Ever imagine what it would be like if you didn't get an upset stomach/symptoms after eating out at restaurants with food allergies? (Or food intolerances, sensitivities or other food related diseases that affect your daily diet?)
Is anyone else ever thinking about how scary it is to eat outside of your home? Not knowing exactly what is in your food? Has eating out ever made you wonder if you'll have any symptoms and if so, which ones? Rash? Hives? Indigestion? Swollen lips, eyes, throat? Or fear the worst - will this restaurant be my last meal? Could I possibly die eating here?
This is what it feels like every time you eat out with food allergies. We need to educate others without food allergies, more than ever, especially with allergies and intolerances on the rise. We need less discriminating and confused restaurant staff and more determination to figure out how to prepare food safely for all.
We need kindness, and protocols.
Allergy Safe Card helps bring this idea into ACTION.
I created this card out of sheer necessity when I was eating out at restaurants with family, friends or going on dates. It was nearly impossible to not feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and not understood. Constantly wondering if the server heard my allergies accurately and/or even wrote them down correctly. Wondering if the front of the house (wait staff) knew to tell the back of the house (kitchen staff) to change their gloves, wash utensils and other things to make it safe for me to eat there. And not being able to enjoy my time before, during, or after dinner.
Now that everyone is suffering from this terrible pandemic, it gives me a small glimpse of hope that more change in the restaurant industry will be coming. Now hear me out...yes, this pandemic is not. cool. and I do not condone anyone who disses the pandemic or thinks it's not real. This virus is real, deadly to some, and not worth it for anyone to get it. Longterm effects are still unknown and flare ups are a real thing with any virus...[okay, rant over], so, yes, it's terrible, but I have hope because almost all restaurants had to shut down (or were supposed to at some point or another) and NO ONE can enjoy eating out; everyone is experiencing the awkwardness of this pandemic, along with washing hands & surfaces frequently, and being sure not to touch eyes, nose, mouth -- I hope more people will realize and empathize with people who suffer from food allergies because THIS IS WHAT WE LIVE WITH ON A DAILY BASIS - and that doesn't include the whole part where if you eat, inhale or touch a certain type of food/foods, you could get really sick and die. We have to be so careful of the food we touch, taste, smell, or cosmetics we put on our skin/hair or it could send us to the hospital...or our final resting place. [Pre-Mid-Post-Covid] We can't just go out and eat where ever we please. There is so much caution that goes into everyday to remain safe in our personal lives. And ordering food to go is quite a scary feat. We call and let them know of our allergens, but how can we really tell if they are taking it seriously and preparing our food safely? We need more protocols in place!
Which brings me to my next point. If people can get it done at home...why aren't more restaurants getting it done? According to Characteristics of Food Allergic Reactions in United States Restaurants, recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and co-authored by FARE Medical Advisor, Dr. Thomas Casale, dining out is the second most common location for a food allergic reaction to occur (after one's home)...and 53.9% occurred despite the restaurant being made aware of the customers' allergens, 26.6% occurred when allergens were declared on the menu and 13.7% occurred when allergens were declared on the menu and restaurant staff were informed of a food allergy. So what can restaurants do to change this culture where deaths are occurring and that can be avoided?
What Restaurants Can Do:
(These are just some of my ideas that I hope come into fruition with lots of hard work, determination, and spreading education on the subject via word of mouth/the internet - that's you, do your part too!)
1. Use stickers on to-go orders that show the restaurant made note of customers' allergies and chef/manager signs off to signify food was prepared properly and safely.
2.Train all staff properly with a certified Allergen Training Program such as FARE Training, ServSafe®, California Food Allergy Training Course.
3. List all allergens clearly on their menu and be sure all staff are aware of what allergens are on menu.
4. Show all customers they are accepted without discrimination by advertising they accept Allergy Safe Card and people with food allergies.
5. Designate a specific work station in the kitchen area for Top 8 (hopefully soon Top 9) allergens with special pots/pans/utensils.
6. Use allergy toothpicks that clearly show that allergens have been taken into account and the dish has been prepared safely.
I looked into getting these printed, but they aren't as cost effective as I had originally thought. I think if restaurants can get a taste of how effective they are, they will either purchase them or create them themselves...and either way create the change we are all craving in the restaurant industry. If you'd like to be a part of this change, please contribute to my GoFundMe. I highly appreciate your support and am forever grateful for those who care about making a difference in the life of others and in the world of Food Allergies. I mean, I would certainly be a repeat customer at a restaurant if they took this level of precaution when preparing my to go order (thanks, COVID!). Who else is with me?
Eat & Stay Safe