Dining out and severe food allergies. Two things that don't often mix, but a local man developed an app that can help food allergy sufferers find friendly options.
Both of Vicki Fine's sons have food allergies so eating at home is complicated enough. She says dining out can be downright dangerous.
"I don't have the greatest trust in most restaurants to manage the understanding of a food allergy and more importantly the cross-contamination risk that we often run into," said Fine.
Last year, the U.S. restaurant industry raked in $825 billion in sales. There's no telling how many severe food allergy sufferers are steering clear of dining out, but Vicki Fine tells Boston 25 News one of her sons recently developed anxiety about eating out.
"They don't want to have a reaction. They don't want to have to go to the ER. They don't want the EpiPen to have to be used and ultimately, they know the risk even though they know it's rare, death is a thing that crosses their mind," said Fine.
Paul Antico can relate. Three of his five children have significant food allergies. Frustrated with an inability to find allergy-aware restaurants, Antico, who lives in Cohasset, developed an app called AllergyEats.
"So the app works kind of like Yelp or TripAdvisor. I kind of modeled it on those where it's based on user-generated content," said Antico.
Those users are diners who answer three food allergy-based questions on the app.
"All of the ratings are based purely on the restaurants' ability to accommodate a food allergic diner.
One thing the app will not say about any restaurant is that it is allergy-safe, rather it uses the term allergy-friendly, recognizing that restaurants are run by human beings and that any establishment no matter how good can make a mistake.
For that reason, AllergyEats recommends diners always be proactive at any restaurant by:
- Disclosing food allergies to servers
- Examining food for allergens
- Have injectable epinephrine on hand
Vicki Fine says the last point is especially critical. Around Thanksgiving, she says an EpiPen saved her son Aidan from a reaction to a dairy product.
"I stress being prepared because nothing is 100 percent but epinephrine can be 100 percent if you use it correctly, don't hesitate and always carry it with you," said Fine.
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