Back at the beginning of the year I heard that Subway were starting to test gluten free rolls and brownies for gluten free customers and now it sounds like they are expanding Â as these items make their way onto menus. Subway sandwiches are the one fast food that I ate in my pre-celiac days so the thought of being able to eat here again is exciting. On the other hand, taking into consideration that Subway is a sandwich bar..gluten..gluten…gluten, it’s probably one of the last places any celiac would consider going for a safe meal, right? My first thought was perhaps they are catering for gluten sensitive folks rather than celiacs.Â I’m very happy and appreciative that Subway want to provide options for gluten free customers and I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage them from doing so but at the same time we need to ensure that that what they’re taking enough (and the correct) precautions to keep us safe..or what’s the point? One thing is for sure, they certainly have a difficult job ahead of them assuring customers that their gluten free products are safe when prepared in an environment filled with wheat, barley, oats and rye. What precautions could Subway sandwich artists take to convince us?
How it works: Â At Subway, once a gluten-free roll or brownie is ordered, the line staff is required to wipe down the entire counter and get rid of any crumbs in the vicinity. They’re then to wash their hands and change their gloves. The gluten-free rolls and brownies are pre-packaged on fresh deli paper, and a single-use, pre-packaged knife is used for cutting.
The gluten-free sandwich is taken from order to point-of-sale by the same person, as opposed to being passed down the line in the traditional Subway format. Customers are able to watch the creation from start to finish.
Mark Christiano, Â Subway’s baking specialist in the R&D department saysÂ “If they don’t like what they see, they can start it over. It’s important that our customers feel comfortable and safe,” Â “Nobody is going to die from this, but people get very sick if it’s not done right. We want to provide them with a place to eat where they don’t have to worry about that.”
Sounds like they have a plan. This is exciting. I hope all of these precautions are taken by every sandwich artist when preparing food for gluten free customers.
But will celiacs feel safe eating here? Pizza restaurants which offer gluten free options have similar difficulties where cross contamination is concerned and recently I’ve become more aware of possibly unsafe practices concerning shared ladles/ovens etc making me less likely to chose to eat at these places.I’m always very careful when it comes to eating anywhere that handles a lot of glutenous products but for some reason the thought of eating a gluten free sandwich from a fast food chain really doesn’t fill me with confidence.
My top concerns
- Is wiping down the counter enough to really ensure it’s completely crumb free considering the quantity and frequency of glutenous products prepared there?
- Will separate ladles/bottles of dressing be used for gf and non gf orders? (ladles or bottle tips could have been contaminated from touching glutenous bread)Â This may not be an issue if no ladles are used.
- Are Subway certain that all of their toppings are gluten free? Do their meats, cheeses, etc come from a gluten free certified source?
I will be very interested to see how this all turns out. I would love to live in a world where I can walk into Subway and order a safe sandwich just like I did before I was diagnosed as celiac…dreaming of a day when picking up a quick bite to eat for lunch could be simple again…and perhaps Subway are only the beginning. Perhaps they will lead the way for other fast food restaurants to join the gluten free market. Would you eat a double cheeseburger at McDonalds, Burger King or Arby’s if it was on a gluten free bun? Personally I would not but it would be nice if it was an option for those gluten free-ers who would.