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Food allergies – where to eat out safely

Family meals out can be fraught with worry when you have a child with a serious food allergy or coeliac disease, but all that is set to change thanks to a Childbase nursery parent and her new ‘trip advisor-style’ website.

Reviews of venues which avoid the top 14 allergens in their menus and demonstrate an exceptional approach to protecting their customers are just one aspect of the Allergy Companions website, the brainchild of mother of two, Liljia Polo-Richards.

“My genuine hope is that Allergy Companions can bring the allergy community and food businesses together, so we can all improve the lives of those living with food allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease”, she said.

Using her blog post on the website, Mrs. Polo-Richards also aims to further awareness and create a more inclusive environment for adults and children like her four year old son, Francesco, who was diagnosed with a serious nut allergy when he was only 13 months old.

“Francesco is a sweet and caring child, with a heart of gold and many loving people in his life. I do not want him to grow up in a world where he feels different and excluded, simply because he has a food allergy,” she said following a children’s venue party where everyone tucked into cake and treats while her son was given sandwiches and fruit.

“There are options available to people with allergies, so why not change the narrative, and make food safe for everyone, not simply for one person? Nobody wants to sit at the allergy table, so let’s make that dining table a little bit bigger and a little bit more inclusive”, said Mrs. Polo-Richards.

The idea for the website was borne when the family was served a chicken dish covered in hazelnuts at a well-recommended gastropub in Norfolk which had been warned of Francesco’s serious nut allergy at the time of booking and again when ordering from the menu.

“The restaurant still made a huge mistake which, thankfully, we spotted immediately. Not only was the experience distressing for us as parents it also highlighted the potential danger that Francesco could be facing growing up. We wanted to use this negative experience to start a positive adventure that would help so many people,” said Mrs. Polo-Richards.

Francesco isn’t alone with data showing that over 2,000,000 people in the UK are affected by a food allergy and over 650,000 suffer from coeliac disease.

The Allergy Companions website provides a single platform for people to leave reviews about allergy friendly restaurants in cities, towns and villages across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland offering a range of cuisines that cater to different dietary requirements.

“We wish something like this had been around when Francesco was diagnosed because we wouldn’t have felt quite so isolated. It now allows us to suggest good places to meet friends that cater for everyone,” said Mrs Polo-Richards.

Find allergy friendly food venues - Allergy Companions