Is It Safe to Eat The Airline’s Gluten-free Food?

in Managing Allergies, Travel & Dining
Published: June 13, 2012

200259617-001An increasing number of airlines are now offering gluten-free meals and snacks. But if you’re living with celiac disease, the risk of food cross-contamination is always a worry. Allergic Living asked some leading members of the celiac community for their thoughts on the big question of whether: to eat or not to eat at 35,000 feet.

As well, Allergic Living recently polled the airlines about gluten-free food offered (or not) in our Comparing Airlines Chart.

1. Karina Allrich, of the Gluten-free Goddess blog

Allergic Living: Karina, as you must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet to manage celiac disease, will you eat the gluten-free meals offered by some airlines?

KA: I never trust airlines to get it right. I buy a banana at the airport and a bottle of water. After years of suffering with celiac disease, taking the risk doesn’t tempt me at all.

I’ll be hungry, yes. But better to travel hungry than get sick on a flight.

2. Alice Bast, president and founder of Beyond Celiac (formerly the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness).

AL: Should people with celiac disease trust the airlines’ meals? Or is it better to bring your own food?

AB: No matter which mode of travel, we always recommends that individuals with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity bring their own food. There are many variables in travel – flight delays, gate changes, etc. – so it is always best to be prepared. Recently, I was traveling and was served a “gluten-free” meal that listed malt flavoring as an ingredient! So, it is always best to take caution and examine your meals carefully, including any ingredient labels.

AL: Are you concerned about cross-contamination in big airline or caterers’ kitchens?

AB: Cross-contamination can be a risk in any kitchen where gluten-containing ingredients are used. Proper protocols can reduce that risk, but they must be followed carefully and consistently.

AL: Does Beyond Celiac know of any airline programs in place to prevent cross-contamination?

AB: We have not had any airlines complete our GREAT Kitchens program, but we would love to take our gluten-free training to the sky!

3. Shauna James Ahern, of the Gluten-Free Girl blog

AL: Shauna, as you have celiac disease, do you trust and eat the gluten-free meals offered by some airlines?

SJA: Gwen, we recently planned a trip to Italy, so I’ve been dealing with this. We’re flying Air France. They say they have a gluten-free meal and a completely allergen-free meal. [Read the details of that meal here.]

Since they were so careful to describe their free-from meal and the amount of precaution they take, I’m going to trust it.

Next: Frequent flyer Gluten Free Mike