Are vegan choices a safer way to eat out if you have allergies?
For many people with food allergies, the treat of eating out can often be outweighed by the stress of choosing where to go and what to choose when you get there.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to have a cast-iron guarantee that food prepared by someone else will be free from allergens.
However, given that some of the most common food allergens are dairy, eggs and seafood, vegan restaurants – or choosing vegan dishes in non-vegan eateries – can mean cutting the risk of a reaction when eating out.
Figures from The Vegan Society and Finder estimate that the number of vegans in the UK has increased by nearly 450,000 people – 40% – in the past year alone. Vegans and vegetarians are predicted to make up 25% of the British population in 2025.
Take those numbers – and add the fact that the global vegan meat market alone will be worth $8.3 billion by 2025 – and it’s no surprise that cafes, takeaways, restaurants and pubs are clamouring to tap into this growing market.
The number of vegan restaurants signed up to Deliveroo has more than doubled since last year, with 12,000 now offering vegan options.
The increase in vegan-friendly dining options means that, in theory at least, it’s easier for some food allergy sufferers to immediately narrow down what will be safest for them on a menu. Out of the 14 main food allergens, five are already ruled out in vegan restaurants or dishes:
● crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters)
● molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
Even vegan wine can help you avoid some allergens, as non-vegan wine can contain:
● Isinglass (derived from fish bladders).
● Albumen (egg whites).
● Casein (milk proteins).
However, that still leaves nine of the major food allergens, some of which can be widely used in vegan dishes.
● cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats)
● lupin (a legume from the peanut family)
● sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)
● tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts)
As always, if you have any food allergies, we advise that you call ahead to book a table and tell the management about what you’re allergic to.
When you arrive, check for allergy information on menus and specials boards and make the serving staff aware of your allergy (hopefully they’ll have been given a heads-up before you arrive, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
Marinades, sauces and gravies
These can contain even the tiniest amounts of allergen ingredients such as mustard, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame or soy.
Asian, Indian, African, Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine
Allergens such as soy, nuts and sesame can be common ingredients.
As well as soy being the main ingredient of tofu, these can contain other allergens and, if not a vegan dish, those could include dairy and/or eggs.
Aside from wheat and gluten, lots of bread can contain soy flour or sesame.
Risk of cross-contamination with allergens
Cross-contamination remains a risk when eating out anywhere. For example, if you choose a vegan dish from an otherwise non-vegan menu and you’re allergic to fish, dairy etc, there is still a risk of cross-contamination from those ingredients if the food is prepared in the same area. Avoid buffets in particular, as the risk of cross-contamination is greater.
Specialist 100% vegan cafes, takeaways and restaurants definitely make eating out easier if you’re allergic to crustaceans, eggs, fish, milk/dairy or molluscs, as it’s unlikely these ingredients should be on the premises. But if your food allergy is plant-based you’ll need to be as vigilant as you would be in a non-vegan eatery.
If you run a café, takeaway, pub or restaurant – vegan or otherwise – and are looking for a quick, easy and cost-effective way to get on top of your food allergen labelling – particularly with Natasha’s Law on the horizon – Allergen Checker can help. Get in touch and we can talk you through the options.