Food allergy and intolerance – A quick guide to ordering food or a takeaway safely
If you have a food allergy or intolerance, it’s important that you have all the information you need to make a safe food choice. We’ve listed some things you should think about before ordering a meal.
Eating out at a restaurant, café or food outlet
When you plan to eat out
- Check the menu online and call ahead to ask what the business’s policy is on food allergy and intolerance. Does it offer food that is suitable for you? And if not, are the staff able to make a special meal for you? (Food businesses must offer you allergen information, but are not required to offer you a different meal to suit your need.)
- Be very clear about your allergy/intolerance and give examples of the foods that make you ill.
- If you don’t feel the person you’re speaking to understands your needs, ask for the manager or someone who can help better.
- Ask how the food is handled and cooked, and whether there is a chance of cross- contamination from cooking equipment or ingredients.
- Check allergen information is accurate. Has there been a last-minute recipe change or ingredient substitution?
- Be extra careful if the restaurant serves complex dishes, as allergens could be less obvious or hidden.
- If you have any doubt about the staff understanding the importance of your dietary needs, do not book the restaurant.
- Speak to your server or the manager. Be clear about your food allergy/intolerance and confirm your previous conversation with the staff
- Check the meal choices are suitable for you or that they can make changes to suit your dietary needs.
- Remind them to be careful of cross-contamination or added allergens from glazes, sauces, cooking oils, and to handle your meal with care.
- If you have any doubt about the staff understanding the importance of your dietary needs, do not eat there.
Ordering a takeaway over the phone or online
- Takeaway meals are considered to be 'distance selling', so information must be made available at the point of purchase and point of delivery.
- Follow the steps listed in the 'Eating out at a restaurant, café or food outlet' section, but also:
- check that the allergen information is available on the menu, online or over the telephone
- when ordering for several people, make sure the restaurant labels your meal, so you know which order is safe for you
Please contact the Food Safety and Standards team on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any concerns regarding the control of allergens at a food business, or experience an allergic reaction following consumption of food at a food outlet or take away.
You can also visit the Food Standards Agency website.