Whether you are newly diagnosed with food allergies, or lived with food allergies for some time, eating out can be daunting, and stressful. The list below is an aid to help you to cope better, at no point should you feel unsafe or a burden.
If you go somewhere and the service is good or outstanding, please give back feedback to head office. If you go somewhere and you had a reaction, felt unsafe or disrespected, either get in contact with head office or Food Standards Agency which one is applicable or both. Either good or bad feedbacks helps companies to see where they are doing it right or wrongly, also it keeps other people safe.
- Alcohol can influence your decisions; you might be less wary and less cautious. Also, keep to alcohol that you know you are safe with as some can have allergens in e.g., traces of milk in non-vegan wines as some are filtered through milk, or nuts like amaretto.
- Peer pressure from family, friends, or work colleagues, do not eat something because you feel forced to.
- Do not eat something because you do not want to feel a burden.
- Always carry your medication and your adrenaline auto-injector with you.
- Be advised if kissing especially couples that an allergen can stay in the salvia for several hours and cross contamination can occur.
- Do not share food, utensils, cups, glasses so on.
- Do not experiment with new foods.
- Think about what alcohol you are drinking as some drinks are filtered through fish shells or milk. Take your own alcohol you know that you are safe with.
- Have you or are you feeling under the weather? as this can influence your rection.
- Tell some immediately if you feel unwell or have symptoms.
- If you have symptoms do not go to toilet on your own
- If you want fresh air and have symptoms, ask someone to go with you.
- Call ahead and ask to speak to the manager. If you have spoken to the restaurant, beforehand ask if that member of staff will be working the night that you will be in.
- Ask for the table to be cleaned again just in case of cross contamination.
- Do you need a translation card? (Coming soon)
- Wear your identification alert e.g., bracelet or other jewellery.
- Communicate with the staff at the restaurant.
- Ask for the allergen menu.
- Look online for allergen information.
- Whoever is booking make sure that booking has notes on about allergy and which allergens.
- Make sure the restaurant caters for your allergy, it would be horrible to turn up and be refused to be served.
- Do not feel embarrassed if must ask for another member of staff if the member of staff you are talking to is not understanding your requirements.
- Avoid sharing dishes and set menus if the rest of the guests is doing so.
- Keep your meal choice simple.
- Avoid fried food as the grill and frying oil are ripe for cross contamination, avoid unless you know this has been cooked in separate fryer or grill.
- Be careful with deserts and these could have unexpected allergens especially homemade desserts.
- If you have seen the menu pre plan your meal but check on the day just in case ingredients has been changed.
- Salad bars are a high risk of contamination – if you ask the restaurant, they are likely to get you a salad from the kitchen that has not been contaminated.
- Think seriously about all you can eat buffets, as cross contamination is a greater risk.
- Speak to people with allergies to see who they recommend restaurants but bear in mind each time will be different e.g., different ingredient, different staff, there are always variables that can make a dining out experience safe or hazardous.
- Look for reviews online.
- Ask, if possible, a certain meal can have an item removed.
- If your meal comes out with the allergen on the plate return the food, do not attempt eating as there could be contamination on the plate or food. When returning to the kitchen ask for a complete fresh meal and clean plate.
- Chain restaurants are more likely to use the same ingredients.
- Try to choose a time for a meal that is a quieter and the kitchens are not so busy.
- Try to choose a restaurant you have been to before, so the staff know you.
- Always have your mobile phone with you
- Always ask for the ingredients for sauces or dressings.
- If you do not feel confident that the food will be safe, or not that you feel that you are being taken seriously then be prepared to tell them that you are unable to eat there and leave.
- If your friends want to stay, have a drink, and enjoy the company and eat later when it is safe for you to do so.
- Read the law and restaurants and providing allergen information. (see link below)
- Do the people you are going out with know about your allergies? Tell people about your symptoms and treatment.
- Exercise can cause allergic reactions to be more severe.
- Think about going somewhere you have been before, but do not expect the same service, as other variables e.g., different ingredients, different staff so on
- Some foods are going to be higher risks e.g., International cuisines.
- If this going to be a party, ask if you can have the contact details and speak to the supplier beforehand to see if they can do allergen free options for you and ask about their cross-contamination policy. If feel unsafe maybe the option of taking your own food so you do not miss out on the celebrations
- Recheck with service staff that the meal that been brought out to you is that allergen free you asked for.
- If it is your child with a food allergy, ask them to tell you as soon as possible if they feel funny, tingly lips – you know your own child’s symptoms and their language/terminology be guided by them.
- If it is your child with food allergy, maybe bring some snacks if there are items you cannot order off the menu for them.
- Allow your child to be involved with their food allergies while ordering food as this will give them good skills in the future.
- Ice cream parlours, in store bakeries, and delicatessens foods are usually unlabelled, always ask for ingredients. Also be mindful of cross contamination, same utensils being used, same trays, and food touching each other.
- If your meal has been brought out wrongly or that you suspect the meal contains allergens, ask for a replacement but hold on to your meal until a new meal is prepared and brought to you. Holding on to your meal stops food being brushed off, picked off, and the plate will be a clean plate.
- Even if you go to a restaurant regularly, inform the staff of your allergy each visit.
- Because you had a dish once with no issues, the dish will be safe each visit, the ingredients might vary.
- Because the allergen is not visual in a dish, that the dish does not contain it.
- Be polite but firm, making sure you communicate your needs clearly.
- Restaurants can do everything required related to an allergy, and then make a mistake by adding garnishes that have allergens in, always check food before eating.
- Ask if the bread/pasta/desserts are made in the kitchen or is it pre-packaged with an ingredient label and ask if you can see the label.
- Always remember you can minimise the risk, but it can never be removed because of cross contamination and traces.
- Be prepared to wait a little longer as your meal is being prepared, as the staff might have to clean areas to limit cross contamination. You may be served first or last on your table, as they are keeping the meals separate.
- If staff are wearing gloves, ask that they change gloves.
- Some restaurants have lower lighting, if your meal is placed in front of you and you cannot see it, use your mobile as a torch.
If you have had a brilliant meal and reaction free.
- Contact the management via letter or email to say thank you.
- Contact head office and send feedback.
- Place reviews online.
- Contact British Food Allergy Awareness, so we can share the review as a praiseworthy company.
If you have a reaction and the food is prepared by a business
- If you have a reaction, if possible, ask someone to get a sample of the food and hold on to it, then this can be investigated if a crime has been made. Do not do this if this will hinder the treatment of your reaction. Once reaction is over double wrap in clean bags or cling film and freeze.
- Report the incident, with the Food Standards Agency which will be passed onto the environment Health or Trading Standards of the local authority where business is registered. Include names, if possible, time, food, date and mention that if you have a sample of food.
- If you have witnesses ask them to write down the incident, if they remember what you eaten, where it took place, when it took place, about your reaction. When reporting mention, you have these reports too.
- If you want to claim for compensation, then this would be best after the local authority has done their investigation and findings. It should be advised to get legal representation.
Examples of good menus and signs
Eating out and the law
Prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) allergen labelling changes for restaurants, cafés and pubs FSA
If you have a food allergy or intolerance, it is important that you have the information you need to make safe food choices.
If you are eating out, or preparing your own food, there are allergen labelling and information laws that require food businesses to provide you with information about what is in your food. (text Food Standards Agency)
Article 14 of the EC General Food Law Regulation prohibits unsafe food from being placed on the market. In determining if a food is unsafe, consideration must be given “to the information provided to the consumer, including information on the label, or other information generally available to the consumer concerning the avoidance of specific adverse health effects from a particular food or category of foods.”
Article 16 of the Regulation requires that the labelling, advertising, and presentation of food, including the information made available, should not mislead consumers.
Section 14 of the Food Safety Act 1990 makes it an offence for anyone to sell to the purchaser’s prejudice, any food which is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser.
Food Law Food Standards Agency
These lists are guidance only, and not fully extensive, people are advised that it is the responsibility of the individual when using this information.
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