Guest Article on Dining Out and Food Alergies

Amy Lunde who represents the Food Allergy Initiative wrote me a couple weeks back and asked if I would write about food alergies.  Since I don’t have any and am not that familiar with the topic I asked if she would like to post something.  She wrote back and sent me the following tips for dining out and provided some links for more information.

Food Allergy Initiative – Eating Out Safely and Finding a Cure

EatWisconsin readers with food allergies can safely enjoy outstanding Wisconsin restaurants by following these tips from the Food Allergy Initiative:

  • Do some local research.  Check the menu in advance on the internet, and ask your allergist and other families for recommendations.
  • Call ahead.  Call before or after the busy meal time hour, when the chef and other restaurant staff will have more time to talk.
  • Bring a Food Allergy Restaurant Card.  It should list your food allergies and state that your food must be cooked in a clean and safe area to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Be prepared.   Bring your emergency medications, and wear your medical identification jewelry.
  • Carry a bag of pasta or other safe food from home.   Most restaurants should be willing to make an accommodation such as boiling water and cooking pasta, or heating a safe meal.
  • Ask to be seated far from the kitchen, to avoid airborne allergens from cooking and preparing food.
  • Talk to EVERYONE.   The hostess, restaurant manager, chef and wait staff should be clear about your food allergy.  Always trust your gut on whether the staff truly understands. 
  • Ask what is in your dish and how it’s prepared.   Make sure your server understands what you are allergic to, and explain that cross-contamination must be avoided.  Maybe request to speak to the chef or the manager just to be sure. 
  • Keep it simple.   If you have to ask a lot of complicated questions about the items on a menu, more simple fare—like a baked potato or steamed vegetables—may be safer.
  • Avoid fried foods.   Both the grill and the frying oil are ripe for cross-contamination; it is best to avoid fried foods unless you know for sure that they are prepared properly.
  • Save dessert for home.  Many restaurants order desserts from other specialty shops.  Desserts are major sources of hidden allergens, and the restaurant staff may not be able to provide a complete list of ingredients. 
  • Reward excellent service and build a relationship.  If you have a comfortable and successful experience at a restaurant, tip your server well and go back. 

 As you may know, food allergies have become a major public health problem.  Twelve million Americans are afflicted with food allergies, which send 125,000 to emergency rooms every year.

An average of 10 children at every elementary school suffers from severe allergies to foods like peanuts, milk and eggs.  Even minuscule amounts of peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish or other allergens can trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction.

The federal government spends only $17 million a year on food allergy research — far less than other important diseases, like attention deficit disorder, which receives $107 million in research funding, or diabetes, which receives $1.2 billion.  Scientists say they’re less than a decade away from finding a cure – but only with more research funding from the federal government.

The Food Allergy Initiative is working to find a cure by raising public awareness and advocating for increased research.  FAI is the largest private source of funding for food allergy research in the United States. 

Send an e-mail to your elected officials today.  Ask them to devote more funding to food allergy research to find a cure for food allergies. Thank Senator Kohl for his support of research funding and ask him to keep up the good work. 

And sign up today as an FAI supporter.   Stay up to speed about FAI funded-research to find a cure. 

Thank you for your support!

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2 thoughts on “Guest Article on Dining Out and Food Alergies

  1. Below is a website where you can customize your own allergy cards to hand out to restaurant personnel…100% free!

    http://archive.supermarketguru.com/page.cfm/page.cfm/7512

    And I strongly reinforce the line about making sure the restaurant personnel know what’s involved in having an allergy. I’ve seen someone attempt to pick off nuts on platters because they found out someone’s had a nut allergy. They thought that since the nuts were gone, the platter was safe to pass. It’s not just the actual food product for many people, but also the residual left behind.

    Be wary – be safe.

  2. Below is a website where you can customize your own allergy cards to hand out to restaurant personnel…100% free!

    http://archive.supermarketguru.com/page.cfm/page.cfm/7512

    And I strongly reinforce the line about making sure the restaurant personnel know what’s involved in having an allergy. I’ve seen someone attempt to pick off nuts on platters because they found out someone had a nut allergy. They thought that since the nuts were gone, the platter was safe to pass. It’s not just the actual food product for many people, but also the residual left behind.

    Be wary – be safe.

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