My inboxes have been flooded with questions concerning the safety of Pret’s new gluten free open sandwiches and cross contamination. Are they safe to eat? Are they safe for Coeliacs?
So I decided to contact Pret’s head office and ask them all the tough questions myself. Guess what? They responded to every question in great detail and here’s what they had to say…
But before we get to Pret’s response, here’s a recap of the main concerns you guys had about their new gluten free open sandwiches…
You guys were worried that…
- The gluten free bread is stored with (or next to) the regular bread 👎🏻
- Sandwiches are prepared on the same surface OR adjacent to someone who is making regular gluten-containing sandwiches 👎🏻
- The sandwiches are therefore not safe for Coeliacs 👎🏻
So here’s what Pret had to say…
This is a verbatim response from Pret without any editing on my part, so here goes…
Concern #1: The gluten free bread is stored with (or next to) the regular bread.
“This is not correct.”
“We have clear processes in place to reduce the risk of the gluten free bread coming into direct contact with our standard bread. All our loaves of gluten free and standard bread arrive in our Pret kitchens sliced and packaged, like a regular bread loaf you would buy in a supermarket.”
“When our Team Members are making sandwiches, they pull out the necessary number of slices they need to make that batch before putting away the rest of the packaged loaf.”
Concern #2: Sandwiches are prepared on the same surface OR adjacent to someone who is making regular gluten-containing sandwiches.
“This is not correct.”
“We have clear processes to reduce the risk of our gluten-free bread coming into direct contact with ingredients containing gluten.”
“For example, when making a batch of sandwiches, our Team Members have their own bench which they thoroughly clean and sanitise after each batch has been completed.”
“They also focus on producing and packaging one product type at a time to help reduce the risk of cross-contact.”
Concern #3: Are they safe for Coeliacs?
“Our guiding principle is to give our customers the information they need to make the right choice for them.”
“Our gluten-free bread is baked for us in a completely gluten-free environment and the toppings that are added in our kitchens are also free from gluten. Because our busy kitchens handle and prepare other products, there is a small risk of cross-contact.”
“The Pret kitchen space is also limited so we aren’t able to have a fully enclosed gluten-free preparation area. Therefore, we cannot say our new open sandwiches are suitable for coeliacs.”
So… are they safe to eat then or not?
The answer to this question, as with any gluten free food, is this: use your own judgement. Of course in this situation I asked them specifically whether the open sandwiches are suitable for those with Coeliac Disease and rightly they confirmed that they couldn’t say that they were.
But this is a very similar response to plenty of other restaurants that have a mixed facility kitchen space hence why I say using your own judgement and coming to your own informed decision is very important too.
Unless a restaurant is 100% gluten free or serves sealed products in packaging, there will always be some percentage chance of cross contamination. It’s up to you to decide how much you trust the restaurant to minimise that risk.
Coeliac UK have tried to make our lives easier by creating a list of Coeliac UK accredited restaurants. You can find that list here.
These restaurants are trained on how to safely prepare gluten free food, how to store it, knowledge of food law (and tons more things) but most importantly of all, they’re independently audited too.
But Pret, like 70% (likely a lot more!) of places out there with gf options, are not on that list. And that’s where your own personal judgement comes into play.
Use your own personal judgement at all times and that’s the bottom line – never forget that. If you don’t feel safe eating something/somewhere then don’t do it. And by personal judgement I don’t just mean gut feelings, I mean do your research, ask questions and if you don’t feel completely satisfied, don’t risk it. That goes for anywhere.
In an ideal world, everywhere with gluten free options would be Coeliac UK accredited (we should all actively encourage places to do this!!). But until that happens, your personal judgement is your best line of defence. Actually, even with Coeliac UK accredited places, personal judgement and research on your own part I feel is important.
I think some of the original concerns about Pret that spread like wildfire were provided by slightly misinformed employees who physically work in Pret stores. But again – weigh that all up in your judgement of whether or not you personally feel safe eating there or not.
The staff who work in stores are ultimately the ones who see the running of the kitchen day in, day out – not head office.
I’d just like to go on the record as saying that I would never share a gluten free product on social media that I believed was totally 100% ‘unsafe for Coeliacs’.
But what I will do, is provide you with the knowledge that a product exists, warn you about cross contamination where necessary and then… guess what? Let you use your own judgement.
I am not Coeliac UK and I cannot tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat (though I do my best to help where I can). Hopefully I’m just a helpful person who just lets you know that things exist so you can make up your own mind on things – like with my social media, or with a blog post like this.
Because of all this debacle, I’ve actually been invited to visit a Pret shop’s kitchen with their food team to understand what it’s like in a Pret kitchen and so they can show me how their gluten free open sandwiches are made.
Do you guys think I should do it and properly investigate for myself? I’d love to hear your thoughts. But the big question here is WOULD YOU EAT GLUTEN FREE AT PRET? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram over here for more gluten free finds and recipes.
Thanks for reading,