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Ordering food or a takeaway

If you have a food allergy or intolerance, it’s important that you have all the information you need to make a safe food choice when you order food.

Guide to ordering food or a takeaway safely

If you have a food allergy or are around someone who does, we’ve listed some things you should think about before ordering a meal

Eating out at a restaurant, café or food outlet

  • Check the menu online and call ahead to ask what the business’s policy is on food allergy and intolerance. Does it offer food that is suitable for you? And if not, are the staff able to make a special meal for you? (Food businesses must offer you allergen information, but are not required to offer you a different meal to suit your need.)
  • Be very clear about your allergy/intolerance and give examples of the foods that make you ill.
  • If you don’t feel the person you’re speaking to understands your needs, ask for the manager or someone who can help better.
  • Ask how the food is handled and cooked, and whether there is a chance of cross-contamination from cooking equipment or ingredients.
  • Check allergen information is accurate. Has there been a last-minute recipe change or ingredient substitution?
  • Be extra careful if the restaurant serves complex dishes, as allergens could be less obvious or hidden.
  • If you have any doubt about the staff understanding the importance of your dietary needs, do not book the restaurant.

On arrival

  • Speak to your server or the manager. Be clear about your food allergy/intolerance and confirm your previous conversation with the staff.
  • Check the meal choices are suitable for you or that they can make changes to suit your dietary needs.
  • Remind them to be careful of cross-contamination or added allergens from glazes, sauces, cooking oils, and to handle your meal with care.
  • If you have any doubt about the staff understanding the importance of your dietary needs, do not eat there.

Ordering a takeaway over the phone or online

Takeaway meals are considered to be 'distance selling', so information must be made available when you’re placing your order and when it’s delivered. 

Follow the same steps as if you were eating out a restaurant, café or food oulet, but also: 

  • Check that the allergen information is available on the menu, online or over the telephone.
  • When ordering for several people, make sure the restaurant labels your meal, so you know which order is safe for you.

If you have any questions or concerns about the labelling or availability of allergy information, please contact us or your local authority's environmental health department. The NHS website has information about what to do if you have an allergic reaction.

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