If you are a food faddist, you've probably gone gluten-free at least once in the last year or so.

I went so far as to buy gluten-free biscuits, delicious but with the consistency of and weight of rocks, from a special bakery in my trendy neighborhood. Then I decided that anybody  who pays nearly nine dollars for five biscuits has real problems.

The gluten-free craze, it seems, is not only expensive but is making life more complicated for the people who are–you know–actually gluten-intolerant.  Ingesting gluten can be extremely serious for people who are gluten intolerant, even deadly.

The Wall Street Journal has a story today by a man whose wife, Hania, was diagnosed with celiac's disease in 2002. At first, Hania and Thomas Swick were grateful for the faddists, because of whom more gluten-free products were on the market. But then it became clear that the faddists were creating a dangerous trap for Hanna:

Today she tells waiters she’s on a gluten-free diet—but that she’s a celiac, “not one of those crazy people,” as she puts it. Studies have shown that those who are not allergic or sensitive to gluten experience no adverse effects from ingesting it. Yet many of the 99% of Americans who are not celiacs have made it a diet pariah anyway. And this is causing problems for those who are medically instructed to scorn gluten.

Not long ago, we visited a restaurant known for its gluten-free fried chicken. Our waiter, on hearing of Hania’s disease, explained that, while technically gluten-free, the chicken was fried in the same oil as all the other chickens. That meant it was contaminated. This would be fine for most of the restaurant’s diners—the fashionably gluten-free—but not for celiacs. Without a knowledgeable waiter, we wouldn’t have known.

The gluten-free fad has corroded the meaning of the phrase, creating a playground for dabblers and a minefield for the minority of strict doctrinarians. Not only has the label become spurious, but many food-service workers have understandably grown lax, seeing the demands for gluten-free food as a passing fancy and not the requirements of a serious medical condition.

The obsession with gluten has also shoved the things that celiacs can eat into the health-food arena. Do a search for gluten-free restaurants and, wherever you live, the results will show vegetarian or vegan restaurants, almost exclusively. This is no surprise, since bread has joined meat in the larder of nefarious foods. But for many celiacs, losing meat and eggs is piling injury on top of injury. If you’ve already been forced to eliminate one crucial element from your diet—one that is in everything from soft pretzels to soy sauce—you learn to savor the rest.

The gluten-free craze is perfectly harmless–except for those who really happen to be gluten-intolerant.