A survey of people with food allergies who dine out successfully has found they employ a number of strategies.
Those who never had an allergic reaction in a restaurant tended to use an average of 15 strategies to avoid allergens, while those who have had a reaction tended to use only six different strategies before suffering a problem, researchers at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital in Ohio found.
Family members spend a lot of time reading labels and reducing chances of cross contamination in the home, but it is more difficult to prevent unintentional exposures in restaurants due to poor understanding of food allergy, miscommunication, and possible cross contamination of ingredients.
The research team surveyed 39 people with food allergies, 19 of whom had suffered an allergic reaction while dining in restaurants. Based on the responses, the researchers compiled a list of 25 strategies that diners use.
Top 5 strategies
- Speak to waiter on arrival (80 percent)
- Order food with simple ingredients (77 percent)
- Double-check food before eating (77 percent)
- Avoid restaurants with higher likelihood of cross-contamination (74%)
- Review ingredients on a restaurant website (72 percent)
- Place food allergy order separately (23%)
- Use a personal allergy card or chef card (26 percent)
- No longer eat at restaurants (39 percent)
- Choose a chain restaurant (41 percent)
- Go to restaurants during off-peak hours (44 percent).
Using more strategies before going out to eat and while dining may help prevent food allergy reactions. Experts advise to always bring an epinephrine device when going out to eat.
Several of the identified preventive strategies feature proactive, clear communication between the patient/family and the restaurant staff.
The takeaway from the study may be that there are two kinds of diners with food allergies: those who take lots of precautions and those who have not yet had their first reaction.
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