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Traveling to Europe with a passenger who has a peanut allergy. I understand peanuts are not as prevalent in Europe as the US, but I was wondering if anyone has had experience dealing with this or other serious food allergies.

In the US, there are strict requirements on food labeling that include key allergens. I recall some of the best food in Europe were from fresh bakeries that had little more than a bag around the bread; certainly no labels.

Do these shops (and restaurants, for that matter) have good allergen understanding (particularly for those who are not native speakers)? I would say it's a mixed bag here in the US, but improving.

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    Europe is pretty diverse. The EU enacted rules on this, which apply to about 30 countries but the quality of implementation and the language used are going to vary and there are a number of European countries which are not part of the EU. – Relaxed Apr 23 '15 at 22:33
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    Can you be more specific about where in Europe? – David Richerby Apr 24 '15 at 7:10
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    don't expect people to not eat a peanut butter sandwich because there might be someone in the building with a nut allergy. But most packaged foods are labeled (sometimes overly cautiously so, like a brand might label ALL its products as "may contain traces of nuts" because they've one product in one line in one factory that contains nuts) and most (certainly higher class) restaurants will go out of their way to cater to you if you ask. My sister has a severe milk allergy, and no problems avoiding products containing even trace amounts. – jwenting Apr 24 '15 at 8:00
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    Just an update after a wonderful trip. Everywhere we went, people were well informed about allergies and understanding. We used translation cards from (selectwisely.com) that were great; they helped clarify what we couldn't in our butchered attempts at another language. I will note that peanuts were more common than we were led to believe (peanut butter ice cream was not uncommon), but we didn't have an issue avoiding exposure. Thanks for the many suggestions! – cneller Aug 4 '16 at 18:02
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A few observations (my nephew has a rather broad set of allergies so I have had to deal with this on several trips):

  • In Germany, restaurant menus do mention allergens and additives. It seems to be mandatory EU-wide now but I have only seen it sporadically in France for example so I would not rely on it and ask for confirmation in any case (the rule seems to have an effect however, I am seeing allergies information more frequently then even a year ago).
  • Industrial products and just about anything you find in supermarkets will have clear labelling in the local language and often in many others. I assume there are strict labelling requirements as well, although I have never actually looked them up. What I observed is that common allergens are listed in the ingredient list in boldface. Unfortunately, some brands/manufacturers just slam a generic warning on their the whole product line (“This product may contain nuts”), which is not terribly helpful.
  • In bakeries, there might a sign/list somewhere in the shop (it's rarely prominent, although it's apparently mandatory as well, at least in some countries) but I have never seen any labelling on the packaging. In many places, food would be prepared on the premises and you should be able to get good info on what it contains so do not hesitate to ask.
  • I don't know about communication, everybody I spoke to seemed to understand the issue but I never had to deal with this in a place where I did not speak the local language.
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    A lot of smaller places like bakeries seem to have a sign somewhere saying "we sometimes use nuts, so we can't guarantee anything free of nuts, sorry" (in the equivalent local form) – Gagravarr Apr 24 '15 at 1:52
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    and in smaller shops, just asking can get you a long way. – jwenting Apr 24 '15 at 7:58
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    Italian bakeries always include a sort of "menu" with the ingredients used in each product. It's very rarely consulted, so often it's a bit hidden, but it's always there since it's mandatory. – o0'. Apr 24 '15 at 10:55
  • Thanks for the comments, I added a few things to the answer based on them. – Relaxed Apr 24 '15 at 13:39
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You need to be forward with the allergy, don't be shy and ASK.

Have an "allergy translation card" (*) with you and/or with the person with the allergy.

You need to have it with translation in the different languages that you will come into contact with in Europe.

(*) google for that

  • That's great advice that we will certainly heed. – cneller Apr 24 '15 at 13:11
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When you look at ingredients, the ones which were classified as allergens are now bolded.

enter image description here

This includes some americanisms like milk listing as ingredients 100% milk (bolded) with a note that this contains milk :)

enter image description here

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A friend of mine who has a long list of allergies and intolerances makes her own translation list for each country where she is going. With a diverse list like Pork and Chicken (but no other meats) Apricots, several nuts but not all, some spices, apples and milk in all its shapes, she will have to talk with the staff in restaurants wherever she eats.
She even has a list of foods which she can safely eat, so the staff in the restaurants can suggest from that list, also translated into the language of the country she is going at that time.

But as a food and travel lover she still travels and eats out wherever she goes. It is a bit of googling (or finding a native of the needed language) before traveling, but it works for her.

With only one item, you can make your own list in all languages as well as a picture version, like a picture of a peanut with a big cross over it. Or in a road sign. I found several when googling 'no peanut' in images. But I did not find one I think I may copy here on the site.

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