The United Kingdom is without a doubt one of the most popular travel destinations for food allergy families. Not only is it rich in culture and history, but it offers a unique blend of gorgeous countryside and diverse cities. Read on to learn more about how to prepare for your trip to the United Kingdom and navigate London with food allergies while still enjoying the country’s authentic culinary experiences.
Traveling To London With Food Allergies
When traveling with food allergies, many families look to the United Kingdom for their family getaway. With the common language of English in the United Kingdom, many families coming from the United States feel more at ease knowing there isn’t a language barrier present. There are also a lot of nonstop flights from a variety of cities and a wide diversity of food options available in the United Kingdom, especially in London, which is very enticing when traveling with food allergies.
The city of London is a top request for food allergy vacations, and of course, there is so much more to the United Kingdom than just the city of London. However, for the purpose of this blog post, we’ll focus mainly on London. Just keep in mind that venturing outside of London to the many great cities and towns there is truly a must see as well. The United Kingdom is a great country to consider in general if you are traveling with food allergies.
Experience London’s Culinary Delights
When it comes to experiencing the culinary delights that London has to offer, there are so many options to consider! Fish and chips and afternoon tea are my two top requests when it comes to traveling to London with food allergies. However, there is so much more delicious food to explore, such as Sunday roast, english breakfast, roast chicken, steak, and a wide variety of other foods and treats!
Throughout the city of London, there are many great restaurants that offer mouthwatering fish and chips. Many of these restaurants will accommodate a variety of food allergies.
In order to experience afternoon tea safely, it takes more work to review menus and ask about certain menu items that interest you before making reservations. While I have worked with many afternoon tea locations multiple times, due to changing menus depending on the season, I reconfirm everytime. And not only reconfirm, but match the afternoon tea to the family and allergies. Afternoon Tea locations will let you know that allergens are present in the kitchens, but they will work to accommodate. This is why changing menus and verifying their protocols are best to select an option that you feel comfortable with.
With such a wide variety of food options available in London, from vegan restaurants to burger joints, Italian, Indian, American, and more, there is a plethora of cuisines and restaurants to choose from.
Make sure to do your restaurant research ahead of time to choose the best restaurants for your family to eat at. Communicate your allergies, safe foods, and needs with each restaurant and chef. Many restaurants are equipped to accommodate allergies, but it’s always best to double check, especially when it comes to cross-contamination. During high season, reservations are your best bet.
Navigating London with Food Allergies
While traveling to London with food allergies is a great destination and provides a greater sense of safety than other locations, it’s important to note that the labeling process has changed and not every restaurant will approach food labeling the same.
Gluten free items can be found throughout the city of London, from baked goods to fish and chips, afternoon tea, and more. Just be cautious about cross-contamination of gluten in bakeries if they bake gluten free and regular pastries.
Soy can be found in breads, sauces, pastries, and more. It is possible to still get fish and chips, afternoon tea, roasted chicken, and more.
Dairy free options will be found in vegan restaurants, english breakfast, fish and chips, afternoon tea, and more.
Peanuts are prevalent through the off-chance use of peanut oil at times, desserts, on salads, etc. However, you’ll still find the ability to try many great local cuisines and experiences like afternoon tea.
While this is not all the possible allergies, London is great with a wide variety of allergies. You will find yourself more limited the more allergies you have and if your safe foods are limited.
Some restaurants will break down each ingredient in a dish on their website to let you know if a certain allergen is present in a menu item or if cross-contamination is a concern. However, other restaurants will have allergy filters on their websites to filter the menu options. These filters can get really confusing and leave you feeling just as leery as before. If you select ‘dairy free’ and it removes everything with dairy, the question then becomes, “what if you ordered that cheeseburger without cheese or that salad with a different dressing?” Then is it accommodating to your food allergies?
This is why it is crucial to work closely with restaurants and chefs before your arrival to truly understand their policies and get on the same page. Many restaurants will have an allergy binder you can ask about or will go over ingredients, but if you are researching before arrival, just know websites vary.
This year, I did run into a few restaurants during my research who were marking items as cross-contaminated, but upon speaking with them, the items were just transported on the same truck. This is very different than if it is manufactured on the same equipment, etc, so be sure to ask all the questions so you feel comfortable. One restaurant may be overly cautious and the next could be too casual with cross-contamination.
Websites and search filters can be handy, but it’s best to go the extra mile in order to understand what they deem as cross-contaminated, whether in the production stage, transportation, or in the kitchen.
This will help you feel confident knowing what your options are and determine if you feel safe dining there, depending on the severity of your food allergies.
Familiar American Restaurants and Stores in London
While you may be seeking out unique cuisines and dining experiences when traveling in London with food allergies, it can be comforting to know that there are several familiar American restaurant and store options. A few that you’ll see are Chipotle, Hard Rock Café, McDonalds, etc. There are also grocery stores such as Whole Foods, which can be a great option for purchasing your own ingredients and snacks to bring back to your accommodation.
Food Labeling Laws in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has specific food labeling laws in place that require them to clearly disclose allergen information on packaged foods. Before traveling to London with food allergies, be sure to familiarize yourself with these laws in order to make navigating restaurants, cafés, and grocery stores easier and less stressful.
According to food law, EU Regulation 1169/2011, food businesses in the UK must inform you of any use of the 14 designated “most potent” allergens as ingredients in any food or drink they provide. This
According to the UK Food Standards Agency, the 14 allergens are:
- Cereals containing gluten.
- Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites.
- Tree Nuts.
Even though English is the common language in the UK, it’s helpful to carry your food allergy chef card to show restaurant chefs in order to ensure your food allergies are communicated clearly and not overlooked.
What Can I Bring When Traveling to London with Food Allergies?
Just as it’s important to understand the food labeling laws in the UK, it’s also key to know what you can and can’t bring with you when traveling to London with food allergies. If you plan on packing your own snacks or cooking some of your own meals, make sure you know what you can and can’t bring with you. Remember, you can always shop for fresh fruits and vegetables when you arrive in the UK if needed.
According to the UK Government website, you can bring these food items into the country with no restrictions:
- Plain bread.
- Cakes without fresh cream.
- Chocolate and confectionery not made with unprocessed dairy ingredients.
- Plain pasta and noodles.
- Packaged soup, stocks, and flavorings.
- Processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material.
There are certain restrictions on bringing in food items such as:
- Animal products.
It is always good to double-check before you leave in case any regulations have changed.
How To Prepare For Taking Day Trips In London
If you want to stay in the central location of London when traveling to the United Kingdom, that doesn’t mean you can’t take day trips to see iconic sites such as Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Oxford, small towns, and more.
When planning for these day trips, it’s best to bring snacks and pack an allergy-safe lunch just in case you can’t find a safe option to eat, or you get delayed.
All in all, if you’re looking for a family-friendly and allergy-conscious destination for your next vacation, London and the United Kingdom is a great option. With a common language, allergy standards, and a ton of options for dining and shopping for groceries, you can feel good navigating London with food allergies with the right planning.
If you’d like help planning your European adventure to London and receive a customized travel and dining plan that accommodates your food allergies and needs, visit my contact page to book a consultation with me or learn more about my full-service travel planning and restaurant research.
I’d be honored to work with you and help you plan a memorable vacation for you and your family!