Eating out is a part of most people’s lifestyles and it can be a very enjoyable experience. However, it is important for anyone who has a severe food allergy to be very careful when eating out. If you or your child has a severe food allergy you need to ensure that the restaurant understands the seriousness of the condition, and also that you are comfortable with the information you are given. Remember, if you feel that the restaurant doesn’t quite “get it”, it is better to walk away rather than take a risk.
Here are some tips on eating out:
- If possible, check out the restaurant’s menu online first, to get an idea of the type of food available in the restaurant, and decide which options might be suitable.
- Phone the restaurant in advance, asking to speak to the chef\manager. Explain the details of your allergy and ask if the restaurant will be able to provide a safe meal for you.
- If the visit to the restaurant is unplanned then ask to speak to the chef\manager when you arrive.
- Explain that you have a severe allergy, and that it is very important that any food you eat contains no trace whatsoever of the food(s) you are allergic to.
- Ask about the possibility of cross contamination; request separate serving utensils and pots if necessary.
- Be aware that buffets, salad bars and self service restaurants pose a particular risk for cross contamination of food, with other food which you may be avoiding.
- It’s important to ensure that the chef and staff fully understand your requirements. If necessary ask them to check ingredient lists or packaging.
- If you wish to order a deep fried food then check that the oil in which that food is cooked isn’t used to fry any food which contains the allergen(s).
- Ask if the food you’d like to order is suitable for you and listen carefully to the answer. If you’re not confident that they can provide a safe meal then it’s better not to take a chance. Confident staff is NOT a guarantee that allergen free food can be provided.
- If you’re happy to order your meal then ensure that details of the allergens to be avoided are written down with your order.
- Emphasise that the food should be served as discussed, without additional dressings, toppings etc.
- Remember, cross contamination is always a possibility.
- Make sure you have your emergency kit with you, including 2 adrenaline pens and antihistamine and inhaler, where prescribed.
- If you’re an adult with an allergy, ensure that someone with you knows how to use the adrenaline auto injectors.
- If you are a parent of a child with severe allergies, use the occasion to train your child in how to handle their allergies in a restaurant setting. Let them see you speaking in a confident manner to the manager. Show them that it’s not something to be shy about. Encourage them to talk about their allergies themselves, in an age appropriate way.