July 20, 2011

Product Review: Select Wisely

Eating out won't be as stressful for us with Select Wisely cards in hand.

Our family doesn't eat out much because of our kids' multiple food allergies (dairy, peanuts, various tree nuts, kiwi, halibut).  When we do, it's always a task to choose a restaurant that we think will be the best bet at keeping our kids safe.  We always stay clear of these types of foods: American (dairy), Indian (dairy, nuts), Italian (dairy), sushi (imitation crab meat can have dairy!), Mediterranean (dairy), Mexican (dairy).  We tend to stick with Chinese and Thai restaurants and make ourselves repeat customers when we've had positive experiences there.

While some Chinese and Thai dishes do have nuts, I felt like we could maneuver around that problem easy enough by explaining the kids' nut allergies.  (Note: Ryken has a moderate peanut allergy.  If he were highly allergic to peanuts, I would think twice about Thai food.)  I have found that restaurants are usually much more attentive to nut allergy concerns.  There is more awareness of the serious dangers of nut allergies whereas a milk allergy is a lot less common.  Also, on the whole, nuts are not an integral part of all Chinese or Thai cooking although there are some dishes cooked with peanut oil or garnished with grounded peanuts and peanut sauce. 

So on a personal level, the dairy stuff really worries me the most.  Because dairy is in so many forms -- milk, butter, margarine, whey (casein), cheese, chocolate, and yogurt to name a handful -- I think it's a lot easier for wait staff and cooks to miss an ingredient when checking for allergens.  I think this is what happened on our Mother's Day visit to our favorite Thai restaurant.

We've eaten out a little more recently and discovered how frustrating -- and potentially dangerous --  it is to try to explain to a waiter in my broken Cantonese that my kids are allergic to milk, peanuts, and tree nuts.  (I still have no idea how to talk about tree nuts!)  My limited Cantonese was meaningless to Mandarin-speaking waiters.  After two especially nervous-making dining experiences I remembered about Select Wisely translation cards.

Select Wisely sells translation cards for important health-related information.  If you have food allergies, penicillin or latex, diabetes or special dietary needs, you can purchase medical alert cards in the foreign language of your choice.  Select Wisely offers translation in over 60 languages.  Enclosed in thick laminate, the cards are wallet-sized and come in sets of 2, one for your wallet and one for safekeeping in your suitcase.

I ordered the "Strongly Worded" food allergy cards for milk products and nuts/peanuts/peanut oil.  There were two types of Chinese cards -- one is written in traditional Chinese and another in simplified Chinese which has been taught in mainland China since the 1950s.  I ordered the traditional Chinese (used in Hong Kong/Taiwan) in the hopes that this might be more universal.   When the order arrived in the mail, I was excited to receive some freebie nut allergy alert cards and emergency cards.
Strongly worded card for milk allergy in Traditional Chinese.
Reverse side of the strongly worded card for milk allergy.

Strongly worded card for all nut allergies in Traditional Chinese.

Reverse of strongly worded card for all nut allergies.
A handy emergency card that the company sent me for free.

We have used the strongly worded cards once so far.  I explained the food allergies to the server and then presented her with the translation cards.  The cards were promptly shown to the cook who okayed our order.  I saw the cook peering outside the kitchen later (perhaps to place a card to a little kid face) and I felt much more at ease knowing that the restaurant staff knew exactly what our allergy issues were.  We had a delicious meal without any problems.  Phew.

I have just ordered more Select Wisely cards in Spanish and Thai.  While I'm not yet ready to book any international vacations, these will be great to have if we find ourselves dining out on one of these busy summer nights.

No comments:

Post a Comment