Claiming allergy to get vegan food - good idea or not?


Little green mod
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Dec 20, 2014
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Hannover, Germany
  1. Vegan
I normally do not crosspost content from facebook, but I came across a very interesting and informative statement in the "Veganuary" group and thought it might be helpful here:

***** Shared from Erin Deards in Facebook Group "Veganuary" (posted without "Quote" for better legibility) *****

I’m sorry this is long, but please read...

In a recent post, a person stated that they will tell restaurant staff that their choice not to eat dairy is an allergy, even though it is admittedly not. Note, this is not the first time I have seen this train of thought stated or encouraged on vegan and vegetarian boards. I am not about calling people out, but felt this was an important topic to address, so instead of responding directly to this person I am pleading my case here.

Please don’t tell people, especially at restaurants, that your food requests are for an an allergy when if they really a diet preference, and yes being a vegan is a preference - I prefer not to harm animals or the environment with my food choices. I ask this because as a vegan with severe allergies to tree nuts, avocados, and mangos two things happen when people do this...

1. When lots of people falsely claim food allergies, and restaurants staff do catch onto and get tired of this, those of us with real allergies are not taken as seriously which can greatly impact our health and put our lives in danger.

2. It causes the kitchen staff, waitstaff, and possibly the manager a lot of extra work that would not be necessary in cooking a regular vegan dish.

Here is a great example of #2, I often go to a local restaurant that offers a nice veggie burger with a veggie patty, ciabatta bun, lettuce, tomato, onions, guacamole, and secret sauce. Cheese is optional.

To order this vegan is simple as the patty and bun are already vegan and the patty is cooked on a separate grill, you just need to hold the secret sauce and remind them “no cheese please” and you are good to go.

For me to order this with an avocado allergy the waitstaff has to take the extra step of flagging the order and notifying the kitchen that it is an allergy request. The kitchen staff has to clean the already designated vegan grill and then get out new lettuce, tomatoes, and onions as they are stored next to the guacamole and thus at a real risk of cross contamination. Next they have to use all new clean utensils for preparing and serving the burger, so another spatula and fork, etc. to wash later. Finally, they have to still remember to hold the secret sauce and the “no cheese please”, which in this case is the least of their worries after all the extra attention, time, and work. And then, at this particular restaurant, they also have to notify the manager that they are serving an allergy request so he can verify the order and the steps taken to avoid the allergen before it is served. The wait staff then has to verify with me the customer that it appears correct before he or she can walk away.

So as you can see, there is a huge difference in being vegan and having a true allergy. Sadly so many people abuse this for food preferences and pickiness, that true allergies are often not taken as seriously as they should be or as the restaurant above does.

To follow that here is a personal experience with #1. I once watched a girl, at a fast food restaurant, order a burger without cheese and go on and on about how important is was that their was no cheese as she was “deathly allergic to milk”. The two guys with her ordered their food plus chocolate shakes and they all sat down near me. The girl began sharing one of the guys chocolate shakes and the other gut asked her “I thought you said you were allergic to milk?”. The girls reply was, “Oh It’s okay, I just don’t like American cheese and that’s how I make sure they really leave it off”. Note, the counter staff observed and heard all of this too. How seriously do you think they take my allergy requests when they watch this type of stuff happen all day?

So when it is a vegan related request, I state I do not eat dairy, meat, or eggs, so could you please check x ingredients or leave x off. I then check to make sure that my order is correct. When it is an allergy related request I clearly state that I am allergic to x can you please check the ingredients for x or leave x off. I then double and triple check my order to be sure it is correct and safe to eat. Sometimes I have to do both of these in a single order.

Also, an important thing that happens when you state “I don’t eat x.” Instead of “I’m allergic to x” is that you have the opportunity to discuss being a vegan and possibly encourage someone else to look into and consider veganism as well.

Recently I told a waiter that I didn’t eat chicken because I am a vegan, not only did he offer me a great off menu substitution, but he told me he had been considering becoming a vegan and that he had been a vegetarian in his teen years. He spent the rest of the evening asking me questions each time he came by to serve our table. At the end of our meal, he told me he was going to go home and look into it some more because he thought I was “a sign” that this is what he should be doing.

So again, please for those of us with actual and serious allergies and for the poor restaurant staff, do not falsely and deceptively claim a food preference as an allergy. Also, do not take away your own chance to encourage and inspire others regarding veganism.

P.S. I get that many vegans don’t feel well after accidentally consuming non-vegan food, but there is a big difference between not feeling well and life threatening reactions. I have experienced both and will absolutely take the prior any day. So, personally I stand by the rule that if it’s not an actual allergy I won’t claim it to be so in protection of others lives and wellbeing.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider this.
Jan 3, 2016
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  1. Vegetarian
I agree with this article fully.

There is a vegan argument that consuming the tiniest trace of animal product is ethically still wrong as well as very upsetting, and I think that's why it's tempting for some to say allergy, because then they will get the true vegan standard that places often won't give if someone just says vegan or don't eat animal products. And that to explain yourself every time is just a hassle. I don't agree with the argument although I can see where they are coming from, but I think the article posted above is a better one.

I think the truth is nearly always better than a lie as well.


Oct 22, 2012
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  1. Vegan
I agree with this as well, especially for getting more people to think about veganism. This also might spur a restaurant to offer more vegan options if it feels there is enough of a demand.