NoPeanutsPlease is an independent blog.

All views, opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by any other party.

Monday, February 5, 2007

It Takes A Village - Restaurants

Each day I review the various news search feed that I get. Typically there is at least an article or two of interest each day. Today I found a great article from the Sydney Morning Herald about the challenges that restaurants face in accommodating their allergic patrons.

The article opens with the sort of scenario that those with anaphylaxis are terrified of:

"Richelle Townsend informed the waiters at a Thai restaurant in Newtown of her allergy, ordered dishes unlikely to have peanut in them and was reassured repeatedly that there were no nuts in her meal. Nonetheless there was peanut in her food and her allergic reaction was so severe she was left with permanent brain damage. Townsend was 32 at the time and a mother of two young children. In 2000, the restaurant paid an undisclosed sum, out of court, for her ongoing medical care.

"Dr Robert Loblay, an immunologist and director of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's allergy unit, who is familiar with the case, says it was probably a case of micro-contamination. With severe allergies, even a minute amount of the allergen on a knife or a chopping board can
trigger a full-scale reaction, so food handling procedures in restaurants are of grave importance".

This scenario underscores the importance of restaurants and restaurant staff paying attention when taking orders and taking care in the kitchen. It also calls into question why you would eat in a Thai restaurant if you had a peanut allergy. They must have cases and cases of peanuts in the kitchen!

One young woman had some practical grounds rules for eating out ...

"If she's invited out for a restaurant meal, (Jade) Batty tries to call ahead to check the menu. If it has "heaps of seafood or satay or nuts, I just don't go in there. There is no point, because there is going to be a lot of seafood and nuts in the kitchen, and the chances of contamination are really high.

"When in a restaurant, Batty reads the staff as closely as the menu. She recalls a night when she
encountered a very young, very tired waitress who didn't seem to be listening. "I thought, 'Well, I'm not going to risk this ...' so I just had garlic bread and when I got home I had something to eat."

Though straightforward and practical, these ground rules are worth following. I have to admit that I would not have thought of the tired waiter scenario though I suspect that in the moment you would be concerned when your daughter's life may hang in the balance.

The article also outlines in some detail the pains to which restaurants have to go through to ensure that there is no cross-contamination of food. These are important measures but you are truly at the mercy of the kitchen and floor staff in any restaurant environment.

The thing that really bothered me in this article though is that there are some people out there who pretend to be allergic. That is just wrong ... have a look at this passage:

"Thompson has also been frustrated by pretenders. "There are times that you come across people who seem to have a different food allergy every half hour. For example, 'I have an allergy to dairy, I can't possibly have cream in my scrambled eggs' but they're more than happy to drop a couple of cappuccinos and a slice of cake with cream.""

That is just bizarre ... these 'Pseudo-Allergic' folks either think that having anaphylaxis is somehow cool or else they are simply craving attention. That is the sort of thing that makes people lose patience with those who are truly allergic. If you are on a diet or have some other reason to avoid a certain food product, just ask them to leave it out ... don't tell them you are allergic. If you are too embarrassed to ask them to leave it out then eat it or order something else.

Since Boxing Day we have not eaten out with our daughter. I still would not be able to enjoy my meal. We'll get there.


No comments: