7 Tips for eating out with FOOD ALLERGIES

Eating out with food allergies has its challenges!  A spontaneous dinner out is no longer  an option. So much thought and preparation is required, that many people just stay home. Eating out when your child has life threatening food allergies is always a risk. It’s a personal choice and should never be taken lightly. There are far too many complacent staff working in cafes and restaurants that don’t take the risk of anaphylaxis seriously, until sadly, it’s too late. If you do decide to eat out, it’s advised to avoid buffets as they are at higher risk of cross contamination. Choose a restaurant or café that you trust.

Here’s a few tips to help you when you eat out…

1. NO EPIPEN = NO EAT!!!

It’s a no brainer, but it’s more common than you think. There are so many people who have the mentality that a serious allergic reaction won’t happen to them. Well, the facts are that it could and it does. There are fatalities we hear about all the time, when the allergic person doesn’t have their medication and they eat the wrong thing. There are no second chances. People with serious allergies basically put their lives into the hands of people who prepare, make and serve their food. The number one rule is to

ALWAYS have your EPIPEN (or Anapen) when eating out!!

2. ALWAYS advise staff about the seriousness of the allergy

Whenever you dine out, it is your responsibility to tell the wait staff and the kitchen staff about how serious the allergy is – Life or death!! Having food allergies is NOT a preference! Your child CAN NOT eat ‘peanuts’ (or dairy, wheat etc) because they may KILL HER!!! Be specific.

Some people working in the food and hospitality industry have the misconception that a little bit won’t, or you can just scrape off the allergic food. Be clear!  The thing that can make it difficult for staff is when people tell them they have an allergy when in fact, they just don’t like something. This has such a detrimental effect on people with genuine allergies, being taken seriously.

3. NEVER be afraid to walk out. 

Sometimes, no matter how well you explain the seriousness of the allergy, staff still don’t understand. Listen to your gut, if it’s telling you something isn’t right -listen! Don’t ever feel guilty or embarrassed to question staff until you feel safe! If you still don’t get a good comfortable feeling, leave. Why take the risk of eating there? It’s not worth it.  I’ve walked out of many a restaurant because I didn’t feel it was a safe place.

4. If in doubt, go without!

Sometimes, despite every effort being made to create a safe eating environment, mistakes are still made. The staff may be great and tell you the meal is free from your allergen. Then you may notice something that doesn’t sit right with you. If there is any doubt, don’t risk it. It’s one meal, that you’ll survive missing out on.

5. Call beforehand

If you plan to dine out, call the restaurant ahead of time. Speak to whoever is in charge – this may, or may not, be the person who answers the phone. Introduce yourself and and explain your situation. Explain the seriousness of the allergy. Be clear and specific. You’ll get a great feel for how well they understand, by their response. What solutions do they come up with? Are they willing to go out of their way, if needed, to cook a separate meal in separate cooking appliances? Make an informed decision based on their response and also listen to your gut instinct. 

Eating out with serious food allergies comes down to an issue of trust. Trust between yourself, the chef and the wait staff. So much is involved and only one mistake could result in dire consequences.

6. Choose your moments

As we know mistakes can happen easily by the best of us. To limit potential oversights and risk of accidental allergen exposure, it’s important to choose your times to eating out wisely. Mistakes are more likely to occur when staff are busy and distracted easily. To avoid this, plan to eat out either before or after the restaurants busy times and if you can, avoid public holidays altogether. When you call them beforehand, ask them the best time for them to be able to cater for you. Remember, when staff are busy, mistakes have a greater chance of being made.

7. Spread the love

Finding a venue to eat out at who understands about allergies and the potential dangers is like finding gold. Knowing and trusting staff is something to be commended. A great way to repay their dedication is to spread the love. Support their business by sharing your experience with others. The best form of advertising is word of mouth! Add their name to our growing list of resources. What Aussie eateries do you eat at regularly and TRUST??? Places that just ‘get it’? 

Hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Leave a comment below if they have.

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  • Chris Higgins says:

    Great info on eating out and avoiding risky allergens.

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