Chef Kachroo spoons rice noodles into a takeout container

U of T Mississauga first Canadian campus to be certified gluten-free

Blake Eligh

With the launch of fusion 5 Asian Food Box, the University of Toronto Mississauga becomes the first university campus in Canada to offer a certified gluten-free menu to diners on campus.

The new food station launched on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, in time for the beginning of the new academic year. The initiative by UTM’s Hospitality & Retail Services department and campus food service provider Chartwells will meet growing demand for gluten-free options on campus.

“We are receiving more and more requests from diners with dietary restrictions,” said Andrea De Vito, assistant director, Retail Services and Administration. “We wanted to be proactive and offer services with confidence that we were limiting exposure to allergens.”

The Asian-inspired menu at fusion 5 meets certified gluten-free standards set out by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America. Diners choose five different components which are combined into a single dish, including: a base of rice, noodles or greens topped with a protein option and savoury vegetables, a choice of sauces and toppings that include crispy shallots, pickled vegetable, fresh chopped herbs, chilis or sunflower and pumpkin seeds. The menu features halal and vegetarian options, and does not include dairy, shellfish or peanut products.

The new food station earned gluten-free certification through the Gluten Intolerance Group's Gluten-Free Food Services Certification progam, which works with food service providers to establish best practices in the production of gluten-free meals.

To meet certification standards, UTM’s campus food services team developed a new menu, renovated a food preparation and service station and implemented new protocols for handling, preparing and serving foods. Ingredients used in the dishes are carefully vetted to include only products from certified gluten-free suppliers and are delivered directly to the food station, bypassing the central campus kitchen to avoid cross-contamination with other food products. All food preparation is handled in the station using purple utensils, which are washed in a dedicated on-site dishwasher to further reduce exposure to gluten. Staff who work in the station receive special training and are limited to serving only at fusion 5 in any shift.

“We are excited to become the first university campus in Canada to offer a certified gluten-free dining option to our students, staff and faculty,” says Professor Ulrich Krull, interim vice president and principal, U of T Mississauga. “The menu at fusion 5 will accommodate growing demand from those who wish to avoid gluten because of allergies or other concerns. With this expansion of dining options, we are pleased to offer nutritious and delicious meals that meet a wide variety of dietary needs.”

Kimberly Green, a registered dietitian with UTM’s Health & Counselling Centre, welcomed the news. “For those who have celiac disease, the only treatment is diet therapy, including adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. Ingesting even very small amounts of gluten, like using the same toaster that someone else used for wheat bread, can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including abdominal pain,” she says. “The launch of fusion 5 will provide a new dining option for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.”

“At UTM Dining Services, we are committed to providing students and staff with the best possible foodservice experience and with the launch of fusion 5 we are taking that commitment to the next level,” says Michael Jeronimo, general manager, Chartwells. “fusion 5 will allow us to offer those individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance  a certified gluten-free foodservice offering where they can feel comfortable knowing that we are applying industry leading standards to ensure that their food is free of gluten. In addition, they can experience great tasting, nutritious gluten-free Asian style cuisine that is made to order.”

"We are excited to help another facility cater to the needs of the gluten-free community," says Channon Quinn, vice-president of food safety for the Gluten Intolerance Group. The decision to become certified gluten-free through our program shows UTM's commitment to thos who follow a specialized diet plan."

U of T Mississauga is the first higher education institution to achieve gluten-free certification in Canada, and is among a handful of North American institutions to meet the gluten-free standards. Certification will be audited and renewed on an annual basis by the Gluten Intolerance Group.