Menu’s “gluten aware” ingredients raise questions

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Gluten avoidance is one of those things that people sometimes poke fun at, even though for people with celiac disease, or those who are extremely allergic to gluten, it can be deadly serious. But many people also try to avoid gluten for more minor health reasons.

Vancouver-based Earls restaurant, a chain with 20 restaurants in the U.S., was apparently just trying to address those differences on its menu, noting that its tacos were available with “gluten aware tortillas.” Conservative pundit Matt Walsh then asked on Twitter, “What the hell is a ‘gluten aware tortilla’”?

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The New York Post tried to answer Walsh’s question, by contacting the restaurant in question: “Earls executive-chef Phil Gallagher says he knows it’s a funny term: It’s intended to get diners, particularly those with celiac disease, to ask waiters questions about the food.” The difference, Gallagher points out, is that the restaurant carries some gluten-free products, but they’re prepared in the same kitchen where Earls bakes its own bread. So they want to make sure that extreme gluten avoiders know that there’s a chance of cross-contamination, whereas those products may be less-toxic for other gluten avoiders.

We see how it works as a conversation starter, but we can kind of see where Walsh is coming from: “Gluten aware” kind of rankles in an overly PC way. Maybe one of those “This gluten-free product is prepared in the same kitchen as gluten products” disclaimers?” Too long? Still, we suspect that people with celiac disease would likely be asking those important questions regardless.

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Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.