The challenges for nut-allergic consumers of eating out

Authors


Correspondence:
J. Barnett, Department of Information Systems and Computing, Brunel University, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK. E-mail: Julie.barnett@brunel.ac.uk

Abstract

Cite this as: J. Leftwich, J. Barnett, K. Muncer, R. Shepherd, M. M. Raats, M. Hazel Gowland and J. S. Lucas, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2011 (41) 243–249.

Summary

Cite this as: J. Leftwich, J. Barnett,K. Muncer, R. Shepherd,M. M. Raats, M. Hazel Gowland and J. S. Lucas, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2011 (41) 243–249.

Background For individuals with a nut allergy, the avoidance of allergens is particularly challenging in situations where they are not preparing their own food. Many allergic reactions occur when eating outside the home.

Objective To identify and explore the challenges faced by nut-allergic individuals (NAIs) when they are eating in restaurants and other eating establishments.

Methods A qualitative interview study was conducted with 32 adults with a clinical history of allergy to peanuts and/or tree nuts.

Results The main strategies that participants adopted to manage the risk of allergic reactions when eating outside the home were avoidance and communication. They avoided types of restaurants, meal courses or particular foods. Seeking familiarity was a key strategy that enabled NAIs to reduce uncertainty and anxiety. Language differences were a major barrier to confident communication about food content. The need to check whether the food on offer may contain nuts was a source of social embarrassment for many participants and the desire to avoid this sometimes led to increased risk taking. Some did not disclose their allergy to restaurant staff as they feared a conservative reaction that would further constrain food choices. NAIs often have to plan where to eat out. The consequent lack of spontaneity was a source of regret to some.

Conclusion and Clinical Relevance Communication patterns of nut-allergic adults are often grounded in legitimate everyday social considerations around embarrassment, choice and spontaneity. Education and training strategies are needed that recognize and take account of this. Focusing on communication deficits of NAIs may be unhelpful; responsibility for food safety must be shared with the food industry.

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