Thursday, September 04, 2008

Outback Alert: GIG/GFRAP Responds

Some Questions Remain Unanswered

In response to disclosures that at least some Outback restaurants have been using bread to fight the clumping of brown sugar, Cynthia Kupper issued the following statement Wednesday morning:
Gluten-Free Diners,

Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP) and Gluten Intolerance Group of NA (GIG) would like to advise you what we have been doing to resolve the issue about bread being used in some brown sugar containers at various Outback Steakhouse locations to prevent hardening of the brown sugar.

This issue came up a few months ago. As soon as we heard about it, we immediately contacted Outback Corporate offices and followed the chain of emails showing the corrective actions taken at that time.

Recently this issue has come up again. I sent the notices posted by Connie Sarros to Outback and again very promptly, they responded (on a Sunday -- no less). I have continued to send every post on the subject and am addressing the issue at the top levels of Outback, all the way down to the local restaurant.

Since it has come to Outback's attention that this was not an isolated case, they are in communication with all restaurants to change this practice at a number of levels, including adding information into their regular communication and training channels. As with all things in large corporations, it takes time to see the change fully implemented -- but they are working on it.

It is important that the local restaurants not only understand the potential dangers of this practice, but also follow the corporate policies set in place. GFRAP has a strong relationship with Outback regarding their menus and training. We communicate with them on a weekly basis. Rest assured this issue will be resolved.

GFRAP and the GFRAP participating restaurants appreciate feedback about your dining experiences and the program. Please feel free to send comments to:

Cynthia Kupper, RD, Executive Director
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America
This statement leaves some important questions unanswered. Examples:
  • What items identified as gluten-free are potentially contaminated because brown sugar is an ingredient?
  • How, exactly, is the problem being addressed?
  • How will the public be notified when the problem has been addressed?
  • Kupper writes that the problem came up some months ago, but there is evidence that the problem existed as far back as April 2006. How did the problem exist—and persist—for so long, even after corrective measures were taken? How will this flaw be fixed going forward, with regard to Outback as well as the other GFRAP restaurants?
  • What does Outback have to say about this?

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