takeaways

Important allergy warning for some 'gluten free' Pizza Hut pizzas ⚠️🍕

Why the Pizza Hut menu is misleading for those on a gluten free diet and which of the pizzas you can order as gluten free, are in fact, not gluten free.

Table of Contents

What happened?

Let’s dive straight in!

A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I ordered pizzas from Pizza Hut delivery. We don’t order in pizzas regularly, but we’ve ordered from both Pizza Hut and Dominos enough times since my diagnosis 5 years ago, and I have always gone for the same type of pizza. I much prefer a BBQ base to a tomato, just preference, so the Texan BBQ pizza is usually my go-to.

Ordering gluten free on the Pizza Hut website or app is fairly straightforward; you find the pizza you want, select ‘Medium Gluten Free’ from the size and crust drop down list and then add to bag. There are some pizzas that don’t have the gluten free option, such as the ‘Big New Yorker’, because this is a large pizza and at Pizza Hut, the gluten free pizzas only ever come in one standard size.

My pizza arrived with the ‘GF’ yellow sticker seal on the box and when I opened it, it was the familiar rectangle pizza which is what all of their gluten free pizza bases look like.

Selecting gluten free from the drop down

Selecting gluten free from the drop down

Unfortunately for me, I spent the majority of the night curled around the toilet and could not stop vomiting. I didn’t straight away jump to the idea that I’d been glutened, because usually when I’ve been glutened, my symptoms are serious stomach pains, migraines and generally feeling unwell the following days. On this occasion, I just had the sickness and I did end up feeling slightly more human the next day after (without going into too much detail) the pizza had left my body.

I just presumed I’d got food poisoning or some other 24 hour sickness bug so it wasn’t until a week or so later that I spotted something that would make me realise, actually, I’d been glutened.

The Pizza Hut allergen matrix

I’d been doing research into popular fast food places like McDonald’s, Burger King etc to look at what is gluten free, using their allergen matrix to cross-check. I was doing the same with Pizza Hut to see what sides were or weren’t gluten free when I spotted the pizza base sauce section on their matrix.

Much to my horror, it clearly showed that the BBQ sauce pizza base contains gluten and is not suitable for those with coeliac disease.

Panic doesn’t even cover it!

Pizza Base BBQ sauce on allergen matrix

Pizza Base BBQ sauce on current Pizza Hut allergen matrix

I am always so careful with gluten and always make sure to ask the right questions and get confirmation from staff so that I feel comfortable and safe eating out. However, as we all know, online ordering doesn’t allow you to ask those questions but I’d always trusted Pizza Hut; they’re Coeliac UK accredited, have gluten free information on their website and the pizza always comes with a GF label and in a recognisable rectangle shape for further peace of mind.

It looks like it’s a possibility that the Pizza Hut allergy menu has been updated recently because according to a November 2023 version of the matrix online, the BBQ sauce is gluten free. This explains why I haven’t felt as ill previously after having one of the gluten free pizzas and why I was so sick a few weeks ago; the BBQ sauce has changed to contain gluten.

But like we should all know, with coeliac disease, regardless of your symptoms, you’re damaging your gut by consuming gluten and unbeknownst to me, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Pizza Base BBQ sauce on November 2023 Pizza Hut allergen matrix

Pizza Base BBQ sauce on November 2023 Pizza Hut allergen matrix

I was really annoyed and upset at the situation, and if I’d made this mistake then surely many more gluten free people ordering from Pizza Hut, have also made the error by presuming the gluten free pizzas were all gluten free.

And that’s not good, so I contacted Pizza Hut to get confirmation that their allergy matrix is correct and whether they had thought about how it’s misleading for people to order a gluten free pizza that’s not actually gluten free. More on that later…

To confirm, we are talking about Pizza Hut and NOT Domino’s. According to Domino’s allergen matrix, their BBQ pizza base sauce is gluten free.

Why this is an issue

Well, let’s state the obvious. This is an issue because although the allergen matrix does declare that the BBQ pizza base sauce is not gluten free, and therefore not safe for coeliacs, the ability to order a pizza which has a BBQ sauce base, as a gluten free pizza, makes you presume that everything on that pizza is gluten free.

So there’s a high chance that a lot of people following a gluten free diet, for both medical and dietary reasons, have ordered the gluten free BBQ base pizzas, presuming that they were going to be gluten free. And don’t just take my word for it, because I have had hundreds of replies on the gfglee Instagram after speaking about this situation and not one person has sided against me on this.

Here’s just a few of the responses I got:

  • “An appalling lack of knowledge by Pizza Hut & no excuse could justify this huge mistake”

  • “Gluten free bases should only be available with pizzas that have safe toppings”

  • “Disgusting… if it’s labelled gluten free it should all be gluten free”

  • “Totally misleading”

  • “Disgusting, I won’t be taking my daughter, I wouldn’t risk her health”

  • “This is really quite scary! Considering they are accredited?”

  • “So dangerous, I would just assume the whole pizza was all gluten free”

  • “This is awful, they should be very clear on this. They’re making people sick!”

Description of Texan BBQ pizza sauces and toppings

It’s very unclear at every stage of the ordering process on Pizza Hut, that the pizza you’ve just selected and changed to be gluten free, does in fact, have a gluten containing sauce.

What you need to avoid

According to the current (February 2024) Pizza Hut pizzas, the two original pizzas that are automatically made with a BBQ base are the:

  • Texan BBQ

  • BBQ Meat Feast

However, you can create your own pizza or select any original pizza and change the sauce to BBQ, so just make sure you only ever have a tomato sauce base on your pizza.

I have also checked the toppings and thankfully, the only topping which contains gluten are the ‘crispy onions’ which aren’t actually included on any of the original pizza’s toppings but again, be careful when creating your own pizza or swapping toppings on one from the menu.

Coeliac UK accreditation

Pizza Hut restaurants and Pizza Hut Delivery are both on Coeliac UK’s list of accredited venues, which means they’re usually seen as a safe place to eat for those with coeliac disease. But it’s issues like this that clearly show that it’s not enough.

You should be able to trust these accredited establishments to have a deeper knowledge of food allergies and for basic information to be clearly shown. Of course, there’s always the risk of cross-contamination when the restaurant isn’t a 100% dedicated gluten free facility, but to an extent, that can be managed by staff training.

But in this instance, the issue is with the online menu, which ultimately means that this gluten issue has the ability to cause harm to people all over the UK who are ordering ‘gluten free’ BBQ base pizzas online.

Coeliac UK talks about Pizza Hut on their list of accredited venues: “Pizza Hut Delivery offers a gluten free pizza base and have worked hard to ensure that all it’s tasty pizza sauces and toppings, on both their restaurant and take away menus, are also gluten free.”

Unfortunately, that’s simply not true because there are two pizza base sauces and 1 of those contains gluten!

Please know that I have contacted Coeliac UK about this issue, as well as Pizza Hut, so hopefully they will look into this dangerous case of misinformation and make changes. Fast.

Pizza Hut’s response

As soon as I saw that the BBQ pizza base sauce contains gluten, I contacted Pizza Hut straight away to query whether the allergen matrix was correct (I had hoped this was the case!) and whether they understood how this was misleading.

Sadly, the first response was quite a generic one where the customer service advisor clearly hadn’t read my email and just sent back a link to the allergen matrix, which obviously, I had already read!

Pizza Hut’s first response to my complaint

Pizza Hut’s first response to my complaint

So I pushed further with a reply and more questions which didn’t get a response. After a few days of hearing nothing, I contacted them again to which I received a reply stating that ‘The BBQ sauce is not suitable for those with coeliac disease’ and ‘The option to purchase the gluten free Texas BBQ pizza refers to the base of the pizza being gluten free’.

Speechless!

I’d like a show of hands for whoever would order a gluten free pizza with the expectation that the base of the pizza, and only the base of the pizza, would be gluten free and not the sauce or toppings?!

Pizza Hut’s second response to my complaint

Pizza Hut’s second response to my complaint

That’s like ordering a gluten free Sunday Roast, which is available to order gluten free on the menu, and it coming with gluten free meat and vegetables but the gravy poured all over contains gluten? Should it be assumed that the person should know that ‘gluten free’ doesn’t mean the whole dish, just part of it?

I think it’s completely misleading for those avoiding gluten and a massive step back in treating gluten dietary requirements as seriously as they should be.

What should be done?

Well, firstly, I think Pizza Hut needs to remove the option to order those two BBQ pizzas on a gluten free base. They should also look at a way to make it obvious, aside from the allergen matrix, that the BBQ sauce is not gluten free so that when someone is ‘creating their own’ gluten free pizza, it flags up a warning if they try to order it with a BBQ base - or, they just don’t give the option.

Secondly, I really think that Coeliac UK needs to step in and handle the situation because the information on their own website around Pizza Hut is factually incorrect. Coeliac UK does incredible things for those who suffer from the autoimmune disease, and they have such a trusting community, they should make sure their accreditation for Pizza Hut is revisited.

Please, please, please share this blog post!

If you can, please share this blog post to friends & family and on social media so that people are aware of this situation. I only know because I’ve done the digging myself, so I can guarantee there are a lot of people out there still in the dark who could get seriously sick from not knowing about it.

I promise to keep everyone updated so stay tuned!