20 May NAVIGATING THE RESTAURANT SCENE: DINING OUT WITH FOOD ALLERGIES
For the 15 million people suffering from food allergies, dining out can be a huge source of anxiety. Following these tips, however, can help ease this stress and make a trip to the restaurant a more enjoyable experience.
When selecting a restaurant, it’s best to do some research in advance of going. Call the restaurant during a slow period and speak to a manager. Make sure that the manager then communicates with the servers and chef so that everyone is prepared. Asking friends who deal with allergies is also a great way to learn about restaurants, in addition to doing some internet research. Many chain restaurants have their allergen menus posted online so have a look before you go and don’t discount a smaller restaurant. Many of them want your business and will go out of their way to accommodate you.
Despite making accommodations, however, there are different types of cuisine and styles that are considered risky for those suffering from food allergies. Chinese food may not be the safest choice for those suffering from nut allergies or seafood restaurants for shellfish allergies. The risk for cross-contamination in the kitchen is very high. Buffets, bakeries, ice-cream shops and pre-made foods without proper labeling also carry high risk for added ingredients and cross-contact. It’s always best to be safe and avoid risky choices.
When ordering, keep it simple. The more ingredients that go into your dish, the greater the risk for potential allergens to be added or for cross-contamination. Also consider the cooking method. Fried foods will share cooking surfaces on a grill or in frying oil. A baked potato, grilled chicken, and steamed vegetables might be your safest bet. When asking questions, it is always best that they are open-ended.
‘What protocols are used in the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination?’ ‘What kind of oil is used in the fryer?’ as opposed to : ‘Is there peanut oil in the fryer?’
Above all, trust your instincts. If you are not confident with the answers you are getting, do not take the risk. It’s never worth it. If you do, however, have a good experience, share it with others on a website and let the restaurant know. Most importantly, always carry emergency rescue with you. Accidents can happen so be prepared.
Although caution should be taken to avoid exposure to a potential allergen, it shouldn’t stop you from eating out. There are so many restaurants that will go above and beyond to accommodate allergies so enjoy your dining experience with these tips in mind.