Going Out to Eat with Food Allergies

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Family Eating Meal At Outdoor Restaurant Together

Dining out can be difficult for people with food allergies because they must rely on restaurant staff to properly prepare their allergen-free meals. Find out how restaurants can be ready for customers with food allergies.

The Jackson family is going out to eat at a new restaurant in town to celebrate their daughter Samantha’s birthday. Samantha is turning eight and is allergic to shrimp. Samantha’s mother, Jane, looks over the menu to decide on an appetizer to order for Samantha and the family to share, and she wonders about the ingredients in the eggrolls.

The server approaches the table to take their orders. Jane asks if the restaurant has an ingredient list for the eggrolls. The server says yes and brings the list. Jane sees that the eggrolls contain shrimp, but the pizza does not, so she decides to order the pizza instead.

Everyone enjoys their meal and says they want to eat there again to try something else from the menu.

Before the restaurant opened last month, staff received training on food allergies including what to do if a customer has an allergic reaction. The food safety certified kitchen manager also prepared ingredient lists for all menu items, and the kitchen has dedicated areas and equipment for preparing and cooking food for customers with food allergies.

Food allergies are a growing public health issue—about 15 million Americans have food allergies. And food allergic reactions are responsible for about 30,000 emergency room visits and 150-200 deaths a year.

Many food allergic reactions occur in restaurants. One in three people with food allergies have had a reaction in a restaurant. Understanding how restaurants address food allergies can help to reduce the risk of food allergic reactions in restaurants.

CDC’s studies on food allergies and restaurants found that

  • Most restaurants have ingredient lists, but only about half of the restaurants’ staff had received food allergy training (read more in our summary of this study).
  • Although managers and staff were generally knowledgeable about food allergies, more than one in ten managers and staff incorrectly believed that someone with a food allergy could safely eat a small amount of that allergen (read more in our summary of this study).

Tweet this: “Learn what CDC’s studies on food allergies and restaurants found out at https://bit.ly/2XU61AB

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Page last reviewed: May 1, 2019
Page last updated: May 1, 2019