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Eating Out

Allergic Living’s Guide to Smart Dining with Food Allergies

The surge in our ranks has also grabbed the attention of state legislators. In 2008, Massachusetts passed a groundbreaking law for food allergy management in restaurants, the second phase of which came into effect in February 2011. The state’s restaurants are now required to: display a food allergy awareness poster in the employees’ area; add a notice on menus requesting that patrons “inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy”; and have an NRA-certified food protection manager on site who has watched FAAN’s allergy training video. One final piece of the law still being hammered out would allow restaurants to receive a “Food Allergy Friendly” designation.

Chris Weiss, former vice president of advocacy and government relations for FAAN, notes that New York also has a law in the works. It calls for the state to provide educational materials for restaurant employees on the health risks of food allergies, the issue of cross-contact in the kitchen, and how to respond to an allergic reaction. Legislation related to restaurants and food allergy has been introduced in Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Hawaii. In Canada, there are no restaurant allergy laws, but awareness within the industry is growing. Across the continent, positive change is on the menu.

Yet for all the progress, many people with food allergies or celiac disease remain too unnerved by restaurant kitchens to dine out. In my work as an allergy coach, I often counsel those who have been shunning restaurants altogether because of paralyzing fear or past scary experiences. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Here’s the way in: Recognize that your fear is real and valid. Part of dining out is entrusting your health to someone else, and that is daunting. Mistakes can happen – so arrive prepared. The fact is, you can decrease your overall risk and increase your dining out fun. Most of the tools you’ll need you already have in some form: communication, common sense, preparation and trusting your instincts. Read on for some of my best nuanced strategies, and you’ll be dining out safely and often.

Sloane Miller is an author, award-winning blogger and advocate who coaches food-allergic individuals and consults with government and the restaurant industry. Miller, who has had food allergies since childhood, has just published her first book – Allergic Girl: Living Well with Food Allergies. Learn more about her at www.allergicgirl.com.

First published in Allergic Living magazine.
© Copyright AGW Publishing Inc.

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Related Reading: Step-by-step guide to eating out safely. [Read more]

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