How to Eat Out Safely When You Have a Food Allergy
If you have a food allergy, a little advance planning can keep you safe the next time you go to a restaurant. Follow these tips to make sure you're served a trouble-free meal.
Research. Call ahead to the restaurant. See if the kitchen can your handle your needs. Check out the menu online. The SafeFARE website can help you find restaurants that are "allergy-aware," which means the staff has training in food allergies.
Choose cuisine carefully. Certain allergy triggers are more likely in some types of food. Thai and Chinese restaurants, for example, often use peanut oil. Anything you order in a seafood restaurant has a higher risk of being contaminated with fish or shellfish.
Eat during off-hours. Try not to go to a restaurant when it's crowded. It's harder to talk to the manager or chef during busy times. The kitchen staff is more likely to make a mistake when things are hectic.
Be prepared for emergencies. If you have severe allergies, always have two epinephrine injection kits (such as Auvi-Q or EpiPen) with you when you eat out.
Talk to the Staff
Don't be embarrassed. There's nothing awkward or rude about explaining your allergy or making special requests. Most restaurants deal with food allergies all the time.
Be up-front. The first time the waiter comes to your table, explain that you have a condition. Make clear that even a tiny amount of the food could make you sick. If you need to, speak to the manager or chef directly.
Have info to give out. Some people carry cards to hand out that have a brief explanation of their food allergy for the kitchen staff.
Ask about cross contamination. Make sure your food won't come into contact with whatever you're allergic to in the kitchen. Ask that the chef use a clean skillet and utensils and fresh oil.
If you're not completely confident, leave. Go somewhere else if you don't think the waiter understood you, or that the food is prepared as you expected. There's no way you'll have a good time if you're worrying.