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Eating Out With Food Allergies

If you or a family member has a serious food allergy, going to a restaurant can be a challenge. Here’s how to make dining out safer, simpler, and more enjoyable.

Plan Ahead

  • Choose cuisine carefully. Certain allergic triggers are more likely in some types of food. Thai and Chinese restaurants 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 eat when a restaurant is 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 Epi-Pen) 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 upfront. The first time the waiter comes to your table, explain that you have a food allergy. 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 -- like Chef Cards -- which have a brief explanation of their food allergy for the kitchen staff.
  • Ask about cross contamination. Make sure that 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. If you don’t think the waiter understood you, or that the food is prepared as you expected, go somewhere else. There's no way you'll have a good time if you're worrying.

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