The biggest challenge for families with severe food allergies is going to a restaurant or trying food samples at a grocery store or event. As the parent of one of those children, our family knows all too well about being not being asked if there is a food allergy, let alone if the restaurant can answer a question about the ingredients in a particular food.

One such moment still stands out and it concerned French fries at a popular restaurant. A request from my allergy prone child  to have French fries with a hamburger, seemed straight forward, simple and child-friendly. Hard to find a child who does not like French fries when out to eat!

It teaches the all-important need to say right away if  there is a severe food allergy, be it to peanuts, seafood or fish before ordering. When the server was alerted to the severe food allergy to peanuts, she exclaimed “Oh yes, we use peanut oil to make our French fries”. So glad that we got the information we needed. No one wants a surprise after the fact! And not to forget, when in doubt, simply say: “that’s okay, not thanks” – there will be another option to get something tasty and safe.

A few surprises recently occurred away from home and caught my attention as a parent who is always aware of how food safety is protected or not. The first surprise came at a fundraising event where sample fruit desserts were being offered. I was drawn to the apples that had chocolate coating. Before I had a chance to ask about the ingredients, I saw a sign that clarified any questions about food safety regarding peanuts and nuts.  The sign shown below alerted visitors to the presence of these food allergens. I was so impressed by the sign on the display table.  I asked if I could take a photo to share with others*.  It would be great to have clear information on food ingredients, especially when ingredients left unidentified could be dangerous to those with food allergies.

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A second pleasant surprise occurred at a conference I attended at Novotel Hotel in St. Laurent. We received a menu to order our lunch several hours before lunch. I saw an allergies identification section at the bottom of the menu. I was surprised and impressed that the restaurant was taking the initiative to get information from its customers about any food sensitivities before the meals were prepared.  There would be no ingredient surprises when lunch arrived with the collection of information well before lunch was being served.

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As shown above, the final line of the menu asks for identification of any food allergies:                                                                                      Allergy _______  (in English and French)

The providing and gathering of important information for the public, whether it be buying or ordering food, can not be understated. Risks of mild to severe reactions among the food sensitive population can be all- but- eliminated with a well planned strategy of food cautions and gathering of allergy-specific cautions for food orders. These practices should be encouraged and put into place for all restaurants and events! We can work to make it fun and safe for everyone!