"Places that are responding should be commended, but I still tell patients that they can never 100% trust the server or even the chef, because accidents happen at restaurants, just like accidents happen at home," Harvard's Savage says. "Patients always need to be prepared for accidental exposures, whether it's a place they have been to a million times or not."
The nonprofit advocacy group Food Allergy Research & Education shares these tips for managing food allergies while eating out. (Go to www.foodallergy.org for additional suggestions.)
- Talk to your doctor about appropriate medications, and make sure you carry them with you.
- Before going out to eat, search the Internet (one popular site is www.allergyeats.com) for allergy-aware restaurants.
- Call ahead and speak with a manager to determine if the restaurant can accommodate your food allergies. Find out the name of the staff member to ask for when you arrive.
- At the restaurant, explain your situation to the hostess, server and manager. You can also ask to speak to the chef.
- Some people carry a wallet-sized "chef card" that lists their food allergies. You can ask the server to give this to the cooks who will prepare your meal.
- Avoid risky situations, such as buffets or restaurants that serve pre-made foods, because the staff may not have complete ingredient lists.