HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Discussion

Hounds with allergies, question for you...

Have you ever been refused a meal at a restaurant because you have a food allergy? I had an interesting experience this evening. My mom made a res at a restaurant for my birthday. We had a lovely meal, but noticed the service was a little odd from the get go. She told me that when she'd initially called she told them I had a peanut allergy. They were reluctant to serve me, and cited insurance reasons. She talked with the chef who said the only peanut in the restaurant at the time was peanut oil, and she assured him that my allergist approved foods fried in peanut oil. So, he allowed the reservation.

I was a little surprised at how gingerly or nervously everyone from the hostess to the chef and our server treated us, and when we left, I realized why. There was a message on Mom's voice mail, left a couple hours before the 6 pm res from someone other than the chef at the restaurant. I'm not sure what relation she is to the chef and owner, to be honest. Basically, she was trying to cancel the res at the last minute, saying they wouldn't serve me for liability reasons.

Does anyone with allergies have thoughts on this experience? I was taken aback. We had a great meal despite the awkward, nervous moments, but I don't think I'd go back after this. I don't want to scare anyone off this place, so I won't name it. I just want to discuss the more general topic, rather than dissecting the finer points of liability law or whether allergies are real. I know it's a difficult subject for chefs, but this last minute attempt at cancellation did take me by surprise. I'm a little glad she didn't check the voice mail earlier! Have you ever been treated like you were made of explosive material because of a food allergy? Lost a res last minute or when you asked questions about the menu?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Short answer - no. Wife cannot do bi-valves, and I always call, especially if we plan on a chef's tasting, or similar. I'm also beginning to believe that restaurants around the globe might not share info, as we can walk into a place in the UK, that we've never dined before, and they'll say, "we understand that you cannot do bi-valves. We've told chef, and he's/she's got a treat for you." Just flat blows me away sometimes.

    I have yet to encounter any restaurant that would not accommodate her food allergies, especially with some sort of notice.

    Sorry to hear about your experinces.

    Hunt

    1. Well, the peanut allergy has gotten a lot of press, and I can understand why some might shy away. There have been instances of folk wishing to sue restaurants that served peanuts, because their child walked past the al fresco seating, but across the street, and suffered. It seems to be rich fodder for law suits, however far the stretch. Living in a law suit-happy society, I cannot say that I blame a restauranteur.

      Still, as per my other post, we've never had an issue, and I always try to confide the one issue (with us) for the meal. They always make good and she usually gets a much larger portion of some courses, than do I.

      In a heavily litigious society, one has to be on their toes, all of the time.

      Hunt

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Yeah, Hunt, this is part of why I've decided not to go back. I didn't want to make my post any longer, but this is a locally/chef owned place and if he's that nervous, I just don't want to freak him and his staff out again! I'm not a litigious person, and I take responsibility for my health, but he doesn't know me from Eve, to coin a phrase. I just felt so yucky, it being my birthday, wanting to really enjoy the meal, and discovering after that Uh, oh, even though we checked beforehand, they were still having a problem with my special need! I don't want him to lose his restaurant, either, but he seemed so anxious I just wouldn't put him (or my dining companions) through that again, even for his wonderful food.

        1. re: amyzan

          Sorry that it came down to this, especially on your birthday - bummer!

          We just got back from London, and I had forgotten to mention my wife's bi-valve thing, especially at one restaurant, where we intended to do the chef's tasting. My bad! In both cases, they had her in their dossier, and knew. They had made arrangements, especially with the chef's tasting spot. Now, we had dined there before, and I had done my preliminary work better on those instances. There were no problems and the sommelier was ready at both to change gears a bit, to accommodate her different courses, from mine. [BTW - I got to taste here "non-scallop" dishes, but she could not taste mine... ]

          I'm sorry for your cited incident. On one hand, I guess that I can understand the fear of a restauranteur, regarding food allergies. Still, it can cramp an otherwise lovely evening.

          Hunt

      2. Jfood with a nut allergy. When he makes a reservation on OpenTable he always places this in the comments section. ANd when the server arrives he also reminds him/her. Yet it is frightening to see how absolutely inattentive or just plain stupid certain restaurants are. Jfood has received butternut squash soup that has pistachios on top, cake with nuts as a garnishment, as well as an amuse bouche surrounded by cashews. And he wishes he had $1 for every time the server has said, "Oh it is just a garnishment." Newsflash, noone told the histimines in jfood's bloodstream.

        On the positive side >90% of the time the server is aware of it, or they will say, "let me check with the chef," or some other comforting words. And a few times they have told jfood that there may be a trace and they recommend something else.

        Bottom line is that each person with an allergy needs to have their own diligence.

        And by the way, as jfood has stated before, grabbing an epi-pen and shoving it in his leg as his face starts turning red is not good for the jfood, other patrons and the bill/tip.

        17 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Yeah, I would love it if servers might view my specialness as a potential for a bigger tip, but no, most of the time I'm just a PITA. I reward good service, but I suppose there are diners who don't after asking for a little extra help.

          1. re: amyzan

            So are you saying this is a common experience for you?

            1. re: c oliver

              No, many servers are gracious despite my special needs, and I tip accordingly. But there are umpteen little ways servers communicate (mostly with body language) that I'm a PITA. I'd bet you know what I'm talking about, c oliver.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Sighing, looking away or above my head instead of continuing eye contact, shrugging shoulders, talking to other diners about me instead of talking to me, those are the behaviors, c oliver, since you press the point.

                  1. re: amyzan

                    *I* never pressed any such point. And, in my 62 years, have never had such treatment. When I've had any issues to deal with, I've always been dealt with appropriately.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Okay, I see that you live in NorCal, so I shouldn't have made the assumption we have similar experiences. I live in the Midwest, and people here have less formal norms of behavior, excepting in fine dining where there is more training and/or experience. I generally find that when I'm polite about special needs, the server follows suit. There have been notable exceptions, however, and we don't usually return to those restaurants unless we find another server with whom we are simpatico.

                      1. re: amyzan

                        I spent my first 30 years in Atlanta with a VERY proper mother :) I've also enjoyed reading some of Bill Hunt's ways of dealing with slipups on the part of servers. Wine-related but universal. Dealing with issues as quickly as they arise and in a quiet and polite way is the gist of it.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Yeah, I think part of my problem is higher expectations than the usual diner has here. I grew up in central Kentucky, where there was more emphasis on manners. I'm just not as accustomed to the Midwestern informality, which has its charms unless there are conflicts to resolve. Its humiliating to have servers sigh, raise their voices, stalk off, or treat our table in otherwise conspicuous ways, just because we asked for a little extra service or communication with the kitchen.

                          I'll look up Bill Hunt; thanks!

                          1. re: amyzan

                            I've lived in the midwest for 30 years, and have only once encountered the boorish behavior you describe on the part of a server. I reported to the MOD and never saw that server again.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              I believe that if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem.

                          2. re: c oliver

                            With the fewest of exceptions, a sign and a whisper goes a very long way. If it does not, then the ladies and gentlemen should leave the table and discuss the issue in private, out of earhshot of the guests, and of other diners. I have never had to escalate things beyond this point, and hope that I never do.

                            Hunt

            2. re: jfood

              Honestly tho, jfood, has jfood considered himself lucky it's only 10% that he encounters the stupidity? It also might be a simple case of ignorance where the staff has not been trained to deal with these situations correctly. It's kind of hard for the point to hit home when you are oblivious to what could happen if a highly allergic person comes in contact with a nut. I have an in-law who weillneed the stick, and then have to be rushed to an emergency room if they come in contact with any tree nuts in their food. Some servers might think that "ok, so if there's no nuts sprinkled on top of the salad, or cake, or whathaveyou, then everything's ok" Until walnut oil is used as a flavoring, or almond extract is used, or an Indian dish with ground nuts is not revealed." I'd sugeest, when going to a new joint (not to jfood, but to anyone with a nut allergy) to speak with the server about what will happen to your body if you encounter a nut, even if it is not overtly displayed on top of the food. The server can then relay this to the cooks pretty quickly, just to make sure that anything you order doesn't have any hidden nuts in any of the sauces, etc. I've seen it happen a few times where this in law will non-chalantly ask the server to make sure there are no nuts in any of the food they order, and then 5 minutes after the salad, we're on our way to the hospital because of undiscolsed walnut oil in the vinaigrette, or almond flavoring in a cake that you'd never expect. Until I actually SAW it firsthand, I had no idea it could be so bad. Just a thought. REALLY stress this issue with the restaurant.

              1. re: gordeaux

                Thanks G. Fortunately for jfood the nut allergy is not life threatening. In fact he is halfway through some tests that may eliminate some of the nuts from his allergy list.

                1. re: gordeaux

                  Unfortunately, if this person's allergies are so severe that a slip-up proves life threatening, restaurants are probably not for him/her. I grew up with a brother who couldn't eat eggs, chicken, milk, chocolate, spinach, nuts, wheat -- the list goes on. He would get a severe asthma attack within a few minutes of swallowing the offending food. We used to bring food with us when we couldn't be sure of controlling the exposure, just for him. Yes, it sucks to have these allergies, but you can't control what goes on in a restaurant kitchen, so you either have to learn to order plainly prepared food with all dressings on the side, or risk getting really, really sick. The responsibility is yours, not the restaurant's. If I sound unsympathetic, it is because I have a hard time comprehending your surprise that the restaurant employees don't understand your needs. It is a miracle that they understand anything.

                  If your child were diabetic, you would be in the habit of bringing your own condiments, etc. to a restaurant. This is really no different if your allergies are so severe that you will find yourself in a hospital because someone put walnut oil in the salad dressing. You need to carry those little packets that are labeled. Life is not fair, but you can't really expect servers to comprehend this. Maybe the chef, but that's about it.

                2. re: jfood

                  My husband has a cheese allergy, and we always inform the restaurant at the time of the reservation. Unfortunately, we often have the "it's just a garnish" problem, even though I have made it clear that this isn't a lactose intolerance, but a swell up/stop breathing problem. A little garnish of parmesan is enough to send him to the ER after using his epipen. Unlike Amyzan's expertience, we've had more problems with servers and chefs being not cautious enough. Sometimes I think the problem is that a lot of people have pseudo allergies (ie "my nose gets stuffy if I drink milk") which then makes servers not take the life threatening allergies as seriously.

                3. i have an nut allergy similar to jfood, and have never had a problem like this. A couple times I've had some clueless or inattentive server bring me something with a nut "garnish" but they are generally very nice about taking it back and replacing with one w/o the garnish. I would not go back either, if it made them that nervous. what a bummer for your birthday!

                  1. While not an allergy, my wife is restricted from any kind of alcohol. She has non-alcoholic liver disease. We've gotten some very strange looks, mostly from young servers, when we asked if a dish is cooked with wine. If we have the opportunity to speak with the chef, there's never a problem. The other issue with this is, since we're always trying new recipes, finding a way to eliminate the alcohol without destroying the taste of a new dish.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: bucksguy14

                      Juju -- with respect to getting a replacement dish -- I would have them leave the "garnished" dish and bring another. non-garnished one, to be sure that the replacement isn't just the original dish with the garnish removed. I've seen this happen and was shocked. The near "victim" was my nephew with a serious tree-nut allergy and his mother spotted the same piece of pie when it came back out of the kitchen.

                      1. re: Cheflambo

                        i never thought of that! thanks for the tip.

                          1. re: jfood

                            clearly not enough people are familiar with the concept of cross contamination! ugh!

                      2. First of all I agree, this restaurant is not to be given another chance. Wish you'd give the name so that all us other folks with nut allergies can avoid it too. If you're given something with a nut garnish, make them bring you a fresh one before you give the "garnished" one back. My son has tree nut allergies and we always quiz the server and always ask when making the reservation if they can accommodate the allergy. Most places are very good about trying to work with you, and some are surprisingly good at it. Times are tough, if they don't want your business there are plenty of other places out there.

                        1. <<She talked with the chef who said the only peanut in the restaurant at the time was peanut oil, and she assured him that my allergist approved foods fried in peanut oil. So, he allowed the reservation.>>

                          I think that you were treated like <<explosive material" not because of a food allergy but because of conflicting information/instructions to the chef. I find it very disconcerting to hear that you are allowed to have peanut oil. You may want to get a second opinion on that one. I am speculating that this bothered the chef too - after he had a chance to think about it. If you are really allergic to peanuts, then it would follow that you cannot have peanut oil. There is no way to know how refined or purified the oil is and whether you will have a reaction to it until you do! He may have figured that you were not really allergic to peanuts and that you were perhaps going to be difficult for him at some level because you were willing to eat peanut oil. Or, that if you were really allergic to peanuts that you could have an allergic to the foods friedn in peanut oil. Just a thought. I vote with the chef on this one!

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: Bite Me

                            Without getting technical or scientific, Bite Me, I can allay your concerns just as I did the chef's. People who are allergic to legumes are allergic to the PROTEIN, not the fat component of the vegetable. I cannot eat beans, peas, peanuts, miso, tofu, etc. but peanut oil is so highly refined in this country, that it doesn't present a problem at all. Now, if I was a world traveler, I would probably have to avoid peanut oil in countries where there may be varying degrees of refining of the fat from the proteins.

                            Science about allergies and sensitivities is changing. Of course, there is room for debate on this issue. There are the old line of allergists out there who say total avoidance is the only way to go. We learned in the 90's that this approach often lead to multiple chemical sensitivity, not so good. Most allergists have come to understand, though, that desensitization under carefully controlled circumstances except for all but the most severe of allergies is a safe and effective approach. But, when I posted here about this situation, I completely expected someone to question my and my allergist's opinions. That's why I qualified my story so much.

                            The chef showed me his level of ignorance on allergies when he came to the table to check that almonds were okay. Tree nuts aren't botanically related to peanuts, and are a complete other family of allergens. I understand his concern in the face of such ignorance. He owns his restaurant, and in this economy, a lawsuit could likely undo him. That is why I didn't name him or the restaurant in this post. I respect his work and take full responsibility for my health. He doesn't know either of these facts when choosing to serve me, however. I recognize the position I put him in, but was a little surprised at the handling of the situation. The restaurant's approach seemed unprofessional.

                            1. re: amyzan

                              Peanuts and tree nuts aren't closely related botanically, but the proteins are similar and a lot of people are allergic to both peanuts and tree nuts. My daughter has a peanut allergy, and the allergist advised us to avoid tree nuts as well, even though her tree nut skin tests were negative.

                              Maybe they had a bad experience around allergies with another customer recently, and that's what made them edgy.

                              1. re: jlafler

                                I am under the impression that the phenomenon you describe is more a result of processing than of the proteins being similar. I'd be interested to read more about the proteins being similar if you have a link or other info.

                                1. re: amyzan

                                  I finally got around to checking this. Poking around on Medline I found a lot of discussion of cross-reactivity of peanut and tree nut allergen antibodies. This is one of the more useful articles:

                                  M P de Leon, I N Glaspole, A C Drew, J M Rolland, & et al. (2003).
                                  Immunological analysis of allergenic cross-reactivity between peanut
                                  and tree nuts. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 33(9), 1273-1280.

                                  I'm not an immunologist, nor do I play one on TV, but as far as I can tell, it's generally accepted that some of the antibodies produced in an allergic response to a peanut exposure will also react with tree nut allergens in the lab. This doesn't necessarily translate into a clinical effect, though. It also depends on which allergens you're talking about -- there are multiple different allergens in each allergenic food (many of them seem to be seed storage proteins), so presumably two people who are allergic to peanuts could be allergic to different peanut proteins, and one, neither, or both of these proteins might be cross-reactive with various tree nut allergens. In the article above, they specifically say that cross-reactivity of many allergens doesn't correlate well to taxonomic classification.

                                  1. re: jlafler

                                    While peanuts cause a terrible reaction in my nephew, peanut oil is fine for him, and according to his dr., fine for almost all peanut allergy sufferers. It's the protein in the peanut that is the problem.

                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                      I'm glad to hear someone else has the same rec from their allergist. I've not yet had a problem with refined peanut oil, jeanmarieok. I'm also glad of the Medline reference, jlafler. Food for thought, and consultation of my journal. I've never reacted to tree nuts the same way I do peanuts, but it's good to keep an open mind for future reference.

                                2. re: jlafler

                                  Like jlafler's daughter, I am allergic to peanuts and i avoid tree nuts as a precaution. That may not be technically necessary but it is recommended by so many that i just do it! I miss all these yummy things - now I'm getting hungry. Like someone else mentioned, I wait to bring up my allergy if and when i may order somehthing that coudl cause a problem. I ask, the server asks the kitchen, and then we're good - such as wehther the french fries are in p-nut oil. Easier to deal with it on the spot.

                                3. re: amyzan

                                  I knew someone with a peanut allergy who DIED from eating an eggroll cooked in peanut oil, so yes, some people who are allergic to peanuts cannot have things cooked in the oil. This was at a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey, not in a developing nation.

                                  1. re: lulubelle

                                    Sorry to hear about your friend, so sad.

                                    1. re: lulubelle

                                      That's just horrible and sad. I am so sorry to hear this.

                                      1. re: lulubelle

                                        that is so sad! and scary. that's why I carry an epi pen, because you just never know.

                                        1. re: jujuthomas

                                          It's a really horrible story. She was the friend of a good friend, this is back in middle-school and she ate the eggroll and realized that she was having a reaction, so she dragged my friend to the bathroom with her because she was going to make herself throw up. Being 13, she did not want to cause a disturbance and make fuss, so they didn't tell any of the adults at the table what was happening. By the time my friend went out to get help, she was in aniphilactic (sp) shock. They took her to the hospital but she didn't make it.

                                          It's a really horrible story, and a lesson to parents to make sure their children understand how serious their allergies can be. (and a lesson on the stupidity of 13-year-olds.)

                                          1. re: lulubelle

                                            Wow. we have friends whose kids have food allergies, and they are so wonderfully matter-of-fact about it. In fact my best friends 3 year old can also list her father's food sensitivities!

                                  2. I don't know, amyzan. I've never had this kind of experience, but I don't tell restaurants about my allergies in advance.

                                    I tell them when I get there, if I think it applies***, but I've never had a restaurant flip out on me about it before. (***One of my food allergies is to shellfish. I happen to love fish and chips, which I can eat--however, not if it's been in a fryer that has had fried clams, etc., in it.)

                                    The thing is, a restaurant needs to be prepared to handle these matters as matter of course as they do food sanitation. That is part of what protects them from spurious lawsuits. (Although I don't blame them from protecting themselves from sue-happy types, at all.) My point is just that well run establishments know how to deal with this, by advising patrons in printed materials, by being ready to answer patrons' questions and following simple precautions.

                                    No restaurant needs to be turned upside down by patrons with allergies. JMO.

                                    21 Replies
                                    1. re: Normandie

                                      I'm wondering if this couple is on the verge of closing with their restaurant, Normandie. There was an article earlier this year where the chef said he wasn't making much in the way of profits. Apparently, they're living off his wife's tips, and I figured out she's the one who left the message on Mom's voice mail a couple hours before our celebratory meal. I'm uncovering a rather sad story by delving into this restaurant's press. It's so terrible that passionate people cooking local food are suffering so badly during this economy.

                                      1. re: amyzan

                                        It is, amyzan, and it's sad to see any independent restaurant fail, because you know at some point there were hopes and dreams behind it. But it's such a tough business and--though I'm not making any specific assumptions about these owners you're telling us about--many people go into it unprepared, in some way. Either they don't have enough money backing it, or enough of their own money saved up to carry them through the establishment period, or they don't understand bookkeeping, or human resources and human resources laws...whatever it might be. I hope in some way things work out for this couple. Not only is it sad to see a small business fail, but it's not good for the neighborhood or the workers who would be displaced.

                                      2. re: Normandie

                                        My husband is shellfish allergic, and I've always wondered how far it goes with him - for example, your reaction to fish & chips that've been fried in the same oil as fried clams. He has had a similar reaction once - before I knew he was shellfish allergic, I ordered fried clams, he ordered a burger, and he began to have symptoms partially through dinner (nothing serious, his eyes felt watery - it "may" have been a psychosomatic thing, as I've seem him "create" a breakout of hives in our subsequent 20 years together).

                                        But recently I've noticed that if we go to a place that features seafood, he's perfectly fine, regardless of the frying oil situation - which is unknown, he doesn't ask.

                                        How do you know where to stop? I mean that seriously - like do you ask if the piece of fish you're about to eat was grilled in the vicinity of scallops, for instance?

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            He doesn't have one, and it has only been an issue once in over 20 years, I'm simply curious what others do.

                                            1. re: shanagain

                                              I will not order fried food in a resto that offers anything nut crusted and fried because my nut allergy could kill me. I do not ask if my grilled fish has been cooked near scallops because that just causes a minor reaction. I think how far you take it depends on if it could kill you or not, and how cautious you are by nature.

                                              1. re: shanagain

                                                I'd suggest that ANY doctor when told about one incident in 20 years would suggest that perhaps it wasn't an allergic reaction to shellfish. Unless that shellfish was cooked in plain water and not eaten with any other food or drink. And even then it could have been an environmental issue, i.e, something in the air, etc.

                                                1. re: shanagain

                                                  I just found out that there are blood tests to show which, if any, shellfish/mollusks one may be allergic to. His regular doctor can order that test and maybe he'll never have to worry again.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Honestly, that is The Coolest Thing Ever. Ever! I've wondered if it was a one-off thing, or just shrimp, so this is very interesting, as he used to enjoy shellfish until the surprise attack when he was about 14.

                                                    1. re: shanagain

                                                      I found this out because I had a big attack two nights ago and I'm suspecting shrimp (one of my fave foods). So I'm having the test done tomorrow. Evidently it breaks it down into three different groups. You can google for more info. My reaction was severe enough that I'll probably be carrying an epi-pen in the future. But I really want to aggressively deal with this.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Oof. I hope it's not the shrimp and was maybe yours is an odd one-off thing.

                                                        1. re: shanagain

                                                          From your lips to higher power's ear :)

                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          I actually think that everyone should carry an Epi. I'm sensitive to bee stings, but my kids have never been stung. Who knows what their risk is? An Epi pen could save many lives, and we all should carry them and know how to use them.

                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                            Before two nights ago, I might have thought you were over the top but not now. Mine was mostly a skin reaction which won't kill ya but I did have raspy breathing and voice so it sure got MY attention. I'm leaving town for two weeks and won't have the results of the tests before I leave so I WILL have an epi-pen. Unfortunately for some, the first time can be the last time so, yeah, kiddo, I guess I agree with you.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              Or perhaps store epi pens with automatic defibrillators in public places?

                                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                                that sounds like a great idea to me! I carry one with me at all times, but like c_oliver found out, these things can sneak up on ya.
                                                                c_o.. hope it isn't the shrimp! Take care!

                                                                1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                  I really hope it's not the shrimp. It's one of my faves. Plus we're spending a week in SF and I adore dim sum and there are a preponderance of shrimp dishes. I'd almost be willing to risk the rash but not anaphylactic shock!

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    oh god. yeah. dim sum is FULL of shrimp. almost worth it! ;)

                                                                    1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                      Yup. While browsing some allergy threads here I saw one where someone asked "How do you say 'I'm allergic to shrimp' in Chinese. I SO don't want to incorporate that sentence into my dim sum lexicon :)

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        Unfortunately, you can't always predict from a blood test just how allergic you are, unless it is absolutely negative and then you can still get sensitized and become allergic. I wouldn't risk dim summing in SF, if they fry the shrimp dim sum with non shrimp dim sum, you still could get a reaction. Antigens travel in the oil. With my son the first reaction was always mild, so mild that you had to think if it was anything. The second reaction was always the one that sent him to the ER. Don't ruin your vacation. Think of all the other great restaurants in SF.

                                                                        1. re: meinNYC

                                                                          We never eat fried dim sum so that reduces the chance of cross-contamination. But dim sum without har gow and shrimp in rice flour rolls just doesn't seem right. I love spare ribs and chicken feet. Will just have to expand my repertoire.

                                              2. amyzan, I would prefer a cancellation to what I went through once. I have an allergy to beef but not to veal, Before I orderd veal sweetbreads in a restaurant I informed the waiter of my allergy and asked him if there was beef stock in the sauce. He returned from the kitchen saying that there was beef stock in the sauce, but that they would give me a different sauce.

                                                When he served me the dish he said, "We put the sauce on the side". I ate the dish, not realizing that the imbeciles in the kitchen just put the beef-based sauce on the side. Fortunately my reaction (hives) is not life-threatening, but it does take me 4 days to recover from the hives and related symptoms.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: souschef

                                                  OK, can you explain how you can eat veal but not grown up veal? I'm genuinely perplexed by that one.

                                                  1. re: Vetter

                                                    According to my doctor what I am allergic to is the blood, and with veal they drain the blood periodically to keep the meat pale, My doctor also told me that Halal/Kosher beef should be okay as they drain the blood when the animal is butchered. I tried Halal, and did not react to it, but I don't like the taste and texture. I once had a mild reaction to veal.

                                                    All this happened after 50 years of eating beef with no problem.

                                                    1. re: souschef

                                                      Are you claiming that veal producers routinely drain the blood out of their veal calves?

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        That's the story I was told. My non-reaction to Halal beef does seem to support the theory that I am allergic to the blood. I once ate blood sausage before it was determined that it was beef I was allergic to. That was a bad reaction.

                                                2. I wonder if your mother had not called in advance, and instead you informed the server of your allergy when you arrived, would they have had the same reaction and refused to serve you?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: rebs

                                                    I have wondered the same, rebs.

                                                    1. re: amyzan

                                                      The more I think about it, the more I wonder if they had a recent bad experience with a customer, e.g. someone threatening to sue. I can understand how that would make them freak out.

                                                      Haven't had a chance to research the peanut vs. tree nut issue. My daughter's allergist told us to avoid them all due to similar proteins, but I wouldn't put it past him to stretch the truth -- he has been annoying on several levels.

                                                      1. re: jlafler

                                                        An allergist I used to go to (he was unable to detect my allergies, but an environmental doctor was able to) has a sign in his office attributed to Plato, but which is still applicable today. The sign says:

                                                        "Medicine Is Conjecture At Best".

                                                  2. In truth, though we have had some "near miss" situations in restaurants, all reactions that my husband has had in the last 15 years have been at catered events (weddings or fund raisers). This despite letting the caterer know about the allergy before hand, speaking to the caterer on arrival, and letting the server know. I think the problem is that many caterers rely on premade stuff and don't necessarily know all of the ingredients (and apparently are too lazy to read the label). His new policy is not to eat at these events, which is ok if it's a cocktail situation, but a bit awkward when it's a sit down meal. In none of these situations did the caterer seem particularly aware of liability issues.

                                                    1. So a peanut is a legume, it grows on little bushes near the growth. Tree nuts grow on trees and are a different class of allergen. Some people are allergic to both but not all. There is lots of peanut protein put into many foods because it is cheap. Peanut oil has to be the refined kind and do you really know what you get in a restuarant? My son is tree nut allergic and we always look at the whole menu to see what else is floating around the kitchen. If there are fried crusted nut dishes, then we just assume there are tree nut allergens floating around the oil, and make sure he orders something not deep fried.
                                                      Eating with allergens is scary and you have to be on your toes. If a restaurant doesn't feel comfortable or competent go elsewhere. You should never have to beg for them to let you spend your money at uncooperative establishments. You know it's a disability.... and those who "fake" a food allergy to feel special, well go ahead and develop a real food allergy, that ride in the ambulance to the ER will make you feel REALLY special.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: meinNYC

                                                        scariest meal I ever had was at a restaurant where 1/2 the menu had tree nuts of some sort! Fortunately the waitress was very helpful and sympathetic and was able to help me construct a safe meal. I may have even gotten dessert!
                                                        Leaving wasn't an option because I was away from home and did not have any other place to go.

                                                        1. re: jujuthomas

                                                          Always carry a "chef card" saying what your allergies are. Servers really appreciate this, as they don't have to write down every tree nut you mention. They are available in different languages with pictures on one side when you travel. Goggle chef card. Used them in Italy and French speaking Canada.