France is a stunning destination with an abundance of rich culture, historic landmarks, and iconic cuisines. If you are traveling to France with food allergies, it may feel both exciting and nerve-wracking to determine how to navigate your food allergies and which cuisines you can indulge in safely. In this blog post, we’ll explore what it looks like to eat local cuisines in Paris, France when it comes to your unique food allergies.
Traveling In France With Food Allergies
When you think of France, you likely think of the romantic, iconic city of Paris. From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles, there are many breathtaking sights to see. Paris is known as the City of Love… and lots of tasty local cuisine, but what about food allergies? While France is an absolutely gorgeous destination that many families want to check off of their bucket list, depending on your food allergies and safe foods, it can also be quite challenging to navigate eating out in Paris with food allergies. Of course, there is so much to explore in France, but for this blog post, we’ll narrow our focus to Paris alone.
Exploring the Local Cuisine of France
French cuisine is known for its variety of ingredients and flavors, which may not be for everyone. This makes it a bit more difficult to also navigate with food allergies in Paris, as there are more items to look into when it comes to allergens. There may also be a limited number of safe options for certain cuisines.
Now, this doesn’t mean to scratch traveling to France from your bucket list altogether. It just means you’ll have to be more mindful in your research, planning, and food preparation. You may also want to plan on cooking more of your own meals in your accommodation and packing lunches and snacks to take with you on your adventures, depending on your allergies and safe foods.
Some classic French cuisines are steak and fries, french onion soup, baguettes, pastries, cheese, bread, boeuf bourguignon, escargot, and more! When traveling in France with food allergies, make sure you thoroughly research each place you’ll be dining and each ingredient present in the kitchen and unique dishes themselves.
Navigating Paris with Food Allergies
For families navigating Paris with food allergies, it’s important to note that Paris does have gluten-free options available throughout the city. However, be very cautious of cross-contamination when it comes to pastries in shops and more.
Peanut oil is used often in French cooking, especially in Paris, so you’ll definitely want to ask about this when researching restaurants. Outside of peanut oil, sunflower oil and butter is used quite frequently around the city when cooking.
Tree nuts are used on salads, in sauces, and desserts. Soy will be used in a lot of dressings, sauces, and other hidden items like desserts, making it a harder allergen to avoid in Paris. Soy is also an allergen that can be a forgotten additive in things like meat or seasonings, and staff may not think to check there.
For egg allergies, you can find some safe baguettes around the city, but always ask if they are egg-washed or not, as some shops do so to give them that shiny finish.
With so much cheese in the city, dairy is quite prevalent, especially in ice cream, gelato, desserts, sauces, dressings, and more.
While you will find some restaurants that cater specifically to your allergens, these can be harder to come by, especially when it comes to your safe foods. More expensive restaurants tend to have more protocols in place regarding food allergies. Not every restaurant will want to make accommodations, especially if it is a busy time for them.
Familiar American Restaurant Chains
For many families traveling to Paris with food allergies, it may be overwhelming to figure out which French cuisines are safe for you and your family. Luckily, there are familiar American chains such as Chipotle and McDonalds that can provide a sense of safety and ease when looking for a place to eat with food allergies. Sure, it may not be the most authentic French culinary experience, but sometimes, feeling safe and comfortable is more important, especially if you are jet-lagged and starving!
Plus a Chipotle picnic under the Eiffel Tower is still a unique experience over eating Chipotle in your hometown.
Understanding Food Labeling Laws in France
France adheres to the European Union’s food labeling laws, which is helpful for ensuring transparency with ingredient lists and allergen information. According to FARE, EU Regulation 1169/2011 requires food establishments like bakeries, butchers, confectioners, ice cream parlors, restaurants, hotels, clinics, etc, to declare any allergenic ingredients in foods that are not pre-packaged.
Where it gets especially tricky is reading food labels of many nut products, as there are many words for peanuts, nuts, tree nuts, etc, in France compared to other European countries. That is why I recommend you list every nut on your chef cards to ensure none are missed.
In order to remain vigilant, do your research on common words and phrases related to your allergens and specific needs, read food labels carefully, and always carry your food allergy chef card when dining out. I highly recommend downloading the Google Translate app to read labels in the grocery stores.
Can I Take Food to France On Plane?
If you are traveling to France with food allergies, you may want to bring along some of your own food items, safe foods, and snacks. However, it’s important to first know what you can and can’t take to France on a plane or from outside the country.
Foods You Can Take To France
There are many foods you can take safely into France, such as:
- Fruits and vegetables that are free from pests and diseases.
- Packaged, non-perishable food items, such as cereals, pastas, snack bars, and canned goods.
- Baked goods that do not contain meat or dairy products.
- Chocolate and candy that does not contain meat or dairy products.
Foods You Cannot Take To France
Before packing your bags, ensure you are not taking any of these foods into France, as they are not allowed by law:
- Meat products from certain countries.
- Live animals and animal products.
- Certain fish and seafood products.
- Unpasteurized dairy products.
- Products that contain GMOs.
There are also some food products that have specific restrictions, such as:
- Meat products from certain countries outside of the EU.
- Dairy products in limited quantities.
- Certain types of fish.
- Plants and plant products must have a phytosanitary certificate.
Be sure to double-check the latest EU food laws and regulations before traveling to ensure you know what food items you can and can’t travel with either by plane or when crossing the border into France.
Is It Impossible To Travel to Paris, France With Food Allergies?
Paris is an amazing city with so much history to see, and it is definitely possible to navigate with food allergies and still have a great time. My advice is to get an apartment with a kitchen and be prepared to cook more than you would in other destinations, depending on your allergies and comfort level.
For some allergies, you’ll have an easier time than others depending on your safe foods and how confident you feel in dining out. Opt for sit-down restaurants that can accommodate specific dietary needs and that are more likely to have protocols in place regarding food allergies. Again, be sure to carry your food allergy chef card with you at all times.
Do your restaurant research ahead of time and communicate clearly with the staff to ensure your questions are answered and you are all on the same page regarding your allergens, safe foods, and the ingredients and preparation methods taken while you’re dining in.
Traveling to Paris with your food allergies may be a bit more challenging than other locations, but with careful planning, open communication, and adequate preparation on your part, you can soak up the sights of the city and enjoy your trip. When you are picking a destination, remember a big part of the decision is what kind of trip you are looking for. Each country has its own local cuisine, so ask yourself if it matches up with your allergies and safe foods. If it does not, then preparing your own food will become more key.
If you’d like more assistance in preparing for your trip to Paris with food allergies, visit my contact page to book a complimentary consultation and inquire about my full-service travel planning!