With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

29 May 2012

Nut Free versus Peanut Free Brunch

I came across a menu for a nut free brunch offered by a Boston area restaurant. It sounded intriguing and I was glad to see a restaurant taking the initiative to acknowledge food allergies by adjusting its menu. Then I read the fine print. It states:

"This menu is for customers with a MILD tree nut allergy. If you have a severe tree nut allergy then True Bistro cannot accommodate your needs. We do not have the space to maintain separate utensils & preparation area for nut free foods.  We do not use peanuts in any of our dishes." 

The restaurant does not use peanuts--I like that! The rest of the statements, however, raise so many questions for me, as a parent of a child with life threatening allergies to peanuts and nuts. The first thing I thought was "Can they do this? Is it legal to essentially say that they can't/won't accommodate someone because of an allergy?" Then I wondered what the author of the menu thinks a mild tree nut allergy is. I'm not sure I know what a mild tree nut allergy is. I mean, isn't that part of what makes food allergies so very dangerous, the unpredictable nature of the severity of a reaction? I think of the Hom tragedy, for example, and how all of the allergic reactions preceding his fatal reaction were hives. 

It sounds like the owners of this restaurant feel there is a chance of cross-contamination with tree nuts. I really appreciate their awareness of the risks of cross-contamination. I wish more people understood cross-contamination. Perhaps, however, a better title for the brunch would be a peanut free brunch, since there evidently is a risk of cross-contamination with tree nuts. After all, a potential cross-contamination with tree nuts isn't truly nut free, is it? A peanut free brunch is still very desirable for those with peanut allergies. I know I am biased, but I think it's a fantastic idea!

This menu is yet another example of why we need terms like "nut free" to have an official definition. There is too much room for error and misunderstanding.

To view the whole menu, please click here. I'd love to know what you think.


Anonymous said...

Wow... I agree with you. My child is allergic to peanuts AND tree nuts... many people have difficulty 1) remembering these are two separate food allergies and both must be avoided, and 2) grasping the seriousness of true food allergies as opposed to food intolerances and food sensitivities. I have explained a food allergy is like hiding a lethal poison in a beautifully-presented food. Also, I have explained cross-contamination similarly... like wearing food-prep gloves with a lethal poison on them, and then preparing a food dish for someone. This helps people get it more. :)

h said...

From a legal standpoint, if they lure people in with nut free promises I'd say a reasonable person would see that as all nuts. If they acknowledge that tree nut allergies can be mild (?!) versus severe then it is best to disclose that they can't help if you have any tree nut allergies at all. Great for peanut free folks, though.

Anonymous said...

Yes, very confusing menu. They should say the menu is peanut free, if they can truly say there is no peanut contamination of any kind. If there is a possibility of peanut contamination, then shouldn't mention being "free" from anything.