|Home cookin’ is the best way to go,
but why can’t eating out be safe, too?
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided to head for a local Applebee’s for lunch. As I was perusing the menu, I noticed a disclaimer stating they weren’t responsible for potential allergies to their food. On a personal level, that blurb made me question whether we should stay there or not.
I have an allergy to seafood: shellfish and regular fish. Fortunately, that allergy is relatively easy to keep a handle on. Many people who have it much worse, and that there are conditions associated with a big part of the ASD community, like F-PIES, that cause serious problems.
Naturally, I got curious and tried finding what prompted that note. It seems Applebee’s has been under pressure from food allergy groups for years, now. It’s been enough to prompt them to post an allergy sheet on their web page.
Now, I know I can’t have their pot stickers or sizzlin’ fajitas, but this little tidbit makes me nervous:
“Please be aware that during normal kitchen operations involving shared cooking and preparation areas, including common fryer oil, the possibility exists for food items to come in contact with other food products. Due to these circumstances, we are unable to guarantee that any menu item can be completely free of allergens.”
So, basically, if you have severe allergies, it’s still not safe to eat there? Shouldn’t there be procedures in place to keep food from being cross contaminated?
Bummer. I guess Applebee’s french fries are off my personal menu.
Well, there are other restaurants than Applebee’s, so let’s take a look at some other big chains, and see what they have in place.
So, Chili’s. I couldn’t find a link to their allergy PDF on their web page, but it is here. Exact same warning with a similar chart format.
How about Olive Garden? Well, they do have the same warning, but they also have a procedure in place to prevent cross contamination when they know guests have food allergies. Their page is also a lot more open about which foods are risky than Applebee’s or Chili’s. Looks like I’ll be avoiding their fried or grilled food, too. According to this, there do still seem to be some problems. The latest comment was from this year, so they might not be all that fantastic depending on the franchise, either.
Perkin’s? Well, I could only find info on gluten and wheat on their web page, and it looks like that’s the only allergy list they have. Pretty disturbing, considering how common peanut and tree nut allergies are in kids. Shouldn’t a family friendly restaurant cover those, too? (Fellow dyslexics beware, the font they use is pretty horrible. Ouch, my brain.)
TGI Fridays? Apparently, they’ve had an allergy friendly menu since 2010, but I can’t find it anywhere on their page.
Last big sit-down casual dining restaurant I can think of? Denny’s. Wow, 404? Uh…that’s reassuring. But, wait, Bing says there’s an allergen pamphlet! Let’s check it…woops. Another 404. Well, I will say that their online menu is pretty decent about listing ingredients, at least.
Bear in mind, I don’t mean to vilify any of these places. The majority of diner experience has more to do with individual franchises than anything I can find on their web pages, but company policy is important. This foray into allergy research does illustrate a tiny fragment of what people who deal with severe food issues go through when they want to eat out.
Although those online resources are handy, it’s always a good idea to talk to your server and be open about whatever sensitivities you have. The Allergy Eats Blog has an excellent guide to eating out safely. It’s well worth the read, especially if you or someone you love are impacted by food allergies/sensitivities.