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Dining Safely: Managing Food Allergies in Restaurants

 Posted on July 25, 2023 in Uncategorized


For many patrons, visiting their favorite restaurant is a memorable and enjoyable experience. However, for individuals with food sensitivities, a seemingly ordinary meal can trigger a severe allergic reaction, leading to compromised health, a lawsuit, and a lifetime of trauma haunting every dining experience in the future.

According to a report by FARE (Food Allergy and Research Education), approximately 15 million US citizens have food allergies, and a person is brought to the emergency room every 3 minutes due to a food allergic reaction. The statistics become notably concerning when taking into account that approximately one-third of our calorie intake is derived from meals consumed outside the home. Thus, to make your dining out experience safer and worry-free, we have created a complete guide on how to manage food allergies in restaurants. Keep reading to learn five tips on dining safely with a food allergy.

1. Select Your Restaurant Carefully

Start by asking your family or friends and searching online for restaurants that cater to food allergy needs. Choose a diner that best fits your requirements. An easy way to do this is to avoid the high-risk choices:

● Bakeries: Most of the baked goods are made using one or more allergens; soybeans, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, eggs, and milk.

● Buffets: The wide variety of food can tempt an individual to forget about their food allergy and eat something that can trigger a reaction.

● Restaurant Serving Allergy Dishes: In a pan-Asian restaurant, most items will be made using nuts and peanuts. A seafood restaurant will have meals related to fish only.  

● Eateries Serving Ready-to-Eat Food: The staff might not have information about the ingredients. Hence, it's impossible to get a customized meal.

Simply put, select chain restaurants, as all of them prepare food in the same way and only eat in places that follow the right food preparation practices.

2. Always Plan Ahead

Although you can communicate your food allergies upon reaching the diner, it is always wise to call the manager beforehand. Ask these questions:

● What are your peak hours?

● Do you accept an A&AA Chef Card?

● What safety measures do you take to prevent cross-contamination?

● What dishes are free from food allergens?

● What is your food allergy policy?

● Can you share the restaurant's food preparation process?

● Do you provide customers with a list of ingredients?

Provide the manager or chef with your food allergies and dining preferences when eating out. Favor sautéed or baked dishes to minimize shared utensils. Ensure all ingredients and garnishes are checked for hidden allergens. After agreeing with the chef on the appropriate meal, it is advisable to record the details and take them with you to the restaurant. Informing the manager or chef about your dining date and time is also recommended to ensure they are prepared and available to cater to your dietary needs.

3. Remind the Staff or Chef on Arrival

After arriving at the eatery, notify the wait staff, chef, or manager about your food allergy and present your chef card. Inquire whether there is a notation regarding your dietary requirements on your reservation. This will help verify if your information was adequately communicated. If not, remain calm and politely request that they inform the manager or chef about your food allergy.

Don't be embarrassed and ask the staff what ingredients are used to prepare the dish and how it is prepared. Cross-contamination happens when two meals are made using the same utensils. For example, although you may not be allergic to potatoes, eating French fries fried in the same oil or pan as fish can cause an allergic reaction. Lastly, ensure the manager understands that even the slightest amount of allergen can result in anaphylactic shock.  

4. Choose a Simple Meal

Ordering a basic dish such as broiled chicken, steamed vegetables, or baked potatoes is the best way to minimize the risk of an allergy reaction in a restaurant. Be cautious when considering fried food options and only order if they have been prepared following proper safety measures, as the grill and frying oil commonly harbor cross-contact risks. Desserts can also contain hidden allergens. So, if you have the slightest doubt, refrain from ordering.

5. Be Prepared and Pay Attention

Always carry two EpiPens when dining out, no matter how careful you have been. This will protect you in case of an allergic reaction. Follow these tips to ensure a safe dining out experience:

● Check the cleanliness of the table and chairs to ensure a sanitized seating area.

● Servers should not be involved in preparing your meal to avoid cross-contamination.

● Ensure the person delivering your meal is someone you've spoken with to avoid mix-ups.

● Plates should be delivered separately to prevent contact with allergens from other dishes.

● Confirm your order and listen for any unexpected ingredients or cooking techniques.

● Inspect your plate for accuracy and inquire about anything that seems amiss.

● Don't hesitate to send the food back if you feel uncomfortable or detect any issues.

Fight for Your Rights with Newland & Newland LLP

Whether you have suffered from food poisoning or a severe food allergic reaction after dining out at a restaurant, Newland & Newland LLP has your back. Our team of highly experienced food poisoning attorneys is dedicated to fighting for your rights and holding negligent parties accountable for their actions.

Your health and well-being are our top priorities, and we will tirelessly advocate on your behalf. Don't suffer in silence—let Newland & Newland LLP stand by your side and fight for justice in Arlington Heights, Chicago, Libertyville, Crystal Lake, Joliet, and Itasca. Call us now to schedule a free consultation, and let us help you pursue the compensation you deserve.


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