Why anyone serving food should ask their guests about allergens
Recently I have noticed a large amount of road kill near me – all baby animals – rabbits, squirrels mainly. It got me thinking – why are so many young animals getting run over? Well I guess by now they are young adults, have left their parents, and are seeking independence and an exciting new life. However, whilst mum and dad always looked out for them, now they are on their own, exposed to dangers and making decisions for themselves, sometimes fatal decisions.
When allergic children grow up and leave home that is when they are at their most vulnerable too. They have been protected by their parents who have made sure they don’t get exposed to a potentially fatal allergen; when they go to school, the school dinner servers know all about them – there is even a picture of them behind the counter. When they go out to eat, their parents ask the embarrassing question about what is in the food. All their friends have known their whole life that they have an allergy – it is part of life.
Then, off they go to University, meet new friends, and they are on their own with their allergy. Perhaps they are sick of being the allergic person in the group. Rather than risk being the odd one out, they try to navigate the menu without asking, hoping for the best. Rather than take their adrenaline pen in a handbag or pocket which is just not cool, they go out with just their mobile and £20 tucked behind the case. They also may not have told their new friends about their condition because that is also not cool. Three potentially lethal types of behaviour. This is the time of year when young allergic adults do die, because they haven’t been careful enough, they haven’t asked that simple question – “I’m allergic to nuts, can you make sure I don’t have any in my meal?” Whilst the Food Standards Agency “Easy to ask” campaign is great at raising awareness, let’s take a two pronged approach:
If you serve food to young adults, do them a favour and ask in a nice friendly way – does anyone here have any foods they need to avoid? Find out if they need to avoid a food allergen. Get them talking – it could save lives.