The stupid things people say about food allergies

Next week my workmates are going to be celebrating the Melbourne Cup with awesome food and beer. I can’t eat any of the food at the venue, and I don’t drink (because it messes with my blood sugar level). My workmates are LOVELY! Like, seriously super inclusive and kind, and were really encouraging of me attending. 

I know I could go, and usually I would, but this time I’m actually considering just giving it a miss and staying in the office. 

Discussions of the Melbourne Cup celebration led to an amusing (to me anyway) comment from a couple of my workmates that I know many of you allergy-folk will relate to (it’s number 5 in the list below). 

And it also got me thinking about all the other weird, funny and scientifically impossible things people have said to me about food allergies in the past. 


“Oh, I get a tummy ache when I eat <insert food here>, but I just eat it anyway.”

Food allergies are an immune response, and if you genuinely do have a food allergy and continue to eat it anyway, then maybe you’re not that smart. Also, many food allergy responses are much more severe than a bit of a tummy ache.

“Gluten-free? That means you can’t eat meat eh?”

No, that would be vegetarians (or vegans) who don’t eat meat. I’m a HUGE fan of meat.

OMG a bacon truck!

“One bite won’t hurt you.”

Yes it will. How about I eat the bite, but you suffer the consequences?

“It’s because your parents kept you too clean when you were a child.”

Nope. That’s not what science suggests. 

When you’re pressured into going somewhere that doesn’t cater for you:

“You can just hang out [while we eat and drink]. It’ll be fun.”

Nope, it’s not fun watching you eat and drink while I sit in the corner. 

“So that’s why you’re so slim.” 

Err, no. That would be genetics and eating well. Fun fact: Gluten-free food usually contains more sugar than regular gluteny food. A lot of allergy-free processed food is worse for you than the cheaper, allergy-containing products.

“My charcoal oven will burn the gluten out”

Yes, that’s a real conversation I actually had with someone. All I could do was laugh at this one, and suggest to his coeliac granddaughter that she NEVER EVER eat over at grandpa’s house.

“In my day there was no such thing as food allergies.”

Yes there were, many were just un-diagnosed. There has also been an increase in the number of reported severe allergies in recent years, and scientists aren’t sure why. That doesn’t mean that food allergies aren’t real, or that we’re all a bunch of pansies who need to harden up like they did back in 1952.

“But you used to be able to eat <insert food item>.”

Yup, food allergies can develop at any age, it’s very annoying.

“Oh my god, I’d go crazy if I couldn’t eat <insert food item>.”

You probably wouldn’t, you’d just adapt and get on with life. But thanks for your helpful, supportive and encouraging comment.

Who knows, maybe next week I’ll change my mind about attending the Melbourne Cup party, and just smuggle some of my own food into the venue (and eat it when the wait staff aren’t looking). I do love a good excuse to wear a fancy hat after-all


I’d love to hear from you! Post me a comment and tell me what funny things you’ve heard said about food allergies!

3 thoughts on “The stupid things people say about food allergies

  1. Love it, can relate to each one. One of the hardest parts of being a Coeliac is the response by others. You learn to take it on the chin, but it's hard. At a B.B.Q, guest noticed I had brought my own food. Asked why and when I said I was Coeliac the reply was "That Fad! Tried a GF diet for a while myself, yuk won't don't that again". At a McDonald's café. Had gone there for a children's party (kids ha McD's but I figured the café part may have the obligatory Florentine or cellophane wrapped cardboard cookie) Couldn't find any so quietly asked the passing staff member if there was anything in the cabinet that was GF option. She gave me a disgusted look and said "We don't cater to fad's like that!" I did write to head office and complain but got an answer "McDonalds is customer driven, so customers don't want GF therefore we don't serve it" (some branches do Florentines, ours does nothing). What a load of rubbish. I come from Taupo, and nearly every Café here has a significant section of GF items. What they really meant was it was too much trouble and too costly to incorporate GF space and products. Thumbs down McD's!!!!Friends who are just trying to be helpful – "Oh if I was a Coeliac I'd just eat normal food anyway"….. Sure you would sunshine!!! Wonderful, thoughtful friends who buy special GF meat etc for B.B.Q's then cook it with all the rest on the Barbie. Feel so bad for them when I have to say I can't eat it.Going to another family chain restaurant (that is no longer in Taupo) and though asking them what GF meals I could have, had to go through a really embarrassing time of having to say no to the first three meals they brought out as they weren't GF. Everyone else at the table sat politely while their meal went cold until I finally got something I could eat, poor things. Waking up after a small operation in our local hospital and they brought me the standard cup of tea and sandwich. (Even though it was on my hospital records that I was a coeliac. Nurses were embarrassed as there was nothing there I could eat (not their fault).


  2. Waiting at Rotorua Hospital for my husband to come out of theatre. Got out my pre-packed lunch to eat while I waited in the ward. The lovely nurse felt sorry for me and said to go to the cafeteria and get something nice. I explained I'd been there often and there was nothing I could eat there (how bad is that for a hospital) expect fresh fruit salad and I was over having the obligatory Florentine, Cellophane Cookie, Fresh Fruit Salad that seemed to be my options everywhere. She said she was sure they'd have got their act together , so I went down to the cafeteria to give it a go. Nope, just fresh fruit salad. Staff shouts where you have to watch everyone else eat (that's now changed, there's 3 of us so each of us brings something nice). 9. Countless times people think it's only wheat that's prohibited and go to the trouble of making something lovely and I still can't eat it. 10. Used to have an awesome fish and chip shop here that did GF. It was fantastic!!! Don't eat take aways often but great for a family picnic at the lake. New owners brought the shop and stopped the service. 😦 Things are so much better than they were, when I was first diagnosed there was very little around. I get really ill, even have to watch cross contamination. Have my own toaster, jam, butter etc so it can be a struggle. For me it's just so nice to go somewhere and the staff will know what to recommend without the big fuss that sometimes happens. Our cafe's here are superb. People are generally quite good about it all. Sometimes when you get an ignorant response I feel like saying "do you honestly think that I choose not to eat all that beautiful food in the cabinet for fun!!! Do you honestly think I enjoy being a Coeliac! If I was in a wheelchair would you tell me I can't be served unless I stand up like everyone else!!!! I see Hamilton has a lot more in the way of bakery type GF stuff, so will be checking it out next time I'm up. Will certainly follow this blog.


  3. Thanks so much for your comments! I'm sure a lot of readers can relate to your experiences. Things have definitely come a long way over the last ten years though. Back in 2004 there were many "it's all in your head" type comments, whereas those are becoming rarer these days. So nice to see so many more options about too eh?


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