Monday, November 17, 2014

Traveling To Europe or Living in Europe With Food Allergies? Well You're In Luck.

I have an obsession with Paris, France. I have no idea why. I've never been there. However, when it came time to pick a language in middle school, I got yelled at by everyone (except for my dad) for choosing French. Of course, I had no idea why.

The fact that my dad had chosen French also made me realize how similar we were and made me wonder over the years, "Why?" My dad is very much an artist at heart so was it an artist thing?

It turns out that being part Filipino with a family who spoke two Filipino dialects, Spanish was kind of a 'cousin' of the language. If I knew Spanish, I'd also know many words in Ilocano. That's why they were mad. When would I ever use French?

So I took the class. And of course in lieu of memorizing the verbs and affinatives, I daydreamed about gorgeous scenery, hot 'copains,' romance and art. While drawing at my desk.

And then, of course, the 'Mademoiselle' professor brought me back to reality with a question that I could not answer, breaking the spell.

All I wanted to do was draw, paint and write. And so that's exactly what I did.

So now I'm not fluent in French. Far from it. In fact, I just started using Duolingo to brush up on the basics I barely remember from high school in my spare time. And now, I better get a move on it because apparently the European Union (EU) seems more aware of food allergies and just might be a bit safer than the USA.

Changes are happening. As of December 13, 2014 new EU rules for allergen labeling will take effect.And they don't just label for the 'top 8', they label for FOURTEEN!

My question is, whhyyyyy can't this happen in the United States? Seriously! Now some of you might wonder, "What are you talking about? They label here for top allergens!"

Well, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no. They don't. Companies in the USA are not required to label for allergens, its completely voluntary. And don't knock those who do label for allergens...those are usually the more trustworthy companies. It shows transparency. In my opinion, it usually shows that the company actually cares enough to tell you.

The FSAI (Food Safety Authority of Ireland) takes food allergies very seriously and offers publications for the food industry to better understand and follow new labeling laws that go into effect in the UK.

The countries in Europe seem to take food allergies and celiac disease much more seriously than here in the United States. Will this ever change? Maybe. But only if we take enough action. Only if we report reactions to the FDA as often as possible. Contact your specific state's coordinator and don't hesitate to REPORT reactions. Doing this makes them much more aware of how prevalent and serious food allergies are.

If you found this post useful, definitely share! Have you had any positive experiences in Europe you would like to talk about? I'd love to hear them so please comment below! And check back soon because I have an extra-special giveaway coming up just in time for Christmas! Stay tuned..


  1. I went to Ireland, Italy, and France for a month last November with a soy allergy and I had a great experience in each country! People were incredibly helpful about ingredients in restaurants everywhere.

    Here's what I did to make sure I was safe: took my medications with me, bought a medic alert bracelet with a space for a slip of paper (from CVS-so I could change out the information inside--Italian/English for Italy, French/English for France), made double-sided allergy cards in English/other language to give to waiters and chefs ("I'm allergic to soy, soya, soybean oil, soy lecithin, etc. and my food needs to be prepared on a separate surface, thanks for your help"), learned how to say "I'm allergic to soy" in each language and the various translations for "soy" so that I could read ingredient labels, programmed local emergency numbers into my phone and looked up where the closest hospital would be for each city I went to, bought travel insurance, and brought some protein bars in case I couldn't find food at any point. I know that list can seem a little overboard, but honestly, it's just all about translating what you do on autopilot when you're at home into another country. And doing all that work ahead of time meant that I felt in control and safe during my whole trip and could relax and enjoy my time overseas!

    The protein bars ended up being a nice snack on the go, but there wasn't ever a situation where I just couldn't find something to eat. I also stayed in apartments with kitchens part of the time, so if I ever felt overwhelmed I always had the option of making my own dinner.

    I'll be back in Ireland at some point this year and will be visiting Scotland as well, and have plans for Germany the next year, which I think speaks especially well of my experiences in Europe with food allergies.

  2. Sarah,

    Very interesting and informative! I also LOVE that you put ALL the soy derivatives, not just 'I have soy allergy' because people are definitely not informed about derivatives so to expect that will definitely cause disappointment and a reaction.

    I want to add that a good idea, too, would be to have a list for docs in case of emergency with the soy derivatives that you're allergic to in tablets/pills/liquids...such as MAGNESIUM STEARATE, STEARIC ACID, GLYCERIN, TOCOPHEROL ACETATE and of course Vegetable oil.

    One question I have is, are you severely allergic to soybean oil? And if so, how did you deal with the oil issue? Did you tell them no olive oil (due to much of it being contaminated or faked w/ soybean oil and chlorophyll?) or on those particular nights cook in the kitchen to be safe? I'm guessing broiled and steamed is really the way to go in restaurants...

    I love the idea of protein bars on the go. Of course would have to be peanut-free, lupine-free, gluten-free and dairy-free for me as well so Chia Bars allergy-friendly chocolate bars and Goldenberries would be my best bet.

    Your experience has me so excited! Saving as we speak...who knows, if its much safer and easier to manage over there in public places, Europe just might be the best place for adults with food least until the USA catches on..

  3. I love the idea of protein bars on the go. Of course would have to be peanut-free, lupine-free, gluten-free and dairy-free for me as well so Chia Bars allergy-friendly chocolate bars and Goldenberries would be my best bet. travel in europe