Food Allergy Rights
Uh no. I don’t think so.
I went to the window and spoke with the girl who had talked to my mom. She explained the situation–they only had a few bananas on hand and couldn’t sell one to me.
After going back and forth for a moment she requested I speak with the manager.
I’d love to.
The manager introduces herself; she’s apparently the owner.
Great. I want a banana.
She again explains that they only have a few bananas left, and need to be open till 10 p.m.
I ask her what I’m supposed to feed my egg-dairy-almond allergic daughter.
She looks flustered. I kindly (but firmly) explain that LaBeau’s is a family tradition and one I’d like to carry on with my family. I brought my daughter, who has food allergies, and I’d like her to be part of this family tradition. I want to feed her a banana while we eat the ice cream we’ve ordered.
Owner: Well, we’d have to go down to the KOA and buy more bananas.
Owner: So you want a banana?
Me: Yes. I want a banana.
Owner: Well… I don’t even know what I’d charge. I’ve never sold just a banana before.
She spent a few minutes calculating. I offered to pay her a dollar for the banana (I understand the inconvenience I was causing, really), but after thinking for a moment, she charged me only $.15 for that much disputed banana.
Why do I bring this up?
Sometimes, when we have a child with food allergies, it’s up to us to make sure their needs are met. While it’s in a restaurant’s best overall interests to make things as allergy-friendly as possible upon request, they certainly don’t have to. A server is (almost always) completely unaware of what food contains what allergens. As parents, we must be the person not only checking to make sure the food is safe for their consumption but sometimes we must be the ones to demand it.
By nature I’m not a confrontational person. I hate fighting and I am uncomfortable with arguing. However, when it comes to my children, I’m much more assertive. I like the idea of giving your server allergy information cards to show the chef, but they apply to more severe allergies than Abigail has (fortunately!). I wonder what happens when you hand your server a stack of these cards and say “avoid these?”
One of your best defenses is a good offense. Go here or here to learn as much as you can about your child’s allergy. The more knowledgeable about those sneaky ingredients you need to avoid, the better you can explain your situation at the restaurant.
Massachusetts has made a great first step by requiring managers of food establishments to go through a food allergy course. Of course people who suffer from allergies are accountable for watching what they eat, but it’s nice going out knowing you’ll come home without a visit to the hospital first. :)
While national restaurant chains are becoming more and more accommodating to the situation, I wish labeling was required at restaurants the way it is when I buy a loaf of bread. At a glance, I can usually see whether or not the loaf contains milk or egg. It saves a lot of time from having to scan the list of ingredients for words like “casein” or “whey.” Why not a little symbol on the McDonald’s menu board for each of the most common trigger foods? At a glance, one could easily tell what foods to avoid.
I got these nifty little graphics from the Special Gourmet site. What’s neat about this site is on the home page you can enter your city and your allergies, and it comes up with a list of restaurants and more that are listed as “allergy friendly.” This list claims to be the largest global guide for special dietary concerns, which is probably true; however, it only came up with one restaurant in the Salt Lake City area.
Okay. I’m officially done. I started this post hours ago, meaning to mention a quick little story about the bananas and look at the rant it’s turned it to! Forgive me. :)