As one of 3 million people in the United States with celiac disease, it’s rare to go out and grab a bite with friends because so few places are properly certified gluten free.
Before formal, I thought I was going to add another restaurant to my list of go-to’s.
I was promised my pizza would be 100 percent gluten free — with no traces — by three managers. Their website also claimed they were properly “certified.” So, when I went, I excitedly picked up a slice, ate it and savored the moment.
But, once all of my friends had finished their meals and we awaited the check, I knew I was not going to make it to formal. Instead, I called my mom, headed home and spent the night and the rest of the week sick. The pizza wasn’t “100 percent gluten free” and devoid of cross contamination after all, which caused me — and would cause other people with celiac — to cope with antibody attacks on the small intestines.
Even though I was sick and annoyed about missing my last formal, there was one thing I could not stop thinking about: a company was more keen to sell one gluten free pizza than ensure the wellbeing and health of an individual.
Those who have restricted their diet for medical reasons rely on and trust the words of others — and companies — to properly represent their ability or inability to accommodate. This place, among others, had betrayed that trust.
In fact, when that restaurant was informed of what happened, the manager who was supposed to oversee my pizza shrugged and said I shouldn’t have been told the place was safe (he was one of the individuals that promised me they were).
While in my case, the repercussions of their misrepresentations were painful and lasted a while, what if it had been the little 5-year-old boy at the table next to us celebrating his birthday? He seemed to be enjoying a delicious chocolate sundae. What if he had been allergic to the nuts and had to be rushed to the hospital in anaphylactic shock?
Somehow, I still don’t believe the restaurant would have cared.
It is wrong to disregard the needs of others when they are trusting you to keep them well (or in some cases alive). And when such incidents happen, it causes those with medically linked dietary restrictions to become even more cautious and fearful that something similar could happen again with the next bite.
Eating shouldn’t be a nerve-racking endeavor. It’s that simple.
For any students who work at restaurants, please ask your customers questions if you do not understand their needs. Take time to make sure you give them a proper answer, even if the answer costs you — or your company — a few dollars.