Friday, June 28, 2013

Jack In The Box & Online Allergy Charts

My husband is a bit of a Jack In The Box addict, and tonight he asked me if I wanted anything as he left for his oh-so-frequent burger run. French fries sounded lovely, but I knew should double-check Jack's online allergen chart just to be safe (I hadn't checked it since they did away with natural-cut fries).

A few clicks later, I was brought to this site, which contains the allergy chart depicted below. This is by no means the complete chart, but for your viewing pleasure, I highlighted the "wheat" column with a giant red arrow. If it has an X in that lovely burnt-orange column, it is a no-go for anyone on a gluten-free diet.


If you aren't familiar with online allergy charts, most major chain restaurants have them, and they can be very helpful for people with special dietary needs. For example, in about two minutes, I was able to determine that while the fries at Jack In The Box are somewhat safe* since they do not contain wheat, the tacos that I have eaten many times in the past are actually a definite no.

Several years ago, a similar chart from Panda Express taught me something everyone on a gluten-free diet learns sooner or later--wheat-containing soy sauce is one of the worst hidden sources of gluten imaginable. Curse you, Kikkoman!**

Allergen charts can also be helpful in revealing "safe" menu items you may not have considered otherwise. Here is a sampling of the Jack-In-The-Box items considered "wheat-free:"
  • French fries
  • smoothies (mango, strawberry, or strawberry banana; contains milk)
  • Chiquita apple bites with caramel (caramel contains milk)
  • Grilled chicken strips (choose your sauce carefully)
  • Chicken Club, Grilled Chicken, or Southwest Chicken salads (ONLY with grilled chicken--not crispy chicken; ask for no croutons or crunchy toppings)
  • Bacon Ranch, Ranch, Lite Ranch, & Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette dressings (all but the vinaigrette contain milk)
However, please be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination anytime you dine out. French fries are often cooked in the same oil as gluten-containing, battered items like chicken strips, and a seemingly "wheat free" shake may be contaminated by the residual crumbs left on the blender from the Oreo-cookie shake mixed just before. When in doubt, ask the workers how the food is prepared and listen to your body when you try something new.

During my search, I also discovered this site, which provides an item-by-item ingredients list for essentially every item on the Jack In The Box. Check out the screen shot below:


Online ingredient statements like this tend to be much denser and more difficult to navigate. As my illustration shows (thank you again, big red arrow), bold lettering at the end of each ingredient list will indicate which of the major allergens, if any, the product contains. If accompanied by the allergy chart above, ingredient statements can be excellent way to get more information about items your are considering ordering or items you must now eliminate. 

This ingredient statement, for example, taught me that the cheap, 2 for $0.99 tacos taste so disgusting because their meat is padded out with things like "defatted soy grits" and "bleached enriched wheat flour." At the same time, it showed that while all of the burgers are marked as containing wheat in the allergy chart, that is simply because of their buns--the patties are 100% beef with no other ingredients or additives.

If you know in advance you will be eating out, take the time to check out a few restaurants online. If you dine at a restaurant often, do some research, even if that means calling and asking to speak to a manager, owner, or head chef. The better you are about being 100% gluten-free, the better you will feel.

Want more gluten-free dining tips?

Check out my Wining and Dining information page.

*I classify Jack's French fries as "somewhat safe" because they are almost certainly cooked in the same oil as their chicken strips and other gluten-containing items. This is a common source of cross-contamination. Although I tried the French fries tonight, I don't think I would do so again. My abdomen is already feeling a little tight with cramps, and French-fried potatoes just aren't worth the risk.

**If you simply adore soy sauce and/or Asian foods, Pei Wei and P.F. Chang's (which are partner companies) both have excellent gluten-free menus--you can find links to their online menus on my Wining and Dining information page. SAN-J Organic Tamari is labeled gluten-free soy sauce, and La Choy soy sauce does not contain wheat, although it is not labeled gluten-free.

P.S.

I am linking to Gluten-Free Fridays hosted by Vegetarian Mama. Pop on over and check it out!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this information you just saved me another trip to the hospital....After finding myself super hungry .I fiqured jack in the box tacos where safe.I did not check on line and I ate 6 ending up in the hospital for 5 days..My son brought me home tacos this morning my favorite...Thank God I checked on line and found your site...

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