PUBLISHED: 4:01 PM on Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Dining out with food allergies

Courtesy photo
  Dining out is about to become a whole lot easier for those who suffer from food allergies with the Food Allergy Buddy Dining Card program.
Dining out is about to become a whole lot easier for the more than 11 million Americans who suffer from food allergies.

Restaurants across the country are joining forces through a unique program designed to help patrons better communicate with restaurant servers and chefs.

NBC's "Today" Show food editor, Phil Lempert, has created the Food Allergy Buddy Dining Card program as a unique, free public service tool for consumers to easily communicate any specific food allergies to restaurant staff and chefs when dining in one of the nation's 900,000 restaurants.

The FAB Dining Card is available for free online by visiting By simply logging onto the Food Allergy Buddy Web site and with a few clicks of the mouse, customers can print out personalized cards - at no charge - that can be presented to a restaurant's staff and chef, detailing specific ingredients or foods to which they are allergic so that the restaurant can alter recipes accordingly.

"The FAB card is a win-win for restaurants and patrons because it gives restaurants the opportunity to better serve customers' needs and create an environment that is not only safe, but comfortable, for food-allergic customers," said Lempert.

Lempert, also known as the "Supermarket Guru," has already garnered the collaborative support of the National Restaurant Association to promote the card to his wide audience and to the association's roster of 900,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and their work force of 12.2 million employees.

"The restaurant industry has long been committed to providing consumers with options when dining out at their favorite restaurants. Whether it is to customize menu items or alter food preparation methods, restaurants regularly accommodate customers to meet their lifestyles, tastes and health restrictions, including food allergies," said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association.

As such, the association is encouraging restaurant operators to review the FAB Web site and post a link to on their Web sites to provide this resource to their patrons.

The FAB Dining Card is not the only awareness program that can help put many food-allergic customers' minds at ease.

The National Restaurant Association, in partnership with the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, has created the Food Allergy Training Program for Restaurants and Foodservices to provide foodservice professionals vital training on food allergies and how to handle potential situations.

The Food Allergy Training Program - a two-part set with video and manual - contains information for both front- and back-of-the-house staff. In addition to providing important allergy information, the video offers visual scenarios illustrating strategies for handling food-allergic customers from the moment they review the menu, place the order and receive their food.

For more information about the National Restaurant Association's food allergy safety information visit on the Internet.