Last month, our friends at Snack Safely reported the findings of a survey representing 1,000 food-allergic individuals in the UK.
The survey was carried out by the law firm representing the parents of Megan Lee, the 15-year-old British teen who died on New Year’s Day in 2017 after suffering a fatal anaphylactic reaction to peanuts.
Nearly 60% of survey respondents had experienced an allergic reaction either from take-out or at a restaurant. Following the reaction, respondents reported that they managed their symptoms in the following ways:
· 30% managed their reaction with medication (e.g., epinephrine)
· 10% needed a doctor/medical attention
· 7% needed emergency hospital treatment
Shockingly, over half of the individuals who experienced an allergic reaction indicated they weren’t taken seriously or were ignored by restaurant staff.
To make matters worse, 42% of the 1,000 respondents said they no longer eat out or order take-out food to avoid the risk of another reaction, and 6% of these individuals said they take their own food to restaurants.
Dining out with food allergies is a two-way street: customers hope that the restaurant will take proper precautions when serving food-allergic patrons; restaurants hope that customers will alert the waitstaff and kitchen staff, and carry emergency medications. The data shows, however, that many restaurants are poorly equipped to accommodate food allergies—although that’s starting to change with greater awareness and education.
In light of the above risks, our team compiled a list of best practices when dining out with food allergies:
· Check the menu online ahead of time to identify a couple potentially safe dishes to discuss with waitstaff
· Ask to talk to a manager upon arrival so all serving staff is aware
· Call ahead to alert the restaurant of your food allergy
· Provide a chef card with your allergens that can be presented to the cook—this is especially useful to have in foreign languages when traveling abroad
· Stick with familiar dishes with few ingredients to ensure the label-checking process is smooth and error-free
· Double check with the server when your food arrives at the table before digging in as a second touch point
· Ensure your emergency medications are on-hand in case of accidental exposure
· Know where the closest hospital is in case of an emergency
· Don’t dine alone—alert your friends/family who are with you about your allergies
· Trust your gut—if you don’t feel safe or heard, don’t eat there
Our team is working hard to bring to market a supplemental management tool for individuals with food allergies to help take the worry off your plate! In the meantime, the above list is a good one to follow.
Have you experienced an allergic reaction after being ensured your dish was safe? If so, please share your story with our community!
– Meg and the Allergy Amulet Team