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Big Firms Take a Slice of Gluten-Free Pie

"You have to know to be vigilant. Asian sauces have a lot if wheat in them," Quazza says.

Rising Awareness

Although her affliction has made life difficult in the past, things are now heading in a better direction, she explains. Quazza notes that upscale organic food retailers like Whole Foods now often designate a gluten-free area and have more detailed labeling on food, as well as providing special diet shopping lists at the customer service desk of each store or via the firm's Web site.

The upscale market also boasts a gluten-free bakehouse, which it opened three years ago with six dedicated staff members; it's added 20 additional employees since then.

The food-service industry as a whole is catching on quickly also.

"The biggest thing we do for people with food allergies and other dietary restrictions is that everything is made to order," says Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), "so customers have a remarkable amount of control." Likewise, casual dining venue Chili's offers an entirely gluten-free menu, according to a spokesman for the company.

Similarly, the prestigious Culinary Institute of America has noted the celiac problem by introducing a nontraditional baking class.

"We've been really on making our students aware of health issues," says John Fischer, professor of table service at the CIA in Hyde Park, N.Y. The school also serves paying customers through its very own restaurant. "If people call ahead, we will provide them with gluten-free cake," Fischer adds.

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