A Traveling 'Nut'mare

Confusion with Gluten

I have been thinking a lot about allergies lately, and not necessarily because of the foods I have eaten!

I had an interview earlier this week and I spent much of my time talking about my past history with food allergies, how I found out that I was allergic, my work with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on their Research Advisory Committee, and my hope of getting enrolled with a future allergy study this year. This interview also had me reflecting on prior food experiences that I have encountered because of my food allergy – not being able to eat the cake at recent birthday party, having to introduce my allergies and story to a whole table of current employees at the company I wanted to work for, etc. I also thought a great deal about experiences that I have had at restaurants that didn’t always go quite as planned.

Whatever your food situation may be, I wonder if you have had similar situations to mine? There have been a multitude of times that I have been at a restaurant and informed the wait staff about my allergies. Initially, there seems to be complete understanding regarding my limitations. Often, however, the server stops back to the table and “confirms” the wrong allergen. This confusion most frequently happens with the server asserting information regarding a gluten allergy rather than the nut and shellfish allergies that are my concern.

When I was vacationing in Hilton Head in January, we went to a restaurant that features their signature barbeque, but has a large assortment of other items on their menu. I have eaten at the restaurant in the past and felt very safe with the knowledge I had obtained from the kitchen in prior visits. One concern for someone who is shellfish allergic is whether items like french fries or chicken tenders are fried in the same oil as shrimp, for instance. When I asked about the fryers, the waiter said that they had a separate gluten-free fryer that would be safe for my food. Wow! I was so confused by his answer! When I asked if it was safe to eat the bread, as I had many times in the past, he reminded me that it had TONS and TONS of peanut dust. (Insert major confusion by me, here.) I clarified by asking if he meant gluten, but he continued to say that it was nuts.

I ultimately avoided the bread and the fryer to ensure my safety! That is always the main goal when dining away from home. I am wondering if explaining allergies are ever confusing for anyone else? What is your best strategy for clearly defining your allergens?

Adventure awaits,


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