Restaurants and Food Allergies

By Heather Legg

We were recently in a restaurant where items that had anything to do with the big allergens were marked and a note at the bottom said something to the effect of “If you have food allergies, please let our staff know.” Very assuring that the awareness is spreading.

On a similar note, in Massachusetts, a new law has been enacted that states all restaurants mush have a food protecting manager on staff by February 1. This is in hopes of improving the whole aspect of food safety, including allergies. These managers can personally serve anyone with a food allergy to make sure their food is non contaminated and safe for them to eat. These managers are also trained in what to do if a customer goes into shock from an allergen ingestion, including keeping them seated and calling 911.

This brings to mind what I have always wondered, shouldn’t restaurants have Epipens on hand? What if someone goes into shock and does not have an Epipen? A life could be saved just by having them available, and I sure would rather have a stick from an Epipen than the alternative. I know the liability keeps this from happening, but it one of those what if’s in a world that makes more sense that I often think about.

Whether the restaurant you dine in has a food protection manager or not, there are some tips to follow when dining out with food allergies. For starters, it is always a good idea to speak with the server or manager when you first sit down. If you haven’t researched the restaurant beforehand, this is the time to ask about procedures and foods. If you are allergic, you need to know if things are cooked in peanut oil. Express your concerns and get a sense for how they accommodate. If you are uncomfortable with their knowledge and/or procedures, there is nothing wrong with leaving. It is much better than a stressful meal that could endanger someone at your table.

WIth newer rules and regulations, plus general awareness, it is getting just a bit easier to dine out with food allergies. Restaurants are showing their awareness on menus, on signs, and with general staff knowledge. Remember though, the big 8 are what the restaurants focus on. It is up to you to make them aware of other allergies you may have that don’t fall into these categories.

The best advice is know what you need to ask, do a little research and don’t be shy to share your concerns and needs. Then Happy Dining!

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