traveling to germany with food allergies

Your Go-To Germany Country Guide With Food Allergies

Germany is known for its vibrant cities, medieval towns, and adventurous river cruises with plentiful sights to see at each stop. You can’t forget the rich cultural festivities and traditions, such as Oktoberfest and Christmas Markets, which draw in crowds and travelers every year. If you are traveling to Germany with food allergies, it can be a challenge to plan for and navigate your trip while still enjoying the unique German cuisine. In this go-to Germany country guide with food allergies, you’ll feel more confident planning your trip, doing your restaurant research, and understanding the laws around food labeling and bringing in your own food. Plus, you’ll find practical tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable vacation!

 

Travel to Germany with Food Allergies

Depending on your specific allergies and your comfort level, you absolutely can have a great holiday in Germany. If you’d like to have more options at your fingertips (and more knowledge around food allergies among restaurants and chefs), I recommend basing yourself out of larger cities. These larger cities tend to be more knowledgeable on food allergies and better able to accommodate your needs. 

If you have smaller cities that you are wanting to visit, it’s best to book an accommodation with a kitchen so you have the option to cook for yourself, just in case you can’t find restaurants that you feel comfortable eating at or you need to make lunch on-the-go for day trips. 

Doing restaurant research ahead of your trip will give you a better idea of where you want to eat before you leave home. This can help you plan your itinerary accordingly. While I always recommend taking food with you, knowing how much food you’ll need to pack or purchase ahead of time is key.

 

Food Labeling Laws in Germany

Germany follows the same food labeling laws that other EU countries do, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland. When traveling to Germany with food allergies, it’s vital to understand these food labeling laws, as you’ll be paying very close attention to labels at all places.

EU regulation 1169/2011 states that all EU countries are required by law to clearly label the 14 major food allergens on any pre-packaged foods (think, crackers, chips, bars, etc.). 

 

These allergens are: 

  • Cereals containing gluten such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats. 
  • Crustaceans such as prawns, lobster, crabs, and crayfish.
  • Egg.
  • Fish.
  • Peanuts.
  • Soybeans.
  • Milk.
  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, and Macadamia nuts.
  • Celery.
  • Mustard.
  • Sesame.
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if the concentration is more than ten parts per million).
  • Lupin.
  • Molluscs such as clams, oysters, scallops, snails, and squid.

EU regulation 609/2013 has enforced further food labeling protections for more vulnerable groups of people, such as infants, young children, people with specific medical conditions, and those on energy-restricted diets for weight loss. This law restricts the marketing of food products created for these specific groups of people. 

In 2014, bakeries, restaurants, hotels, ice cream shops, and more were required to provide allergen information for ingredients outside of pre-packaged food. That could be done a few ways, either on the menu or a sign next to the food – or in another written form. It can also be provided to you in oral form by the waiter or chef. However, they are still required to have written information available, think, an allergy binder or the ingredients label in some instances. 

Understanding these food labeling laws can help you make more informed, confident food choices while navigating the local cuisine and supermarkets in Germany. 

 

Is Germany Good With Food Allergies?

You will find notations regarding allergens on the menu, but it is still not perfect, so it is best to have a food allergy chef card in German with you. Be sure to communicate directly with servers and chefs about your allergens, needs, and cross-contamination. While the menus may have markings stating that the menu items do or don’t contain specific allergens, they may still come in contact with them in the back. Some restaurants will just have a higher risk of your allergens in their dishes and not feel confident preparing your meal safely in the kitchen. That’s why I can’t stress enough how important it is to research the restaurants before you go. 

 

What Can You NOT Bring Into Germany?

Germany follows the same importation guidelines as other EU countries, which places restrictions on certain food items.

The most highly restricted items are meat, fish, seafood, products from non-EU countries, unpasteurized dairy products, and foods containing GMOs. Live animals or animal products also cannot be brought into Germany. 

While certain foods from specific non-EU countries CAN be imported, such as certain types of meat products, certain types of fish, and limited quantities of dairy products, it’s always best to double-check these guidelines first. This will prevent you from having a bad interaction with customs. 

Importation Guidelines and What Can You Bring Into Germany Legally

When traveling to Germany with food allergies, I recommend bringing some of your own food items with you, such as snacks, ingredients (especially if you’re staying in an accommodation with a kitchen), and safe foods. 

Despite the importation restrictions, you CAN legally bring in packaged, non-perishable snacks and food items, such as snack bars, trail mixes, etc. Pest-free fruits and vegetables are also allowed, as well as most baked goods, candies, and chocolates, as long as meat or dairy products are not included. 

 

Exploring the Local Cuisine of Germany

German cuisine is full of diverse flavors and iconic dishes. 

Here are some of Germany’s most iconic dishes and key things to keep in mind when considering your allergens: 

1. Brot & Brötchen 

Basket of Brot & Brötchen in field in Germany.

 

Bread is enjoyed with most meals in Germany, and this one comes in the form of a load or roll. German breads come in a wide variety, from grain to pumpernickel, rye, and white bread. If you are allergic to gluten, be aware of the presence of bread in eateries. 

2.  Kartoffelpuffer 

Kartoffelpuffer is a fried pancake made from grated potatoes, eggs, and flour.

 

This is a fried pancake made from grated potatoes, eggs, and flour. It can be found eaten with other breakfast items like eggs, bacon, and fruit, a side for lunch or dinner, or even just on its own for a snack. 

 

3.  Bratkartoffeln

Bratkartoffeln contains chunks or chips of potatoes are boiled and then fried with onion.

 

This dish is similar to Kartoffelpuffer, but it is more like a hashed potato. Chunks or chips of potatoes are boiled and then fried with onion. They can be found with other ingredients too, like bacon or veggies. Beware of flour and egg in the batter. 

 

4. Schnitzel

Schnitzel is a tenderized piece of meat like chicken, beef, veal, or pork. It is then covered in egg, flour, and breadcrumbs before frying in oil or butter.

 

This is made with a tenderized piece of meat like chicken, beef, veal, or pork. It is then covered in egg, flour, and breadcrumbs before frying in oil or butter.

 

5. Brezel

Image of Brezel in german bakery, made from dough, boiled, baked, and topped with salt, seeds, or cheese, and served with a mustard dip.

 

This dish, which is also sometimes sold as a pretzel, is made from dough, boiled, baked, and topped with salt, seeds, or cheese, and served with a mustard dip. Be sure to check for gluten, egg, and dairy in the dough. 

 

6. Sauerbraten

This pot roast or "sour roast" is due to the pickling of the meat like veal, beef, or pork. It is then served in a sweet and sour sauce.

 

This pot roast or “sour roast” is due to the pickling of the meat like veal, beef, or pork. It is then served in a sweet and sour sauce. Be sure to check for soy in the sauce. 

 

7. Eintopf

This is a stew that has everything in it with Brot (the bread) served on the side. This stew may contain broth, vegetables, meat, potatoes, and other ingredients like lentils.

 

This is a stew that has everything in it with Brot (the bread) served on the side. This stew may contain broth, vegetables, meat, potatoes, and other ingredients like lentils, so be sure to ask for all the ingredients.

 

8. Currywurst

Currywurst is a dish is made from chopped up sausages, chips, and a type of spicy ketchup.

 

This dish is made from chopped up sausages, chips, and a type of spicy ketchup. This is sold typically at food stalls and is very popular in Berlin.

 

8. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

This famous black forest cake is made out of a flour sponge that contains eggs with a cherry and jam filling and cream.

This famous black forest cake is made out of a flour sponge that contains eggs with a cherry and jam filling and cream.

 

There are so many different dishes in Germany, and these are just a few of the most iconic. Meat, potatoes, and bread are core aspects of German dishes, which can make navigating the menus and finding options a bit easier if these are part of your safe foods. In major cities, you will find other restaurants plus restaurants serving other cuisines, such as Italian, Asian, Thai, etc.

 

Navigating Germany With Food Allergies

Just like with any country, traveling to Germany with food allergies will require careful planning, research, communication, and consideration, but it can be done!

Gluten-Free in Germany

Gluten-free can be achieved in Germany, but it is best to double-check items like soups, sauces, and even cheeses (ie; beer cheese), as gluten and wheat byproducts can be used as thickeners. Breadcrumbs and flour are often used for frying. If you are looking at beer, make sure it has gluten-free ingredients and not just gluten-removed ingredients.

Dairy-Free in Germany

If navigating dairy-free, be cautious of items having dairy cooked into them (ie; milk, butter, etc.) or fried in butter. Of course, be aware of beer cheese and other dairy items. Going simple tends to be safer.

Nut-Free in Germany

Nuts are mainly found in the desserts, especially at Christmas time. Peanut oil can be used when frying items. Almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, and walnuts are more commonly used throughout German dishes and desserts.

Egg-Free in Germany

Eggs are found in desserts and many times in fried items, as well as those dishes seen above. Croissants can be brushed with egg, so be cautious with those.

Soy-Free in Germany

Soy is not as commonly used in German cooking, but it can be found in packaged goods, so always double-check and confirm soybean oil is not being used.

Shellfish Allergy in Germany

Fish is more common than shellfish in Germany. Along the coast, you will see more dishes with fish/shellfish, but it is not as much of a staple in the mainland.

Sesame Allergy in Germany

Sesame, while labeled on menus, can often be forgotten as a garnish on foods or buns. It’s also important to ensure flours and sauces are free from traces of sesame. It can be forgotten about for cross-contamination, so do your due diligence to confirm if it is used as a garnish.

 

Overall, Germany has made strides in accommodating food allergies.

With the EU labeling laws, the knowledge and education around allergies has grown, but I highly recommend doing restaurant research before going to Germany and getting an accommodation with a kitchen to have as a backup.

Depending on your allergies and safe foods, Germany can be an amazing destination to visit with food allergies. Setting the right expectations can help you feel more prepared for your trip and less surprised once you arrive. But at the end of the day, if your safe foods fall into German popular dishes and restaurants verify cross-contamination protocols, then you’ll be able to dive into the German food world.

If you want to feel even more confident in traveling to Germany with food allergies, I’d love to help you plan your trip according to your allergies, needs, and preferences. Visit my contact page to book a consultation with me and/or inquire about full-service travel planning. 

 

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