Switzerland is a picturesque country nestled in the heart of Europe. It is known for its breathtaking landscapes and majestic scenery. Whether you are exploring Switzerland by train, gondola, or hike, the views are sure to take your breath away with their beauty. Switzerland has diverse cultural influences from the neighboring countries of France, Germany, Italy, and Austria. This is a must-see country, and if you’re traveling to Switzerland with food allergies, you can ensure you have the best, most comfortable experience with the proper planning and considerations. I’ve got you covered with need-to-know information about navigating Switzerland with food allergies and how to best prepare for your trip. Let’s dive into your Switzerland food allergy guide!
Switzerland with Food Allergies
Switzerland is diverse in its scenery, food, and language, so depending on which cities you are planning to visit, you may need to bring a food allergy chef card in multiple languages, including French, German, and Italian, as the main spoken languages vary based on location. These chef cards can help you confidently communicate your allergies to restaurant staff to ensure a smooth dining experience.
Switzerland is known for its chocolate and cheese, meaning those with dairy and nut allergies need to be extra cautious since those items will be more plentiful throughout restaurants and bakeries. This does not mean you can’t experience Switzerland with those allergies or any other allergies. It all comes down to doing your restaurant research and learning about restaurant protocols (especially around cross-contamination) and making decisions based on your comfort level and the availability of your safe foods.
If you are willing to prepare some of your own meals in an apartment or other accommodation with a kitchen, you can travel anywhere you’d like in Switzerland without worrying about eating out for every meal!
Food Labeling Laws in Switzerland
Switzerland shares the same food labeling laws as other European Union countries, such as France, Italy, and Spain. EU regulation 1169/2011 requires that the 14 major food allergens be clearly labeled if they are present in any pre-packaged foods.
It also requires food establishments like bakeries, butchers, confectioners, ice cream parlors, restaurants, hotels, etc, to declare if any allergenic ingredients are present in foods that are not pre-packaged. However, sometimes this is not constant through all, and you’ll need to ask for information, not on a menu.
Since Switzerland is diverse in the languages spoken, I highly recommend downloading the Google Translate app so you can read allergen labels and identify if your allergens are present quickly. Always double-check food labels and err on the side of caution if you’re unsure if something is ok for you to eat.
How is Switzerland With Food Allergies?
While many restaurants and hotels in Switzerland are knowledgeable about food allergies, have allergen labeling on their menus, and are willing to accommodate your needs, this is not the case for every restaurant.
Swiss hotels often offer breakfast only or half board, which includes breakfast and dinner. When this is the case, working with the hotel to understand if they can handle your allergies is key. Do remember though that if you book 6-10 months out, follow up before travel to ensure that the policies have not changed.
So much of the vast beauty there is to see in Switzerland is seen on hikes and by exploring more remote locations, which may either have a single restaurant or very limited dining options.
If you are planning to spend some of your days hiking, it may be best to pack a lunch or snacks just in case. This is also important to keep your energy up and stay hydrated while hiking.
Swiss people are incredibly kind and hospitable, so speaking with them about your allergies and needs is essential. Just be sure to confirm that they understand the allergen fully, especially if there is any type of language barrier. For example, if you say you have a peanut allergy and they are thinking about whole peanuts, items like peanut oil may be missed in their mind.
Importation Guidelines for Traveling to Switzerland With Food Allergies
What Can You NOT Bring Into Switzerland?
Switzerland follows the same importation guidelines for food products as other European Union countries. Therefore, there are restrictions on meat, fish, and seafood products from other countries, as well as unpasteurized dairy products and products containing GMOs. Live animals and animal products are also prohibited.
Some foods can be brought into Switzerland if they meet certain guidelines, including meat products from certain non-EU countries, certain types of fish, and dairy products in limited quantities.
To avoid any issues at customs, verify these laws and regulations before traveling to Switzerland, as they are subject to change at any time.
What You CAN Bring Into Switzerland Legally
As mentioned above, it’s a good idea when traveling to Switzerland with food allergies to pack some of your own snacks and ingredients for meals. While there are some import restrictions, there are also a variety of items that are allowed through customs.
You can legally bring in packaged, non-perishable snacks and food items, fruits and vegetables (as long as they are free of pests) and most baked goods, candy, and chocolate, (as long as they do not contain meat or dairy products).
You can always shop for snacks or ingredients upon arrival, but this may be a bit trickier to do if there is a language barrier or you are looking for more specialty items. I recommend bringing at least some of your own snacks to have in a pinch, especially if you’re stuck in the airport for a while and are starving!
Exploring the Local Cuisine of Switzerland
Swiss cuisine is a delicious blend of flavors and ingredients. As always, do your research ahead of time to determine which restaurants and eateries have options that you can eat and/or are willing to make substitutions to accommodate your needs.
Here are some of Switzerland’s most iconic dishes and key things to keep in mind when considering your allergens:
- Cheese Fondue – This is, without a doubt a very popular dish in Switzerland made of melted cheese, wine, garlic, lemon, etc. It is served with bread to dip into. Be cautious of this dish if you have a dairy or gluten allergy.
- Rösti – These are flat, round, fried, and shaved potato patties. Bacon, onion, cheese, etc, can be added along with fried eggs, beef, or pork. There are so many ways to enjoy this tasty dish!
- Älplermagronen – This is a comforting dish made of layered cooked potatoes, macaroni with cream, and cheese, which is then baked. Optional add-ins are onions, apples, bacon, etc.
- Saffron Risotto – This dish uses risotto rice cooked with onions, stock, saffron, wine, and cheese. It is often complemented by add-ins like chicken, prawns, veal, or bacon.
- Bündner Nusstorte – This is a shortbread pastry filled with nuts (typically walnuts) and caramel. The pastry is made out of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and salt. Be very cautious about this pastry if you have any type of nut allergy.
- Swiss Chocolate Truffles – These contain dairy cream, butter, and melted chocolate and are rolled into circles.
- Wähe – This tart can be made sweet or savory. The sweet version will include seasonal fruits like apples, plums, rhubarb, etc, while the savory version will include items like cheese, spinach, and onions.
- Zürcher Geschnetzeltes – This is a dish containing veal strips, beef stock, white wine, cream, and mushrooms. It will be served with a side of rosti, rice, or mashed potatoes. This dish is seasoned more simply with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and oftentimes paprika. If you have a dairy allergy, make sure if it is served with mashed potatoes, you check on how they are prepared, as they may contain milk and/or butter.
Navigating Switzerland With Food Allergies
When planning your Switzerland food allergy trip, it’s important to know that tree nuts are commonly used in desserts, chocolate, and bread, so you may want to stay away from bakeries due to cross-contamination.
Gluten-free options are available, especially in the bigger cities, so check on that during your planning phase. Peanut oil can be used when cooking, so make sure to ask about this ahead of time and again when ordering, as well as soybean oil.
Dairy is widely used in dishes, from the cheese fondue to desserts like the chocolate truffle. Soy is not as frequently used in cooking, but it’s always best to ask and double-check labels as soybean oil can sometimes pop up.
Eggs are commonly used in dessert pastries and savory tarts and fried eggs can be used with rosti. Since Switzerland is a land-locked country, you won’t see as many fish or shellfish dishes as other countries. However, Switzerland does have reservoirs, and those contain fish like salmon, trout, and more.
Believe it or not, in the land of cheese fondue, you can visit and eat dairy-free. Yes, it may take more work and depend on your safe foods, but it can be done. Switzerland is a magical country and not to be missed, so I hope that with this Switzerland food allergy guide, you feel more confident embarking on your Swiss adventure.
Do your research, pack your chef cards, bring pre-packaged snacks, and get ready to be blown away by the enchanting landscapes and sights.
I would be honored to work with you to plan your trip to Switzerland according to your food allergies.
Visit my contact page to book a consultation or inquire about working with me as your full-service food allergy travel agent.