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Food Allergies

Suitcase Study: Visiting Disney

Judy Van Driel and her 10-year-old daughter Claire, who is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, have also tried out Disney’s allergy awareness. In April 2000, the pair from Toronto joined dad Theo on a last-minute trip to California. “We were very careful and asked lots of questions, but I don’t recall nuts being an issue in California at all,” says Van Driel.

So she was surprised when, on a 2003 trip to Disney World, she saw staff tossing almonds and pecans into salads. “Perhaps it wasn’t fair to be surprised,” she says. “There’s no reason to think the world should be designed for us.”

Fair or not, Van Driel had expected Disney World would be more cautious. Schaefer agrees that nuts, a favourite of the south, are used loose in some Disney restaurants. But if a guest has called ahead, a family will be warned to steer clear of those places. Shaefer also reminds guests to be patient: some kitchens at the resort serve as many as 40 people a day with special dietary needs.

Canadian attractions?

Disney has cultivated a niche as an allergy-smart destination. But do any Canadian attractions go to such lengths? It was hard to find out, as many amusement parks are closed for the season.

Toronto’s Ontario Place can’t guarantee an allergy-free environment, but restaurants there keep ingredient lists for all food, use oils unlikely to cause reactions, and avoid cross-contamination. Guests are allowed to bring their own food into the park, and a first-aid team is on site.

The West Edmonton Mall, which houses indoor amusement park Galaxyland, has more difficulty controlling allergens because some kiosks in the park are tenants. “We don’t have control over it in the same way,” says mall spokesperson Kim Evans.

The Verdict

Clowes says her family’s trips to Disney aren’t just great for the safe food, but for receiving VIP treatment. So if you’re seeking an allergy-sensitive family excursion, Disney might just be your best bet.
First published in Allergic Living magazine, Winter 2007

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.