Addressing the Most Common Food Allergy Risks in Fresno Restaurants

Addressing the Most Common Food Allergy Risks in Fresno Restaurants

Posted By:SSG Admin Posted On:03-Jun-2024

Anaphylactic food reactions increased by 377% over a decade according to FAIR Health. With an increase of 316%, Californians were in second place. Maine’s increase of 391% was the largest.

Food allergies are not something to mess with. For some, it causes gastrointestinal issues, but others experience severe anaphylactic reactions that can cause difficulty with breathing and cause you to pass out or worse. When you’re dining out, you have to be very careful when you have food allergies. Our allergy doctors have tips to follow that help you keep safe when you’re dining out in Fresno restaurants.

What Are the “Big 8 Allergens?”

Common food allergies fall into one of the Big 8 Allergen categories. They are:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soybeans/Soy
  • Tree Nuts
  • Wheat

Make sure you know items within these eight food categories. For example, edamame, lecithin, miso, and tofu are all soy. Whey is milk. Wheat is also bulgur, couscous, durum, farina, flour, gluten, seitan, and triticale.

Those are the Big 8 Allergens, but there are a couple of other categories to consider. Food additives are another possible allergen. You might be allergic to items like aspartame, MSG, and sulfites.

There are also the less usual. Some people experience allergic reactions to lettuce. It comes down to lipid transfer proteins, so those with lettuce allergies might also find they have issues with peaches, cherries, and carrots. Allergic food reactions in the “Other” category are the most common, followed by peanuts, tree nuts and seeds, shellfish, and eggs in that order.

If you have any food allergies or sensitivities, speak up. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your server what foods are safe to eat. It’s a question they expect to hear, and they’ll be able to get you the information you need. The worst you’ll hear is that they can’t help. It’s better to get a no than not to try at all.

Know the Food Safety Laws in California

The California Food Safety Act was passed in 2023. It banned the sale of food containing the following ingredients.

  • Brominated vegetable oil
  • Potassium bromate
  • Propylparaben
  • Red dye 3

If you have allergies to those, foods containing them must be reformulated by January 1, 2027, or the item cannot be sold in California anymore. Violations will come with a maximum fine of $5,000 for the first violation and a maximum of $10,000 for each additional.

In addition, California law requires food manufacturers to clearly label all allergens. Restaurants using any packaged ingredients will have those labels available for reference.

Watch for Allergen Cross-Contamination

Fresno restaurants should pay close attention to allergen cross-contamination. For example, they use a specific cutting board for onions and garlic. If that’s an allergy you have, you wouldn’t also want them slicing your tomatoes on that same board. 

The same is true for utensils. A prep chef peeled garlic with a spoon that was used to measure sesame seed oil. That’s another risk of cross-contamination. Make sure the restaurant is careful about cross-contamination as it’s easy to forget how cautious you need to be.

Imagine you’re making chocolate chip cookies. You want half to have walnuts and half to be nut-free. You make two batches of dough, but you use the same mixer blade and don’t wash it between batches. You’ve contaminated the nut-free batch. You might remember to use two mixer blades, but you cook the nut-free batch on the same baking sheet you did the walnut version on. Again, cross-contamination just happened.

Tips for Communicating Your Allergies With Restaurant Staff

Have a great night out by clearly communicating with the restaurant staff. Don’t be rude or upset if they can’t cater to your needs. Restaurants are often low on staff and do what they can with the workers they have.

Before you even go, talk to the manager about food allergies and how prepared the restaurant is to handle them. If the manager doesn’t believe the restaurant can accommodate you, thank them and choose a restaurant that can.

Find out if it’s possible to make allergy-free dishes on the fly. For example, all of the salad dressings contain cheese or milk. Can they make an oil and vinegar dressing for you or is it too difficult for the kitchen?

Ask the manager how they train their staff about food allergies. You might want to see if there is a special menu for people with food allergies. Finally, ask the restaurant manager if you’re able to talk to the chef before you order.

When you’re looking over the menu, make sure you know the answers to these questions.

  • Are there any hidden allergens in the dishes? Sauteed spinach that’s sauteed in butter wouldn’t be suitable for someone with a milk allergy.
  • What oil is used to fry foods? Do different items get cooked in the same fryer, such as fish with French fries? 
  • Are packaged ingredients used? Is it possible to see a picture of a label to rule out potential allergens?
  • Can you modify dishes to be allergy-free?
  • Are common allergens prepared with separate pans, utensils, and cutting boards?

Restaurant staff do all they can, but be aware that mistakes can happen. If you deal with allergies that can trigger anaphylactic shock, carry an EpiPen or another prescription medication recommended by your Fresno allergy doctor. Always be ready for an event, even if it seems that the restaurant takes every possible step to keep you safe.

How to Find Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in Fresno

Often, a search of “allergy-free restaurants in Fresno” is enough to get some options. You might also find recommendations on sites like Reddit, Uber Eats, and Yelp. Search for your specific allergy. If you’re allergic to soy, search for “soy-free restaurants.”

Once you have a list of potential restaurants, start making calls. Ask to speak to the manager as recommended above. You might find it easiest to start your search with vegan restaurants and work from there. It will depend on what your food allergy is. If it’s dairy or eggs, vegan restaurants are a great option.

Ask your allergy doctor for guidance and insights on local allergy-friendly restaurants. Doctors will have a lot of tips to share from their experience and what they hear from other patients.

Make sure you do as much as you can to manage your allergies. Work with the doctors at Premium Allergy & Respiratory Center to diagnose your exact food allergies and learn avoidance techniques. You might also be a candidate for oral immunotherapy, which helps your body build a tolerance and avoid serious allergic reactions.