Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whole Foods Restaurants Do Not Support Gluten Free Diet

A deli worker at Whole Foods, Highway 280 location in Birmingham, said the dumbest thing yesterday I have ever had said to me in a grocery store to date. Read on if you can use a good laugh.

People with Celiac disease, or those who are gluten intolerant, know that traveling can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. Those in this situation are familiar with taking fresh fruit, breakfast bars, homemade granola, homemade gluten free muffins and such to have something safe to eat. For us, by the time we get in the car with a couple of coolers packed and loaded along with our personal things, not to mention taking our four little rescue pups to be boarded, we are always exhausted.

The past few days were exceptionally nerve wracking because we were going to Birmingham, not for pleasure, but for Rick to have surgery for a basil cell carcinoma growing on his temple. Surgically, everything went splendidly, with the dermatological surgeon assuring us we would never have another problem with THAT mole.

Heading home after a 24-hour recuperation period, we stopped by the deli of the closest Whole Foods store to pick up a little something we could eat on the go. We asked the person at the deli counter about gluten free options. His response, and I quote, “You need to pass on us because we don’t control the cooking environment, so the risk of cross contamination is too great. Have you considered visiting the produce section or the raw meat section?” No—I am not kidding! This person actually suggested purchasing uncooked food in place of a cooked meal. Did this, for lack of a more polite term, idiot really think when we were looking for a prepared gluten free meal, we would buy raw food instead?

Excuse me but I was not buying my groceries for the week, I was hungry and looking for a safe meal. According to their website: “If you haven’t sat down to a meal in one of our stores lately, you’re in for treat.” Actually, the treat is more like “trick-or-treat”. If you are Celiac or gluten intolerant and don’t ask, you will very likely get a treat you are not likely to forget.  Besides, I don’t eat raw meat and really felt like the shopping center would frown on building a fire in the middle of the parking lot.  I didn’t have the wherewithal to whip up a meal from raw produce in the back of my car.

Let me repeat—“What an idiot!” Whole Foods charges a premium price for their “organic” goods. Their claim to fame is have a great selection of healthy organic foods where all of us on special diets as well as those of us who are trying to avoid insecticides, pesticides, hormones, steroids and antibiotics can find wholesome foods. Yet, this huge chain with a terrific reputation apparently cannot control for cross contamination for gluten in their kitchen. If they cannot control for gluten in their kitchen, then what other allergens does this conglomerate have no controls in place to handle.

Neither their website nor their restaurants support special dietary needs. For a chain that purports helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle, I think they are doing a very poor job. And, to Whole Foods, Inc. I say “Shame on you!”

Author: Dr. Jacquelyn P. Horne
Copyright: 2012

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