The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today issued valuable advice for when eating out to anyone with food allergies. Almost three quarters of allergic reactions to food happen when people eat out. Following their simple guidelines will help to keep allergy sufferers safe:

  • Firstly, let the person taking your restaurant booking know about your food allergy or intolerance. Ask them to check with the chef if they can provide you with a meal that doesn’t contain the food or ingredient you react to.
  • Secondly, make sure the waiting staffs know about your allergy or intolerance and how serious it is. Make sure they write it down and give the written information to the chef to avoid verbal messages being forgotten.
  • Thirdly, read the menu carefully to see if there is any mention of the food you react to in the name or description of a dish. If the staff don’t seem sure that the dish is free from that food, it’s better to ask them to check with the chef or to order something else.
  • Finally and very importantly, if you are not confident that the restaurant and their staff understand how important it is for you to avoid a particular food or ingredient, it’s probably better to eat somewhere else.

These may all sound obvious, but following this advice not only increases safety at the time, it also raises awareness amongst restaurant staff and ensures that they have the opportunity to let you know if they cannot meet your needs.

As the FSA mentions, it is always worth remembering that recipes differ between restaurants and foods that have been safe in one establishment cannot be relied on to be safe in another without checking and making sure. Dishes that are made using ingredients without allergens can become cross-contaminated by coming into contact with other foods. Asking restaurant staff to ensure this doesn't happen isn't being awkward, it is being responsible and it will help to keep you safe.

Click here for the FSA booklet ‘Buying Food When You Have a Food Allergy of Food Intolerance’.

By Gilly Weaver | 1st February 2013