FreeFrom Eating Out Nightmares....

The 2014 regulations on allergens were supposed to make eating out safer, and easier, for people with food allergies and intolerances. But, three years later, have they made a difference? Hannah Lawrence reports.


BBQ Our readers have been sharing their horror stories and, unfortunately, there’s still a lot of ignorance around.

“Like asking for the allergen menu and being given the gluten free one full of peanuts, eggs, dairy & soy! It's a pet hate of mine!!”
(Midge via Facebook)

Even when the employees’ intentions are good, there are still often problems:

"Lovely waitress. Very understanding & reassuring. Dinner arrived with normal bread roll perched on top. I burst into tears.”
(@__Dr_H__ via Twitter)

Sadly, that’s not a rare occurrence for allergic diners and Coeliacs. And nor is the “solution”.

“When brought a dish with bread in (despite saying ur coeliac), they just take the bread off and give it back to you.”
(@FriendJayne via Twitter)

“Similar situation with wafer in ice cream, returned with broken wafer still stuck in the ice cream”.
(@Emma_Michelle via Twitter)

“When they tell you can't you just take out the allergens and eat the rest. Cross-contamination is a hard one for most to understand.”
(@AllergyFreeCT via Twitter)

These incidents would be laughable, if it wasn’t for the fact that eating gluten can have serious consequences for coeliacs and gluten-intolerant people:

“Feeling rubbish - ordered a gluten free pizza in Rome, paid extra for the gf option - turns out not gf, now ill”
(@BeccyCornwell via Twitter)

“I was served ordinary pasta, I haven't been back to that chain since as I was so ill!”
(Fiona via Facebook)

And similarly, eating allergens can have devastating effects:

“Chef fully aware of my allergies; [I’m allergic to] artificial colours, flavours and preservatives…. I doublechecked with staff, to be told the roast beef was plain and kept hot in pan juices only. I had a piece of meat; reaction started before I swallowed so I was able to spit it out. The staff realised it was serious after they realised I could hardly speak. The meat was actually in beef stock.”
(Jen via Facebook)

Twice ordered dish without the peanuts […]  & got it with nuts. Could have been disaster for my son.”
(@lisaclombardi via Twitter)

“We have had anaphylaxis 2 times due to dairy. They don't get what “no butter no milk” means.”
(@harriet75 via Twitter)

Sadly, in 2014, Paul Wilson died after eating a mouthful of a curry containing ground peanuts. He had warned staff of his allergy, but the restaurant cooks still used the cheaper peanuts as a substitute for almonds. So, it’s really unnerving when it becomes apparent that the people you’re trusting to look after you really don’t understand your needs:

Chef telling me that chips were #gf even though they were cooked in oil with battered fish 'it's fresh fish so ur ok'. He wasn't joking. He thought he was right. That's worrying!”
(@NormalJosephine via Twitter)

“My children are allergic to dairy. Several times I've been told 'we don't have anything dairy free but the ______ is gluten free'. Also ensuring that a dish will be dairy free and then they sprinkle cheese over it or add chocolate or cream to a dairy free dessert. Sigh.”
(Laura via Facebook)

“Checking & dbl checking order is #gf: they give it to me, & casually say "its cooked in the same fryer, but the heat kills the gluten!!”
(@wannyrow via Twitter)

A number of readers complained of being treated like an inconvenience when they ask for gluten-free and allergen-free food:

Being asked if I 'really' need the GF menu/option & then being served regular pasta anyway”
(@DebBaxter1407 via Twitter)

“We inquired about the possibility before and they said it was fine, but once we got there the manager refused to serve us… [argued] w/us for inquiring if we could have anything but the everything-free microwave meal. Got sent out”
(@BiancaAnsems via Twitter)

“When the restaurant thinks you’re just a fad dieter… I hate that.”
(@WhereWheelsGo via Twitter)

Even when the restaurant takes your needs seriously, they can sometimes do it in a way that sours your eating experience:

“One restaurant makes a manager come take my order, so the reg server takes everyone else's. Makes me feel quite singled out!”
(@Emma_Michelle via Twitter)

So, it appears that a lot of restaurants still have a lot to learn about customer service and food safety. Luckily, there are some fantastic eateries out there, catering for people with food allergies and intolerances. Just check out this year's winners or consult our new FreeFrom Eating Out Awards winners map....