Food Allergies Are Nothing to Cringe About

Whether it’s strolling around with toilet paper stuck to your shoe or sending a private message to the wrong person, we all have our cringe moments. But letting people know about your food allergy shouldn’t be one of them.

If you’ve got a food allergy it can sometimes be a pain. But there are three really important things you can do to stay safe when you’re eating out and about. And if you haven’t got a food allergy, you probably know someone who does, so make sure they know about these three things too.

1. Check the Ingredients

Always ask about the ingredients when you’re ordering or buying food.

If you’re in a restaurant or café, the main 14 allergens found in food have to be shown, either on food labels, on a menu, on a chalkboard or on a shelf label. Or you can find out by asking a member of staff.

Here are some helpful tips to make sure you’re fully prepared!

Before you go:

  • Check the menu online for a list of ingredients, or phone and ask. Are there options that are suitable for you? If not ask if a special meal can be made to meet your needs.
  • Make sure you’re being really clear about your allergy and give examples of the foods that might cause a reaction.
  • Ask about how the food is handled and cooked, and whether there’s a chance food allergens could be spread from cooking equipment or ingredients.
  • If you feel the person you’re speaking to doesn’t understand your needs, ask for the manager or someone who can help better.
  • If you have any doubt about the staff understanding the importance of your food allergy, don’t go there.
40% of those with a food allergy don't always check food labels, according to Young Scot's survey

Once you’re there:

  • Speak to your server or the manager. Be clear about your food allergy and if you did call ahead, remind them of your previous conversation with the staff.
  • Check the meal choices are suitable for you or that they can make changes to what’s on the menu, by talking to the server or the manager.
  • If you have any doubt about the staff understanding the importance of your food allergy, don’t eat there.

Ordering a takeaway over the phone or online?

Follow the same steps as if you were eating out at a restaurant or café, but also:

  • Check that the allergen information is available on the menu online or over the phone.
  • When there’s a big order for a few people, make sure the restaurant labels your meal, so you know which one’s safe for you.

2. Tell People About Your Allergy

Remember to tell people about your food allergy when you’re eating at theirs.

It’s really important to let your family, friends, school, university, college, workplace and any clubs you’re a member of know about your food allergy, especially if you’re going to be getting food there.

44% of those with a food allergy wouldn't always tell the person they're buying food from, according to Young Scot's survey

Just follow these simple steps:

  • Let them know ahead of time what foods cause you to have a reaction and ask them to take extra care when they’re preparing your food.
  • Similar to eating out at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to remind them before you eat that you have a food allergy.
  • If they do make something that doesn’t meet your needs, thank them but let them know that you can’t eat it.

3. Remember Your Allergy Pen

Remember to take your allergy pen whenever you leave the house if you have one.

If you need one for your food allergy, making sure you have your allergy pen with you at all times is really important. Even if you’ve not had an allergic reaction for a long time, you never know when you might need it.

Make sure you know how to use your allergy pen.

Show people you know and trust where you keep your pen and make sure they know how to use it, just in case.

Share this info with anyone you know who has a food allergy.

For more food allergy information, including the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance, visit Food Standards Scotland’s website.

Want to keep up to date on what’s in your food shop? Sign up for food allergy text alerts.

For more advice and support about allergies check out Allergy UK's website.

Head back to the Food Standards Scotland campaign page for more information on food safety, healthy eating tips and more!