The Food Allergy Issue

by Jared Meyers on 21 Nov 2019

Let's talk about food allergies. First, I'll define what a food allergy IS NOT:

  • Picky tastes (unless not dying/suffocating is considered picky)
  • Lactose intolerance*

Next, a working definition: a food allergy is an overreaction by someone's body when it detects particular foods. Food allergies generally correspond to proteins in food -- that's whey and casein in the case of milk. Part of your body sees some whey and it decides "hey, I don't like that thing." It may then proceed to send the rest of your body into FULL ON PANIC OH MY GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING mode. Luckily, the world isn't ending. Just your ability to breathe.


If you are experiencing more than 1 of the below symptoms or you are having difficulty breathing, probably use your favorite epinephrine auto injector and go see a doctor.

With that aside, some fun aspects of this mode could include:

  • Hives (imagine you get bitten by a ton of mosquitos. itchy.)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Throat closing (this will kill the human)

The technical term for this mode is anaphylaxis, and usually involves more than one of the above symptoms.

Stop panicking!! - the role of epinephrine auto injectors

Mild cases of your body panicking can be treated with antihistamines like Benadryl. An example of a mild case would be a small number of hives show up. Benadryl will help fix the itch. It'll also make you sleepy.

Once your body goes off the rails, you'll want to pause the whole dying process so you can get medical treatment.

To do this, we use epinephrine auto injectors (my favorite is Kaleo's AUVI-Q). Epinephrine is well known for its role in the fight or flight response. In my life, epinephrine is also well known for the "let's stop dying to food" response.

Once you've had epinephrine administered, you still need to go see a medical professional. This generally means going to the hospital.

Deciding where to eat

As you can probably tell, almost dying and having to go to the hospital takes up a lot of your day. This prevents you from doing homework and studying and playing video games.

The "problem" is your friends love going out to eat on occasion. You'd be lying if you say you don't enjoy it too.

The stressful part is when your friends start naming restaurants. You hop on your phone and frantically type all of the names, searching for their site and then their menu.

Next you'll find something that looks doable -- maybe a burger? Definitely not the cheesecake.

The next check is to see if there's a risk of cross contamination. Cross contamination basically means someone sticks their hand in soy sauce and rubs it on your food, even though you didn't order any soy sauce. This also works if a utensil touches the allergen, or if the surface was used to prepare food containing allergens.

This is where allergy menus come in.

Allergy Menus

The beauty of allergy menus is they're grids. Similar to battleship, your goal is to not die. Thanks to the allergy menu, you've been given a fighting chance.

If I find the restaurant's website and there's an allergy menu, they get a +1000 point bonus. Having an allergy menu is a huge sign of "we care and will try our best not to kill you."

As much as I'd love a promise, I know it's hard and I'll take your best try :)

Allergy menus that are formatted well (look at chains like Subway and Moe's) allow me to figure out how to eat without dying.

If my friends give me 5 options and one of them has an allergy menu, you bet I'll be ordering from the allergy menu.

The problem is that allergy menus have largely been limited to huge chains like Subway and Red Robin.

I'm looking to change that. Reach out if you're interested in building a quality allergy menu.

* For those wondering, lactose is a sugar. Lactose intolerance means that the person lacks lactase, an enzyme which lets your body process milk sugars. While lactose intolerance sucks, it's not going to actually kill you.