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Syracuse University Officially Certified as Gluten-Free
Syracuse University’s Food Services has earned an official gluten-free certification. It joins the ranks of other schools who have received this certification by Kitchens with Confidence, the leading allergen and gluten-free auditing and accreditation firm. Four of the University’s dining centers have earned this significant recognition, with the fifth close behind.
Diners at Ernie Davis, Shaw, Graham and Sadler dining centers now have the option to choose food from a certified gluten-free service line. The fifth and final dining center, Brockway, will join the certification this fall semester pending an upcoming renovation, although it continues to offer gluten-free menu items. Mark Tewksbury, director of residence dining and Dome operations, says, “The campus dining centers serve 11,000 meals per day and our food is made fresh daily. Making sure that it is nutritious, delicious and safe for all students is a top priority.”
Recognizing that celiac disease and gluten intolerances are on the rise, Food Services has offered a gluten-free menu in its dining centers for years. Jamie Cyr, director of Auxiliary Services, explains why he encouraged Food Services to take this extra step toward certification. “The number of students entering college with food allergies has grown significantly, and parents are nervous about that when they send their child to school. We believe that this Gluten-Free Certification will help ease the anxiety for parents and students. We’re doing more than saying we’re gluten-free: we’re verifying it with a third party.”
Kitchens with Confidence’s audit process includes 41 areas with 200 critical control check points. To earn the gluten-free certification, each of SU’s dining centers satisfied enough of those check points to warrant a passing score. Additionally, Kitchens with Confidence maintains strict adherence via monthly testing of prep surfaces and requires quarterly reports that include any new menu items (which must be approved), staffing changes, recalls or incident reports. Kitchens with Confidence representatives will return annually to do an in-depth re-inspection of each dining center.
Federal law requires gluten-free standards to measure at 20 parts per million, the level of gluten at which most people with celiac disease react. Kitchens with Confidence standards are more strict at 10 parts per million. In a press release by Kitchens with Confidence, it was noted, “Students who have celiac disease and/or a food allergy who are choosing which college to attend can feel safe with Syracuse University based on the measures they take to ensure safety in their kitchens…The fact that Syracuse University elected to have this audit done is a testament to their dedication to serve safe food for all their diners.”
Ruth Sullivan is the assistant director of nutrition management for Food Services. She is also a registered dietitian nutritionist and AllerTrain Master Trainer by MenuTrinfo, LLC. Sullivan’s certification allows her to train staff through AllerTrain, which covers food allergies and sensitivities, celiac disease, avoiding cross contact in the front and back of the house, current allergen laws in place, and more. Managers, assistant directors, directors, chefs, first cooks—anyone making and serving food—are all required to complete the training. Sullivan, along with Food Services supervisors and managers, constantly monitor the dining centers to make sure that gluten and other allergen cross-contact processes are followed in the kitchens and serving lines. Signage is posted throughout the kitchen prep areas to serve as constant reminders of procedures.
Students with dietary concerns are encouraged to meet one-on-one with Sullivan, who works with students to create a specialized dining plan and orients them to additional food options available on campus. “We really encourage students to talk with us,” she says. “Food Services managers are willing to go the extra mile for students; they regularly purchase specific products requested by students with food sensitivities.”