The new “Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust” at Papa John’s sounds like it needs to carry an asterisk: The menu item launched nationwide this week, but the chain “doesn’t recommend” that people who are actually gluten intolerant or have celiac disease actually purchase it.
Instead of wheat, the crust uses quinoa, sorghum, teff, and amaranth — a combination Papa John’s promises in its press release won’t leave you “eating a bland, tasteless product.” Chief ingredient officer Sean Muldoon says it took “more than two years” to “perfect” the dough’s taste and texture. He adds that he’s proud of their hard work because “our pilot customers told us they loved the taste.”
Except here’s the problem: The chain explains in a separate statement that while the crust itself is definitely gluten-free, and it’s for sure assembled in a separate facility that has no wheat, technically anything “is possible” once employees lay their hands on the stuff in stores. The official statement advises: “Please use your best judgment in ordering a pizza with Papa John’s Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust if you have a sensitivity to gluten.”
Nutrition experts tell CNBC that “it’s very confusing” for Papa John’s to offer a gluten-free crust, then warn celiacs and gluten-intolerant people to stay away from it. Marilyn Geller, the CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation, suggests that people take Papa John’s at its word and just buy gluten-free pizzas from somebody else. “I would believe them,” she says. “I wouldn’t eat it.”