Listen very carefully, I shall say this many times…

This week a waiter in Canada has been charged after an allergic diner was served fish instead of steak; the customer was seriously allergic to fish and has alerted the waiter about this but sadly he had an anaphylactic attack and spent two days in a coma.

Why did this happen? How could this happen? How can you get fish and steak mixed up?

This kind of thing happens too often though and it’s the reason we must all check, check and check again.

It’s not something you only need to say once. Sorry about that everyone. You probably get fed up, especially waiters and waitresses who get asked again to check something is OK.

If you have allergies, life threatening allergies, you need to ask not just once, but twice and check again and again until you’re satisfied.

Alarm bells ring in my ears constantly. They have to.

But mistakes do happen. So I will continue to ask you not just once, but twice and maybe even a third time if I’m not sure. If you don’t respond sufficiently. If you roll your eyes or if you don’t write down my allergies I might even walk out.
Eat with your eyes!
But my biggest piece of advice to everyone with life threatening allergies is to eat with your eyes. And I mean REALLY look at your food. Is is steak? Is it fish?

For me, with a dairy and nut allergy, anything that looks in any way creamy or crumbs of anything are a cause for alarm and need checking.

But why should we have to do this? Why should we have to remain so vigilant? Why do we need to check and check and check for waiters to still take no notice?

Be warned waiters and waitresses, because it could save your bacon when a customer keeps checking.

I’ll bet both the waiter and the diner wish they had.

Because this week a Canadian waiter may be charged after diner’s allergic reaction

You’d think it was impossible to mistake fish with steak but that’s exactly what happened to this poor fish allergic diner in Canada. The waiter was arrested after the diner was rushed to hospital and spent two days in a coma.

So no, not just a snuffly nose or upset stomach. Your actions could be catastrophic for someone with allergy. PLEASE TAKE ALLERGIES VERY SERIOUSLY. Because they could be fatal.

So whose fault was it?

  • Was it the waiter who didn’t write down the order properly and failed to note the importance of a life threatening allergy?
  • Was a mistake made in the kitchen? Did the chef send out the wrong dish?
  • Was it the owner for not training staff sufficiently?
  • Was it the diner for not checking or noticing it was fish and not steak?

I have to hope that I would have noticed it was fish… and not steak if that was my meal. Don’t they look quite different? But nothing changes the fact that this waiter appears to have taken an order for a completely different food. Maybe his message about fish was so misconstrued, not as an allergy but actually a request. How wrong can you get? Maybe he didn’t even understand or try to help the diner.

Many people just don’t get it.

I was recently given frozen yogurt instead of dairy free sorbet which made me VERY ill, but thankfully no trip to A&E. These things can easily be mistaken for one another which is exactly what happened. The chef thought he was giving me a scoop of dairy free sorbet. I thought I was getting a scoop of dairy free sorbet. They both look exactly the same.

How do we avoid things like this happening again?

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.


  1. Well done Ruth for saying what needs to be said, and giving everyone a reminder to have a strong back bone. It’s important, it’s your LIFE.

    • Thanks Alison. Hope you’re well. It’s a difficult topic but I think we ALL have to take some responsibility for keeping ourselves safe because an ideal world for those of us with allergies is never going to exist. Mistakes will happen. WE are still a long way off in this country from restaurants totally getting this. We HAVE to all remain vigilant and all of you without allergies – if you are also on the lookout you might save us from a slip up too. Even my 7 year old niece checked labels for me. At a party recently she told me I could have the vegetable crisps because she had read the packet and there was milk or nuts. She was looking out for me. So if she can do it… so can you all!

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