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The Best of Victoria’s Allergen Diaries

Erudus’s own Victoria has been our Insider Diaries columnist for the past 6 months, sharing her tips and advice for navigating life with allergies. As we gear up to welcome a new contributor, we’re revisiting Victoria’s posts to find out the main lessons learned from her experiences of living life with multiple allergies.

Read Part 1 - Victoria tells us about living with multiple allergies.

Read Part 2 - We get an insight from Victoria into what it’s like eating out with allergies.

Read Part 3 - What’s it like moving away from home on your own with severe allergies? Victoria talks about her move up North to University.

Read Part 4 - Victoria discusses the relationship between Caterers and Consumers and how they can help one another.

Read Part 5 - Discover how to travel the globe with allergies whilst still remaining safe.

Read Part 6 - Victoria informs us how allergies can impact different relationships in your life and how you can handle them.

Here are the takeaways to remember...

Having an allergy requires you to be alert and aware of everything you’re coming into contact with, 24/7.

“Trying to protect yourself from one food is hard enough, but throw multiple allergies into the mix and you’ve got yourself a potential recipe for disaster. You’re putting your life into someone else’s hands. It’s scary how some establishments have such lack of consideration and empathy towards allergy sufferers. Holding the attitude that ‘it’s only a little bit of gluten, it won’t hurt you’ can be literally fatal for someone with a severe allergy. But despite some truly negative experiences, there have been some brilliant places that I have been to where I have felt cared for and understood.”

Showcasing that your business is aware of allergens is extremely important…

“It makes me feel safe whenever I visit a restaurant that has allergen-labelled menus or a separate gluten-free menu, or when the staff are trained and able to have an actual conversation about allergens. There are a number of independent places I have been to where the Chef has come out of the kitchen, sat down with me and told me exactly what I can and can’t have and how certain dishes can be adapted to suit my dietary needs. It’s experiences like this that make eating out genuinely enjoyable as an allergy sufferer.”

When moving away from home, plan some allergy friendly meals and be careful when going out for drinks

“For any student in self-catered accommodation it’s a really good idea to plan some staple allergy-friendly meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are so many allergy blogs across the internet, from nut-free to dairy-free and so on, who can show you how easy it is to create meals that are allergen friendly. The Erudus Recipe Book contains a range of recipes handily labelled with allergen icons so you can easily identify which dishes are suitable and which ones to avoid.

Certain cocktails may contain nuts, eggs or milk when you wouldn’t expect them to, and even certain alcohol have hidden allergens. Do your research and then when you’re ordering drinks be sure to double-check with the bar staff. Friendship groups should also be careful when trying each other’s drinks.”

When travelling or on holiday, research restaurants beforehand...

“Researching potential places to eat beforehand is a really good way to make yourself feel at ease and give you options. Going to Rome I remember worrying, as the delicacies of Italy are practically 100% gluten. I searched ‘gluten-free restaurants Rome’, and we ended up finding an eatery which offered completely gluten-free food as well as normal non-gluten options - they operated 2 separate kitchens in the same premises. Me and my family went there the first night and we loved it so much we ended up going back multiple times. I’ve done the same thing in Milan, and me and my friend found a 100% gluten-free bakery and when travelling in Asia I found many restaurants offering gluten and nut-free dishes through Google searches, so making a list of potential places is great!”

Don’t stress about communicating your allergies to different people in your life…

Family: Tell them what you’re allergic to, how it will affect you, and ask them what they’re planning on cooking. By going through everything together you can point out what you can and can’t eat, any potential swaps that are easy to make that will make dishes allergy-friendly, and whoever’s cooking can ensure that your food is kept separate so there are no risks of cross-contamination.

Friends: Telling friends is so important. When my housemates ring up places to book meals, because they know about my allergy they can ask about it when calling the restaurant to check that there’ll be food suitable and safe for me to eat, which takes the pressure of me dealing with it every time we eat out and and helps me feel less alone in my condition. When cooking, my friends are always double checking ingredients, cleaning and making sure of no cross-contamination.

Relationships: Establish a plan with your date so that they know what to do in the event of an emergency. Educating people about allergies requires patience, some people may never have had to deal with allergies and they’re not clued up on them, so it’s important to be understanding. And remember don’t settle for anything less than someone caring and compassionate! The right person will listen,learn and be genuinely interested about your allergies.

How Caterers can help allergy sufferers

Open up the conversation “If you are not already notified of allergies, be sure to immediately give them the opportunity to discuss requirements. That way you’ll have time to organise ingredients and prepare to cater to that specific customer. Consider writing an ‘Any Allergies? Ask Us’ statement on your menus and/or website to let customers know you're open to helping them. You can find such flyers and signs as part of our Industry Resources on the Erudus website.”

Educate your staff “Make sure you educate and train all your staff on the seriousness of food allergies and the importance of cross-contamination. The more people who understand allergies, what they are and what can happen when severe allergic reactions occur, the easier it is to cater for those with allergies.”

Embrace technology “Erudus offers powerful solutions that help you to comply with food legislation and keep your customers safe. The Recipe Builder tool automatically aggregates nutritional values, costs and allergy statements for all the dishes on your menu. Recipes cards are then available to view with complete allergen and nutritional breakdowns, the perfect reference for your customers and staff.”

Next up on The Insider Diaries

We’ve got a brand new columnist! Taking over from Victoria is Joseph DiGangi, lifelong allergy sufferer and founder of AssureTech app, an app which provides those in the allergy community with effective translations in over 30 languages and help asking for emergency medical attention. In Part 1 we’ll be getting an insight into who Joey is, and the experiences with his allergies that led him to becoming heavily involved with the allergy community.