04 January 2014

Dining Tips for a Food Allergic

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Eating out

Some people with severe food allergies feel it is too risky to eat out, but some food facilities have good allergy controls in place and can offer accurate ingredient information.  

By taking care and asking direct questions, you won’t have to be denied the pleasure of going out for a meal.
Some helpful tips for eating out:
  • Call the restaurant in advance. Ask whether they will help you choose a suitable meal.
  • If a group is dining out, bring a snack from home for the food allergic to start eating while their meal is being prepared.  (It could take longer than normal.)  This will give the staff time to be extra careful without having to watch everyone else eat.  
  • Be clear in explaining the risks and how serious the food allergy is.  
  • Question staff very directly.  It may be necessary to speak to a Manager or Chef when possible.
  • If something looks suspicious, or if the information you have been given seems inadequate, don’t be embarrassed to mention it and find out more.
  • People who are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts often choose to avoid Thai, Chinese and Indian restaurants altogether.
  • If you have multiple food allergies, have them written down in your phone or on a chef card. Having chef cards in multiple languages can be very helpful. (Include latex if you have a latex allergy, to ensure latex gloves and instruments are not being used in the kitchen) (https://www.brokerfish.com/food-allergy-translation-cards)
These are examples of "Chef Cards"










Cooking

Preparing food for someone with a severe food allergy can be challenging, but managing the risk is a matter of common sense.
Sometimes it is impossible to ban certain foods from public food facilities therefore, be scrupulous about keeping risky foods apart from the safe ones by practicing these techniques. 
  • Wash your hands before preparing a food allergics meal. We don't recommend latex gloves be used due to high number of people diagnosed with latex allergy.  
  • Use separate cutlery, chopping boards and utensils to prevent cross-contact.  Purple is the recognized allergen friendly color in the kitchen. You can purchase safe kits online or from a distributor like Sysco or US Foodservice. 
  • Use plenty of hot, soapy water to clean the area around where food is being prepped.
  • Avoid splatters and spillages by covering food up.
  • If you are a food facility that caters to the public it is a good idea to have all ingredients and sub-ingredients listed. If you don't use an electronic system such as AllerSmartMenu then keep updating an ingredient book. You never know when someone is going to come in who has a food allergy or food intolerance. If you are unsure what ingredients are in a product and need a quick reference, you may also use Fooducate.com


Shopping

  • Food labeling laws state that food companies must always declare the presence of 8 major allergens when they appear in pre-packed food (Milk, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Shellfish, Fish, Soy, Wheat (not gluten) and Egg).   The place where they must appear is the ingredient list.  
  • People with food allergies must read the ingredient list every time they buy a product, even if they have bought it before.  Recipes sometimes change and no notice is given. 
  • Warning labels stating that a product “may contain” a particular allergen, such as nuts, are infuriating because they limit choice and make shopping complicated, but often these warnings are there for a reason because of the risks of cross-contamination during the production chain.  Don’t ignore these warnings.  You may eat a product numerous times without having a reaction but the next time you may not be so lucky.  Cross-contamination can be intermittent.


  • Be careful of the words "Natural flavoring" and "Spices" if you have a food allergy that is not one of the Big 8, as many people who have been diagnosed with multiple food allergies now have a list that goes far beyond the big 8. 
    Food Allergy Gal to the Rescue
  • Shopping for food is going to take much longer than normal, always. Once you become familiar with a store and certain products it will become easier but it will also take a lot of creativity to adjust and modify meals. 
For a list of alternative cooking products or to customize recipes, 
please contact a Food Allergy Gal, AllerCoach. 


4 comments:

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  2. Thanks for sharing some helpful tips for eating out with us. New Orleans Bar and Grill provides catering services in Greensboro, NC.
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  3. I have allergies to peanuts and fish, and it makes it pretty difficult when I go out to eat with my family. Everyone else in my family always wants to get seafood. My allergies are sensitive enough that they act up when I eat anything that was prepared on the same surface as sea food. I think that these tips are really useful. http://advanced-allergy.com

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