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Food Allergy Guidance


StudentChefEclipse
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I came across the following bit this morning:

"Phil Lempert Introduces the Food Allergy Buddy (FAB) Dining Card

"When a person presents the FAB card at a restaurant, it underscores the significance for them of avoiding those specific ingredients -- it's not just about disliking the taste or asking for it on the side," said Lempert. "The FAB Card is all about clear communication without the embarrassment, and in some situations it can mean the difference between life and death." ..."

So, I like this idea. But I feel a little odd about the idea of communicating your allergy being considered an "embarrassment."

For those of you who are allergic, or even just have bad reactions to certain foods, is this something you are shy about communicating?

AND... what's the worst response you ever had from someone at a restaurant when you did say something?

(I once got a server who told me it would be okay to just pick the nuts out of the brownie. Uh huh.)

*edited to remove some of the article stuff*

"My tongue is smiling." - Abigail Trillin

Ruth Shulman

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I don't have food allergies, but I have experience with people in restaurants who have allergies, and some who merely say they have allergies. I would be glad to see a card that clearly identified people who do have allergies, listing what substances they cannot have and what actions need to be taken if something is accidentally ingested.

Food allergies, particularly nut and shellfish allergies, are very serious and can be life threatening. That is why it's particularly infuriating that there are so many - and I say this because I've seen so many obvious examples - people who say they are allergic to something when the truth is that they just don't like it.

I managed a location of a popular chain restaurant where this was a common practice. On a specific incident that stands out strongly in my head, a man called me out to his table to complain that mayonnaise was on his burger, when he had asked for one without mayonnaise. The man stood up from his table to yell at me, saying over and over, "I am lactose A-tolerance! (sic) One bite of that and I would end up in the hospital!" Given that lactose intolerance doesn't usually send people to the hospital, and that mayonnaise doesn't generally have milk products in it, I had to assume that he was trying to overstate his displeasure for some other motive. If he had been allergic to eggs, he could have simply said that he was allergic to eggs, whereupon I'd have told him that he couldn't have the bun, either.

Currently, I work in a restaurant that has a very popular salad with peanut sauce drizzled over the top of it. Many people tell me to leave the peanut sauce off, since they're allergic to peanuts, to which I respond that I'll have to leave the tortilla strips out, too, since they're cooked in peanut oil. Usually they say, no, the tortilla strips will be fine if you leave them in, and then I know they're lying because peanut allergies are pretty darned serious.

So there are 2 remedies I'd like to suggest. First, the card sounds like a good idea, and if it has medical legitimacy, I'd be grateful for a way to identify people who really do have allergies. Second, if you are dining with someone and you know they do not have an allergy, but you hear them tell their waiter that they do, reach across the table and slap them immediately, and tell them it's from me.

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Currently, I work in a restaurant that has a very popular salad with peanut sauce drizzled over the top of it. Many people tell me to leave the peanut sauce off, since they're allergic to peanuts, to which I respond that I'll have to leave the tortilla strips out, too, since they're cooked in peanut oil. Usually they say, no, the tortilla strips will be fine if you leave them in, and then I know they're lying because peanut allergies are pretty darned serious.

Actually, it is possible to have a peanut allergy and be able to eat peanut oil without any reaction. Same with soybean and corn oil. Some individuals appear to be allergic to the proteins in those items, so the oil doesn't cause a problem. My son is allergic to peanuts - he gets an immediate scary red rash around his mouth when he gets even one - but can have peanut oil with no negative consequences. I don't know that this is the case with your customers, but it may well be with some of them.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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I wonder how common that situation is? Obviously, he's not one of those peanut-allergics who cannot be in the same room with someone who's eating a peanut butter sandwich, then.

Well, yet another reason to have a well-established resource for a guide on allergies. As far as claims of allergies go, I've seen someone claim to be allergic to just about everything you can imagine. Even salt.

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Yep my wife would be one of those people who lies about being allergic. She states that she is allergic to parsley and cilantro, in reality she just hates the taste. On the other hand she really does have a severe MSG allergy.

The main issue that drives me nuts is when people, yes like my wife and other I have seen, order something then complain when it comes. It is perfectly fine to ask to leave something off, but sending something back because there is something on it. :wacko:

Never trust a skinny chef

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I had a friend who used to eat in a Chinese restaurant with me every night, and we always, always ordered the War Su Gai, which is a really crappy chicken dish, but anyway. . . My friend would constantly complain the next day about how the MSG in the food had given her a headache. One time, she finally asked the waitress if she could have the War Su Gai, but this time, without the MSG? And the waitress told her that this particular dish, the way they served it at that restaurant, never contains MSG. Oh, I had to try really hard not to laugh at her.

It's a funny thing about the requests on cilantro, because there seem to be a lot of people who don't like it. I don't mind leaving it out of something, and a person doesn't have to say they're allergic to get me to handle a special request. Last week, I had a table where all 4 of the patrons asked for cilantro to be left out of something, or asked if it could be possible to get the cilantro-ginger vinaigrette, without the cilantro? Now that I cannot do.

After all the requests, I remarked, "Wow. This is one cilantro-hatin' table!" And one guy said, "Why don't you just take it off the menu?"

Well, because obviously some people like it. I happen to be one of them, not that it matters.

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Ah, Food Tutor, you are making me laugh tonight with these posts.

I like the idea of slapping someone for you...indeed if you ever decide this should be a full-time job and want to hire someone, call me. Sounds like great fun...travelling the world slapping jerks in the face... :biggrin:

Some people go out to eat for the sole purpose of being exasperating and rude. The mayo guy clearly was one of these. Allergies or no allergies, these people are sent to plague others.

Best thing to do is to think how ridiculous they would look if they were sitting there complaining in their underwear (which obviously would be ugly and full of holes and yucky, non?)...and give them a stunning smile.

They'll never know what hit them.

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This one puzzles me too...I have diagnosed allergies to certain foods such as rice, and soybeans, which are pretty unavoidable in Japan :shock:

The usual diagnostic test is a scratch skin test - which may or may not be a good predictor of what will happen when you actually eat something. So I stay away from edamame (green soybeans), but small amounts of fermented miso or soy sauce are OK. I think of the allergies I was diagnosed with as "sensitivities" rather than a true allergy, which would produce a severe and predictable response every time.

If I get tired or sick they're much worse, and for what it's worth, moderately low-carb eating seems to have increased my tolerance considerably. I do feel shy about turning something down, because it isn't a case of life or death, it's a case of a stomach-ache and a rash...maybe severe; or then again if I'm in good health, maybe barely any reaction.

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I know a number of people who say they are allergic to things simply because if they don't their requests will not be taken seriously.

It is not uncommon at all amongst the low-carb community for them to claim to be diabetic in order to insure sugar isn't in something, because many servers will just say there is none in a dish, or guess incorrectly, or never relay the message to the kitchen if they think it is just for a diet.

It is a shame it has to go to fibbing, but at the same time, many restaurants/servers need to be much more attentive of customer requests, and take them all seriously, no matter what the motivation.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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It is a shame it has to go to fibbing, but at the same time, many restaurants/servers need to be much more attentive of customer requests, and take them all seriously, no matter what the motivation.

I guess that's why it bothers me. Because I happen to be one of the people who really does pay attention. If you don't want mayonnaise, or cilantro, or sesame seeds, or you want the sauce or dressing on the side, I'll do it for you. Trust me. I'll run back to the kitchen and make sure that your ribs are cooked without barbecue sauce, but give you a little bit of the sauce on the side, so you can stick to Atkins but still get a taste of the sauce. I will try to follow your order to your exact specifications, and I don't even care why you want it that way.

Fibbing to me is like saying, "I know you're not particularly bright, or you're someone who doesn't care about doing your job well, or possibly both." It hurts.

So ask me to substitute a different side item that might be lower in carbs. I'm fine with that. But if you ask me a bunch of questions, and swap sides and make modifications to your entree so that you can have a low-carb meal, and then you snap your fingers at me to ask where your bread basket is. . . Well, then I'm just going to send Carrot Top to your table to smack you.

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I think that you sound perfectly reasonable, and I'm sure that there would be far less people making up allergies if all servers were as dedicated to their profession.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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So ask me to substitute a different side item that might be lower in carbs. I'm fine with that. But if you ask me a bunch of questions, and swap sides and make modifications to your entree so that you can have a low-carb meal, and then you snap your fingers at me to ask where your bread basket is. . . Well, then I'm just going to send Carrot Top to your table to smack you.

:laugh: :laugh: thank you, I needed that laugh.

But we know that NulloModo is not really on my slapping schedule....NulloModo is a fine person who is going to bake a low-carb nusstorte and share it with us.... :wink:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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Just to clarify a couple of things:

Yes, the test for an allergy is normally a skin scratch test. A small amount of whatever is being tested get dropped on the skin, which is then scratched to allow a reaction to occur. If you DO get a reaction, then you ARE allergic. There can be mild reactions and severe reactions, but they are all allergic reactions. Take for example, the peanuts vs. peanut oil business. A mild reaction would account for the ability to tolerate peanut oil.

This is, I think, the hardest bit about food allergies. Not all of us are going to end up needing an epi-pen and a call to 911. Doesn't mean we aren't going to experience symptoms that will ruin our night out, or whatever. My reactions are fairly mild, but continuing a meal with a tingly, slightly swollen and painful mouth is just not going to happen.

As for servers who don't care to take requests seriously leading to allergy fibs: My gripe is when they don't take anything seriously. Hence the comment I once got, "You can scrape them off." That was wrong and goofy on so many levels.

Food Tutor... I wish I could tip you over the lines here. You are probably the server I would most like to clone and send to restaurants everywhere. :smile:

Basically, I am in favor of this card. I think it will help divide the fibbers from the allergic, and give us all a break from the likes of Mr. Mayo-Jerk.

"My tongue is smiling." - Abigail Trillin

Ruth Shulman

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:laugh: :laugh:  thank you, I needed that laugh.

But we know that NulloModo is not really on my slapping schedule....NulloModo is a fine person who is going to bake a low-carb nusstorte and share it with us.... :wink:

Actually, thanks for reminding me, I have a bag of Trader Joe's Hazlenuts that need to be turned into something, that Nusstorte sounds like the perfect option, should happen this weekend.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I don't have any problem or embarrassment telling servers that I have a severe allergy to mushrooms and having me convulse in death throes in the middle of their dining room is probably not good for business.

I have learned to ask up front about things you wouldn't think would have mushrooms in them, (take Ceasar Salad for example). I've always had a positive response from servers and chefs.

Would the card make any difference? I don't know really. I do wear a medic alert bracelet stating my allergies of course.

(but I have to admit, it's bee ages since I carried an epi pen. I have one, but I always forget to put it in my purse when I go out. :blink: )

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I have a few food allergies, as well as a few intense dislikes. The food allergies won't kill me, but as another has pointed out, they can make my evening unpleasant with rashes, burning mouth, etc. All verified by a series of scratch tests. So I can usually glean the necessary information from the menu description to avoid these ingredients, but if necessary I ask the server.

As for my food dislikes, I would never lie and say they're an allergy, having dealt with this situation on the business end for many years. Nope, I find that a simple " I hate brussels sprouts. Is there something else I can get instead?" usually works just fine. If the server balks at that, I reitierate the "hate" part, sometimes embellshing with "Loathe and detest". Usually gets the point across.

Unfortunately, the one killer (literally) allergy that I have is the fumes emitted by roasting peppers. Fortunately, it's an easily identifiable aroma, so as soon as I step in the restaurant door, if I smell it, I just turn around and leave.

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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But we know that NulloModo is not really on my slapping schedule....NulloModo is a fine person who is going to bake a low-carb nusstorte and share it with us.... :wink:

He is a fine person. I saw a picture of him on his blog and he didn't look like he needed slapping at all.

One nice thing about people who do inform me of their allergies right up front is that, where I work, we have extensive training about all of the ingredients in all of our food. I'm in the kitchen all the time and I get to watch preparation of the food, look at recipe books, and see where everything is stored in all of the 5 walk-ins. All of our servers go through a full day of kitchen training, too, when they're training to work on the floor. So I'm in a pretty good position to know what ingredient is or is not in a particular sauce.

Our Au Jus, for instance, tastes like it has mushrooms in it, but it does not, so Marlene could have it.

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My boyfriend is allergic to egg (egg whites in particular) and I think he is embarassed about his allergy. Whenever we go out to eat, which is pretty rare, he asks me to ask the waiter if there is any egg in certain things. I have asked him and tried to encourage him to ask himself (what's the big deal?) and he just won't. It's the strangest thing becase that is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Also, he refuses to get one of those scratch tests done. His father was allergic to egg but he grew out of it. So, i figure, if there is the slightest possibility that you could grow out of an allergy and suddenly be able to eat all these wonderful things, why in heaven's name wouldn't you get the freakin' test done.

Anyways, I think the allergy card is a pretty neat idea. Whether not it's a matter of being embarassed or not. Like some people have noted in previous posts, a lot of the time people who say they are allergic often aren't really. I used to say I was allergic to garlic just becasue some chefs feel the need to use way too much of it. So yeah, the card would be good so people know who to take seriously and who is just a picky eater.

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I don't have any problem or embarrassment telling servers that I have a severe allergy to mushrooms and having me convulse in death throes in the middle of their dining room is probably not good for business.

That's similar to what I do. I have a severe allergy to fish (not shellfish), and do carry an epi-pen. If I think the server doesn't believe me or is acting glib, I make sure to state that fish makes my throat close up, and that they don't want me laying on the floor of the restaurant. My husband winces whenever I do this, but what the hell.

edited to add: I love the card idea, by the way. I think it would be great to have these available in multiple languages. Whenever we travel, I spend a lot of time learning words for various types of fish so that I can be prepared. It would be helpful to also have the card, in case I forget something.

Edited by daniellewiley (log)

Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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I have food allergies that can be life-threatening because mostly they cause laryngeal edema which can close off my airway. I carry an Epi-pen.

I also have both a dogtag and a bracelet and a laminated card in my wallet that has.

MEDICAL EMERGENCY NOTICE in red at the top so that shows when my wallet is opened.

The tags say I am highly allergic to alcohol, sulfa, aspartame and iodine.

DO NOT ADMINISTER ALCOHOL AS A STIUMLANT! is in big red letters.

The printed notice goes into more detail and includes my other, less dangerous, allergies.

I can cook with alcohol, and eat such food if it is cooked for a sufficient period of time. It is the raw alcohol esthers that cause the problem so desserts with liquors are a big problem.

I make and use reduced wine 'flavors' but these have been cooked for many hours to reduce them down to just the essence and there is no alcohol remaining.

I have had chefs tell me that flaming is enough to remove all the alcohol esthers but that is not so, only the highly volatile ones are burned off. The reduction in percentage is not significant.

I have found that most servers are very considerate about inquiring in the kitchen about possible difficulties. After all, they don't want to have the restaurant sued and they certainly don't want an incident as serious as having a patron keel over at a table.

As far as MSG sensitivity goes, I have found that many times people thing they are "allergic" to it and have reactions after eating Chinese foods but consume other foods that contain it (but where it isn't immediately obvious) with no problems. An ex-sister-in-law used to make a big deal about it when eating in a Chinese restaurant but would happing chow down at a steak house that used Accent liberally and never had a reaction. The level of MSG was probably higher on the steak than it was in the Chinese dish. I pointed this out to her on one occasion and she became very angry, didn't speak to me for months. (No loss.)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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