Friday, October 1, 2010

Eating out is not fun.

I would love to go into a restaurant and feel comfortable ordering a meal for my family.  This is one of the most stressful things I have dealt with as a parent of a child with life threatening food allergies.  I can't tell you how many times we have asked if the chicken fingers and french fries in a restaurant have milk  in them and are told they do not.  After asking to look at the label on the box of chicken fingers and french fries, we find out that they do actually have milk proteins, like whey in the chicken breading or parmesan cheese on the french fries.

We usually feel like we are playing russian roulette when we go out to eat.  Even if we have checked and double checked with the waitstaff, talked to the chef and read labels on boxes, I sit there and watch my son eat and hope that no mistakes were made in the kitchen, that there was no cross-contamination and that we read the labels carefully enough and didn't miss anything.

The Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act that came into effect January 1, 2006 made reading labels much easier for people trying and needing to avoid major food allergens.  Wouldn't it be nice if restaurants had to follow this same practice.  It is appalling to me that with allergies on the rise that people in the food service business do not take this issue as seriously as they should.  It would certainly increase business for an establishment to be a trusted allergy aware restaurant.  It would be so much less nerve-wracking to go out to eat, if we could look at a menu and feel confident that what we were about to order didn't have any life threatening surprises.  At the very least, it would be helpful to have someone in a restaurant available to speak to who fully understood the impact of the questions being asked and could say with confidence that the food is or is not safe.

1 comment:

  1. Over the last 9 years, I’ve grown very comfortable eating out with my son (he has a nut allergy.) This all changed when we moved to the UK two months ago. I was told that allergies were handled very well here and that everyone was aware. This may be the case, but I’ve found that the system is beyond confusing and therefore, fairly ineffective. Yes, food is labeled in the grocery stores but every label ends with a disclaimer that basically states, “we can not guarantee it is safe for anyone with food allergies.” So in our case, even if it states that no nuts were used in the manufacture of the product, you can still not feel safe feeding it to your child. The same holds true in all restaurants. I have asked to read labels but with little success. Yes, we can stay home but we’ve always strived to live normally and not let my son’s food allergy prevent us from doing things as a family. As a parent, you are left making gut decisions and holding your breath in hopes that they’re the right ones.