Dining Out with Food Allergies
Dining out with food allergies can be a risky business. You don’t know for sure what comes in contact with your food or if the chef or servers know what they are doing to mitigate allergens being in contact with other foods. We have been lucky, and our kids don’t have any food allergies, but several of my friends’ kids do. I have seen first hand how hard it is for them to go on vacation or go out to dinner without knowing if the food being served is safe and allergen free.
Recently, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) launched a new initiative called SafeFARE with the goal of making dining out safer for families dealing with food allergies!
Did you know?
- The number of US children with food allergies has increased 50% between 1997 and 2011.
- Nearly 40% of children with food allergies have experienced a severe or life-threatening reaction.
SafeFARE is an online resource center that families can use to identify restaurants that are allergy-aware, provides tips for dining out including before and during your visit, a customizable “Food Allergy Alert” chef card. The restaurants can only be included in this searchable database if their staff have completed either the National Restaurant Associations ServSafe® Allergens Online Course or MenuTrinfo’s AllerTrain™ course.
Check out this public service announcement featuring Bryan Voltaggio and Mike Isabella.
As part of this new initiative, I was give the opportunity to interview FARE’s Chief Executive Officer, John L. Lehr about SafeFARE’s new resource.
What is an allergy-aware restaurant?
To qualify to be listed as an allergy-aware restaurant in SafeFARE’s “Find a Restaurant” database, a restaurant must verify that it has one or more staff members who have completed one of two FARE-approved restaurant training programs: either the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe® Allergens Online Course that was developed in partnership with FARE, or MenuTrinfo’s Allertrain™ course, which has been reviewed by FARE’s medical advisors. These programs teach chefs, managers, wait staff and other restaurant employees how to accommodate the needs of diners with food allergies, such as responding to special requests and preparing and serving food safely.
How can parents and others use the SafeFARE website?
We designed www.safefare.org to be a user-friendly resource center, whether you are sitting at your home computer or using your smartphone when you’re out and about. The site offers many helpful tools and resources, including a customizable “Food Allergy Alert” chef card, educational information for diners to use before and during a visit to a restaurant, and insider tips from Chef Joel Schaefer, who helped develop Walt Disney World Resort’s program for visitors with special dietary needs. We are working to expand our “Find a Restaurant” feature, which helps families locate allergy-aware restaurants in their neighborhood or when they’re traveling. We also link to our partner, Allergyeats.com, the leading guide to food allergy aware restaurant reviews.
Is eating at a restaurant listed in the SafeFARE website a guarantee there will be no allergens in the food?
The SafeFARE database is intended to serve as a starting point to help individuals and families managing food allergies identify restaurants with staff who have taken the extra step to complete food allergy training. Website users should still do their research by contacting the restaurant in advance and following the guidance on our website. It’s important to keep your specific needs in mind when choosing a restaurant. Some restaurants may be better suited to handle certain allergies than others.
In addition, even when all of the proper precautions are taken, accidental exposures are possible. For this reason, we urge individuals with food allergies to always carry their emergency medication and be prepared to use it. We also recommend wearing medical identification.
What other things can parents do to help protect their children from allergens while dining out?
As we mention in our SafeFARE public service announcement, it’s important to call in advance and let the restaurant know about your child’s needs. Bringing a chef card that indicates which foods must be avoided is a fast, easy way to communicate with restaurant staff, and services are available to translate your card into other languages if you’re traveling overseas.
A key factor in helping reduce the risk of a reaction is knowing what kind of foodservice or restaurants are likely to cause problems. For example, it’s a good idea to avoid buffets, where cross-contact can easily occur, or to avoid cuisines that are likely to contain your food allergen – such as Asian food, if your child is allergic to nuts. If you’re on the road, chain restaurants can be reliable choices, since their dishes and preparation tend to be consistent. A growing number of chains are able to accommodate diners with food allergies. You can find more tips like these at www.safefare.org.
The website mentions two training classes, once a restaurant is listed as completing training, is there any type of verification to ensure the training is up-to-date?
It’s important to note that these trainings are for individuals – not entities. Restaurants are required to update their employees’ training information for the SafeFARE “Find a Restaurant” database once a year.
Approximately how many restaurants have completed this training and are listed in the database?
Our database is just getting started, but thousands of restaurant employees have been trained and we are working with our partners at the National Restaurant Association and MenuTrinfo to ensure they sign up. We also hope that diners with food allergies will give the SafeFARE flyer to restaurants in their area to encourage them to get food allergy training and sign up for our database.
Even if you or your child don’t suffer from food allergies, chances are someone you know or interact with does. So, please don’t just pass this opportunity by to become an adovocate for food allergies. You could save someone’s life or the life of their child.
I challenge you to become a SafeFARE Advocate!
- Download and print the SafeFARE flyer and share it with your favorite restaurants
- Tell your family and friends about the SafeFARE website if they have food allergies
- Watch and share the Food Allergy Teamwork PSA on social media
- Click on the blue share buttons below to share SafeFARE on social media!
Once again, even though you or your children might not suffer from food allergies, the chance is great that someone you know does. I encourage you to help get the word out about the new SafeFARE resource. You could save someone’s life with a simple click or share.
Follow FARE on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube!
This post was written for social good. No compensation was received. All information used with permission.
So far we have been blessed to have no one in our family that have food allergies. I know that it can be so very dangerous and I appreciate you sharing these tips with SYC.