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February 14, 2007

Eating out - a reader's perspective

Laura sent us a comment regarding dining out with child food allergies. Frankly, her post is just too good to sit in the comments section. So, here are her thoughts in their entirety... thanks, Laura!

We don't really dine out because of my daughter's multiple allergies. I've never had the feeling that any business should be required to accommodate our situation (but who knows how I might have felt if peanut had always been the only allergen we needed to avoid). That being said, we do take a risk by eating at McDonald's occasionally. It's a crappy dining experience, but works well with my daughter's specific allergies and allergen tolerances to order a burger with no bun and fries. She has always tolerated a meal at McDonald's, so to give ourselves a break on occasion we'll eat there. If she had a reaction afterwards, I would feel I only had myself to blame. But that's me. I did yell at the teenaged cook staff there once when I sent back a burger with a bun for a replacement, and watched them just pull the burger off the bun. It was months before I felt up to trying it again. Now I'm very careful to watch them preparing her meal.

I've always felt a bit mystified about why people with deadly allergies would eat out in "real restaurants," but that is because of my own unique perspective. Even if my daughter does outgrow her other allergies, she will most likely always be peanut allergic. I don't know how we'll handle that in the future. Someday, when she has a career, she may even feel like she has no choice but to eat out for business meetings and special events. She'll be her own person and she'll make decisions for herself, just as the woman in this article did. If, after questioning staff, a person felt assured they could dine safely, who is responsible if a reaction occurs? Should all restaurants decline to serve allergic customers? Will all allergy sufferers feel comfortable never eating out? There are no easy answers.

I think a very interesting issue brought up in the article is that of the "pretenders" and the mildly intolerant. My son is gluten-intolerant, not celiac or allergic. Eating it makes him gassy (and that's unpleasant for us all), so we generally avoid it (and since we are wheat free for my daughter, this is very easy to do). I know it can be confusing for people to hear him say one day that he can't have something, and another time hear that we made an exception. For years I wouldn't make exceptions, *ever,* but now I do, for him, and someday he'll be that kind of diner (like the one mentioned who said he couldn't have wheat, but then asked for a second slice of bread!) I imagine my son will make dining decisions that won't overload his body with gluten, but will indulge himself. I agree this is confusing to the general public. One thing we've always done is to be very careful about always referring to his situation as an intolerance. I won't even let people make comparisons to my daughter's IgE-mediated anaphylactic allergy to wheat. They are entirely different. My son corrects people who refer to his situation as an allergy. I might not have been so careful to establish this habit if we hadn't already been dealing with my daughter's serious allergies.

Posted by David at February 14, 2007 8:29 AM


The underlying restaurant article was great. I concur that the 'pretenders' ought to be ashamed and agree that eating out with an allergic child is at times frightening. I blogged about the restaurant article at www.nopeanutsplease.com in a post call "It Takes A Village - Restaurants".

I also found a really cool online tool being offered by one restaurant chain and posted about that today. It is called "It Takes A Village - Online Menus".



Posted by: NoPeanuts at February 15, 2007 1:15 PM