Chef Martha Morgan
Dining With A Dairy Allergy
I have a guest post today from Jasmine Watson, an Allergy Abroad Contributor that I have had the pleasure of working alongside with the Allergy Abroad Creator Seb Fernando. Jasmine wanted to share her views on her dairy allergy and how she handles dining out with her allergy that she shares with her Mother. Keep reading to find out more about Jasmine, her story, and how she helps contribute to the allergy
Going to a restaurant for a meal to celebrate with loved ones or colleagues should be an enjoyable experience. However, for those with food allergies, this can add an amount of undue stress if the restaurant is not prepared or fully aware of their ingredients that are used in their menus.
My Mother and I both have a dairy allergy with different intensities. When she was twenty-eight, my Mother began to worry that there was something wrong with her as she was feeling increasingly poorly after eating. Upon looking at her diet, she wondered whether she had an allergy to a specific type of food and went to an alternative food allergy specialist to get allergy-tested. After placing different kinds of food underneath her tongue, the specialist revealed that my Mother had an allergy to milk products and tomatoes, which would explain why she felt so unwell as these were both significant parts of her diet.
Four years later, she gave birth to me, and I began to show the same symptoms of an allergy to something. After some more testing, it was discovered that I was also allergic to milk, and we both have had to adapt our diets throughout the years.
This can make going to a restaurant very stressful if it is not a place that we have been to before who are aware of my Mother’s allergies. When we arrive at a new place, we are quick to ask if they have an allergy menu for us to check to see what my Mother can eat from their menu. The first red flag is raised if they say that they do not have one, as this should be an essential requirement with today’s health-conscious climate. Even though my Mother’s allergy does not produce anaphylactic reactions, many people do have the allergy to such a severe degree and can sadly lose their lives if they are fed something that they shouldn’t be. What’s more, the companies that fail them in this area would be at fault if this were the case, which makes the lack of allergy menus in some establishments unsettling, to say the least.
There have been many times when we have asked to see an allergy menu, and they haven’t had one, so we rely on the knowledge of their servers. Many places don’t make it a requirement for their servers to know anything about allergies or food groups, so the extent of their knowledge in some areas can be dubious at best. When my Mother makes them aware that the allergy she has is a dairy one, we have had it happen in multiple places that they’ve asked if butter or cream counts as a dairy product. They have also asked if she’s allergic to eggs. When this lack of knowledge is presented to my Mother, it can make her experience at the restaurant a stressful one as she worries that she will be fed the wrong sort of food and become unwell.
With the inclusion of vegan diets becoming more prevalent across the food industry, it has been easier to find places that have a better understanding of what is in their food than some years ago. Vegan diets can suit my Mother’s dietary requirements as they automatically negate the use of any milk products by nature, but there is still a lack of knowledge of food groups. There have been plenty of times in the past where a lack of knowledge on the restaurant’s part has left my Mother feeling poorly and ruining her dining experience, but she has learned that there are three things she needs to do when ordering as we’ve mentioned:
1. Ask for an allergy menu, if you’re abroad, use allergy translation to communicate your allergy
2. Ask for the ingredients included in a dish
3. Always double-check with someone in charge
4. The FDA has a great write up for young adults on how to manage their food allergies.
We hope that one day, allergy menus will become a common element to have in restaurants, and we already see this change. I hope this has helped fellow allergy sufferers.
Jasmine Watson is a regular contributor at allergyabroad.com. A place where allergy translation can be free and accessible. While she isn’t writing, she loves to spend time with her family and pets.