Atlanta mother Betsy Wiens has been dealing with her daughter's peanut allergy for 12 years now, and she realized a long time ago that going to a restaurant with a food-allergic child can be very stressful and dangerous."Of course the best way to handle it is to call ahead and speak with the manager and or chef," says Wiens. "However, we've found that we're not usually that disciplined or prepared. That leaves us having to discuss our life-threatening food allergy with restaurant servers and hoping that they get it, that they're not too busy to mention it to the chef, and that they don't tell us that there is nothing on the menu that is safe."
"You learn to prepare yourself for all the different reactions you may get from the food server," explains Wiens. "Especially when you're ordering something like chili and they look at you like you're crazy for mentioning a peanut allergy. They don't know about The Peanut Butter Cookbook we found in a store and bought out of curiosity. Turns out peanut butter can be used in many things like soup, chili, bastes for meat, etc. The peanut butter is used to thicken and sweeten in small quantities, and you don't even know it's there. Unless you are allergic, that is."
"So, not only do you have to teach your child about communicating with a food server," continues Wiens, "but you also have to teach them to judge the response. Do you comfortable that they understood you? Did they really take the time to ask the chef? It's a tall order and sometimes, no matter how careful you are, accidents happen In which case, you make sure you have not broken the number-one rule: Always have your auto injector with you."
"Along the way we've learned to avoid the more dangerous spots," says Wiens. "Ice cream parlors that use the same scoop for the different flavors; Asian restaurants tend to use peanuts and peanut butter; bakeries that make products with nuts; sandwich shops that make peanut butter and jelly; and buffets have too much cross-contamination. All that being said, we've had many wonderful meals away from home and do our best to keep our risk-taking to a minimum."
To reduce the risks inherent in eating out with food allergies, always carry Food Allergy Restaurant Cards. Developed by achoo! ALLERGY, Food Allergy Restaurant Cards are the same size as standard business cards, and they convey a bold message that your server cannot miss for example: "WARNING: PEANUT ALLERGY." When you give your server a Food Allergy Restaurant Card and ask him or her to make sure the chef gets it, you greatly increase the chances that your server will remember the food allergy and relay the proper information to the kitchen. In easy-to-understand language, the Chef Card explains the food allergy, warns about cross-contamination, lists dangerous foods and ingredients, and informs restaurant employees that immediate emergency medical care will be needed if the allergenic food is consumed.