We were at a restaurant that we had eaten at before, the week before lockdown started actually. I imagine you can see where this is going already, knowing me as you do!
And my son, the allergic one, specifically asked if we could go back because he liked the food and he hadn't had a reaction. You remember these things.
The server last night was helpful and checked with the kitchen that a burger was OK and that they would swap the bun and coleslaw for bacon and cucumber. The food arrived and I was slightly concerned when the plates came out, the server was holding the dietary requirement plate in the same hand as the plate that had cheese on it in the way that wait staff do. I said nothing.
We had a nice meal, no incidents and we came home.
Three hours after we’d eaten, whilst I was in the middle of the last Line of Duty, Nath was in the middle of having a reaction.
And it was actually quite a full-on reaction, I don't mean anaphylactic it wasn't anaphylactic. He was very itchy, wheezy, snotty, uncomfortable and hoarse.
He wasn't feeling great at all and most of all he was so disappointed, disappointed that the first time he’d been out to eat in 14 months had resulted in a reaction, disappointed that another place has to be cut off the list of places we can go to - one strike and you are out. Disappointed that he feels he can’t trust anyone when we go out. I feel it too.
What caused it?
Was it the fact that the waitress was holding his plate at the same time as holding a plate that had cheese on it? Had she picked them up separately, with clean hands, would this have made a difference? I should have said something.
All it takes is a touch. Cross-contamination is so easy. Take that plate with the cheese on it, if you put that same hand and touch the other plate, that's it, potential cross-contamination.
Was it something as simple as:
Someone not washing their hands between picking up something that had dairy on it and picking up the burger?
Could it have been the chef? Did he wipe his hands down his apron/tea towel whilst preparing Nath’s food? Did that apron have some residue dairy on it from something he’d cooked earlier that day?
Were the plates not washed correctly?
What about the surfaces?
Was a freshly cleaned down surface used to prep his food?
Did someone pick some chips from another plate that had dairy on it as it had too many and moved it to the dairy-free one?
Has someone used tongs from another food and used them on his?
There are so many things that it could have been, he definitely ate something that had been cross-contaminated because that kind of reaction, only comes from eating.
And another consequence, it’s not only this pub he doesn’t want to go to again, it’s going out at all. He feels unsafe. He says why bother. Why bother going out to eat, when it results in you paying for someone to give you a reaction. I completely get it and I'm really disappointed.
I have written to the restaurant, I wouldn’t normally as I have never thought it would make a difference. I don’t know if it will make a difference, I would like to start a conversation, I would like to see how they work, I would like to see where it happened, to stop it from happening again.