More Than Half of Diners Polled Reported They Had a Reaction to Food They Were Assured was Safe

Allergen Danger

The names are seared into our memory: Habiba, Megan, Natasha, Shahida, Chloe… all children who were assured the food they were served was safe for their allergies, all of whom perished due to exposure to their allergens.

Yesterday we reported on a study of restaurant workers that shows the danger of dining out today. 89% of staff were confident they could serve allergic diners safely, yet 18% couldn’t name a single allergen.

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Now, a survey conducted this month of 1000 food allergy sufferers by a UK law firm shines a bright light on the dangers of dining out with allergies: 58% of respondents reported they had suffered a reaction due to food they had eaten at a restaurant or from a take-out.

Of those:

  • 30% managed their symptoms with medications;
  • 10% needed a doctor;
  • 7% needed emergency hospital treatment;

Other questions showed failures on the part of the restaurant as well as the respondents who did not take proper precautions to ensure the meals they were being served were safe given their allergies:

  • 48% asked staff before their meal if they contained the food item that triggers their allergy;
  • 44% stuck to familiar dishes which they had eaten before or knew should not contain their allergen;
  • 42% researched menus online to avoid contaminated meals;
  • 40% actively checked the ingredients in the meal they chose;
  • 31% stuck to the places they know and have eaten at before to reduce the risk;
  • 42% no longer eat or order out;
  • 59% said people had confused their allergy with an intolerance;
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Said Shane Smith, a lawyer with Slater and Gordon, the firm that conducted the survey:

These results are astonishing. Most of us have a friend or loved one with a potentially fatal allergy, yet so many restaurants and takeaways still seem to regard it as being of little importance.

For those with an allergy it is not a choice but a serious condition which could kill them if ignored.


Once again, we urge our readers coping with food allergies to be proactive in taking precautions to protect themselves from inadvertent exposure to their allergens of concern:

  • If possible, avoid food establishments where your allergen of concern is prepared and served.
  • Call ahead and discuss your allergies with the manager. If you are not satisfied with their response, avoid the establishment;
  • Always speak directly to the manager and waitstaff upon your arrival and inform them of your allergies even if you frequent the establishment. Ask how your allergen concerns will be communicated from waitstaff to chef and what special handling procedures are in place. If you are not assured that you can dine there safely, leave.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to the head chef in advance of ordering, and be sure the waiter understands your concerns and that cross-contact can prove deadly.
  • When the meal is served, be sure to ask the waiter whether they are certain the meal is yours and how they know for sure.

And most importantly, trust your instincts. If a response to your due diligence arouses suspicion that your allergy will not be accommodated with the care you deserve, leave.

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