Traveling Ireland with Food Allergies

Traveling Ireland with Food Allergies

We were never really concerned with food allergies over the years, despite one of us having a severe allergy to shellfish - it's quite easy to avoid that when you don't eat much seafood. That is until I became gluten intolerant at the age of 45; unable to get up in the morning without severe joint pain and considerable GI issues. Once it was uncovered and gluten was removed, life was good.

It was then that I started asking many questions about menu items, ensuring there was no gluten involved as I didn't want to bound to my accommodations for a good 24 hours. Being a cook definitely helps, knowing where gluten might be used in meals where it isn't abundantly clear but it's not always foolproof.

When we traveled to Ireland, I figured I'd have to be as vigilant ... but found out the HSE (Health Service Executive) has taken care of that for me, throughout Ireland, by requiring restaurants to provide a list of common food allergens and indicate their use in each item on the menu. BRILLIANT! So many more food allergens were listed than I even knew caused issues.

Ordering was extremely simple for me and, being a foodie, a little less stressful while traveling throughout Ireland.

Most recently, in April 2022, we spent a week in Wexford alone and noticed that the allergen key on a few menus were slightly different; #1 was gluten on one menu while it was #10 on another. I decided to ask the server about this, curious that it wasn't common across all restaurants or was it set by County? Wow, that turned into a 30 minute conversation, with all servers and the chef/owner coming out to discuss the topic.

The chef stated it was a requirement for the HSE and there is a whole manual on requirements for allergens that each restaurant must follow. She worked at the hotel up the road, which we also ate at, and she used the same allergen key that they used there, also thinking that all restaurants used the same key. She pulled up a few on the internet and realized that the ordering was different and had no idea.

During this time we did agree that having the same order would make it even easier for diners because you wouldn't have to study each menu's allergen key to ensure you were decoding the menu items correctly. If #1 were always gluten, I can simply scan any menu for #1 and be ensured I'm not stuck in my hotel for a day.

Until then, we want all travelers to reach EACH menu allergen key to ensure you don't make a fatal mistake while on vacation.

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