Dining Out With a Milk Allergy: How to Stay Safe When Eating at Restaurants
A milk allergy is not just a food intolerance. Many adults and children have lactose intolerance, symptoms of which include gastrointestinal discomfort or headaches.
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Allergy sufferers also have to contend with body swelling, rash, increased blood pressure, seizures or a constricted airway which, if left untreated, can be fatal. Because of this, new dining experiences can be stressful.
First and foremost, always carry emergency medications. Be sure they have not expired.
Do not rely on the local ambulance service to be close enough or even available. Unless the restaurant is located within a hospital itself, bring along any medications you may need.
Type of Restaurant
Beware of the buffet! Different types of salad dressings can get mixed together through carelessness, the cheese gets spread absentmindedly across other items, and prepared foods are a mystery.
Buffets should be avoided if possible or look for one which also has a menu for table meals.
Fast food is the second worst choice for people with allergies. Some chains use a long flat grill surface to cook all burger patties on.
Simply wiping the surface between cooking cheese burgers and hamburgers is not enough to stop cross contamination.
Because of the amount of food they produce, it is often prepared as fast as possible and some mistakes are bound to happen.
Restaurants such as Taco Bell and Subway keep the bins of cheese next to the other toppings and, when the server is preparing a meal, it is carried over other toppings, easily causing cross contamination.
At least having the sandwich made in front of you, like at a submarine sandwich shop, lets you see most of what could be dangerous.
Also, make sure that the person making your food changes gloves after the last time they touched cheese.
Style of Food
Italian-American food is often loaded with cheese. Even salads often contain hidden feta cheese, especially in Greek restaurants.
Chinese restaurants use hardly any milk or cheese, and Japanese style is mostly milk allergy friendly. However, when eating Dim Sum, remember that crab rangoon does contain cream cheese.
Asian cuisine is easier to negotiate than European, as most food names are the list of ingredients and fewer milk derived products are used.
French and American are some of the most difficult to figure out what the ingredients are for each step in the recipe. Butter and cheese are in almost everything. Even the salads come with croutons.
Vegan restaurants are often a good bet, as no milk ingredients are even present in the restaurant. The possibility of cross contamination is practically zero.
What to Order
In most diners there is no way to see how your food is being prepared. Start with selections that do not originally come prepared with milk or cheese items.
Even after communicating with your server why you are requesting your meal without cheese, there is still a chance of cross contamination due to sloppy food practices.
A chef may put cheese on a burger to grill and then realize it was to be made without. Believing there will not be a problem, they may just remove the cheese before it melts and then send it to the customer.
Allergies to milk are often so sensitive that this can cause a severe reaction.
Whether it is for good customer service or trying to avoid a law suit, the restaurant you go to will most likely be happy to accommodate your allergy.
They are in business to provide food, so knowing the particulars of food allergies should be standard. Some restaurants have a better reputation than others.
At Disney World, for example, the chef will come out from the kitchen and discuss any special meal needs with the customer.
Regardless of how well prepared the restaurant is to handling special allergy requirements, it is still the customer’s responsibility to be assertive and make sure they take all precautions to stay safe when dining in a new environment.
When in doubt, ask questions and ask to read the ingredients.
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