The blog has been quieter than ever lately, Life has been quite busy and we were away in France for the first two weeks of July. This blog post was composed in my head while we were still on holiday. It was to be a post in which I rave about how wonderful it was to eat out in France with allergies and how much easier it was this time than previous times. And it was wonderful, mostly. One or two silly occurrences have skewed my rose-tinted glasses a little though.
This was my first time in France since the December 2014 EU laws on allergy labelling and information came into effect. I definitely noticed a difference, it is easier to eat out. Generally any requests were received with understanding and zero fuss, as it should be. I was delighted. We didn’t eat out every day, we still cooked a lot ourselves but definitely felt we had the option and that it wasn’t going to be stressful to eat out. We visited Bordeaux and I particularly noticed the restaurants in the city were extremely used to dealing with allergens and were very accommodating with no fuss. The issues we had were in tourist traps by the beach, so maybe I should’ve expected as much.That’s not to say all the restaurants down by the sea were the same, for the most part the restaurants were great.
In one restaurant I explained about the boys’ allergies and asked if the boys could have sorbet for their dessert instead of the ice-cream included on their ‘menu-enfant’. A menu enfant is like a kids drink + dinner + dessert deal. The waitress explained that the sorbet might have milk in it, and would they have strawberries instead. I agreed and I was happy that they were taking such care. But when they arrived my face fell. The cone-shaped dessert glasses full of strawberries had smarties sprinkled all over them. Cue one child asking immediately ‘do they have dairy?’ with a very concerned but hopeful look on his face. Of course I ended up disappointing him. I asked the waitress if the sweets contained dairy, hoping beyond hope that dairy-free smarties were a ‘thing’ in France. Surely when they had been so careful about the sorbet being ‘may contain milk’, they wouldn’t have casually sprinkled smarties throughout the fresh strawberries?! She replied ‘yes, chocolate’. She then told me to just ‘take them out’. Disappointed is not the word. And a very sad 4-year-old crying in a crowded restaurant. I had to take out the smarties and bribe him with a promise of some sorbet when we got back to our mobile home.
This was the exception rather than the rule and most places were happy to double check if things contained milk and to remember from one course to the next that the boys required no dairy.
Our usual shopping trips to the hypermarche and even the small Casino store on our campsite yielded plenty of dairy free alternatives – soya milk, yogurt and dessert, sorbets etc. With regard to the labelling on products in the supermarkets I was surprised to see a lot of products which said ‘may contain nuts and fish and milk and eggs and gluten‘ or similar. Basically they were writing may contain pretty much all the 14 allergens. This felt like a bit of a cop out, and I think labelling here is much better over all. There were the usual wide selections of dairy free options for the common food stuffs though.
All in all I would say it is easy to manage a food allergy on holiday in France but do remain vigilant when eating out, same as at home.
The first ever Allergy Blog AwardsUK are taking place in February 2017. More than just another award ceremony, their existence is doing great things for allergy awareness and education. If you like what I do on dairy free kids I would really appreciate a nomination! Click on the button above or here to nominate me! Thanks.