Study: Use Multiple Strategies to Safely Dine Out with Food Allergies

Dining Out

Families coping with food allergies know that dining out presents an increased risk of reactions. The lack of control and transparency over how food is prepared in a kitchen that may be chock full of allergens is often too much to bear, forcing many to stay home rather than risk incurring a stick with an auto-injector and a trip to the emergency department for a night on the town.

That said, many with food allergies do dine out successfully. Research presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology annual meeting on November 16 sought to find out what strategies they employ.

Members of a food regional food allergy network in Ohio were given a 25-question survey that examined specific dining-out preparation behaviors of the participants.

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Said Dr Justine Ade, lead author of the study:

The most frequent preventive strategies were speaking to a waiter on arrival (80%) and ordering food with simple ingredients (77%). The least used strategies were placing allergy orders separately (23%) and using a personal allergy card (26%).

We found when those with food allergies used more strategies in a restaurant, the result was fewer reactions. People who used an average of 15 strategies when eating out tended to avoid having a severe allergic reaction. Those who did experience an allergic reaction were using an average of only six strategies at the time of their most severe reaction. Those same people increased their average number of strategies to 15 after experiencing a severe reaction.

The study found the following were the top five most employed strategies by those surveyed:

  1. Speak to waiter on arrival (80%)
  2. Order food with simple ingredients (77%)
  3. Double check food before eating (77%)
  4. Avoid restaurants with higher likelihood of contamination (74%)
  5. Review ingredients on a restaurant website (72%)

These were the five least used:

  1. Place food allergy order separately (23%)
  2. Use personal allergy card (26%)
  3. No longer eat at restaurants (39%)
  4. Choose a chain restaurant (41%)
  5. Go to restaurant off peak hours (44%)

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Said Dr Ann Kerns, study co-author:

Eating out at a restaurant is a challenge for people with food allergies. Checking ingredients in the dishes that the restaurant offers ahead of time and finding strategies that work for you or your child can help to minimize the risk of reactions. If you think that you or your child may have a food allergy, see an allergist for testing. Allergists are specially trained to help you to manage your food allergies so that you can stay safe while enjoying life.

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