We partnered with GlutenDude and ran a survey on avoiding gluten and dining out. As you know, we’re big fans of sharing our research with you, so here are some highlights, which reiterate research findings we’ve previously shared in highlights from Perspectives on Gluten Avoidance to Pills vs a Device.

How often do you get sick from unintended gluten exposure when eating out?

Only 7 percent of respondents said they never get sick when eating out – while 9 percent say once a week or more. This leaves the vast majority in the middle – not all the time, but enough to be wary when they dine outside the home.

avoiding gluten and dining out survey: how often do you become ill after dining out?

If you could your food for gluten, what would you want to test most?

When we ask people the items they want to test, the responses we’ve seen across all our research remain remarkably consistent. The single biggest one for most people is sauces – mysterious amalgamations of potentially vast, and dangerous, ingredients make it hard to feel safe. Some venues may be using standard packaged goods to concoct sauces, and therefore may not know if the source ingredients are gluten-free. Even places making items from scratch may not know if spices or other ingredients are safe to eat. Close behind sauces are seasonings/rubs, for many of the same reasons. Soups, where trace amounts of flour might have been used, fills out the top three. Baked goods and desserts follow. From our own experience with testing a cupcake that was full of cross-contamination, we can understand that.

Other responses include foods such as sausages and other packaged meats and main entrees, but the largest single response is telling in that people want to test “everything.”

These findings follow even for other foods, as seen in our research on people who avoid peanuts and those who avoid milk.

Lots of great tools are coming out on the market to help people with gluten intolerances, allergies or celiac disease. Which of the following options would you use on a regular basis?

Similar to results of our online poll, respondents said:

  • 73 percent would use a device that tests their food for gluten before they eat
  • 17 percent would take a pill before they eat that coats the gluten protein so they can eat anything with gluten in it
  • 4 percent would take a pill after they eat that helps relieve secondary symptoms of gluten exposure.

If you could test your food for gluten, how often would you want to do so?

Seventy-six percent say they would test food weekly with the vast majority of those saying they would test more than once a week.

Only 4 percent would test infrequently (that is less than once a month). Most people who have to avoid gluten want to be able to navigate social situations with minimum hassle, while feeling like there won’t be negative after-effects.

avoiding gluten and dining out survey: how would you test your food for gluten?

Would you outside the home more or less often if you had a device to test for gluten?

Now we get to the question really to help restaurant owners understand something critical: those on gluten-free diets really do want to eat at your spot. A whopping 72 percent said they would eat out more frequently if they had a device to test their food for gluten, while less than half a percent said they would eat out less. This means that gracious accommodations for customers who have food avoidances and intolerances could really benefit business in the long run.

Have you ever used a product to help you test your food for gluten?

Given that the majority of the existing products and processes on the market are commercial lab kits, the answer to this question is not surprising – only 3 percent have ever tested their food. We’ve talked to some folks about how tedious, messy and time consuming it is to do with commercial lab kits at home. We’ve talked others who have paid $200 or more to send food to private labs for verification and testing.

Do you know what level of gluten has to be present for you to have a reaction?

Most people don’t know what level of gluten bothers them, while there are some that are fairly precise.

Nearly 1 in 10 is super sensitive – so that even less than 10 parts per million of gluten will bother their systems.

survey: do you know what amount of gluten gives you a reaction?

How long have you avoided gluten?

Again, these are readers of Gluten Dude’s blog – and he’s got tremendous content on it for people at all stages, but this does provide some insight into how people navigate.

Over 60 percent have been avoiding gluten for 3 years or more, which means there are about two in five people who are still learning how to manage and who haven’t become the veterans adept at negotiating with waiters – who have been glutened enough to just lay it all out on the table.

survey: how long have you avoided gluten?

Notes on Methodology

This is a survey that was conducted via GlutenDude.com (original link to survey blog post here). Data was collected between November 3 through November 30, 2015. This data may not represent the entire gluten-free population. 1201 total people responded to the survey.