I was delighted to see that in response to my suggestion that we should all harrass Pizza Express to provide gluten-free pizzas, not only had Jeemboh emailed Pizza Express, but they had replied!
They make the perfectly valid point that the environment in a Pizza Express restaurant is, inevitably, going to be heavily contaminated with wheat flour, and therefore gluten, so that their restaurants would be unsafe for any customer who was sensitive to either.
This is, of course, perfectly true but, as so often happens, it assumes that everyone who might want to eat a gluten-free pizza suffers from the same degree of sensitivity. But this is far from the case. Gluten-avoiders run from the health conscious who have no problems with gluten at all but feel they would be healthier without it to those who are so sensitive that ingesting the tiniest bit of flour carried in the air will make them seriously ill – with many other gradations in between.
While there is no way that anyone who is acutely sensitive to gluten should go anywhere near a Pizza Express restaurant, there are far more people whose sensitivity is of a far lower order and, as long as they do not actually eat a wheat based pizza, they will suffer no ill effects from coming into passing contact with a little wheat flour.
Surely the approach therefore should be that Pizza Express should offer a gluten-free pizza on their menu (assuming of course that they can make one which meets their exacting gastronomic standards!) but that it should be accompanied by a very visible warning that although the pizza base itself may be gluten free it is cooked in an environment which handles wheat flour/gluten and is therefore likely that it may be contaminated with small amounts of wheat flour/gluten. This way wheat/gluten sensitive customers can decide for themselves whether or not the risk is one that they are prepared to take.
To be fair to Pizza Express, they do offer to top your own gluten-free pizza base with their toppings if you wish to take it in with you but – how much easier would it be if they just provided you with one! Anyhow, for those who are seriously sensitive, even taking your own base would be fraught with danger as it will be cooked in an oven along with wheat-based pizzas and the risk of contamination will inevitably be very high.