Don't let food allergies ruin a night out

While the average American family eats out fairly frequently, for the growing number of people who suffer from life-threatening food allergies dining out is often a rare treat.When even a crumb-sized piece of food can trigger a potentially fatal reaction, it can be very difficult to find a restaurant that can safely accommodate your needs. Linda Coss, author of "How to Manage Your Child's Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips for Everyday Life," provides the following recommendations for dining out with food allergies. Beware of the Dangers of Cross-Contamination - From the food allergy perspective, one of the biggest problems with food prepared in a restaurant setting is the cross-contamination between different dishes that can take place in the restaurant kitchen. If you react to minute quantities of an allergen, your food is likely to require special handling by the restaurant staff. Avoid High-Risk Situations - Some restaurants have a particularly high risk of cross-contamination, and are often best avoided altogether. Depending on what allergens you're avoiding, this can include buffets and self-service salad bars (for most allergies); Asian restaurants (for nut, wheat, soy and fish allergies); African, Thai and Indian restaurants (for nut allergies); bakers (for nut, milk, egg and wheat allergies); seafood restaurants (for fish or shellfish allergies); and ice cream shops (for nut, milk, egg and wheat allergies). Bring Your Emergency Medication - When your family first arrives at a restaurant, check to be sure that you have your emergency medication (for use in case an allergic reaction should occur) with you. If it is not with you, do not stay at the restaurant. Avoid Busy Times and Holidays - Avoid going to restaurants during their busiest hours or during their busiest days, when the staff will not have time to properly deal with your special needs. Speak to the Chef or Manager - Find out exactly what ingredients are in the suggested menu item. Then ask about the ingredients of any other foods that the dish might come into contact with during the preparation process (i.e., what else is made on that grill, cut at that station, fried in that oil, flipped over with that spatula, etc.). Discuss everything in detail, and be sure the restaurant understands that the allergies can be fatal. Order Plain, Simply Foods - Avoid sauces, gravies, filling and so forth unless you are completely sure of their ingredients. "Dining out with food allergies is certainly a challenge," explains Coss. "The secret to success is advance planning plus clear communication with the appropriate members of the restaurant staff." Linda Coss is also the author of two popular food allergy cookbooks, "What's to Eat?" and "What Else to Eat?," both of which provide recipes for cooking without dairy, egg, peanut, or tree nut ingredients. All three books are available at

********** Published: April 17, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 52

HealthEric Pierce