My next restaurant review brings to light a very important topic…Health Inspectors overstepping their duties and working outside of their scope of practice and knowledge base.
I recently had lunch at Sushi Nami on George Street. I love it there and they actually were part of our Gluten Free Fair in June for our National Celiac Conference. They made all the sushi fresh on the spot and they have a wonderful gluten free menu and even bring in gluten free soy sauce!
I was super excited to go out for lunch this day with my friend and luckily the Manager served us so I was prepared to ask tons of questions. We started with the plain, salted edamame. Always a favorite. They also offer spicy edamame but it has gluten so stay with the plain folks! I then ordered the Veggie Dragon Roll. The gluten containing version of this actually has tempura sweet potato inside so I was very curious about how they cooked the sweet potato without the gluten. So I asked the Manager. She informed me that since she was promoting gluten free and was part of the gluten free food fair she wanted to be absolutely certain that none of her customers were harmed with cross contamination. So she had called in the Health Inspector to look at her kitchen. This Health Inspector proceeded to tell her that she could use the same deep fryer to deep fry gluten free foods because the deep fryer KILLLED gluten.
So I almost fell off my chair at this point because a.) Gluten is NOT a germ or bacteria that can be killed b.) Gluten is a protein and thus it takes EXTREMELY high temperatures to denature or break it down and even then the pieces of gluten can still cause a reaction and c.) That is not something a Health Inspector SHOULD be telling people since it is clearly not something they know about or learn about in their program. This is actually the second time I have heard of this happening. I have a Chef friend whose Health Inspector also told him that gluten will be killed in the deep fryer. Celiac Disease leads to so many complications when left untreated. One of the biggest of which is Lymphoma. Consuming gluten and damaging our insides leads to these further complications. A Health Inspector should know when something is in their scope and when to say, I don’t know about that and I’m not certain if I can give you information so let me put you in contact with someone who can. That is how you become good at your job. Not just knowing about things. But also knowing when you don’t know and stepping back. Especially when a person’s well being is on the line!
The manager took this in stride and I explained to her that the deep fryer temperature was not high enough to break down the gluten and make it safe for someone with Celiac to consume (or even someone with a wheat allergy). She was extremely receptive and told me from now on that when a customer orders gluten free, the parts that were supposed to be deep fried would now be grilled. I ate my Sushi Roll and it was amazingly delicious and oh so gluten free. I never got sick and I hopefully my experience will change the next customers experience there as well!
Moral of the story: Health Inspectors need to stay within their scope of practice. The Celiac Association has a Gluten Certification Program and Professionals who know about cross contamination come into restaurants and provide training to employees and insure that the premises is gluten free. A Health Inspector might know about germs and such but clearly they have no idea about allergies or Health Conditions.
Happy gluten free eating at Sushi Nami everyone! The food is amazing and the manager is super diligent! I give it two thumbs up!
If you want to read a little more info about deep frying and cross contamination check out this blog by a fellow Dietitian
The Newfie Celiac Dietitian!