South Texas Health System Edinburg Revalidated as a Gluten Free Safe Spot

Wednesday, March 6, 2024
A chef preparing a gluten-free meal

Gluten Free Safe SpotThroughout the world, celiac disease has become an increasingly common health condition in recent years. In the United States, about 1% of the population have the serious genetic autoimmune disease, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But recent screening studies have led health experts to estimate the prevalence of celiac disease to be higher than 1% in the U.S., with pediatric screening studies in particular finding rates at around 2%.

Left untreated, celiac disease – which damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food – may have serious side-effects including malnourishment, osteoporosis, chronic anemia and the potential for developing certain types of cancer. While some may abide by a gluten-free diet freely, for those living with the autoimmune disorder of celiac disease, the consumption of gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye and barley – may lead to bloating, chronic diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and nausea or vomiting.

For celiac disease sufferers requiring admission to the hospital, the experience can be extra stressful. Whether they’ll be there for an outpatient procedure or a longer stay, they must take extra steps to ensure their need for a gluten-free diet is met.

Should Rio Grande Valley residents with celiac disease need hospitalization, they can continue to count on South Texas Health System Edinburg to provide gluten-free meals during their stay. The facility, which has been the only Valley facility to be named a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News & World Report for the last two years in a row, has been revalidated as a Gluten-Free Food Service (GFFS) Safe Spot by Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), a national nonprofit dedicated to making life easier for people living gluten-free.

“This certification is a testament to our dedication to the safety of our patients with celiac disease,” said York Saldivar, Director of Dietary and Food Services, STHS Edinburg and STHS Children’s. “It demonstrates our commitment to taking all precautions to ensure that our patients have a safe and healthy experience during their hospital stay.”

To achieve this GFFS recertification, all 28 employees of STHS Edinburg’s dietary services department, which also serves the pediatric patients at STHS Children’s, had to undergo special training and pass several exams over the course of eight months to ensure they met the rigorous safety standards and expectations for a meal to be 100% gluten free. “I’m extremely proud of the entire team of clinical dietitians, cooks, dietary aides, clerks and porters for accepting the challenge of being vigilant about abiding by these procedures that make us a safer place for this special population," said Saldivar.

STHS Edinburg is one of only 13 hospitals in the nation, including two in Texas, and the only hospital in the Rio Grande Valley with the GFFS Safe Spot status. “While it may be a small portion of our overall population in the Rio Grande Valley, STHS Edinburg is committed to the safety of all patients. Protecting their welfare is as important as that of anybody else,” said Lance Ames, Chief Executive Officer, STHS Edinburg and STHS Children’s. “With our revalidation as a Gluten Free Safe Spot, we hope to continue to demonstrate to the communities we serve that we truly strive to do our best for our patients by understanding and meeting their needs.”