Avoiding Gluten?

To identify these options, look for items labeled “↓g”. These menu items are prepared using ingredients that do not contain gluten and steps are taken to manage the risk of cross-contact. We identify menu items in this manner (instead of “gluten-free”) because all of our food is prepared in open kitchens, so our kitchens are not gluten-free environments.  For most guests, the steps we take to control for cross-contact yield choices that they can safely eat. However, labeling in this manner gives us the opportunity to alert guests who may have reactions to smaller traces of gluten, such as what might occur with airborne flour. In these cases, we will work with you individually on additional dining options.

For more information about “made without gluten-containing ingredients” options and how they are prepared in your café, please speak with the onsite manager.

More on Gluten

Gluten-related disorders are a spectrum of conditions related to the consumption of gluten, a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye, and barley. The most common gluten-related disorders include celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy.

How can you determine if you have a gluten-related disorder?

First, seek professional advice from a healthcare provider who is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Commonly healthcare providers will diagnose a gluten-related disorder with a physical exam, blood test, intestinal biopsy, skin biopsy, genetic testing, and/or medical history. Once you medically identify your individual concerns, consider seeking the advice of a registered dietitian to understand your individual dietary needs. A gluten-free diet can be challenging and simply eliminating foods based on self-diagnosis or a hunch can leave you frustrated as well as nutrient deficient. Be aware taking gluten out of your diet prematurely (prior to a diagnosis) can make the diagnosis more difficult.  

What’s the difference between the celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and a wheat allergy?  

There are a variety of gluten-related disorders and distinguishing their differences will help you understand how they impact your health.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine which interferes with nutrient absorption from food. Affecting nearly 3 million Americans, or about 1 percent of the population, this disease if often hereditary.  An exposure can last a few hours to days and common symptoms include digestive problems, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and long term intestinal damage accompanied by nutritional deficiencies.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is often described as a short term immune response that produces similar symptoms to those of celiac disease, such as digestive problems, headache, joint pain, and fatigue. The reaction is felt hours or days after the exposure. It differs from celiac disease, in that it is not often heredity, not an autoimmune disease, and does not cause the same long-term intestinal damage.

Previously referred to as “gluten sensitivity” or “gluten intolerance,” “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” is a newly established name and the issue is just beginning to be researched and understood.  Currently, healthcare providers estimate that up to 18 million, or 6 percent of Americans, are affected and mostly are adults.  

Wheat Allergy

A wheat allergy is an immune response that releases a host of chemicals, including histamine, within minutes to hours after wheat is ingested. These chemicals trigger a host of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, digestive tract, skin, and/or cardiovascular system. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis which can be deadly. Currently, it is estimated that 300,000 Americans, or 0.4 percent of children and 0.1 percent of adults are affected.

Common symptoms of a wheat allergy include:

  • Swelling, itching or irritation of the mouth and throat, hives
  • Hives, itchy rash
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Digestive problems
  • Anaphylaxis

If you’ve been diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, take action!

  • Be a food sleuth:  Know what you’re consuming by reading food labels of packaged foods. Note that gluten is not currently considered a food allergen and thus is not included as part of the allergen statement on packaged foods. This means that looking for wheat on the allergen statement will capture many foods that contain gluten – but it will miss those like rye and barley that contain gluten but are not source of wheat.
  • Go for (no) gluten the natural way: There are many foods that do not contain gluten naturally — think fresh fruit/vegetables, fresh meats, potatoes, rice, beans, and healthy fats like olive oil! Make these foods the basis of your diet for a less processed approach to eating without gluten.
  • When purchasing pre-made products and ingredients do look for “gluten-free”: Gluten can hide in many places so when buying substitute versions of foods that are normally a source of gluten check the label. Gluten-free means that the item should have no or only small traces (up to the allowable 20 parts per million ) of gluten and should be safe for most people with this dietary need.
  • Be cautious or avoid self-serve foods in restaurant environments: Areas such as salad bars, condiment stations, and any areas where other people serve themselves are high-risk for cross-contact.  
  • Check-in with your healthcare team: Once diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, it’s a good idea to have a healthcare provider who understands and can respond if you have questions about or changes in your sensitivities.

Gluten Identification in Bon Appétit Cafés

For our guests with  gluten-related disorders, we offer “made without gluten-containing ingredients” options. To identify these options, look for items labeled “↓g”. These menus items are prepared using ingredients that do not contain gluten and steps are taken to manage the risk of cross-contact. However, our food  is prepared in  open kitchens, so our kitchens are not gluten-free environments.

Our kitchen philosophy focuses on serving fresh, seasonal, from-scratch dishes every day. This means our chefs and cooks utilize hundreds of ingredients each day and many dishes include flour, grains, and other gluten-containing ingredients. Flour can remain airborne for 12-24 hours. Our chefs and cooks are well trained in cleaning preparation areas and equipment to prevent cross contact. However, airborne flour particles are a challenge to prevent in open kitchen environments.   

Making Choices in Bon Appétit Cafés with Wheat and Gluten in Mind

When you have a gluten-related disorder, planning ahead is an important part of eating away from home, no matter the setting. Consider these tips for the Bon Appétit cafés:

  1. Explore the menu on your café’s website and review the various entrée options.
  2. Look for the icons: Our cafés offer “made without gluten-containing ingredient” options that can be identified with the special label “↓g”. These menus items are prepared using ingredients that do not contain gluten, and steps are taken to manage the risk of cross-contact, but are prepared in an open kitchen environment. Flour can stay airborne for 12-24 hours.
  3. Contact the chef or manager in your location if you have questions about a menu item. This is particularly important  if you are concerned about sub-ingredients, as products change frequently. We will double check what products were used so you can have real time information that will help you make the best choices.
  4. If you are a “regular” in the cafe, set up a time to meet with our team and discuss safe “go-to” meals that you can always count on being available. We can also set up a way to expedite your questions on other menu items to speed you through at meal times.
  5. Pick a station that best fits what you can eat. It is best to avoid riskier choices with high opportunities for accidental exposure.  Some examples include (depending on your disorder):
    • Asian-Style Stations:  Wheat and gluten are often integral ingredients at this station. Be aware that noodles and sauces containing wheat and gluten are often prepared here.
    • Bakery: Seek out individually packaged items. Baked goods that are not individually packaged have a high risk of cross-contact, as many items to select from are made with wheat.
    • Salad Bars: Choose a variety of fresh, raw, cooked and unseasoned vegetables and fruit. Be conscientious of composed salad, dressings and toppings.  There is some risk of cross-contact as many food times are close to one another and self-serving utensils may be cross-utilized. When choosing from this areas, we’ll be happy to serve you directly from the kitchen — just ask!  
    • Fried Foods: Wheat is often found in menu items that have been battered and fried. Even if the item you order doesn’t have a wheat-based batter, gluten residue can be left behind in the fryer and frying oil from any foods cooked in the fryer.
  6. Eat slightly off “peak” when the café is not as busy, preferably earlier in the day or meal period. The staff will have more time to answer questions or pull a special portion from the kitchen for you, and there will have been  been less opportunity for drips and spills at self-serve stations from other guests.
  7. Continue the dialogue. Let us know what’s working…and what’s not. We are always willing to make adjustments to help you eat safely in our cafés.

Remember, when in doubt contact the chef or café manager. They are always onsite and willing to assist.

Navigating Common Sources of Wheat and Gluten


Ingredients that indicate wheat: bran, bread crumbs, bulgur, cereal extracts, couscous, club wheat, cracker meal, dextrin, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, flour (all-purpose, bread, cake, durum, enriched, graham, high-gluten, high-protein, instant, pastry, self-rising, soft-wheat, steel ground, stone ground, whole wheat), hydrolyzed wheat protein, kamut, malt, matza/o, matzah/oh meal, pasta, seitan, semolina, spelt, sprouted wheat, triticale, vital wheat gluten, wheat (bran, germ, gluten, sprouts, malt, protein isolate, whole wheat berries), wheat germ oil, wheat grass, wheat pasta, wheat protein isolate, whole wheat berries, vegetable gum.

Gluten is also found in barley and rye, though they are not wheat products.

Most oats are also considered to be a source of gluten due to cross-contact in growing and/or processing.

Some hidden sources of wheat and gluten: baked goods (cakes, cookies, pastries), breakfast cereals, candy, crackers,  batter-fried foods, beer, breaded foods, cheese sauces and spreads, cooking sprays, curry paste, dairy substitutes, deli meats, dextrin, egg substitutes, flavored snacks/chips/nuts, flavored rice, gravy, hot chocolate mixes, imitation seafood (surimi), imitation bacon bits, flavoring, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, gelatinized starch, meat substitutes/seitan/tempeh, miso, modified corn starch, mustard, natural flavors, oats, processed meats (hot dogs, patties), protein or energy bars, salad dressings, sauces (soy and Worcestershire), soups, seasoned vinegars, vegetable starch, vegetable burgers.

Other Considerations for wheat:

  • Wheat has been found in some brands of ice cream, marinara sauce, playdough, potato chips and rice cakes.


Quest Diagnostics. Celiac Disease and other gluten-related disorders.


National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training (GREAT) Schools, Colleges & Camps. Training Manual 2015.



Menu options prepared without gluten-containing ingredients are labeled “↓g”. However, due to our open kitchens that handle gluten, we cannot guarantee that items made without gluten-containing ingredients are “gluten-free,” as defined by the FDA.  We make every effort to avoid gluten cross-contact; however there is always the potential for cross-contact with other gluten-containing food items, particularly in our self-serve facilities. We encourage guests to speak to the chef or manager regarding any questions about ingredients.