Damning results from a recent survey suggests that “Only 17% of allergy sufferers and coeliacs trust waiting staff to give them accurate information about allergens or gluten in the food they are serving.”

A wake-up call to the food service industry, many of whom are only just now getting to grips with the new regulations that, as from December 2014, will require them to be able to tell any customer who asks about any of the major allergens in their offer.

The regulations do not require this information to be offered in a written format, allowing it to be provided orally by the waiting staff instead. But when such an overwhelming majority of consumers do not trust the waiting staff to give them the right information this could be a nightmare for both outlet and customer!

This finding came in a survey conducted by the Freefrom Eating Out Awards team at the Allergy and Gluten-free show in Liverpool in October. Of those who filled in the survey:

  • 46% had coeliac disease
  • 20% suffered from wheat allergy/intolerance
  • 14% suffered from dairy/cow’s milk allergy/intolerance
  • 20% suffered from a range of other allergies/intolerances


1. Asked how often they ate out:
• 19% ate out twice a week and 18% only ate out once a week
• 25% ate out twice a month and 19% only ate out once a month
(*A recent survey – September 2013 – showed that, in the London area at least, people now eat out, on average, four times a week.)

2. Asked why don’t they eat out more?
• 67% said there was not enough choice to make it worth their while eating out.
• 53% said that they did not trust most restaurants to understand their allergies or special dietary needs
• 44% said it ‘was too much hassle’
• 16% said that they did not like ‘to feel different’

3. Asked which were the best and the worst places to eat if you have an allergy or coeliac disease:
• Best were fine dining restaurants and family run restaurants, scoring 3-5/5
• Worst were sandwich bars and Indonesian and Indian restaurants, scoring 1-2/5.

4. Asked what precautions they took to ensure that they get safe food:
• 53% phoned in advance to discuss their needs
• 50% asked to speak to the chef on arrival
(32% both phoned in advance and asked to speak to the chef when they arrived.)
• However, the largest number, 75%, whether or not they had phoned in advance and/or spoken to the chef, just chose to stick to simplest menus anyhow.

5. Asked what they thought would be the safest way to find out about potential allergens or gluten in any dish:
• 54% thought that talking to the chef was the safest option although many of those (45%) also wanted to see a written list of ingredients for each dish, or to be provided with an ‘allergen-free’ menu.
• Only 17% felt that asking their wait-person or the front of house staff about allergens would be a safe and reliable way to go!

The survey was conducted over two days among visitors to the FreeFrom Awards stand at the Allergy and FreeFrom Show in October in Liverpool.

* Survey of eating habits in London conducted for the Zagat Restaurant Guides in September 2013.
, run by the team which also runs the very successful and , will open in May 2014 with the presentation at the exhibition at Excel in November 2014.

So what do you think? Would you agree with the results in the survey above? Are you brave enough ot put your trust in waiting staff and chefs?

What precautions do you take when planning a meal out? Or do you stay at home and cook your own?



An allergy and health writer and freelance copywriter, Ruth is passionate about helping those with allergies and food intolerances take control, embrace their condition, and learn to live with and love who they are. It can be very lonely finding you have allergies and discovering what helps you can be a life long journey. What works for one person won't work for another, so after trying nearly every allergy treatment under the sun and finding hours of research necessary to keep abreast of what's going on, Ruth started writing her blog, What Allergy? in April 2009. Ruth has life threatening allergies herself to all nuts, all diary, tomatoes and celery and knows first-hand what it's like to have an anaphylactic attack. Voted in the Top 5 UK allergy blogs by Cision UK in 2011, What Allergy is packed full of interesting articles, hints and tips and product reviews which are a must read for anyone with allergies, food intolerances or sensitivities, asthma and eczema. From subjects such as "What is celery allergy?" to "Surviving a holiday abroad with allergies", it's packed with useful and interesting information. You can register free for a weekly newsletter by visiting her website and also keep in touch by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

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