An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List

Whittling down my worst restaurant experiences in 2013 wasn’t easy. This says a lot about the restaurant industry not meeting the needs of those of us who require extra help ordering off a menu and some special food prep back in the kitchen.  Here’s hoping 2014 will bring more attentiveness from wait staff, restaurant owners and managers, and chefs!

Drumroll, please . . . 

10.  Halfway through eating our gluten-free meals, the waiter says to my son and me, “The stewed peaches were cooked with flour—that’s why we served them on the side.”   —Urban Grub, Nashville, TN

9.  After clearly explaining my allergies—no gluten, dairy, soy, corn—the waitress returns to the table and says, “Is it okay to cook in butter?” (To be fair, the chef did come to my table later to confirm my allergies.)  —Craftwood Inn, Manitou Springs, CO

8.  The “gluten-free” oysters are delivered with saltines on top. When I explain I cannot have any wheat touching any food due to extreme sensitivity, the waitress says, “We’ll just take them off then.” (The oysters came back from the kitchen way too fast so I didn’t eat them.) The Famous, Colorado Springs, CO

An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

 7.  I order a salad sans the cheese, croutons and candied walnuts and ask to substitute veggies for all the ingredients I can’t eat. I am charged extra for the veggies. –Every Panera Bread I’ve eaten in and most chain restaurants

6.  I order an Iced Coffee at McDonald’s. I explain I have allergies and therefore do not want cream or flavoring. The cashier charges me for an Iced Latte. I ask her to charge me for a regular coffee because that is what I get–a regular coffee with ice. The manager says they can’t do that. –-A McDonald’s somewhere on the highway between Kansas and Georgia

5.  After ordering a dairy-free sauce, I rave over the delicious gluten-free pasta and veggies. “It’s the cream that makes it taste good,” says the waiter.Eden Inn, Positano, Italy (This really happened in 2012, but it still haunts me!)

4.  The waitress, who says she has extensive allergies herself, arrives with my salad topped with cheese. I tell her the kitchen made a mistake and send it back. She leaves, turns back, and says, “Well, the dressing has cheese in it, too. Does that mean you don’t want the dressing?” Walter’s Bistro, Colorado Springs, CO

3.  Finding ordering difficult and not confident in the waiter’s understanding, I ask to speak to the chef. I am told the chef is too busy to leave the kitchen. Too many restaurants to list

Restaurants and Food Allergies

2.   During the last bite of my gluten-free and diary-free salad, I bite into a big chunk of blue cheese.  Seasons 52, Kansas City, MO

 1.  Watching a basketball game with my husband at a local sports bar, I’m excited when the bartender hands me a large gluten-free menu. I ask about the first item on the menu: Buffalo chicken wings. “Oh, you don’t want those,” she says. “They’re cooked with all the other fried foods.”  Then why are they on the gluten-free menu? “Some people just like to think they’re eating gluten-free.” Flatirons American Bar and Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

Related Posts from An Allergic Foodie

Working Together to Avoid an Allergic Reaction

Get Rid of Tipping? Those with Food Allergies Will Suffer

Food Allergies: Don’t Let Your Guard Down

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013: An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List originally appeared at www.adventruresofanallergicfoodie.com.

Working Together to Avoid an Allergic Reaction

How do you feed a conference full of food allergic people?

One of the steps The South Point in Las Vegas took for the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference was listing the ingredients in the food served in the buffet line.

Food Labeling in Buffet

This labeling made eating easy–and safe!  But such attention to detail doesn’t always happen when those of us with food allergies eat in restaurants. In fact, studies have shown:

* 24 percent of restaurant staff believe consuming small amounts of allergens are safe;

* 25 percent believe a fryer destroys allergens; and

* 25 percent believe it is safe to remove an allergen, such as shell fish or nuts, from a finished meal.

Scary, isn’t it?

Dr. Lama Rimawi, founder of Tasterie, and Nona Narvaez, founder and executive director of Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota,  offered some terrific ideas for those of us wanting to eat out and for the folks making and serving our food.

For Restaurants

*  The most important statement you can make to a food allergic person is:  I don’t know.  It’s okay if you don’t know what’s in a product used in a dish, but it’s critical to be honest.

* Training your staff.  There are three different companies that certify food allergy training.  At least one person with food allergy training should be in the restaurant when food is being prepared and served.

* Listen to your customer!  Communication is essential.

For Consumers

* If you withhold information from restaurant staff regarding your dietary restrictions, the food establishment cannot accommodate your needs.  Seems obvious, doesn’t it?  But many diners are too embarrassed to communicate their food allergies.

* A good restaurant is going to send the chef to your table.  If they don’t, ask to speak to the chef or the manager.

* If you or a loved one has a reaction, report it to the restaurant. If that initial call never gets made, there is no tracking of the allergic episode.

* The FDA Food Code is a model code that assists governmental agencies to develop their own food safety rules. The model code is produced every four years, the last one being in 2009, and takes into consideration the best of food science to keep the public safe.  To find out what your state’s regulations are, contact your state health department.

Adult Food Allergies: You Are Not Alone

Do you ever feel like you’re the only adult with food allergies?

I sure did. When I was diagnosed, I hardly knew anything about food allergies. I’d read the horrific media accounts of children dying from anaphylaxis, and several children in my sons’ classes had peanut allergies.  My hair stylist’s grandson reacted to strawberries.  But no one in my circle of friends and family had developed food allergies later in life.

I was an enigma.  Or so I thought.

Last night at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas,  I didn’t feel so alone. Kate, a thirty-something who blogs at www.theDiaryofAnaPhylaxis.com, found out about her life-threatening allergy to lentils when she ate a bowl full–she’d eaten lentils all her life and never reacted before!  More food allergies followed for Kate.

Connie, whose in midlife like me and hosts www.DailyForage-glutenfree.com, discovered her allergy to iodine when she had a medical procedure done.  Iodine is in salt and salted foods.  How difficult avoiding salt must be!

Food Allergy Bloggers Conference

As I looked around the crowded room, eating my delicious gluten-free pasta with allergen-free pesto, I watched others squint at the ingredient signs in front of the prepared foods–how fantastic is was to have the ingredients listed by the chef!  I watched as people flipped boxes over to carefully scrutinize the ingredients. The service dog perusing the room didn’t seem unusual.  The ladies surrounding me compared their medical alert bracelets and discussed the progress of epipens.

It all felt so normal.

Here’s another post about the conference.