More Than a Full Plate for People with Food Allergies

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), as many as 12 million Americans currently have a food allergy. Topping the list of most common food allergies are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy and wheat. Peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish cause most of the allergic reactions in teens and adults.

No matter what food causes the reaction, the most effective treatment for food allergies is universal: Avoid the food in any form. Those who suffer from food allergies are often vigorous in reading food labels, telling friends and coworkers and monitoring their meals. No doubt many of them would be unsettled by a recent study revealing that restaurants and restaurant workers may not understand the severity of most food allergies.

A recent U.S. News article reviewed a study, recently published in the Clinical and Experimental Allergy journal, in which scientists interviewed restaurant staff in 90 British restaurants about food allergies. The results were scary. Researchers found that only 30 percent had specific food allergy training. Despite this lack of training, over 80 percent of the staff felt confident in providing a “safe meal” to customers with food allergies. Even more disturbing, more than a third of the restaurant workers erroneously believed that people with food allergies could “drink water to dilute the allergen in the case of an allergic reaction,” and one in four workers mistakenly thought that patrons could eat a “small amount” of the allergen and be safe.

On top of that, “about one in eight of the interviewed restaurant workers didn’t realize that food allergies could cause death and 21 percent mistakenly thought they could simply remove the food allergen from the finished meal and it would be safe.”

While many advancements are being made in education the public about the danger and severity of food allergies, it is still very important for those with severe food allergies to be vigilant when dining out. When dealing with food allergies, experts recommend communicating directly with the waitstaff about what your needs are. Diners can also call or visit a restaurant ahead of time to try to determine whether or not they will be able to eat a safe meal at the establishment.

It’s important to take special care with children who have food allergies when eating out. Your child should always wear a medical alert bracelet and carry an allergy kit. Make sure that all caregivers (school administrators, teachers, friends, coaches, and babysitters):

  • Know about your child’s food allergy.
  • Can recognize the symptoms of a food allergy.
  • Know where the allergy kit is kept and how to give the epinephrine shot.
  • Know to call 911 immediately.

For more information on dining out with food allergies, you can find educational materials on the The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, in cooperation with the National Restaurant Association, website.

Source: The U.S. News “Anxiety’s on the Menu for People With Food Allergies: Study finds many restaurant workers uninformed about allergens in food, heightening fears.”

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