Eating out with a food allergy [250K — An allergy awareness project]

Eating out with a food allergy


More about eating out with allergies

Your food allergy should not stop you from enjoying yourself with friends and family. All it takes is some planning and communication.

Plan ahead

Check out online menus and call the restaurant or café to ask about their dishes and their allergen content.

This will give you a feel for how they will deal with your allergy needs, and give them time to clean equipment and possibly even create a dish around your food allergy.

Where possible, eat at less busy times.

Say it clearly

If you’ve eaten at a restaurant before, remember that chefs, staff and recipes constantly change. Tell staff about your food allergy every time.

Be clear. Don’t say “Does this have peanut in it?” Instead say, “I have a severe peanut allergy, does this have any peanut or peanut products in it?”

Safer options

With their standardised food preparation processes and consistent menus across locations, chain restaurants and takeaways may be safer choices.

Eat simple

The simpler the dish, the less chance of cross contamination. For example, ordering steak, steamed potato and vegetables with no dressing, sauce or gravy is a safer bet.

The touch test

Despite reassurances, if you suspect a dish has your food allergen in it, use the touch test as an added safety check.

Put a small amount of the food on your outer lip. If you get a tingling, swelling, burning or chilli-like feeling — it is safer not to eat that food.

The touch test does not guarantee that food is safe, however, it is an extra check you can use.

High Risk Food Types

Peanut and tree nut allergies
Asian food: Indian, Thai, Chinese and Vegan.

Sesame allergy
Middle eastern.

Seafood allergy
Seafood restaurants, fish and chip shops.

Cow’s milk allergy
Cafés that use the same frother for dairy and dairy-free milk.

All food allergies
Buffet and all-you-can-eat restaurants have a high risk of cross contamination.

Other stuff to think about

  • Before you eat out, have a snack at home rather than take a risk due to hunger.
  • Take safe snacks with you, just in case you find your options are limited.
  • Take personalised chef cards that you can pass onto the chef explaining your food allergy and the need to be cautious. Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia has chef cards you can print off or order online.

Remember — always carry your EpiPen® when eating out.

Reporting a reaction

If you have an allergic reaction to a food after checking the ingredients list, it’s important to report your reaction to protect others.

Once you have managed your allergic reaction and recovered, you should report the reaction to the health department.

Information about who to contact and what to do is available below:

Report a reaction