When I was born, food allergies were something less heard of. But since 1997, food allergies in children have increased by 50%, and no one really understands why. While this is of course a terrible and heartbreaking upward trend, this increase has made my life significantly easier. More and more people are aware of food allergies and anaphylaxis, which creates a more understanding environment for those of us who are suffering.
Unfortunately, I still run into the issue where employees at restaurants — THE ONES WHO HANDLE MY FOOD — are still oblivious and unaware of the severity of food allergies. There have been multiple instances throughout the past few years when restaurants have mistakenly served food that does contain an allergen, or where an overwhelming amount of cross-contamination resulted in a food reaction.
My most recent negative encounter at a restaurant was at a local pizza place called ‘Pizza Five.’ When I arrived, I asked the waiter whether their pizza dough contained dairy or egg products. In a drowsy voice, the waiter responded that their pizza dough did indeed contain these allergens — but they had a gluten-free version.
Gluten-free is not the same as dairy-free. It is not the same as egg-free. It is not the same as nut-free. Gluten-free is the same as gluten-free.
It’s vitally important that restaurants ensure that their employees not only understand what allergies are, but also understand how they’re in the service industry and with that comes the responsibility of ensuring that their customers don’t leave their restaurant in mortal danger.
Restaurants can’t play ignorant anymore. Nowadays, it could result in a lawsuit.