Dunkin’ Donuts allergy sign creates controversy
Last week, I visited my local Dunkin’ Donuts… for research purposes only, of course! When I had been there previously, the new Massachusetts law related to restaurants and food allergies had just gone into effect, causing DD to post a sign that used the required language, “Before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy.” I remember shaking my head thinking “…and then what are they going to do about it? Not exactly fine dining here.” (This head shaking only rivaled by my reaction to similar signs posted at the concession stands inside the TD Garden, home of the Boston Bruins and Celtics.)
During my visit last week, however, a new sign appeared at Dunkin’ Donuts. I stared at it for a while, trying to decide how it made me feel as the father of food-allergic children. I decided to pull out my phone, take a picture, post it on Facebook, and ask for reactions.
WOW! I wasn’t prepared for the never-ending list of comments! There was such fantastic feedback – and not all biased in a single direction – that I thought I should replicate the post here, with all the comments to date.
My question to the Facebook followers: First thoughts when you see this?
Enjoy reading the tremendous feedback and feel free to add your own below! [Note that bolded entries have been “liked” by more than 2 others and italicized by 1 or 2 others (all by 8AM EDT this morning). Happens to make this a little easier to read too.]
Eileen: Let’s go to Krispy Kreme!
Tammy: As I told them – that their products r not to be consumed by people with food allergies! However, they say u need to ask the manager. They just post the sign to protect themselves???
AllergyEats: I’ll start. “Created by lawyers for lawyers.” (No offense to my friends in the legal services industry.) And is the food-allergy community part of the “valued customers” this is addressing?
Natalie: I miss donuts.
Gwen: Try www.holeydonuts.net. They are great, low-fat, low calorie, and nut-free!!!! Just tried them, and they are delicious! They have tons of sales and free shipping sometimes too. And also make delicious cinnamon buns. Great for nut allergic kids!!
Tricia: Dear customers, this establishment is your worst allergy nightmare. Run for your lives.
Thank you and have a nice day,
Todd: It’s the CYA methodology, Cover your A$$. They’re not the first and certainly not the last, but I would love to see the day that all companies have to be responsible for the products or services they provide.
Christine: It gives the right to deny my daughter food. It is a horrible law made only to protect restaurants and NOT the people with food allergies. Horrible.
Kristin: Stay away
Jamie: I dont like it..I actually think all places will be doing this just so that they dont have to worry about a lawsuit..Before you know it, no one with peanut allergy will be able to eat anywhere.I bet in reality most of their items are or coudl be safe
Kimberly: The first thing I think is that it’s warning you to think twice before risking your health. THEY ARE DONUTS! If you are concerned about your health maybe you shouldn’t be there anyway!
Carol: My son was 4 when he saw a donut commercial on tv and asked me, “Mom, am I allowed to have those little cakes with the hole in the middle?” Poor kid didn’t even know what a donut was!
Tammy: I agree…..CYA……and they do not cater to the customer or they would be more accommodating. If you have special dietary needs, go away!
Jamie: Gwen, Are you sure they are nut free? Is it a nut free facility
Donna: Atleast they list allergens on their site but I think one of the only things my daughter was a bagel…thank goodness for Vegan treats for people with dairy/egg allergies!
Stacey: I get annoyed by this “catch all” Tim Hortons has the same sign on all of their doors, and windows. I understand they carry peanut butter cookies so there is a danger of cross contamination. It’s just unfortunate bc there probably is a few items that would be safe for my daughter. We don’t however purchase anything there for her. If we go to a drive through it’s coffee for mom and Dad and bottles of water for the kids. no food. This sign is all over in Canada. It’s on deli meat counters, in bakeries, restaurants etc. It’s an unwillingness to accomidate food allergic people. We are limited to one restaurant 45 minutes away with one meal. We go about once every few months. Reese’s allergies are peanuts, treenuts, eggs, soy, and reacts to all legumes (peas and beans) so most breads are out and most fast food items use soy as a preservative.
Annette: This is why I rarely eat out at chain restaurants.
Mike: This ought to be common sense for anyone with allergies. Bakeries in particular (and bakery-like businesses like DD) are rife with cross-contamination. If they serve anything with allergens, then you should assume that they serve EVERYTHING with allergens. It’s just not realistic to keep them separate unless they’re manufactured off-site at specialty facilities and served in vacuum-sealed packaging. But yes, it’s a CYA, because there are people who won’t use their heads or just don’t know they’re food-sensitive who will eat there, suffer a reaction, and then want to file suit. They’d be crazy NOT to post such a sign, given our incredibly litigious society.
Pauline: To followup on Stacey above me, I’ve even been told by someone at a Tim’s that there is potentially NOTHING safe (peanut allergy). I asked if the bottled water was safe I was asking a rhetorical question, obviously), and she said that she was told to tell customers that ALL items may have traces of nuts/peanuts in them. Obviously they’re not exactly educating their staff very well, and are just using the disclaimer to remove the need to think!
Gwen: Jamie, I haven’t called, but go to the website under nutritional info and click on ingredients…they list even all the frostings, crumb topping, etc. and allergens. They don’t use nuts in any of their products. And it’s not on the allergens list. I would call to make sure though. They are great…my daughter has had no problem with them. www.holeydonuts.net
Tracy: I think of CYA when I see this sign too. Get a similar sign in the form of a sticker on the pizza box when I order a gluten free pizza from Cottage Inn. I have the fun whammy of gluten intolerance, peanut, shellfish, pork allergy…so pretty much have come to terms with there are just some places I cannot go to eat. But would really like to see the day when restaurants and other eat out places can and will accommodate those with food allergies, esp since the number of food allergic people is growing and their business could take a large hit.
Susanna: “We don’t feel like taking the time to deal with your allergies. Please see sign if you have any questions and be on your merry way.”
Michele: I’d prefer they put the sign up as a reminder to people, or for those new to food allergies who may not realize bakeries and ice cream shops are not the places to go b/c of cross contamination, it probably is CYA but maybe that’s b/c so many people have given up on the idea of personal responsibility and want to sue for everything. Would it be nice if all restaurants could accommodate FA customers, sure but I think it is unrealistic given the number of different types of FA people have it would be impossible to cover everyone’s FA in one location so that’s why we have sites like this one to help navigate eating out based on our own personal FA concerns.
Joyce: I apprecaiate the fact they have put this up, or any place. However, I do think it’s the responsibility of the person, not the business to take care of your own allergy. I don’t expect anyone or everyone to care that my son is allergic to peanuts, so we just don’t worry about places that don’t care for allergy families. (Although, I will miss you DD, we’ve been good friends forever, now we’re thru! 🙂
AllergyEats: I hope our growing AllergyEats community is the pressure that causes this change in restaurant behavior. Restaurants ARE slowing starting to “get it”, and if they wake up the potential lost profits demonstrated by us, I’d be surprised if this trend didn’t actually accelerate! We need to keep growing the AllergyEats ratings base, community, and breadth of the site’s offerings. I can take care of the latter, but our need for the first two is why I always remind everyone to rate restaurants or click the Refer a Friend button on the main site. Growth at AllergyEats is excellent and accelerating, but if we can increase the pace even more, we can more quickly strengthen our influence.
Flora: Cross contamination lurks everywhere….have you observed the employees lately? Lord knows what is on their hands and/or gloves! I honestly rarely feel safe unless it is manufactured and factory sealed….or if it is in a store/restaurant that I know the management/owners. Hate being paranoid, but this is a health/life issue. We as a family avoid donut shops, fast food restaurants, etc. not just for allergy reasons, (my son has 200 allergies/intolerances), but for HEALTH issues, too..never met a healthy donut!
AJ: I would never eat at a fast food establishment like that. The employee education is nothing and their is no separation of ingredients. Anyone that needs that sign needs some education about their own allergies.
AllergyEats: The irony that ALWAYS comes up in my conversations about signs like this is that they provide ZERO real protection from lawsuits (prior cases have proven this). If something horrible were to happen in any restaurant (God forbid), that restaurant would absolutely be sued and very, very likely either settle or lose. Both would involve a lot of cash with the latter possibly including a lot of bad publicity that the restaurant wouldn’t want. Is that fair? Not necessarily, because I didn’t say the restaurant even had to be negligent – welcome to our “not my fault” society. But I do think it’s realistic.
Lori: Allergies are a way to eat healthy nutritious food. Listen to your body, allergy “substitutions” are simply more processed crap! Our society is so far removed from what is “healthy” no wonder so many of us have allergies. Allergies are a blessing in my life because and no longer have a desire to spend my dollars on disease promoting foods.
Kristin: My first thought, pass.
Sarah: No problem with the sign but I was just there 10 minutes ago, asked what the ingredients were in a bagel. They had no information. Why post signs like that if you aren’t going to have a list of the ingredients in the products!
Jules: Starbucks is no different. It’s a shame they don’t care enough to even find out whether there are allergens in their offerings – not even coffee!
Jamie: Cool Gwen!
Linda: That is exactly how I see it, Lori! I have had that conversation with my peanut/tree nut allergic daughter many times.
Maria: Bruegger’s bagels has the same sign. First thought….they don’t want to deal with allergies-so eat at your own risk or don’t eat there at all.
Flora: Panera Bread has the sign too…but they also have a book handy with every product and all ingredients and nutritional info….When speaking with their management, they will do whatever it takes to accomodate and if they cannot, they are honest about it.
Jennifer: Why would those of us with food allergies eat in a place that makes industrial food in the first place? If you want to have control over what goes in your mouth, eating out generally isn’t safe to begin with. Eat at your own risk. It’s nice when they try, but ultimately the responsibility of what goes in your mouth is YOURS. I see that they do have a web site you can go to if you are really interested in eating there….
Konstanze: The sign says: “spend your money somewhere else!”
Lindey: i’d never have seen this sign as i make it a habit to avoid bakeries. ><
Karen: I think restaurants and food service establishments will be using a disclaimer like this to CYA, especially in Massachusetts. However, I think most people who have food allergies are aware that an establishment cannot guarantee 100% of the time that they will be allergen-free. Some restaurants are going above and beyond the call of duty to be more allergy-conscious and to take precautionary measures to ensure a safer meal for those with food allergies (i.e. preventing cross-contact and stricter label reading guidelines). Ultimately its up to the diner to decide if they are comfortable eating at a particular restaurant. Having said all this, the food-allergic customer who has a positive experience will then be a repeat customer and tell all their friends, so this will increase the restaurants business, creating a win/win situation for all.
Robin: Tim Hortons has the same sign, my son is allergic to nuts. They have told me what doesn’t contain nuts which I appreciate but as they have told me everything is put whereever on the counters so there you have cross contamination. I would rather have that sign be posted then have some idiot tell me that just because a donut doesn’t have nuts in it that it didn’t come in contact with something. I will knock on wood at this next line…. My son loves the chocolate glazed tim bits and we havent had a problem. With all my son’s allergies it has just come to a point that unless I make it or trust whoever is making it we don’t eat there. We can’t expect everyone to cater to all the allergies in the world there are just to dam many food allergies out there. Its nice when there is a restuarant that caters. If a resturant catered to all allergies it would be gluten free, nut free, seafood free, egg, dairy, pork free, beef free, corn free etc. What would they serve then? And if they had all seperate stations to make sure there was no cross contamination do you realize how big of a resturant it would have to be and how much we would have to pay for the food. In the end we as parents are the only ones responsible you can expect everyone else to know and to keep our kids safe. Sorry this was so long.
Sandrine: Voodoo donuts in Portland carry vegan donuts, my son had his very first donut at age 9 & the smile was priceless. That sign is awful!!
Amy: That is the reason why we don’t go to Dunkin’ Donuts. Even when I am not with my allergic kids I will not support their business.
Vicki: My first thought is, “I’m in the wrong place.” I’m grateful that there is a sign warning me about peanuts, but they’re not going to be able to help me get something safe to eat.
Nancy: It junk!. I keep my kids ways from it anyways… but funny…
Laurie: Make your own ! Safer and more fun. There are great mini donut makers or you can make them the old fashion way. We do this as a family on weekends and our family loves it the donut maker is really quick and they are about $20 max.
Heather: It’sjust so much easier for companies to put out a blanket statement like this, protecting their own behinds, without any concerns for providing options for food allergic customers.It’s no different than the food labels of ‘may contain’….
Jennifer: I am allergic to soy so every donut place is out anyway. However, I’m not sure what bothers me more: The sign or all the clutter all over the counter around it. Makes me wonder if there are non food items in the donuts too.
Michelle: I’m assuming Holey Donuts contain egg, right?
Kayla: my 1st impression is: at least they are aware that costumers with allergies exist.
Ali: To me the sign is saying “we are not even going to try and we don’t care.”
Susan: Welcome to DD: Although we provide an itemized allergen list, we’re not all that careful about cross contamination, employee training, and vendor quality control. We don’t have any standards set in place so take your chances.
Gwen: Michelle, Holey Donuts does have may contain traces of egg in their allergen statement. Go to their ingredients page…I only saw egg whites in the crumb topping. You can call and see if there would be cross contamination. I do not give them to my egg allergic daughter but she is only two anyway. They are a great alternative when you have that donut craving.
Dilip: If you have food allergies, just go someplace else.
Erin: Don’t eat here!!!! And I miss donuts so much…
Phelicia: I totally agree with Ali! Well said Ali!! My family and I are SO VERY, VERY sick of this lame “cover your butt” proclamation. We worry that it won’t make a difference, but we’re boycotting establishments that say that kind of bologna. They will make a effort if they want our business!
Betsy: The customer is not number one. Do they even post ingredient lists anywhere?
AllergyEats: OH THE IRONY!!! Susan, I didn’t even realize until I read your post and checked their site… they have ALLERGEN GUIDES (under Nutrition) on their site!!!
Valeria: Gwen be careful donkin donuts does have peanuts now!!!!! I like you read ingredients and thought why are they putting this since non of their donuts have peanuts… well asked factory and they told me THEY ARE MAKING NOW A PEANUT BUTTER DONUT!!!!( I think peanut butter and banana or monkey something to be best of my recollection) or some kind of donut with peanut butter filling thus the statement
SO WITH SADNESS had to have my son never ever have a donkin donut again…. which he cries every time we go by the many many around us
Ps apparently this new donut is not everywhere but since it is there ansd prodiced in same machine/palce lies th eproblem I was told
Donna: I love how you asked for “first thoughts” and enjoyed reading them.
Heather: They certainly don’t believe in providing information, do they?
Pam: It doesn’t make me feel very “valued”
Joyce: I think it is CYA, but I would rather that they tell me, so we can avoid the place. I am more fearful of businesses that may not be safe, but its not as obvious. I do worry that more places will post signs like this and we won’t have anyplace to go, but I do not expect that all restaurants can be allergy safe. For now, we carry food, eat at home and book hotels with kitchens.
My son has egg and peanut allergies so we bake muffins (using applesauce instead of egg) in donut shaped pans and he is happy. We also have made fried donuts, but that is a lot of work compared to baking.
Christine: FYI – it’s a law in Mass to have this posted either on the menu or at an ordering station. It does nothing to help food allergy patrons. It is only there to protect the resturants.
Elizabeth: Paul, I’m very interested in food allergy injury & liability. If you have any previous cases you can share with my by e-mail, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. I’m researching the topic right now, and your research would really be helpful to me. Best ~ Elizabeth
Debra: First thought is: Anyone with nut allergies should NOT eat there.
Debra: I think their sign should make you feel “valued”. They are telling you right up front, don’t eat here 🙂
Sarah: Run away. Far away.
AllergyEats: Christine, for clarification purposes, this sign is not the result of the Massachusetts law. THAT sign was posted elsewhere in the required language “Please inform your server if anyone in your party has a food allergy.” This one was a “bonus” sign that just popped up recently. Maybe too many people were “informing the server?”
Christine: My mistake. This sign has been around for a long time, though. If you visit their website they are very clear on the allergy info.
Christine: I just need to add that I have checked the website and my daughter eats/drinks from Dunkins often with no problem.
Ali: @Phelicia – thanks!
@AllergyEats – though I’m a lawyer I won’t take offense at “by lawyers for lawyers” 🙂 though I actually kind of doubt a lawyer wrote that. I don’t do personal injury law – but basically it *is* the customers’ responsibility to keep themselves safe – the question is whether the restaurant is willing to help, entertain questions, provide information, etc., in that process. The “we’re not even gonna try” sign is ridiculous in light of what the highly rated places on your website have done – the sign makes it seem like it can’t be done – when we know it can be.
Neil: My first thought; BIG red flag, avoid this place! Seems they are trying to relieve themselves of responsibility or concern for cross-contamination. I will actively teach my allergic child to say “No Thank You” to places that display signs of this nature. Our money is better spent at a safe restaurant that can be trusted to make an effort to accommodate allergic customers.
LuAnn: Thanks to DD for making this statement and my son cannot eat from there.
Susan: It’s honest and considerate. I had to explain to my 2 year old why we can’t go to the donut shop anymore after her emergency room episode. I worked at a donut shop (not DD and they make everything in the same bowls, oil, and rollers where you add toppings. It’s not logical that they could truly make 1 safe item in that kind of atmosphere. It’s not like a boiling pot of water with some plain pasta and a sauce confirmed with the management that is easily made safely to order.
Amy: Turn around and walk out.
Susanne: Dear unvalued Dunkin’ Donuts, please be advised that my family and I may never set foot in any of your establishments ever again. Please visit a consultant for information on how to treat your customers.
— Former Customer
Debra: I don’t understand why people are blaming DD for posting this notice? What if you, as a parent, are having an off day and YOU FORGET to ask if their products are made on shared equipment. OR perhaps your child is with a sitter or someone who is NOT conditioned to asking about food allergies?
I for one am thankful that DD does post this sign! I do not, in any way, feel that DD is trying to “relieve themselves of responsibility or concern for cross-contamination”.
DD is a bakery after all and there is really no way that they can be 100% safe from contamination. This is why I make all of my own baked goods for my child to enjoy, safely 😉
So as you can see, this was a VERY popular topic for discussion.
What are your thoughts? No leading questions here. What was your first reaction when you saw the Dunkin’ Donuts sign at the top of this blog entry? Any thoughts on others’ comments? Please click Comments or Reply below.
And please remember to rate ALL of your restaurant experiences at our core AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com). Not only does each new rating make AllergyEats more valuable for our food allergy and intolerance community, but the more everyone participates (and the more participants we have), the louder our voices will be heard in the restaurant community. Is HAS started to happen, but there’s so much more to go! Please refer friends to the site as well using the click box on the top right of the AllergyEats home page.