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Gluten Free Be Ready Kit Helps Hospitals Feed Celiac Patients

Can You Count on Hospital Kitchens to Feed You Well?

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Updated January 27, 2009

Gluten Free Be Ready Kit Helps Hospitals Feed Celiac Patients
When people with celiac disease are in the hospital, are they likely to be served satisfying, well-balanced gluten-free meals? As much as we’d like to believe that hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities are safe places, anyone who has ever been dependent on institutional care knows that a person with celiac disease may not be fed well in a hospital.

The Gluten Free Be Ready Kit for Hospital Kitchens, from Celinal Foods, Inc.

As the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease continues to grow, health care facilities are learning how hard it is to properly manage a gluten-free diet. Ingredient labels must be scrutinized, dishes must be prepared and plated separately to avoid cross-contamination, and patients must be assured that the meals being served to them are safe.

Celinal Foods, Inc., based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, sells a Gluten Free Be Ready Kit to residential health care providers (such as hospitals, rehab and assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and group homes) to help them be prepared for gluten-free patients.

According to Celinal Foods, the kit includes “everything needed to make any kitchen allergen friendly” on a moment’s notice, “while controlling costs and pleasing diners.” Furthermore, the company says, “It is difficult to cross contaminate these products! They are all microwave prep and single serve.”

The Gluten Free Be Ready Kit (which has a 2-year shelf life) complements an institutional kitchen’s existing menu. It includes gluten-free single-serve pasta, soy sauce, gravies, and soup bases, as well as mixes for bread, cornbread, biscuits, cake, and frosting. Many of the products are also dairy-free. The soup bases and gravies do not contain MSG, sulfites, corn, or soy. Gluten Free/Casein Free Kits are available. The kits also include educational material, including complete instructional lessons for staff members; menus (the kind that allow patients to circle their choices a day in advance); and tray cards.

Enriched Gluten-Free Foods Improve Patients' Nutrient Intake

Celinal Foods points out that cross-contamination is not the only danger celiac patients face when they’re hospitalized. Most facilities manage celiac diets by removing the gluten-containing foods from the meal without substituting gluten-free products. This means the gluten-free patient gets fewer calories, vitamins and minerals, which can slow the patient's recovery. The Celinal Foods products are enriched with nutrients, and adding them to the tray allows facilities to serve complete meals. The company says that their soup base is particularly appreciated. Patients usually like a cup of broth when they’re not feeling well, and doctors order clear liquid diets often. Most food service soup bases contain wheat or are made in a risky environment for cross-contamination.

Celinal Foods was started by Ronni Alicea, RD, a dietitian with more than 25 years of experience helping healthcare facilities care for patients with celiac disease or food allergies. Alicea says she started the company because “Healthcare kitchens are guaranteed to screw a gluten-free diet up, sometimes. With 21 meals to prepare, there is always one cook that just can’t understand the concept.”

The Bottom Line: Get the Word Out

If you’re a health care professional, you would be doing celiac patients a service by bringing Celinal Foods Gluten Free Be Ready Kit to the attention of your facility’s food service. If you or your child is a celiac patient with a scheduled hospitalization coming up, you might want to contact the head dietitian at your hospital, or ask your doctor’s office to make the contact for you, to learn more about steps that are taken to guarantee the safety of meals.

If you belong to a celiac support group, consider launching a campaign to educate the food service managers at local hospitals and nursing homes.

Celinal Foods also sells Gluten Free Be Ready kits to schools, prisons, and adult day-care centers.

Note: In an article she wrote for Dietary Manager in March 2006, Alicea says that institutions can obtain gluten-free Glatt Kosher ready-to-heat meals from My Own Meals, Inc. (These might also be acceptable to some gluten-free Muslim patients if Halal food is not available.)

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