon pointed out that no I can't and maybe she should get that straight for the next person. Peoples ignorance is one thing but this fad diet has really got me annoyed it down plays an auto immune disease to the general public making the risk of contamination much higher as people think you are on the latest trend diet. GF and coeliacs need to unite against shallow reality tv stars who have no clue about what diet they are on and that without being a coeliac or intolerant they are damaging there bodies. Shallow and vain is the best words I can describe them.

  2. eatinglikeahorse

    How ridiculous. It may sound cynical but this has got to be purely a money-making venture, in response to the number of A-listers who use the "gluten is bad for you" excuse for restricting what they eat. I think it's partly because lots of people are avoiding gluten for other reasons that those with coeliac disease are taken less seriously. For example, once I asked a waiter very politely to replace my salad as I'd asked for it without croutons and he gave me a really weird look, took it away and brought it back two seconds later, having clearly just taken the croutons off. He didn't realise that one crumb left on would be too much and I think terms like "absolutely gluten-free" only foster that opinion. Shame on you, Domino's!

  3. Alex G

    Thanks both. I agree that the celebrity fad-diet trend is a real problem, but it's not just celebrities who are to blame for this – it's their publicists and it's the celeb/trashy press too. And of course it can only contribute negatively to people's perceptions – and it's worrying when this happens in a catering setting, as in Elle's case. Thanks for comments!

  4. KN

    Domino's has been doing the same thing in Australia and New Zealand and now they're doing it in the USA. I think it will spread pretty quickly to Canada, the UK and Ireland now. I did a post ages back on it at

  5. Michelle Berriedale-Jhnson

    I can understand that coeliacs and those with severe gluten intolerance get hacked off by this sort of initiative but I think they do need to take a step back.

    No one can deny that the supply of gluten-freefoods has dramatically improved over the last five years – to the huge benefit of those who need, for health reasons, to live on a gluten-free diet. But although the number of such people has grown, it is the growth in those who choose to go gluten-free, rather than those who have to, that has fueled this growth. Although the most visible of this latter group are the 'celebs', there are many others who just feel that eating a largely gluten (and indeed dairy)-free diet is a healthier way to go. For these people contamination is really not an issue so a pizza, such as the ones Dominos are now apparently offering, is perfectly acceptable.

    My main concern (and the main concern of the Freefrom Food Awards which I help to run) is that the manufacturer should be totally clear and transparent about what they are doing. In this case, it appears that Domino's have tried to be so, although I agree with Alex that the phraseology that they have used is confusing and unhelpful. (Although even our vaunted new European standards fall foul of Alex's criteria as they are classing as 'gluten-free' a product with less than 20ppm of gluten which cannot therefore be, in the commonly understood sense of the term, 'free' of gluten.)

    Products can therefore go on the market as 'gluten-free' (with less than 20ppm of gluten) or with ingredients that are gluten free but that are manufactured in an environment where they can be contaminated with gluten in which case that is what they need to say on the label. This is, in fact, what currently happens a lot of the time with nuts. That the latter should appear on the market is in no way to denigrate the seriousness of coeliac disease or NCGS (any more than it is to denigrate the seriousness of a nut allergy – quite the opposite), but merely to recognise that the market for gluten-free products includes a wider range of people than just those who suffer from coeliac disease or NCGS.

    And before coeliacs get hot under the collar about this, let me remind them that, if it were not for this wider range of people who want to eat gluten-free for general health or lifestyle reasons, there would be a far narrower range of gluten free products on the market for coeliacs to enjoy…

  6. Alex G

    Thanks for additional comments, both. I do approve of the <20ppm definition of 'gluten free' for reasons covered in a previously (and much commented-on) blog post, but in the absence of a definition (as in the US) it does leave the terminology open to debate, which muddies the waters.

    Anyone else agree with the idea that it's perhaps a price worth paying in exchange for a greater diversity of products on the market? Or does the threat to the health of risk-taking coeliacs override that?

  7. Jen J

    Hi Alex, I just revisited this blog post as I saw at the weekend via Coeliac UK that Dominos are releasing a GF pizza across the UK stores in November this year. This was next to an article about Pizza Hut UK releasing a pizza with no gluten containing ingredients. The article re Dominos suggests training across all stores re ingredients and cross contamination issues, and so I assume must be 'gluten free' as we know it due to our labelling laws. I just wondered if you had seen the announcement and what your thoughts were on it?

  8. Alex G

    Well, I've heard all about it, yes, but haven't really formulated thoughts on it yet, partly as it's still early days, but partly because the GF bloggers seem to be doing a good job of covering it on blogs, tweets and FB. Maybe I'll address it at a later date, if and when some problems or issues arise!


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