Individuals working in health care food service are aware of the importance of dietary restrictions. Food service directors know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will require foods labeled as “gluten-free” to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten starting next year. As 2013 draws to a close, hospital kitchen staff should reassess their gluten-free offerings, ensuring compliance under the new regulation. This critical analysis is also a good opportunity to expand on gluten-free options.
Take advantage of foodservice software
Gluten is found in barley, wheat, rye and their crossbreeds. These grains are prevalent in many dishes, which makes the dietary restriction difficult to work with. However, hospital kitchens are used to having a limited number of ingredients to work with and have likely created several gluten-free options. However, the FDA’s new regulation brings these offerings under greater scrutiny. Therefore, hospital kitchens should revisit their recipes and closely analyze the level of gluten.
The new regulation provides a great opportunity for hospital kitchen staff to exercise their culinary creativity. Featuring a broader range of gluten-free foods can drive interest and boost patient satisfaction, especially from those with celiac disease. In this case, health care kitchens can take advantage of foodservice software. Food service directors can increase gluten-free inventory to ensure that cooks will have enough to work with. Encourage cooks to create new and exciting gluten-free dishes that abide by the new regulation. Advertise these new items in patient menus and the cafeteria. Foodservice software will enable directors to keep track of trays, which can then inform them on the popularity of the new offerings. Keep the successful meals and continue to experiment.
Encouraging this exercise will help kitchen staff members to re-familiarize with the limited ingredients of gluten-free offerings. Additionally, by implementing the new regulation before it goes into effect will ensure that all cooks are aware of the new criteria and are ready to create meals accordingly.
If your kitchen already has a pod system, you may want to consider re-designating a station for gluten-free dishes. This can help ensure that ingredients that would otherwise compromise a gluten-free dish never make any contact with the plate or the foods.
The FDA’s new regulation underscores the importance of abiding by dietary restrictions. Though the new criteria may be harder to work with, it is also a good opportunity for cooks to demonstrate their culinary skills.