Should restaurants post ingredient info? Marc certainly thinks so!
[The following post was submitted to me by “Marc from New York”]
Ingredient Disclosure at Restaurants
Food allergies, although common, take quite a toll on the lives of those who suffer; I know because I suffer from a number of food allergies. I am sensitive to dairy, caffeine, and wheat-based products. When I consume products containing these ingredients I encounter indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, cramps, headaches, shakiness, and utter discomfort.
I tend to prepare the majority of my meals at home. According to my allergist, the FDA requires food manufacturers to place detailed ingredient lists and allergy information [on consumer products], which I find imperative to my dietary needs. Some foods that I would never think would contain trigger ingredients for me are processed in facilities that handle these types of products. If I consume even small amounts of my trigger foods, I end up sick for several hours, post consumption.
Last week, I decided to throw caution to the wind and have dinner with my husband and a few of my closest friends at a popular, national chain restaurant [editor note: this chain was later disclosed to AllergyEats as Applebee’s]. As typical, I ordered the item on the menu that seemed least likely to have an impact on my digestion-related health. I chose a spinach salad with grilled shrimp, bacon pieces, mushrooms, red onions, and a balsamic bacon dressing. It sounded conducive to my dietary needs, per the restaurant menu description. I had water with lemon to complete my meal, and had only eaten a gluten-free bagel with soy butter earlier in the day. Imagine my surprise almost two hours later to be curled up on the couch in extreme abdominal pain. The only portion of my meal that I could attribute to stomach upset was the salad dressing. It seems hard to imagine that a salad dressing at a restaurant would contain enough of a trigger ingredient to send me into a downward, digestion-related spiral.
I feel that restaurants should place more of an emphasis on providing consumers with detailed listings of the ingredients used in preparing their dishes. More and more people are diagnosed with food allergies every day. Those of us with food allergies should not be made to feel ashamed by restaurant staff for requesting changes or substitutions for our meals. Providing detailed menus would result in less confusion for patrons and wait staff and result in more profits for restaurant owners.
Thank you for sharing your story, Marc! So what do the rest of you think? Should restaurants be required to post ingredients or should it remain their right not to, if they so choose (since diners can always go elsewhere)? Do you feel embarassed or ashamed asking about ingredients or asking for changes/substitutions? Do you have another solution? Please click Reply or Comments below and add your thoughts.
Also, please remember to go to the main AllergyEats site (click HERE) and rate any restaurants you’ve recently dined at. Each new rating continues to increase the value of AllergyEats as a tool for our entire food allergy and intolerance community. Let’s try to help all the Marc’s, and everyone else, have more comfortable dining experiences!