What’s on the Menu? Food Allergy Sufferers Want to Know.
Dining out is usually an opportunity for discovering new foods, meeting friends and family and having a good time. But for people with food allergies it can be more stressful than entertaining. Knowing what kinds of food to avoid because of what might be ‘hidden’ in the recipe is a must, not an option.
Fortunately eateries and restaurants are fast becoming more attuned with the needs of their food allergic guests. There’s even an app for ‘Allergy Friendly Restaurants.’
In an effort to help restaurant management get up to speed on food allergies, FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) offers two comprehensive national training programs. These programs help restaurant personnel become more food allergy aware, and are offered in partnership with the National Restaurant Association and MenuTrinfo.
FARE’s SafeFare program offers tools that help create a safer dining experience – including “Find a Restaurant,” a searchable database of allergy aware restaurants. Once restaurant employees complete the ServSafe® Allergens Online Course or AllerTrain™ classes, they can sign up at SafeFare.
Asian and Indian cuisine can be the most challenging because peanuts are used in so many of the recipes. However, peanuts can be hidden in Mexican and Italian food, too. Even “Georgia Ham” is coated with peanut butter prior to cooking. Understanding what the ingredients are that go into the recipe is of utmost importance. If you need to speak with the cook or chef, do so. It’s not uncommon to make this request and restaurant owners and managers would rather you do so than have an emergency situation on their hands.
It’s also important to be aware that there are other names for your offending hidden foods. Sometimes products used by chefs — such as mixes for sauces or dressings — list ingredients by alternate names. So if you’re going to request that something is left out of a dish, it’s vital to know the alternate names for hidden foods including derivatives under which your allergen may be listed.
Peanut allergy is not the only nemesis of food allergy sufferers. People with tree nut allergy, egg allergy, milk allergy, wheat allergy and more are among the 15 million who must take caution about what’s on the menu when dining out.
Bottom line: don’t be shy about asking questions. Some organized planning at the onset can avoid stress and potential problems. Call ahead and ask about the restaurant’s menu. Ask them if they provide a food-allergy friendly fare. You’ll find that most restaurants are very happy to accommodate you.