Let’s talk about SIZE

The Canadian Celiac Association has been an invaluable resource in our quest to adhere to a gluten-free diet.  I encourage anyone who has been recently diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, or anyone who has close friends or family who have, to get in contact with this association and your local chapter.   It is through the Canadian Celiac Association that I learn of new gluten-free products on the market and what products and restaurants are deemed safe for the gluten-free consumer.

Now that the kids are back to school and our holidays are over and done with, I finally had a moment this morning to pick up my recent copy of the Canadian Celiac News (November-December 2012).  One of the headlines particularly sparked my curiousity – “Size Matters: Two package sizes may mean different ingredients”.  The article was brief, but big in my eyes.

I was shocked with what I read.

This article compared two package sizes – the consumer size (products sold in grocery or natural health food stores) and the food service size (products for restaurants or other dining facilities) of the same product.  Specifically, it addressed Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, Heinz Worcestershire sauce and Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing.  These three products are typically used in the restaurant industry.

Now, for those of you who have followed a gluten-free diet for some time, you may be aware that Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is absolutely not a food option.  It contains malt vinegar.  (If you are interested in a gluten-free Worcestershire sauce, I love The Wizard’s Organic, Vegan Worcestershire sauce sold at my favourite natural food store). You may also have learned that Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing and Heinz Worcestershire sauce are both gluten-free.

In the past, my husband and I would occasionally frequent a couple of kid-friendly restaurants with our two daughters and order Caesar salads.  These restaurants were chosen not only for their cooperation in providing a clean, “non-contaminated” plate for our gluten sensitive daughter, but also for their use of Renee’s Salad Dressings in all, if not most, of their salads.  A Caesar salad, without the croutons and bacon, was always seen as a safe food choice.

Surprise!  This is not the case!  Indulging in a Caesar salad with Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing at your favourite restaurant, may make you sick if you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.

Yes, Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing is gluten-free in the consumer size, but not gluten-free in the size sold to the food service industry.   However, you may find it comforting to know that other Renee’s dressings in this size do not contain gluten.  Only the Caesar Salad Dressing, food industry size, contains gluten.

The same goes for Heinz Worcestershire sauce.  Your bottle at home is gluten-free, but the food service size is not.  Chances are your favourite restaurant is using the food service size in its food.  It’s cheaper to buy in bulk, right?

The opposite is for Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce.  It is gluten-free in the food service size where it is made with white vinegar, not malt vinegar.  Eating a hamburger at a restaurant with this sauce on the ingredient list, is safe – but I must add…..not at all healthy or compassionate….my food blog is gluten-free and vegan, after all!  😉

Now, how confusing is that?  It is challenging enough to have to read labels and ingredient lists!  Now we have to be concerned with the SIZE of the product!

The Canadian Celiac Association encourages its members to read ingredient lists carefully, each and every time,  and to speak to the chef in restaurants and other food facilities about food preparation and practises.

Some of you may feel a little wary about talking to restaurant owners or chefs about their food.  Personally,  I have found that more and more owners and chefs are more than happy to discuss their dishes and are more than willing to offer choices that will keep you and your family healthy.   A good restaurant will want your business and a good restaurant will have knowledgeable staff who are aware of the most common allergens.

Eat well and stay healthy!

2 thoughts on “Let’s talk about SIZE

  1. Ally

    Oh how frustrating! Just when you think you have it all worked out.
    I agree with you, communication with restaurant staff and chef’s is essential if you want to be sure that a particular meal meets your requirements, eg. vegan, gluten-free, both!

    1. uberdish Post author

      Yes, especially when there is some confusion as to what “vegan” means and a lack of awareness of how gluten can be hidden in so many foods (thinking spices).


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