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Navigating Restaurants When You Have Latex Allergy

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Dining out should be festive and relaxing, not a burden or a time where worry zaps your energy trying to stay safe.  For persons with latex allergy, the challenge at restaurants is three-fold.  First, latex products such as gloves or utensils may be used by kitchen staff; second, a variety of foods can have cross-reactivity with latex proteins (termed Latex-Fruit Syndrome) inducing a severe allergic reaction; and third, rubber balloons can be found in restaurants particularly party or banquet rooms.

Foods that have a high degree of cross reactivity with latex are banana, avocado, kiwi and chestnut while foods with moderate cross reactivity are apple, carrot, celery, papaya, potato, tomato, and melons.  While many restaurants are familiar with the common food allergens, such as milk, egg, peanut, nuts, or shellfish, there is less familiarity with latex-associated food allergens.  In addition, these latex associated foods are not included in the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.  In general, there is less familiarity with latex allergy compared to food or other allergic triggers.

Latex-allergic individuals are eager to find restaurants that can accommodate their needs.  Currently, there is no cure for latex or food allergies.  The management approach is avoidance measures and early treatment of an allergic reaction.  The following advice can make your restaurant experience more pleasurable.

Tips for latex allergic individuals visiting a restaurant:

  • Before you go, call ahead.  Speak with the hostess or manager and briefly share your latex allergy diagnosis.  Do not be bashful about the severity of your allergy and the potential consequences if you are exposed.
  •  Check out their website and review the menu. In regard to food allergies, higher risk situations are establishments with buffets (risk of cross contamination), pre-made foods (unable for the chef to eliminate an ingredient), and eateries that frequently use banana, kiwi or avocado.
  • To find a restaurant that has completed a food allergy training program for its employees, go to:  www.safefare.org/find-a-restaurant.
  • When you arrive at the restaurant.
  • Be on the lookout for balloons especially in party or banquet rooms.  While Mylar balloons are safe, the presence of latex balloons should prompt a quick exit.
  • Notify the hostess of your latex allergy.  In particular, determine if the kitchen staff uses latex gloves or latex utensils during any aspect of food preparation.
  • Notify your server of your specific food allergy (if applicable) and review the menu for dishes that may be safe.
  • Bring a “chef card” to be handed to the chef.  A template for this card provided by FARE can be found at: www.foodallergy.org/document.doc?id=219.  With this card, you don’t have to rely only on verbal communication passing from server to chef.

Tips for Restaurant Workers

Food Allergy Research & Education has partnered with the National Restaurant Association (creators of ServSafe™ Allergens Online Course) and developed a program called SafeFARE that offers tools to help create a safer dining experience for food allergic individuals.  The frenzied pace of working in a diner, bistro or gastropub requires every member of the team from hostess, executive chef, manager, line cook, and server to be familiar with food allergies and work together.

Despite all these precautions, continue to carry your self-injectable epinephrine, wear your medical identification and carry a letter from your allergist regarding your latex allergy status.

By following these practical tips, latex-allergic patients can enjoy a special and safe dining experience.  Bon appetite!

Additional resources:

This information is solely for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. 

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