Eating out when you have an allergy - Why is this still so difficult?
I have been avoiding wheat completely since 2011 after an exclusion diet led me to realise that wheat was the major cause of my IBS symptoms. Since eliminating it I get very ill if I accidentally eat any. I get bloated and pain (feels like my inards are splitting), I get nausea and headaches. These symptoms and more will sometimes last a week.
I choose to eat gluten free when I am out as allergies are rarely taken seriously and the risk of cross contamination worries me. I have found that awareness of allergies and coeliac disease has improved and the gluten free menu is common place. What surprises me though is there is always a disclaimer somewhere, or clever wording which reads something like 'gluten sensitive menu' or 'cannot guarantee that there the ingredients are from a gluten free environment'. This is just a cop out. It isn't that difficult to prepare food and keep it safe, I do gluten free and gluten containing meals at home all of the time.
My worst experience so far was when hubby and I decided to go away for the weekend. We went to a lovely (old) hotel in Tunbridge Wells. We did the usual...email to let them know I would need gluten free food, told them on arrival I would need gluten free food, informed them when we booked in for dinner that I would need gluten free food....you get the idea. We arrive for dinner and I ask for the gluten free menu. There isn't one. The waitress timidly suggests I could eat the food with a symbol to show they were whole earth choices or something. I could tell by the descriptions I couldn't. I asked if I could eat the chips, she went off and came back with a 'no'. I asked her if I could eat one of the meals which seemed ok form the description. She said 'I will ask the Chef again but he will shout at me'!!! I asked to speak to the manager who didn't speak English very well and he didn't seem to know what I was talking about. We painstakingly went through a meal together, ingredient by ingredient to see if I could eat it. Seemed ok, I was scared but hungry. I ordered chicken breast with cheese and bacon with new potatoes. What arrived was horrendous, plain chicken, plain bacon and boiled potatoes which weren't even cut. No presentation, no side salad, no cheese. I ate it and wasn't ill (bonus) but really?! Surely there are guidelines now for restaurants to have allergy information. Totally ruined my day :(