Eating out as a food hypersensitive customer
Whether you are dining out or ordering in, you need to be sure the food business is fully clued-in to the dangers of allergen cross-contamination.
Don't be shy, always ask questions. A business has no way of knowing if you have a food hypersensitivity – food allergy, food intolerance or coeliac disease - unless you tell them.
If the food business understands how allergen contamination can happen, they should be able to answer all your questions.
This video gives a guide to what people with food hypersensitivities should look out for and check when eating out or ordering in.
When you order food online or over the phone, you must tell the food business what your allergen requirements are. This is your responsibility. Otherwise, they have no way of knowing. Under the law the food business must provide allergen information at the point of presentation, sale or delivery.
In Ireland, this information is given in writing. In Northern Ireland, it can be given verbally or in writing.
For distance selling, such as ordering over the phone or online, the allergen information is provided:
- When choosing the food, and
- When it's delivered
In Ireland, at least one of these must be in writing.
"Free from" and "may contain" labels
"Free from" food is optional for food businesses. They don't have to offer it if they don't want to. It can be difficult for food businesses to guarantee that any food is free from a particular allergen. Many businesses buy in "free from" food products to allow them offer this choice to their customers.
"May contain" labels means there is a possibility of an allergen ending up in the food product. It is not an ingredient, but the possibility of contamination exists. As a customer, you have no way of knowing how accurate this is so best to avoid these foods.
And don’t forget to ask a food business about any "May contain" labels on their ingredients.