My name is Mathew Keating. I am 19 years old, and I have a nut allergy.
I recently took a heritage trip to Ireland and Scotland. I have traveled to Europe before and, from experience, was under the impression that there was a lack of food labeling standards and general knowledge among the population in regards to food allergies. Although those previous experiences were concerning, they were not a major worry while planning my trip, since I had dealt with such issues many times before.
To my surprise, I was mistaken on how Ireland and Scotland dealt with the issue of allergies. In both Ireland and Scotland, most of the locals and corporations were very aware of allergies. The labelling was very good, if not better then Canadian labeling. Nearly every product had allergy warnings, including differentiation between products that have nuts, “may contain nuts” or “are not suitable for nut allergy sufferers.” This was very good to see and made me feel very comfortable when choosing what to eat.
Although the labelling was very detailed, I found it to be excessive at times. In some instances, a brand that offered a very large variety of foods – including everything from deserts to vegetables – would label every product with the same warning, “not suitable for nut allergy sufferers,” without exception. At times, I felt they were doing this to minimize any possible risk, even when the risk may have been virtually non-existent.
The locals were very aware of what allergies were and how they must be dealt with. They knew how careful one must be when an allergy is severe. Most restaurants knew to read the labels of the ingredients they used in their food and to be careful when preparing food. Fortunately, only one restaurant throughout the three week period turned me away, as they were not confident that they could make safe food for me.
Although the labeling seemed over the top at times, I was very relieved to know that companies and citizens of the country were understanding of the issues surrounding allergies. That helped me to enjoy a safe and wonderful trip!
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