Papa John’s is sending mixed messages about its new gluten-free pizza crusts.
The pizza chain officially announced the debut of its new Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crusts in a press release issued on Monday, but it came with a rather odd warning: The crusts, despite being produced in a gluten-free facility before being shipped to Papa John’s locations, are not recommended “for customers with celiac disease or serious gluten intolerances.”
According to the press release, Papa John’s new gluten-free crusts contain no gluten in and of themselves — they’re made from sorghum, amaranth, teff and quinoa — but the company can’t vouch for the pizzas once they leave the manufacturing facility.
“Operationally, Papa John's employs procedures to prevent contact with gluten, and while the crust is prepared in a separate, gluten-free facility before being shipped to stores, it is possible that a pizza with gluten-free crust could be exposed to gluten during the in-store, pizza-making process,” the company writes.
Needless to say, the irony isn’t lost on the internet.
Marilyn Geller, the CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation, told USA Today that she wouldn’t take Papa John’s warnings lightly, either. “I would believe them, and I wouldn’t eat it.”
However, in a statement to Fox News, Papa John's explained that the company is merely trying to provide its "gluten-aware" customers with another option, adding, "Our note to our customers with celiac or serious gluten intolerances was out of an abundance of caution because transparency about our ingredients is core to our beliefs at Papa John’s — and because it’s an industry-wide issue.”
In Papa John’s defense, they aren’t the only major pizza chain to offer a gluten-free option that isn’t suitable for celiac sufferers. Domino’s, too, warns that its gluten-free crusts may contain traces of gluten.
“We make all of our pizzas in the same kitchens; and even as clean as we keep them, there may be trace glutens present,” the restaurant writes on its website. “Therefore, it wouldn't be entirely honest to guarantee that pizzas made with this crust are absolutely gluten free.”
Pizza Hut, on the other hand, offers its customers a bit more peace of mind with its gluten-free pizza crusts, which the company debuted in 2015. Per a report in Entrepreneur, the ingredients are stored in gluten-free kits, prepped by employees wearing gloves, and baked on parchment paper. Still, Pizza Hut says it also "cannot guarantee complete elimination of gluten cross-contamination" as toppings for the pizzas are stored in a separate area as the gluten-free crust kits.
As for Papa John’s and its Ancient Grains pizza crusts, the company is quite up-front about the offering being unsuitable for severe gluten intolerances, both in its press release and on the product's FAQ page.