I’m gluten-free and missing out on awesome work food perks

A reader writes:

I work in an office of around 50 people. One of the perks of working here is that we get groceries provided to make lunch in the communal kitchen for four days of the week, and take-out food delivered once a week.

I’m gluten intolerant, and can get quite sick if I consume gluten. Because of this, I’m usually unable to make lunches in the kitchen due to risk of cross-contamination, and the food organizer consistently makes mistakes in ordering for me on the take-out days.

Do you think that company perks should be accessible to any employee who wants to take advantage of them? Or should I accept that I need to sit this one out? I worry about requesting changes to accommodate me, because a) my needs are annoying and would require fairly substantial changes (separate meals/ordering individually packaged items), and b) the food organizer doesn’t understand intolerances, cross contamination, etc., so there’s a significant educational challenge.

Note: I’m (somehow!) the only employee with a food intolerance.

Generally speaking, it’s not always realistic for perks to be available to anyone who wants to take advantage of them. If the company offers free soda, people who don’t drink soda will miss out on that. If the company offers subsidized child care, people without kids can’t take advantage of that. If the company pays for dependents’ health insurance, people without kids or a spouse won’t benefit from that. And so forth.

But when it comes to something like company-provided food, everyone eats and so a thoughtful company will attempt to make sure that they’re providing something for everyone.

If the food organizer can’t figure out what you can and can’t eat, she should ask you for a list of safe options and keep that on hand. Or she could just let you order for yourself on the days that the company provides take-out, even if it means you need to order from a different place than everyone else. That’s how a thoughtful company would handle it, and the fact that she’s making consistent mistakes isn’t okay.

Using the kitchen is trickier, though, if cross-contamination is an issue. Your office could probably put in rules in place to guard against it, but in reality it’s hard to police that sort of thing and I suspect there’s no way to do it that would ensure your safety. (Even if everyone is super conscientious about it, someone is inevitably going to forget to tell the temp about the kitchen rules, or the visiting auditor won’t know she can’t leave bread on the counter.)

However, if there are specific things that you could have included in the grocery deliveries that wouldn’t require kitchen prep, I think you’re on solid ground in asking for those. It doesn’t have to be a big deal — just something like, “Because of my food restrictions, could you start including X and Y in the grocery deliveries? That way I’ll have something I can safely eat.”

And you can address the take-out mess-ups too: “Hey, since we’ve had some trouble getting my orders right, could we arrange for me to order my meal directly on take-out days?”

{ 444 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Manager*

    I am a vegan and choose not to drink alcohol. Almost everything in the average American kitchen is a problem for me. But I think it is very unrealistic for everyone around me to conform to my food norms. I just know to make my own edible arrangements (ha!). OP, I think you need to adjust your expectations.

    1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

      It is a bit different though. She is not gluten-free by choice, she has a health issue. I have 2 gluten intolerants in my office and we are able to accommodate them.

      1. Justme*

        Thank you for saying what I was trying to but couldn’t say in a way that didn’t come off snarky (which was not how I meant it at all).

        1. Saturnalia*

          I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to assume someone isn’t vegan due to health issues… Perhaps that’s too much of a derail though.

    2. Rabbit Gal*

      Not even being to use the kitchen for herself because of cross-contamination is over the line, though.
      I accept I won’t be able to eat food at events because of food allergies. It’s just common decency to clean up after oneself, much less to keep from sickening someone.

      1. TootsNYC*

        It’s probably not possible for them to clean up well enough for her to eat food cooked in that kitchen. She’d have to bring her own pans, and wash them in the bathroom sink.

        1. Justme*

          I’m not even sure the bathroom sink would be free of contamination. That’s where I wash my hands after eating a snack. But I would hope they would make available things that she can eat that don’t need to be cooked and can be sequestered from contamination.

          1. Anna*

            If someone with Celiac or any form of gluten allergy can wash their hands in a sink after they pee, they can certainly wash dishes.

            1. LF*

              They can, yes, with preparation.

              They would have to wash out the sink first with somehing that hasn’t touched gluten. A paper towel is ideal because once it has been used to clean a sink of gluten, it is now contaminated with gluten! They can through it away and then use a GF-exclusive sponge.

        2. Snark*

          It probably is, actually. Gluten is a big, long, tangled protein, not a volatile one, and it doesn’t really persist on surfaces the way a smaller molecule might. It’s not even soluble in water.

          1. MinB*

            I have a celiac at home and we keep a mixed kitchen. We segment the fridge and pantry and just make sure to wipe down the counters really well between my cooking and his. I know people have different levels of sensitivity, but in my experience most people who are gluten intolerant in one way or another can coexist in a kitchen as long as the space being used is wiped down before cooking.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Just FYI, for anyone unfamiliar or looking for guidance: The biggest reason to segregate the pantry and fridge is for organizational purposes.

              We don’t segregate; I just look at the box before I open the pasta. We have a rule that no condiments can be spread–they all have to be dropped from a spoon (and the lids are labeled). We buy the butter in half-sticks, and I open a new one. And the mayo is in a squeeze bottle. Most people in the house don’t eat sandwiches anyway, and I never use the cream cheese.

              1. so_how_sick_do_you_get*

                We segregated for a while, but I was falling sick so often that we went fully GF at home.
                No wondering if a knife was used for his bread or mine, or if the jar of Nutella might be contaminated. I think pasta was a big problem: colander tiny holes seem to hold onto that sweet wheat starch for dear life.
                When I was first diagnosed, I remember reading about people who wouldn’t kiss their partner if they had “wheat mouth” or who had separate toasters and I was like, “too far” – turns out six years of getting sick even when you’re mega careful will lead you to a place of “oh god please don’t bring cannolis onto my table!”
                The house has been fully GF for three years now, and I’ve fallen sick twice in that time – the difference it made was incredible. I’m sure some people can make a mixed kitchen work, but it doesn’t always!

                1. Jenna*

                  I’m celiac, and contamination is an interesting problem. Gluten sticks to colanders and not everyone thinks to scrub the pot that was “only used for the pasta water” or think about stirring spoons, or crumbs in the condiments. Someone decides to taste your stuff with a fork that’s been used for bread or pasta, and that’s enough to make you sick. Not everyone knows or cares what ingredients have gluten(direct quote “oh, no! Our bread doesn’t have flour in it!” *boggle*).
                  In a kitchen that I didn’t trust, if food was meant to be a real perk for all I’d see if I could get packaged gluten free items added to the grocery list, things like gluten free granola bars or little individually wrapped cheeses that don’t require using any equipment in the kitchen.
                  It’s never going to be really safe to cook in, and people who routinely make errors on your order aren’t really safe people to be ordering food for people with allergies or food intolerances.

      2. Roscoe*

        I agree in theory, but in reality, its not even necessarily a purposeful decision. I would never intentionally cross contaminate food. But sometimes, I’m in a hurry, just want to grab a snack or something, and get back to my desk. I’d feel awful for cross contaminating, however I also think its a bit much to expect everyone to remember all of the things which may go into it (which in fairness I’m unsure of).

        1. Juli G.*

          This. Even my newly celiac friend has screwed up and eaten something gluteny. No way coworkers don’t make this mistake.

          1. many bells down*

            My husband’s been gluten free for almost 10 years and he still gets caught once in a while. Last week he brought home a chocolate bar. First ingredient was an artificial sweetener that contained wheat. He didn’t think a PLAIN chocolate bar would be unsafe!

            1. Mabel*

              My friend with celiac bought a different SHAPE of the cracker she had been eating without any trouble. She got sick, so she checked the ingredients, and that exact same item in a different shape actually wasn’t the same – it had gluten in it.

          2. Jennifer*

            I wouldn’t trust anyone who isn’t trained in how to avoid contamination to be able to keep someone from getting contaminated.

            1. Anna*

              My best friend has Celiac. Based on that, she would never be able to eat out or have something I made and that’s not how it works. Cross contamination is a concern, but it’s not as…I’m trying to find the correct word…insistent (maybe) as other allergies, like peanut. YMMV, of course, but I think for most people they know how to avoid it and most places are getting better about being careful about cross contamination. You don’t need to have a special certification to know what to look out for.

              1. JessaB*

                I’m not coeliac which makes it much easier for me. I’m allergic to mustard and after all this time my local Subway sees me coming, gets out a clean knife, puts down an extra wrapper so even my wrapped sandwich doesn’t touch bad stuff, and changes their gloves.

                If the food is edible by the OP there are things you can do to make it serveable. Paper plates, washing off stuff first. paper towel on the surface. But it sounds to me like this is bigger than “avoid cross contamination” and more like “they don’t bother to even give me something edible, even if I can do all things possible to limit contamination.” Which is a bad thing. Even if they don’t do it all the time, the OP works there, paying appropriate attention to the dangers is important.

              2. Annonymouse*

                It depends on how intolerant they are too.

                There are different levels. Some might be able to accidentally consume a little and feel unwell, some might get severely ill and for others it might be a kiss of death.

                If OP is in the later 2 camps and can get sick off using a knife someone didn’t thoroughly clean after buttering or cutting bread (for example) I can see how they’d be pretty wary of using the communal kitchen.

          3. Afterburner313*

            If cross contamination is an issue, there is no way I would offer anything more than fresh, unpeeled fruit. Or give her the amount spent per person and let he bring her own food.

            I have anaphylaxis to shellfish. Would I ever eat at a sea food restaurant? NO! Very few people understand cross contamination. It’s not just picking out the shrimp that turns up in your salad. It’s the knives that just get rinsed with hot water. The cutting board that gets just rinsed. The pans and dishes that either are swiped cleaned (no soap and water), or rinsed. For the 99% that level of clean works. For me, shrimp protein left on a wiped kitchen will make me use 2 EpiPens, and praying that the meat rig makes it on time.

            The only way to make sure of absolutely no cross contamination, is you prepare that food first before anything else happens in the kitchen. All ingredients are from new packages. All utensils have been sanitized. One person does the food from beginning to end.

            Very, very few places are willing to do this. They will not guarantee no cross contamination, because what if X brand of rice flour has oatmeal or wheat dust in it? Unless GF person is willing to inspect all the ingredients the before uses, GF person will never know for sure.

            My friend did have a caterer prepare a dairy protein free/nut free meal for her son at her sister’s wedding. The caterer had my friend see the kitchen. They went over ALL the ingredients. The boy’s food was prepared first, and heated away from the other food. The head chef did everything. It was a labor of love for a boy, who really couldn’t share a meal outside of home prepared out someone else.

            If GF person truly needs that level of care, I wouldn’t trust any outside food. Short of handing her some money, and letting her actually purchase the food, I wouldn’t want the liability.

            Life is unfair. Sometimes you have to accept it and move on.

            1. Jess*

              I’m that allergic to shellfish too. I can never order anything fried because who knows if shrimp have been in that fry oil before? I can never order soup because what if the chicken noodle tureen is right next to the clam chowder tureen or someone double dips a ladle? Once my boyfriend ate crab legs for lunch, kissed me hello six hours later, and my throat closed up and I had to go to the ER. He felt awful. I used to work in an events office and when catering companies would come in to do an appreciation lunch or show us their new dishes, I had to work from home. Just making me a different plate wasn’t safe enough; there was no way even being in the same room as lobster or oysters or whatever would’ve worked out for me.

              I feel your pain. And I’m pretty annoyed at OP’s office admin who can’t get the takeout order right. How hard can it be? And why isn’t she paying more attention when she knows her laxity could send a colleague to the hospital?

              1. AfterBurner313*

                I want to know where someone can get prepared food that someone with Celiac disease actually can trust.

                I live in the midwest. Places that offer GF dishes are sort of a joke. Yes, that GF pizza is made with rice flour, but the 16 year old kitchen drone put your pizza in a pan that was wipe out, not cleaned with soap and water after that whole wheat pizza. It’s all sort if lip service. They cut your pizza with the same pizza wheel from all the other pizzas.

                As for an office kitchen…are there ones that don’t look like a level 10 hazmat situation? Our fridge is an on going biology experiment. I’m expecting one yogurt carton should become sentient in the next week.

                Yeah GF person could cook in the kitchen. Decontaminated all the counters, sink, and bring your own cooking supplies. What a PITA. How long do they get for lunch?

                Worse yet, is when people try and miss by a mile. You don’t eat soy, and they get you a really tasty dish with quinoa and toasted chopped soy nuts.For whatever reason soy nuts does not equal soy to them. Now you are *that person* who is NEVER happy whenever people try to be helpful.

                I never eat at work (like a meal). Glad I can dodge this bullet.

                1. LF*

                  For a restaurant to provide a safe GF eating experience for a person with Celiac takes time, effort, attention, and lots of education.

                  Most places mean well but don’t get that molecules of gluten left on a plastic spoon, even after going through the wash, can make someone sick. And then there are the places that have no clue what gluten is! Real life examples: “that’s not gluten free because of the corn”; “the fried chicken, made with wheat flour, is safe because it doesn’t have margarine”!

                  It takes a lot of work asking the restaurant about their GF options, how the food is prepared, figuring out if they understand cross contamination and hidden sources of gluten! We have maybe three restaurants we can trust and at least ten we have had to cross off our list.

                  Availability of safe restaurants varies by location, but the one chain that has been consistently safe and may be in your area is PF Chang’s. They have an established procedure for handling GF orders and educating staff.

                2. CMF*

                  I’m also in the midwest and the best place I’ve seen is a hospital cafeteria. My sister is vegan and gluten free – by choice, not a celiac, and they broke out all new utensils and cutting boards to prepare her salad.

                3. Caraval*

                  Disneyland is actually a safe place. There are guides that will list the restaurants that have GF, and the last time I went was after I discovered my gluten intolerance (not celiac, but a small mouthful of bread makes me throw up everything I’ve eaten in the last day). Every restaurant at Disneyland did things properly. The manager at the time supervised the cleaning, often was in charge of cooking my food separately, once the manager saw the person cooking my hot dog had only wiped down the area and not fully cleaned it and threw the food out, read them the riot act, and did everything themselves while explaining sternly the process and why it was important (because allergies can make people very sick or kill them, she even explained explicitly how celiac’s destroys the organs).

                  So….yeah, Disneyland is amazing. And safe.

        2. Artemesia*

          Exactly so I would think that some things that are packaged could be ordered for her specifically. Yogurt comes to mind, but I am sure given the number of people who are gluten intolerant that there are many packaged goods that would work. Or she might ask to have petty cash to buy gluten free bread and sandwich makings to keep at her desk in a cooler.

          No excuses on the take out at all. There are gluten free take out options and the twit doing the ordering should be able to manage those or they should let her do her own ordering.

        3. Red 5*

          This is a lot of what could happen. I’ve had a couple times where friends who were gluten intolerant/Celiac came over and I tried my best to be conscious of their needs and on at least two specific occasions I can remember I just was distracted and didn’t think and did something that contaminated part of the food that was meant to be for them. Both times I made sure to have multiple options so it wasn’t the end of the world, but it’s a thing that’s incredibly easy to mess up if it’s not your everyday reality, even if you have the best of intentions.

          Not to mention that I have actually never experienced a shared office kitchen where people followed even basic rules on cleanliness. I’m the sheriff of my office kitchen and I have absolutely no faith in people’s ability to comply with even the simplest of ideas about kitchen use.

          1. Infinity anon*

            I tried to make cookies that a gluten free coworker could eat using oatmeal. I didn’t realize that a lot of oatmeal is actually not certified gluten free because of cross contamination until she asked (before she ate any luckily).

            1. Patchedup*

              And to make matters murkier, oats contain a protein that mimics gluten, which sets off SOME Celiacs but not all, even if they’re gf oats.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        Although cross-contamination can be considerably more difficult to deal with than just “clean up after yourself.” If it’s a matter of “don’t leave your crumbs on the counter” or “wipe out the microwave if your bowl splashes,” sure. But some people have sensitivities/allergies that are considerably more severe, and for them, an ordinary, even thorough, wiping down of the counter may not be sufficient, due to airborne particles or oils that can permeate plasticky surfaces (like the interior of the microwave). In those cases, only sealed prepackaged goods are reliably safe.

        1. Soon to be former fed*

          Wow, that’s too bad, to never be able to eat food from anywhere other than your own kitchen where you know that there will be no cross contamination. Like AAM said, everybody eats, and the employer should make greater effort to include the OP.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            It is too bad. The worst I’ve seen is a relative who is highly sensitive to alliums–onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, green onions, chives–and the compounds in the alliums that she’s sensitive to tend to linger on surfaces (in the same way that if you chop garlic, the smell will linger on your hands even if you scrub like crazy). She basically can’t eat out, and has to either cook all her food or buy things pre-packaged after extremely careful scrutiny of labels.

            I agree that the OP’s employer should be able to accommodate them on grocery orders (prepackaged food) and probably takeout, but the kitchen may be a lost cause, because it’s very difficult to consistently and reliably remove traces of allergens from communal surfaces.

            1. Manders*

              Oof, that’s a difficult allergy to have. At that point, even a person with the best of intentions could be cross-contaminating the area.

              I usually bring lunches I’ve prepared myself, and even if there’s no allergen-containing ingredient in the dish, there’s a good chance that there was enough wheat in my kitchen for cross-contamination to be a concern. People with mild intolerances can be around my food and many can safely eat stuff from my kitchen, but if a single crumb or a bit of oil transferred on a fingertip could cause a serious reaction, I’m not really sure how the kitchen could be made safe without banning all but a small list of pre-packaged foods.

              1. LCL*

                The worst part of being sensitive to alliums is that they are so ubiquitous that they don’t register as ingredients in people’s minds, even commercial cooks sometimes. I know which foods to avoid always, and to ask if there are onions on something. I have sent food back to the kitchen and asked for something else if it is served garnished with onions. And I have complained to a supermarket deli manager who was as appalled as I was that the cook at one location thought green onions would be a good addition to macaroni and cheese.

                Commercial kitchens that are cleaned thoroughly and often still will have problems with cross contamination.

                1. Artemesia*

                  I luckily don’t have a true allergy to onions but they do make me sick if I eat them and it is really hard because a surprisingly high number of people will sprinkle chives all over that entree you requested without onions. And almost every ethnic cuisine uses a lot of them. Oddly I had no trouble at all getting great onion free food in Russia which was entirely unexpected; chefs even whipped up beef stroganoff without onions for me.

                2. teclatrans*

                  OMG, stroganoff without onions? I love beef stroganoff but onions make me sick (and garlic, and brassicas, and..well, hifh-sulfur foods, really). Off to the internet to see what I can find!

                3. Misc*

                  Yeah. I can’t have anything with garlic or onions in it (or many other things, but those are the sneakiest), and those are *everywhere*, to the point where I just have to avoid most meats/sauces/mystery spiced things when eating out. And most packaged foods (I’ve found onion powder in plain salted crisps!!).

                  And it’s such a standard ingredient people just… blank it. Servers will happily reassure me there are none on the food after the meat has been marinated all night in garlic, or tell me the rice is totally plain and it comes with onion in it.

                  People just don’t GET how paranoid you have to be until they live it; the only effective option is finding out what IS safe for you and making them stick to that.

            2. Not Rebee*

              That is an awful allergy to have. You basically can’t have anything out – Italian food is a no-go, most chili powder has garlic powder in the mix which rules out most Hispanic seasoned anything, Asian foods are also out. Lots of people use garlic powder to season burgers. Basically, good luck eating it if it’s not a baked good and it didn’t come from your kitchen.

          2. Blurgle*

            This is my world. I wouldn’t consider any of the company’s perks relevant to me, and I would not even be able to eat in the same room as my colleagues if their dinners included peanuts. I’ve reacted from someone eating peanuts six feet away behind a divider where I couldn’t see or hear them. “Why am I covered in welts and why am I wheezing?” soon became “where is my Epi-Pen?”.

        2. Snark*

          Gluten is so large that’s not really an airborne or surface contamination risk the way an oil or alkaloid is.

          1. Snark*

            Submitted before I finished!

            So, the issue is that glutinous ingredients end up in OPs food accidentally because groceries are delivered and prepared communally, not that kitchen surfaces and dishes will significantly contaminate the food.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Hm, interesting. The LW seems to be concerned about cross-contamination; is this to say that that’s a concern that they shouldn’t be worrying about, and they can use the lunch room without problem so long as crumbs are wiped away? I had understood that small amounts of gluten (stray bits of flour, residue) could cause problems, but I take it that’s not the case?

              1. Zombii*

                My experience is that the cross-contamination gluten-free people worry about tends to be of the sort where you’re accidentally getting crumbs in things, like using a knife to spread peanut butter or jelly on bread, then getting another scoop with the same knife that was just touching the bread, or slicing communal cheese on the same plate where your crackers are sitting, etc.

                I get sicked-out seeing crumbs in butter/mayo/whatever/gross and I’m not even sensitive to gluten, I just don’t want random bits of bread rotting in the condiments, you know?

                1. Anna*

                  This is it exactly. Example, hummus. If I’m serving hummus, I do not include anything that isn’t safe for my best friend because of cross contamination.

              2. fposte*

                Small amounts of gluten will cause problems with somebody with celiac disease; not everybody with issues with wheat or gluten has celiac disease, so how reactive they are will depend on what their actual problem is and how severe it is.

              3. Snark*

                It’s to say that a lot of people seem to be assuming OP will pick up amounts of gluten sufficient to cause a reaction from bowls and cutting boards, when I get the impression that it’s the communal food with unknown ingredients that is really the problem. If surfaces are cleaned and obvious crumbs and flour aren’t present, cross contamination is probably not the issue OP is concerned about.

                1. Hotstreak*

                  Totally agree. Some people are reactive enough that they wouldn’t take a chance even in a clean communal kitchen, but those people tend to know who they are and don’t expect people to conform to their needs. My impression of OP is for more gross contamination, like a knife being used to spread mayo on a sandwich then re-used in a jar, or having an unwrapped cookie included in everyone’s boxed lunch, or a giant communal salad/lettuce bowl that already has croutons on it. Lots of lunch meats and soups contain wheat so those would need to be sourced more carefully. Honestly this is one of the easier dietary restrictions to figure out, with the ever-common “Gluten Free” label. I wonder what the company does, if anything, for religious diets, strict vegans, etc., which can be MUCH harder to source for.

                2. Infinity anon*

                  The OP said in the letter that she cannot prepare her lunch in the kitchen because of the risk of cross contamination. If the risk was only condiments that would not preclude all lunch prep.

                3. Turtle Candle*

                  @Infinity anon

                  Yes, that’s what I was responding to. If the LW can’t prepare lunch in the kitchen, I assume it’s a more significant issue than “can’t use the communal mayonnaise.” I may be wrong.

                4. AfterBurner313*

                  About cross contamination…

                  If someone suffers from food anaphylaxis, cross contamination usually means I can’t handle proteins on a level you can’t see with the naked eye.

                  If the hummus or butter stick has bread crumbs on it, yes it’s cross contaminated, but I have a fighting chance to dodge the issue.

                  If Sally Sue uses a knife that was dipped in peanut butter, wipes it off, then puts it in the jam. The jam has the peanut proteins and so does the knife.

                  More anaphylaxis happens with the second scenario than the first. That’s why people are bring up the kitchen issue. It’s not so much people being gross leaving crumbs around, it’s being clueless on how that amount of protein left on a supposedly “clean” knife will make you sick.

              4. TootsNYC*

                The stray bits of flour have to actually touch your food. In a work kitchen, I wouldn’t expect flour to be floating around and drifting down.

                But spoons, cutting boards, colanders…these might easily retain gluten in crevices (scratches on plastic spoons, etc.)

                It can be done, and it *can* be easy–but it does mean you have to be diligent, and precise, and the overwhelming majority of people simply aren’t. (That’s part of what’s so frustrating–you look at a food, and nothing in it has gluten, but you can’t eat it, because it takes only a small amount of touching. And gluten is sticky, so it transfers easily.)

          2. Turtle Candle*

            It doesn’t aerosolize the way that an oil or alkaloid does, but it can and does end up places that you don’t see/aren’t aware of, which can cause harm. I end up with flour particles places that I don’t even see for days whenever I make a sandwich with pain de campagne, for example–the way it’s baked, there’s often loose flour on the exterior. And when I make microwave noodles, if I accidentally splash it–or it boils over and gets everywhere–I’m probably just going to wipe it up with a paper towel or sponge, not break out the Lysol to scrub down and make sure that no residue might remain on the cutting board. (And the sponge might be permeated with the flour particles from my sandwich, at which point I’m just spreading them around more.)

            I’d totally believe that I should be breaking out the Lysol every time I make a sandwich or a noodle bowl, but if someone’s life depended on it, I’d recommend they not assume that all my coworkers would do the same.

            1. Snark*

              That’s a good point. However, I don’t think OP was really talking about stray flour particles, in context – my read is the issue is that they don’t get to control what ingredients go into the communal lunch.

              That said, if they use their own cutting board and utensils, even the issue of occasional spills and flour in nooks and crannies need not necessarily prevent them from preparing something for themselves. Gluten contamination is easier to avoid than allium juice.

            2. TootsNYC*

              “I’d totally believe that I should be breaking out the Lysol every time I make a sandwich or a noodle bowl, ”

              I just want to point out for the sake of someone reading this thread: Gluten is not a germ. You cannot sterilize it away.

              It’s a protein (as are many, many other food allergens, or allergens in general), and Lysol or boiling water or steam will just kill the germs on the protein molecule (maybe). So you’ll end up with germ-free gluten (or peanut protein).

              The level of “clean” you need to be safe w/ gluten can be hard to achieve. And some substances (nonstick cookware, colanders, plastics) can’t ever be cleaned well enough to be safe.

              1. Not Allison*

                This is a good point. People are assuming its airborne and creates an instant, epi-pen-needing reaction. I have never heard of someone with Celiac having a reaction bc there was bread on the counter but maybe I am undereducated on the issue.

                I think OP can mind her own utensils/cutting board/plates and should ask for an exception to be made so that she can participate in the communal meals/groceries. I imagine it must be tough/she may be missing out on the “bonding” effect of eating together if she’s not able to participate.

        3. Typhon Worker Bee*

          There’s a woman in my book club who has several extremely severe allergies, including sesame. When it’s my turn to host, I can’t cook with sesame oil for a few days before she comes over. (Which is fine, because it’s not something I use very often anyway).

      4. Antilles*

        First off, years of AAM archives confirms that we can’t even get people to agree to clean the coffee pot, not leave old food in the fridge or avoid cooking smelly foods at work. So while it should be common decency, OP would be foolish and naive to bet her health/life on her co-workers always cleaning up.
        Secondly, the gluten-free definition of “clean” is almost certainly not the same as the typical person’s definition of clean. Most people don’t clean things unless they actually see visual evidence of dirt…but even really small particles (e.g., a couple of crumbs off the sandwich) could be enough to cause a cross-contamination risk.

        1. Red 5*

          A couple weeks ago, I cleaned out the office fridge and threw away a yogurt that had expired in 2016.

          Which is not as bad as the things I found when I first started cleaning the kitchens, but that was largely because it had been lawless for years before that. So yeah, I have absolutely no faith in any human’s ability to be mindful in an office kitchen.

          1. JessaB*

            There’s a reason that the Author/Artist of Calvin and Hobbes, continually ran strips that discussed (say this in that deep rumbling voice of that guy who does voice overs in disaster flics.) THE COLESLAW THAT TIME FORGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT.

            Because everyone has had that in the office fridge especially.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              Once when I cleaned the branch fridge, I checked out the date on the box of baking soda. It had been in that fridge for longer than my boss at the time had been in the library system.

              Yeah, that box has absorbed all the odors it’s going to.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree in theory, but with something like gluten, it’s almost impossible to require other staff to avoid cross-contamination. I worked in an office of 150+ people with two kitchens (one per floor). We had one staff person who was deathly allergic to all nuts, so we had a “no nuts/nut-based-foods in the building/kitchens” policy. That sucked but was not that hard to accommodate because there are so many alternatives to nuts and nut-based foods.

        Gluten is much harder, though, because it’s in almost everything in a North American diet… including foods that no one expect to find gluten in. I am all for inclusive work spaces, but with things like communal kitchens, I think it’s much harder to balance the burden between different workers.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yeah, my one friend with celiac disease accidentally consumed gluten via a soy sauce with an ingredient on the label that she had not yet learned to interpret as a hidden source of gluten. No way will the average consumer be able to learn — and avoid cross-contaminating with — all the potential sources of gluten in the average American diet.

          1. many bells down*

            Cheap soy sauces just flat-out contain wheat anyway. It’s cheaper to ferment with it. It’s the worst because so many restaurants marinate their meat with soy sauce.

            1. SSkye*

              Actually, soy sauce should besafe for celiacs despite being fermented with wheat because the process of making the soy sauce breaks down the gluten. That’s what my doctor told me two years ago, at least, and I’ve never had a reaction to soy sauce.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Oh, that’s interesting. I have 3 friends with celiac, and they have all been told (by their doctors) that they cannot eat soy sauce or soy-sauce-marinated foods unless it’s explicitly Tamari gluten-free.

              2. ForcedToLiveSansWheatSucks*

                I get violently ill with soy sauce, with Tamari being the sole exception.

                I can’t drink wheat-based vodka – even the multiple-distilled brands – although corn and potato vodkas are OK.

                My rule of thumb for kitchen tools (knives, cutting boards, etc) is if it can’t safely go through the dishwasher at high temperature, I can’t/won’t use it. Wiping it off with even a brand-new clean sponge is not enough.

                “Gluten free” on the label refers to contents, not processes. And if the food was processed in a plant that also processes wheat, rye or barley (which are gluten-containing) or oats (often transported in containers/trucks used for wheat), I can’t eat it without serious consequences.

                All of which is the long way of saying that celiac affects different individuals differently, and if the OP says she’s concerned about cross-contamination, splitting hairs on what constitutes cross-contamination probably isn’t helpful!

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Plus, you just don’t want to pay the price of using the kitchen on the one day you shouldn’t. Better by far to never use it.

      1. Bostonian*

        I think it’s reasonable to ask for some sort of food accommodation regardless of the reason for dietary restriction/preference

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But I think what LBK and others are suggesting is that there is a greater responsibility on an employer to accommodate medically-required food restrictions than voluntary/preferential food restrictions. The issue isn’t whether it’s reasonable to ask; it’s whether one category of restrictions, as a policy matter, is more “deserving” of accommodation.

          1. Shadow*

            Agreed. Medical related requests carry a legal risk where personal preferences/choices don’t.

        2. LBK*

          I agree that it’s not unreasonable to ask either way, but I think you’re a bit more entitled to expect people to at least try accommodate it in the case of a medical condition and the onus is less on you to be ready with alternatives.

        3. Government Worker*

          This is true partly because the line between medically-required and voluntary/preference-based restrictions is really blurry. With immediate severe allergic reactions it’s clear, but plenty of people eat low-carb or low-fat or low-salt or gluten-free to manage medical conditions, especially autoimmune and GI conditions, on the advice of a physician and where the results of eating non-preferred foods are that they feel much crummier over time.

          I’ve been a vegetarian for a decade. If I ate a steak tomorrow, I’d probably feel pretty sick afterwards, assuming I could force myself to eat it at all (not something I’d want to try in front of coworkers because I’d probably spit it out involuntarily at first). Is that something an employer should accommodate?

          What about kosher and halal? Not medically required, but again, deeply important to the person eating the food.

          Better not to get into a contest over whose dietary needs are “worthy” and whose aren’t, and just try to accommodate everyone. Sure, it’s a pain, but it really makes a difference when someone goes to the effort of making everyone feel included.

          1. TootsNYC*

            As a celiac patient, I agree.

            It’s sort of like when someone asks for a seat on the bus–let’s all just assume that someone wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t pretty important. Sure, sometimes we’ll get taken advantage of, but I’d rather be there than have people who NEED a seat (or a specific diet) feel that they can’t ask for accommodation.

      2. FiveWheels*

        Unless it’s something completely outlandish, there’s no reason why the company can’t accommodate preferences. On those occasions when I’ve had to organise food for event planning, everyone is asked if they have dietary restrictions and if they have strong preferences. Typically most people will try almost anything, some people have restrictions, and some people have preferences like “something really plain and not spicy” or “low calorie dessert” or “I love pork, can there be a pork option?”.

        I don’t see why any sane company would bring food in as a perk to employees without asking what the employees preferred.

        In the OP’s case, even when she orders a specific lunch, sometimes the wrong thing comes. The only way that happens is if the person ordering is very rude or can’t be bothered doing a simple task properly. That wouldn’t be acceptable even if there were no health issues.

        1. Artemesia*

          yeah – happens once? oops? happens repeatedly is a passive aggressive admin sticking it to the OP.

      3. Shoe Ruiner*

        I’m curious where religious restrictions fall on this spectrum? They aren’t medical needs, they are personal choices, but usually I think get more weight than preferences people choose on their own.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think religious restrictions are similar to medical needs because, at least in the U.S., we’ve made a policy decision to prioritize the free exercise of religion. Although the legal framework isn’t identical, we generally treat medical and religious accommodation in the workplace differently. So, ironically, a person who is vegetarian for religious reasons is more likely to be accommodated than someone who is vegetarian for political or other personal reasons.

          (To be clear: I am in favor of accepting people’s food preferences, even if they’re not medically or religiously required.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            In practical terms, I’ve never seen someone’s political or personal vegetarianism/veganism treated as anything but a form of religious diet. “Deeply help beliefs” are treated the same, in my experience. (Not that there isn’t the occasional jerk out there, but in general, this is what happens. Vegetarianism and veganism are treated with matter-of-fact, no-drama respect.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think for most areas and employers, you’re right. For example, anytime I’ve worked in a relatively urban place, or a place where vegetarianism/veganism is a common dietary choice, it’s extremely normal to accommodate that dietary request. But when I’ve lived in areas where vegetarianism is not as common, I’ve seen employers be obstinate about not accommodating vegetarianism/veganism because it’s not a “sincerely held religious belief.” To be fair, those employers were assholes, and I suspect they’re in the minority.

    3. Kate the Little Teapot*

      Unless there’s something you’re not mentioning, the difference here is that your dietary restrictions are choices, and when you chose those things, you knew and accepted that it would reduce your ability to eat out.

      OP has a medical condition, so she did not make a choice, and this is a matter of accessibility. While I’m doubt the ADA applies to food perks, it’s just the ethical thing to do for her company to make a reasonable gesture at including her.

      Also as an HR manager, I’m sure you appreciate that perks like food are designed to help retain employees and improve their productivity, so I think that even if her lunch is slightly more expensive or more of a hassle than other people’s, it’s probably cheaper in the long run for them to just provide something that meets her needs. For example, 250 days of $5 gluten-free frozen meals is $1250, which is nothing compared to her salary and the potential cost to the business of her leaving, or the cost in time of her having to leave the office and seek a lunch.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “perks like food are designed to help retain employees and improve their productivity,”

        And one thing for management to remember is that when you treat the vegan/kosher/gluten-free person considerately, all the NON-vegan/kosher/gluten-free people are watching.

        If they see you treat someone badly, their own free food won’t have the same effect. If they see you being considerate of the person w/ the weird diet problems, they’ll say, “What a great company. I’m so glad they always get something GF for my colleague.”

    4. Bunny*

      I don’t think this is so much a matter of adjusting expectations – given that OP is gluten intolerant and that it’ll make them ill if they eat food contaminated with gluten. You being a vegan and not drinking alcohol is a choice – I doubt OP chose to be gluten intolerant.

    5. AnotherHRPro*

      I have very dairy and nut allergies. Because of this, I don’t consume food if I’m not 100% sure of how it was prepared. My office also provides lots of free meals and snacks, of which I do not partake. It has never once occurred to me to request separate meals. And frankly, I think it would just be too difficult for my company to always accommodate me when they are doing this for the masses. Plus the risk is too high for me to take a chance when it is so easy for cross-contamination or mislabeling to occur.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m allergic to dairy, and I’m of two minds on how to approach this. When I first started working, I was disinclined to make waves or request separate/appropriate meals. But now that I’ve been working for a while, I think it’s reasonable to expect an employer to at least try to accommodate a medical food restriction. I think the kitchen may not be a winnable fight, but I do think it’s ok to request accommodation for free meals/snacks.

        So here’s what I do:
        If the group is going out to eat, together (e.g., celebratory lunch), I ask if can see the menu for our options/locations ahead of time. If I can’t find anything on the menu that I can eat or modify, I bring my own lunch, eat before we go out, and then order french fries and a drink (or the like).

        If the group is eating in, I ask to see the catering menu. I’ve mostly worked at smallish workplaces, so it’s not been a burden for someone to order a non-dairy meal/option for me. But I am very proactive, because realistically, people often don’t understand what is/isn’t a dairy product. I ask that what I order be packed separately. Cross contamination isn’t as big of a problem for me, but if that’s a concern, then I would skip participating in ordering in—the risks are just too high, and the likelihood of error is also high.

        If the group orders regular snacks, and if there’s a food that is dairy-free that others would be willing to eat, I will sometimes ask if we can stock some of those options (usually picked from a larger list of available snacks so that they don’t have to place any special orders). I’m kind of lucky, though, because there’s usually always a handful of people who are vegan/lactose-intolerant/lactose-sensitive who will be excited by the prospect of snack options.

        1. Arielle*

          Yeah, it kind of amazes me how little people think about dairy in particular if it’s not something they have to be aware of. We have a tradition on our team where everyone gets a cake on their birthday, and my very kind coworker, trying to be accommodating, got me a fruit tart. Of course, a fruit tart is mostly custard so I couldn’t eat my own birthday cake. She had no idea that custard was dairy and felt terrible. (She did bring me some amazing cashew-based ice cream for the next team birthday, though, which was really sweet.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes! And there are also foods that people mistakenly think are dairy-based because of the color of the food. I can’t tell you how many coworkers think eggs, mayonnaise, and marshmallows are dairy products. At first I thought it was a conflation of vegan and dairy-free, but then I realized that they assumed all “white” foods had dairy in them.

            1. LBK*

              …I’ll be totally honest, up until this moment I thought of mayo as a dairy product, but upon consideration of the ingredients it’s pretty apparent it isn’t.

            2. Arielle*

              And in my case, I’m not allergic to dairy, just lactose-intolerant, so there are a lot of foods people think of as “dairy” that I CAN have, which is very confusing. Hard and aged cheeses, for example, have very little lactose, and goat cheese also doesn’t.

              I’m fine just going with “dairy-free” for any kind of food restriction questionnaire, though. I would rather get the vegan meal or whatever than subject some poor food ordering admin to “Cheddar is fine, butter is fine, ricotta and mozzarella are Right Out.”

              1. many bells down*

                I’ve got a friend who’s just flat-out allergic to cow. He can’t have beef, and lactaid does not help him digest cow milk or cheese. It’s really weird. Goat cheese is fine; in fact he’s made cheesecake from it!

                1. sam*

                  There was a radiolab episode about this. It was wild. Basically no one believed the poor woman who had this issue until a bunch of scientists finally found the problem, which (while not “technically” an allergy because that’s a specific scientific reaction, and this was a “different” reaction) boils down to her body reacting horribly wrong whenever she ate meat.

                  Here’s the link: http://www.radiolab.org/story/alpha-gal/

              2. NYC Weez*

                I have the same level of dairy intolerance, and yeah it’s really hard to explain why the butter sauce is great but the tiniest splash of milk in the scrambled eggs is totally out.

                I usually acknowledge how complicated and inconsistent my dietary rules are before I ask specific questions–with that lead-in, the waiter is almost always super helpful. I’ve found that most people are happy to help when they feel like you are being straight with them. They only get snarky when they think you were lying about dairy bc you are eating the cheddar quesadilla.

                I will add, however, that if I had a anaphylactic reaction to an ingredient, I don’t think I could ever eat out. Even when the waiter is trying hard to accommodate me, they sometimes forget about the trace amounts in sauces etc.

            3. Dust Bunny*

              Eggs are usually in the dairy section in the grocery store, and mayonnaise is made from them, so I can totally understand why, colloquially, most people think of them as dairy even though they’re not milk-based. Not sure about marshmallows except that if you haven’t read the ingredients, it seems plausible that they might be egg-based (like a meringue). However, a lot of people don’t realize that marshmallows are made with gelatin and are thus not vegetarian.

            4. the gold digger*

              eggs, mayonnaise, and marshmallows are dairy products

              Because the eggs are next to the milk and cheese in the Dairy section of the grocery store? I classify eggs as dairy for that exact reason.

              1. kb*

                The grocery store I worked at in high school “officially” classified eggs as dairy. They were in the dairy section of the store and on the itemized receipts would be under the dairy heading. I guess the more accurate term for that section would be “things that are chilled at a similar temperature to milk and cheese.”

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yup! They also last forever on the shelf. Probably because they’re made of highly-processed plant products :)

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think that’s a more reasonable assumption, although at least in my experience, eggs are next to dairy products but labeled separately. But I get that if something appears under a huge “dairy” sign, one would assume that everything under that sign is a dairy product.

                I mentioned my coworkers determining what was dairy or non to food color because that’s what they identified as their reason for believing eggs were dairy (and because bizarrely, more than 5 have named this as their method for determining if a food has dairy in it). I’ve definitely have coworkers mix this up because of the signage at grocery stores, but imo, that’s a much more reasonable/logical mistake to make. Regardless, I’m not upset at them—I just find the “color of food” method amusing in a strange way.

                1. seejay*

                  I actually had an argument with a meat-eater that “vegan” meant “eats dairy and eggs” and “vegetarian” means eats everything else. The argument had something to do with the word “vegetable” being in “vegetarian” and not in “vegan” or some other weird convoluted mess he had… I honestly couldn’t work out his reasoning, it just boggled me. I had tried to correct him when he said he was trying “vegan” for a little bit and it wasn’t that hard… he had just mixed in a bit of cottage cheese into his cereal that morning. Say wha?

                  I’ve been vegetarian, with vegan leanings, for over 20 years. Except apparently I was incorrect in my definitions and he was the one that was right. :| That kind of beats the whole “eggs are dairy based on colour” argument out of the water.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  seejay, is there any chance it’s cultural? For example, for some (North) Indian/Pakistani communities, “vegetarian” means vegan (they’ll describe a meal as “Veg” or “pure veg,” but it means “with absolutely no animal products”).

                  But otherwise, that conversation sounds wildly frustrating. I’m sorry :(

                3. Zombii*

                  @seejay It’s really frustrating when the misinformed people are more confident than the people who know what they’re talking about, right?

                  I remember one day in middle school being made fun of all day because I said eggs weren’t dairy and everyone else in the room thought they were. This went on until they called me “retarded,” and one of the teachers stepped in to help by telling everyone “She’s not retarded, she just didn’t know. Being wrong doesn’t make someone retarded.” That worked about as well as you would expect it to. Ps–I grew up in a rural state and these were all farm kids who apparently didn’t know the difference between chickens and cows.

                4. NLMC*

                  So what does that make brown eggs and chocolate milk? I can understand being confused based on where they are in the grocery store, but color? That boggles my mind.

                5. seejay*

                  nesting issues yay:

                  @PCBH: nope, 100% not cultural: he was white boy Canadian and just a sexist, know-it-all jerk (I’d had other really awful conversations with him, including “why don’t you feed your cat a vegetarian diet?” when he found out I fed a raw diet, although now that I think of it… who knows what he meant since he has no idea what the definition of it means???)

                  @Zombii: I’d say I’ve gotten used to it, but… no, I definitely haven’t. :/ This was one of the more recent encounters, but I’d say not the most frustrating at this point.

                6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @seejay, Ugh, I suspected that was the case. I’m sorry :( It’s amazing how self-righteous and overbearing people can be when they’re flat out wrong.

                  @Zombii, that’s so awful. I’m also cringing that your well-intentioned teacher didn’t correct them on the (mistaken) belief that eggs = dairy. Ugh.

                  @NLMC, apparently along with cut radishes, jicama, etc. I was really tempted to ask someone if they thought halibut was dairy, too, but held my tongue. It really did go far beyond the grocery aisle in some surprisingly strange ways.

                7. Annonymouse*

                  Maybe it’s a culture/education thing but in Australia it’s generally understood dairy = comes from a cow.

                  There are ads for the Dairy Farmers Company products that show milk, cream, cheese and butter so I’m sure that helps.

                  Not sure how to explain the “brown cow = chocolate milk” misconception though…….

              3. Gaia*

                I also think they are in the dairy section of the food pyramid. Maybe? I’m guessing here…

            5. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

              I think some people think eggs are dairy because they’re located in the dairy section of many grocery stores.

            6. Not So NewReader*

              I remember being taught in grammar school that eggs were a part of the dairy food group. I think they said it was because they came from dairies? Not sure. I never made sense to me how could eggs be similar to milk? I gave up trying to figure that out and just wrote the answers on the test that they wanted to hear.
              I find that there is lots of stuff we were taught that simply was not true.

              1. Hekko*

                I know, I know!

                Milk is what cows (all mammals, really) feed their youngs before said youngs can eat regular food.

                Egg is (except for the little part that becomes the new chick, if fertilised) what little chicks eat before they hatch and can eat, you know, regular food.


                (I might not be, this is just a random thought that hit me right now)

            7. Misc*

              I have no idea how eggs could be considered dairy, unless people think ‘dairy’ is a catchall for ‘farm stuff like chickens and cows that isn’t meat or plants’.

              I admit I thought mayo was milk based, but mostly because of the texture – milk-like/roux-like sauces almost always have dairy or wheat, mayonnaise is just a rare exception.

          2. Trout 'Waver*

            Please excuse me if you’re not looking for recipe advice, but if you’re looking for a custard alternative for a fruit tart, lemon meringue pie filling works great. That’s just sugar (of various kinds), starch, and flour plus lemon zest and/or juice. Back off on the zest and it wouldn’t be very lemony.

                1. seejay*

                  Most crusts actually wind up with lard (animal fat) in it… which I didn’t realize for awhile. Turns out my mom’s been making pie crust with that for a long time, so no more pies during the holidays for me.

                2. Trout 'Waver*

                  I do all my pies with lard crusts, like seejay mentions. Lactose free, but not gluten or animal-product free.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                Yes, but you could easily sub the butter for another fat, though. A lot easier than trying to find an alternative for the cream in a traditional custard. Point taken, though.

                1. Zombii*

                  I assumed you were talking about some sort of canned lemon pie filling, which is like a corn syrup gel with lemon flavor added, not homemade lemon custard like it seems everyone else read it as?

              2. Artemesia*

                lemon merinque recipes do have butter in the filling but lemon curd often doesn’t and you can use a lemon curd recipe for the filling.

        2. pugsnbourbon*

          I order food for groups often. Once I forgot to include a vegetarian option and I was MORTIFIED. It’s my job to feed people! Sure, sometimes it’s tricky when someone is GF, another person is a vegetarian, and someone has a shellfish allergy, but I’ve found that most places will definitely work with you to create a menu that fits your needs. I think OP should follow up with the organizer directly.

          1. many bells down*

            I have made spreadsheets for holiday gatherings. In the same year, I’ve had a celiac, a vegetarian, a vegan, and my aforementioned friend who is allergic to anything cow. The spreadsheet means I can make sure that everyone has a few things they can eat.

            1. Julia*

              As a vegetarian, I would totally eat completely vegan if that would make ordering easier. I don’t have to have eggs or dairy. I would also eat gluten-free if it didn’t include any meat or fish.

            2. Security SemiPro*

              One year I had a gluten free vegan and a soy allergy on my spreadsheet. Good times. Really tasty veggie dishes plus separate proteins was a common theme.

            3. JHS*

              I once fed meat-eaters, two vegetarian celiacs, and had a vegan option ready (I didn’t know about the second vegetarian celiacs as she was a late invitee, but the way her face lit up made all the work completely worthwhile…). If you plan for it, it’s doable, but not easy. I’ll admit I find baking gluten free when baking normally is far too difficult to safely do, at least at home, so at that party the celiacs got prepackaged gluten free vegetarian muffins…

              1. many bells down*

                Gluten-free is actually the easiest one for me, because my whole family (except for me, somehow) has celiac – and my husband and son both have it as well. So THAT one I’m prepared for. It’s vegan that keeps tripping me up; I use too much butter.

              2. Jenna*

                Prepackaged gluten free muffins would be an excellent thing to see! As a celiac I’d have been happy.
                Congratulations on managing vegetarian and gluten free. That is an interesting combo to attempt.

      2. Jaydee*

        I think it also depends on how often the employer is providing meals and snacks. If it’s mostly “we got a cake for Jane’s birthday” or “we need to order lunch for the quarterly Teapot Planners Committee meeting” then I think it’s often easier to use your strategy and just not partake. But here the employer is providing food on a daily basis for the employees. It feels like a much bigger burden to not be able to take advantage of that benefit than to have to decline birthday cake and bring your own salad to lunch meetings once a month or so.

        1. Hekko*

          That got me thinking… how hard it would be to once a week (or in a fortnight, at least) to make a totally gluten-free meal for everyone? That way LW would be able to participate AND the team can learn something.

    6. ThatGirl*

      Even then I think it would be OK in the OP’s situation to expect some basic foods you could eat, though – fruits and veggies, various vegan carbs (tortillas, bread, pita), hummus, maybe a carton of almond milk. I have a friend who’s vegan and while we do have a surplus of cheese in our house, I am sure she could find a snack at least.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP wouldn’t be able to do vegan carbs, though :(

        But, I do think it should be possible to find individually wrapped, gluten-free snacks for OP.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m just using the vegan thing as an example as something not that hard to accommodate, since that’s what HR manager is.

          It’s entirely beside the point, but yes, OP would be able to eat some vegan carbs. Vegan doesn’t mean automatically has wheat. (Corn tortillas for instance.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I misunderstood that you were using “vegan” as the example. Thanks for the clarification.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Yeah, my example may have been a little muddled, apologies if it was hard to understand. :)

      2. Government Worker*

        This. It’s probably too much to expect that OP will have the full range of options available to the rest of the staff, but it shouldn’t be difficult for the person ordering the food to get at least some portioned/packaged food in the kitchen that OP can eat. Snack size bags of baby carrots, cups of yogurt, whole fruit, string cheese, small bags of popcorn, a container of hummus or peanut butter to be labeled as just for her, etc. And if there are a couple of specialty items that would help a lot, like gluten-free bread, they should be willing to order them and give OP a corner of a cabinet or a minifridge as needed to store her food separately.

        OP shouldn’t expect that the kitchen will be kept to a standard where she can cook with the same freedom as her coworkers. But she should expect her company to make some basic effort at accommodating her needs.

        1. pugsnbourbon*

          I wonder – they make clear bins/boxes for refrigerators, would it be possible to designate a separate bin for OP’s food?

    7. SebbyGrrl*

      OP, could you get the number and information of the place/s they order from and call in your order separately? (on the same tab the company is paying for?).

      If this were me I would get menus from the places food is ordered. Then email the person who orders the food your standing order from each place. This leaves no excuse for guesswork/forgetting (Hey order person, I gave you the items I can eat, please order correctly or I will have to talk to supervisor).
      If she continues not to order proper food for you I would then take this to my supervisor or HR.
      “I’ve emailed person a list of items to order for me from any given vendor and she still doesn’t it right – show them the email- “…how do we resolve this challenge?”
      While I agree with Alisonthat sometimes we should push this seems like an instance where a little bit of pushing could solve the problem.

      1. Annonymouse*

        Also might depend on the order placers education around the issue and food in general.

        If they think all food anomaly requests can be solved by ordering a vegetarian option and refuses to listen to OP about how it is a whole separate issue then I’d make a point of informing them that it is an entirely different category like an allergy.

        And that it is serious enough for you to get really sick if you eat something you aren’t meant to but luckily you can eat (list things like special single serve yoghurts, health bars etc for the kitchen or specific meals from take out place.)

        Also have it in an email so you have a record that you told them. If they do it once after being told remind them kindly they forgot to get you something off the list, can they order you something next time?

        If they do it again, remind them and follow up with someone higher.

    8. sitting with sad salad*

      As several commentators above, I am vegan also. I often miss out on eating with my coworkers, but I have found that they are really open and appreciative when I let them know about vegan friendly options that they also like. I have had to make suggestions for food options (hummus, guac, salsa and chips) and do the leg work to scope out places to order. Though I’ll stay missing out when they order from the chicken wings place, over time we have more frequently started ordering from the great Thai or burrito places in the neighborhood where everyone can eat something. I offered the office manager to take the delivery menus and mark off the items I like – she actually loved that! We also have multiple people in the office with food allergies, so we marked up menus for them as well.

  2. Newby*

    Being able to use the kitchen doesn’t really seem worth the effort since there would be no way to guarantee it is safe, but I agree that getting the takeout order right is a reasonable thing to expect. I don’t understand why it would be a problem for the person ordering food to run the order by the OP to make sure there is something they could eat (at the very least), especially since they are the only one with special dietary requirements.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I work with someone who is gluten intolerant and she leaves every meeting when lunch is being served because the person ordering the lunch never understands/gets it right and it is easier for her to just leave instead of getting the 3rd degree for not eating or eating her own lunch.
      It’s like the cool people are having a party and she isn’t invited.
      They even had a thank you lunch for her because she finished a huge project…and they still didn’t order anything gluten free. Really, everyone knows her restrictions, but people consciously choose to ignore them. I feel so incredibly sad for her.

        1. Newby*

          I don’t understand why people can’t understand that some people do have dietary restrictions and needs. Why would it bother anyone if they don’t eat the communal food (either by choice or necessity)?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            There seems to be an unspoken code, if you don’t eat my food then that must mean you don’t like me and/or wish me ill.
            I have seen comments on here that were absolutely strident, “eat what is put in front of you or else you are RUDE.”

            The world is changing. We are learning more and more how food impacts health. I anticipate seeing more and more people with food restrictions in the future. I think it is wise for companies to get used to this.

            1. Hekko*

              >>There seems to be an unspoken code, if you don’t eat my food then that must mean you don’t like me and/or wish me ill.
              I have seen comments on here that were absolutely strident, “eat what is put in front of you or else you are RUDE.”<<

              If someone has a food allergy and you serve them food they are allergic to, that must mean you don't like them and/or wish them ill or dead.


            2. Chomps*

              There are a LOT of emotions and social and cultural assumptions around food. That’s why people react that way. Also, a lot of people think allergies aren’t real.

      1. Bolt*

        I certainly know the type… there is that lingering issue of when gluten free became some kind of trendy thing to do. Now everyone thinks when you want something gluten free that you are just being pretentious or something.

        My friend (gluten intolerant) repeatedly gets served gluten foods at restaurants by snotty teen servers who role their eyes at the idea people are allergic to gluten.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is honestly so awful, and I’ll be frank—I blame people who have elective food restrictions but who lie and tell people they have a “food allergy” because they think it will make a restaurant accommodate them. Everytime I see someone lie about their “food allergy” (really an aversion or dietary preference), it drives me nuts because it makes it so much harder for people who do have medical restrictions.

          That said, restaurants ought to be a lot more accommodating about common food allergies (nuts, gluten, dairy). I’ve been out with my friend who has celiac’s, and there have been several times where a server will obnoxiously refuse to modify a dish because they think she’s gluten-free by choice. I’ve also seen staff purposefully put something a person is allergic to on a dish to “test” to see if they’re truly allergic (so much wtf).

          I once took a waiter aside who was bothering my friend to tell them, privately, that it was medically necessary for her to receive a gluten-free meal (which honestly required no effort other than to swap her pita for rice). The waiter immediately turned contrite and extremely apologetic, and I very firmly told them that people should not have to out their medical diagnoses to be appropriately accommodated. Apparently that waiter did change—other people who were (voluntarily) gluten-free noted that they did not get harassed, again, about whether they had a “qualifying disease or allergy.” But it’s really really frustrating.

          1. sam*

            that’s the thing though – people will sometimes resort to saying they’re allergic because there are some (definitely not all!) waitstaff or chefs who will not accommodate other requests. Which is just….wrong. If I don’t want to eat nuts because I hate nuts, that should be sufficient, and I shouldn’t have to get into an argument or resort to feigning an allergy in order to simply get my meal the way I’d prefer.

            There are plenty of reasons why people can’t eat certain foods that aren’t “allergies”, but could also have health consequences – everything from heart conditions, to diverticulitis, to simply wearing dentures making eating certain foods more difficult/complicated. Restaurant staff aren’t there to be abused obviously, but it’s not ridiculous for customers to make requests – and if they truly can’t be accommodated (i.e., a salad dressing or sauce with ingredients already mixed together) then to explain the situation.

            1. NW Mossy*

              Yeah, it’d be far better to train waitstaff on what ingredients menu items contain, which ones are safe for people with certain common allergies/intolerances, and which ones can/can’t be reasonably adapted. Think of what a better customer experience it would be to hear “I’m afraid that dish isn’t safe for you, but X is. We can also modify Y or Z if that sounds better to you.”

              And honestly, restaurants that can accommodate a range of dietary needs/preferences are in a great spot to do land-office business with groups and catering where the range helps avoid the dreaded “I can’t eat there/that” discussion that can happen any time you have more than 3 people trying to eat together.

              1. Murphy*

                Sometimes even then, it just doesn’t get through. I’m allergic to most berries (thankfully not in a dangerous way, and cross-contamination doesn’t seem to be an issue). I have asked servers point blank, “Does X have berries in it?” they’ve said no, and then brought me X with berries in it. How much more clear could I be??

                1. NW Mossy*

                  I recently witnessed a coffee bar employee express amazement that skim and non-fat milk are the same thing, so I’m not as surprised as I might otherwise be.

                  PCBH’s comment below highlights a great tactic restaurants can use – color-coded charts about what items contain certain common allergens and whether or not that item can be prepared without the offending ingredient(s). Even if you don’t want to print it on the menu, servers could carry it as a reference just like they do with the day’s list of specials. It’d also be beneficial to ensure managers/senior staff (of whom there’s at least one on site at all times) get a heightened level of “what’s in our food” training to be able to address equally serious but less common food allergies/intolerances that a server may not be trained to handle.

                2. Jennifer Walters*

                  I have a berry allergy as well!! I do have a cross-contamination issue and while, some berries are worse than others, I just qualify with “I am allergic to all berries. Also, SURPRISE, bananas, pomegranates, and kiwis are berries.” (I think it’s a seed thing my body has an issue it.) I now have to clarify when I order dessert that “I’m allergic to berries. Please do not put raspberry sauce on it. Do not put a berry topper on it to decorate. NO berries.” It’s a huge pain.

                  I also had a catered office brunch experience where literally everything had berries. I flagged down a caterer and just said, “Is there anyway you have anything that doesn’t have berries? I’ll even take just some fruit that hasn’t been cross-contaminated. I’m allergic.” And she looked at me and straight up said “You should try it. Even if you don’t like berries, it’s really good.” I JUST TOLD YOU I AM ALLERGIC. I’M MAKING YOU CALL THE AMBULANCE AFTER I “TRY” YOUR DISH.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  I regularly get checkout people in supermarkets who hold up a vegetable or fruit and say “what is it?” Or worse they will try to guess, “Is this a pear?” Uh, no it’s a cucumber. I thought if people were handling it all the time, they’d eventually figure out what it is. Guess not always.

              2. blackcat*

                I am allergic to mustard (among other things). It appears in many sauces. I am *never* bothered if a waiter comes back and says, “Sorry, the sauce is pre-mixed with other ingredients. The chef has recommended X dish instead.”

                FWIW, I never have problems with my unusual allergies at restaurants. It’s like they know someone would not make up a mustard or strawberry allergy. It is a whole different thing with gluten, though. When I mention the strawberry allergy, I tend to get sad looks from people, rather than eye rolls.

              3. WillyNilly*

                When I was a waitress (eek, 20+ years ago!) It was a fireable offence to not be able to name the key ingredients in any/everything we served, and to know which items had hidden/surprise allergens (cheese sauce containing mustard, for example).

                I hold all waitstaff to that standard. If we could do it then (and really just about everyone learned, in 2.5 years at the job only one person failed to learn our menu), folks can learn it now.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I understand. I think the big issue is what I mentioned in the last paragraph—people should not have to share their medical diagnoses in order to be properly accommodated.

              I think what I find frustrating is when people pretend they have an allergy instead of pressing the kitchen on the fact that they have a dietary preference that needs to be accommodated. If someone needs accommodation, they need accommodation, and the kitchen should give staff the information they need to assist people. I’ve been to several lovely, semi-fancy, non-chain restaurants where the menu is presented on a chart that shows whether it has a common allergen (dairy, wheat, nuts, shellfish, etc.), whether it’s kosher/halal, whether it’s vegan/paleo, and whether there is a substituted version that can accommodate that food allergy/religious accommodation/diet. Although it’s more work on the front end, it seems like a much more useful approach.

              But I’ll be honest—I know there are restaurants that are super strict on their “no substitutions/modifications” rules, and I don’t go to those restaurants if I can’t find an item I can eat. My friends who keep kosher/halal or who are vegan do the same. So I think it requires a bit of balancing on both sides.

              1. Turquoise Cow*

                I’ve been to some semi-fancy sushi restaurants (mostly for the omakase “chef’s choice” menu) and the waiters always ask beforehand if you have any food allergies, or other dietary needs. A friend can eat sushi no problem, but is allergic to most kinds of shellfish, and they have no problem accommodating him.

                We also have had hibachi several times where there is a menu, but because things are cooked together, they asked if there are allergies.

                In fact, I once went to a hibachi restaurant with a friend who liked really spicy food. After asking her several times if she was SURE she wanted this extra spicy dish, they apologized and cooked hers last. The spicy peppers they used were so hot they would have made all the other meals spicy.

                I’m not sure if the customer going to these types of restaurants is more likely to ask for accommodations, or the chefs have had a history of complaints, or if it’s just a cultural thing, but they’re very helpful. I could see a server not knowing all the contents of a particular dish, but I don’t see why he or she couldn’t check with the chef. It’s in their best interests to be helpful and nice to their customers.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                OT, people lie about this? I don’t get it. Sincere question. How can we tell when they are lying? I have met plenty of people who say, “I am avoiding X to see if Y problem eases up.” I think that is pretty honest. It sounds like there’s a lot of people out there lying and I don’t understand why.

                1. Misc*

                  My friends lie *for* me because saying ‘x allergy’ is a lot easier for the waiters to understand sometimes than ‘please take X out, no X, I can’t have it’. A lot of people only really respond to ‘allergy’ as code for ‘TAKE THIS OUT AND KEEP IT AWAY FROM ME’. So it both makes the entire conversation quicker/the server more helpful, and it makes it more likely that X will not be in my food when I get it (sometimes it seems like the chefs just… ignore any custom requests at some places, so the waiter might be super helpful, but you still get the wrong food).

                  Plus, sometimes people aren’t really sure what’s wrong yet, so they know allergy isn’t accurate, but they don’t know how else to explain it.

                2. KellyK*

                  In the vast majority of cases, you can’t tell, and trying to catch someone faking will cause more problems than it solves. There are some cases where people lie blatantly and it’s easy to observe—they say they’re allergic to wheat and then order chocolate cake, or today they’re allergic to tomatoes, tomorrow it’s cucumbers, and Friday it’s tomatoes again. But those people are pretty likely to be liars and attention-seekers in other areas.

                  There are also a lot of cases where people oversimplify and it gets viewed as lying. Someone asks for a gluten free menu, but eats a couple bites of a donut, and people assume they’re lying when they never actually said they had celiac. Or someone says “I’m allergic to X” when it isn’t technically true, but easier than trying to explain what an IBS trigger or an intolerance is, more likely to be taken seriously than just “no X please” and more polite than “If you feed me X, I will be miserable in the bathroom for the next hour and a half.”

                  My general rule is to consider what I’m willing to do to accommodate someone’s food issue, clearly communicate that with them, and do it, so that whether they’re telling the truth doesn’t really have to enter into it. I figure it’s better to assume good faith and let someone feel like they’ve gotten one over on you than to err in the other direction and make people sick. I also believe that getting to choose what you eat is a huge part of personal autonomy, so lying to someone about their food in order to “catch” them strikes me as even worse than lying about an allergy or intolerance to begin with.

            3. CMart*

              Restaurant food is such a tricky beast though. There’s such a huge gulf between “don’t like nuts” and “peanut induced analphylaxis” and the care put into preparing a dish with those differences is enormous.

              Asking up front “are there nuts in this?” sends up the OMG ALLERGY flag and it’s not unreasonable to be asked “why?” If you just don’t want your salad to be garnished with pecans because blech, that’s one thing. But if you need to be warned that they fry everything in peanut oil, or that their pesto is made with walnuts, or if the person preparing desserts for your group needs to be 3000% careful not to scoop your vanilla ice cream while wearing the gloves they used to handle your companion’s peanut butter cookie, then it’s really important to make the distinction.

              People obviously don’t need to out their medical condition, but saying “just no X in my Y is fine, thank you” or “Cross contamination is a serious issue for X” is helpful for everyone.

              I worked in an allergy-conscious restaurant for years, and interestingly it was often the vegetarians who required the longest, most in-depth conversations as to the degree of need. Some people were fine with chicken stock in their cream sauce while others wouldn’t eat the french fries because we used the same fryer for calamari and the kid’s chicken fingers.

              1. blackcat*

                Yes, this what I do. I have only one allergy (strawberries) where cross-contamination is an issue. I do mention it if I order *any* dessert, because I figure desserts are prepared near each other.

                If I consume the tiniest bit of mustard (another allergy), it’s only 50/50 for a reaction. If I consume a bite full of mustard containing food, I’m gonna need some benedryl. But if I eat a chocolate cake that has strawberries on the plate, you’re gonna call 911 for me. I try to make that clear by using the phrases, “I’m allergic, but have never had issues with food prepped on surfaces that there may be mustard on.” versus “I’m severely allergic; I can’t eat anything where cross-contamination with strawberries is an issue.” Waiters seem to get this, and are happy for the clarity.

                1. isolucy*

                  FYI desserts are often prepped on the same line as salads and soups, and even some appetizers, depending on the kitchen setup.

              2. Office Manager*

                My husband just doesn’t LIKE peanuts and will request that they be left off dishes, but peanut butter, not a problem. He’s always very specific to the waiter that it isn’t an allergy, just a preference, and as peanuts are usually only a garnish, it has never presented a problem.

                However, my husband is very allergic to shrimp/lobster/crayfish. We were at a very nice restaurant and he was eating a salmon dish when he started to get a reaction. Turns out, the fish had a sauce that had used shrimp/lobster shells as a flavoring and it wasn’t disclosed anywhere on the menu. That was a fun trip to the ER.

            4. Observer*

              This is why I don’t buy the excuse that wait staff or restaurants do this because people lie. People lie because restaurants and their wait staff are obnoxious. Just because your doctor hasn’t diagnosed you with something doesn’t mean you don’t have an issue. So, people just resort to saying something that should be clear instead of getting into a major confrontation with the wait staff.

              1. SebbyGrrl*

                So this!

                I can’t digest rice. I love mexican food – especially burritos.

                You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to order and then receive a burrito w/o rice.

                So I usually say “I am allergic to rice. If there is rice in this you will need to call an ambulance and that’s probably not good for business.” I still get rice 50% of the time.

                I worked as a temp at a great tax agency. As they needed people to be on deck all the time they provided lots of food.

                Depending on the region I know that Costco will deliver packaged hard-boiled eggs. Those became my go to protein. With the added benefit of no cross-contamination.

                I also worked somewhere where ordering person didn’t like them regularly ‘forgot’ to refer to the list I had given her or order anything for me.

                I offered to be the person order to to ensure I always got what I needed. That may not feasible in this case the OP is in a position that this would not be a good use of their time but it’s worth a try.

            5. paul*

              Yeah. I’m not particularly picky, but if I ask them to leave off onions, it shouldn’t be a big issue!

            6. Not Gordon Ramsay*

              “If I don’t want to eat nuts because I hate nuts, that should be sufficient, and I shouldn’t have to get into an argument or resort to feigning an allergy in order to simply get my meal the way I’d prefer.”

              I have to disagree with this. If you don’t like Italian food, you shouldn’t go to Luigi’s kitchen and expect he’ll whip up some sushi for you.

              1. Julia*

                Hm? There is no ‘nut cuisine’, so it’s not like you go to a nut restaurant and insist on no nuts.

                Plus, if I go out to eat sushi with my husband, I don’t eat fish because I’m a vegetarian and I won’t eat the seaweed because I suspect I have Hashimoto’s, so I’ll just have inari and they better don’t insist I try something else.

                1. sam*

                  Have to agree with Julia here. There’s a big difference between, “I hate fennel, so could you please make this italian dish that I otherwise love without that one ingredient”, and “I hate italian food, but I’m going to go to an italian restaurant and then be a giant pain in the ass about everything.”

            7. Indoor Cat*

              See, I have a lot of friends in the culinary / restaurant scene, and there seem to be two main reasons for balking at this.

              One is, one special order might not seem like a big deal, but a restaurant full of special orders–especially when training new line cooks at the start of a season–is a huge hassle and causes a lot of delays. So they try to minimize special orders to keep as much on schedule as possible.

              The second is, a lot of chefs see culinary arts as, well…art. They don’t want to harm anyone (accidentally cause an allergic reaction, or something, which is why they’ll absolutely disclose ingredients), but to some chefs, it feels like they are an artist who has painted twelve paintings, which took a long time and planning and materials and craft. And then instead of just choosing the painting they like the best (e.g. a painting with no nuts on it, or the vegetarian painting or w/e), the customer asks for the painting with blue trees, but please paint some yellow splotches all over it?

              For example, I love a local place that serves about seven things. Two of their things are pork banh-mih and tofu banh-mih. Tofu banh-mih is completely vegan and has a different sauce (not mayo-based, and with spices better suited to tofu). Generally, if someone wants banh-mih, but can’t eat pork, they order the tofu banh-mih. Doesn’t matter if they’re religious, vegetarian, allergic to pork (maybe?); they just order the tofu one.

              But *sometimes* people want the tofu banh-mih but want the pork banh-mih sauce. For whatever reason, they can’t eat pork, but they can still eat eggs and dairy. They chef used to try to explain that the tofu sauce tastes better with the tofu. It plays to the tofu’s strengths. It still has sriracha, just like the pork sauce. But they wouldn’t listen, and it turned into a big argument. So, finally the chef put “no substitutions” in print on the menu.

              I don’t think there’s a good reason to not disclose ingredients, and nobody wants their customers to come to harm; I mean, secretly putting in allergens in insane, if for no other reason that it’s a big friggin’ lawsuit waiting to happen. Also: people could die.

              But saying, “This is how this dish is made; if you can’t eat it, please order something else, thank you,” seems pretty fair to me.

              1. JHunz*

                And not having to justify themselves to cater to the tender feelings of the artiste in the kitchen is why many people are claiming nonexistant allergies

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I guess that would be the last time I ate there.
                It’s not a personal attack if someone does not like or cannot have X. It’s just not.
                In the same vein it’s not a personal attack if someone does not buy Y picture.

                Years ago, when I could and would eat just about anything served, I got some steak with sauce on it. The sauce made me nauseous, which was unusual for me. I sent it back. It’s the only time I have ever sent food back, but I was having a real problem. I am not sure if the cook scraped the sauce off or gave me another steak cooked on a grill stained with sauce. But the second steak was no better. I didn’t eat much of it. The cook just could not let go of that sauce for whatever reason. Now I am wondering if I just read the reason why.

              3. Observer*

                Well, better that than claiming that the food doesn’t have some ingredient or other. And, that happens a LOT.

                I do get that sometimes some changes either cannot be made, or they are not practical. But, the concept that “*I* think that this tastes better that what you want, so I won’t give you what you want” is incredibly condescending.

                1. Julia*

                  I mean, they can run their business like that if they want. But they risk losing customers over it.

                2. sam*

                  One night, my dad and I went to a new restaurant in our neighborhood. All my dad wanted was a burger. They had a burger on the menu. Except the fancy chef had “designed” the burger with all sorts of toppings, including: sprouts, some sort of aioli, bacon, cheese, AND A FRIED EGG.

                  My dad asked if he could get the burger without the bacon and the fried egg. Because he preferred to not have a heart attack in the middle of dinner. Also, it was a ridiculous amount of food. The waiter came back and said that the chef wouldn’t allow any changes to his “curated” menu.

                  My dad, of course, got the burger and simply removed all of the ridiculousness from it himself. Within a month, we heard that they had stopped insisting that people couldn’t modify orders – our neighborhood is full of cranky old people and families, and is not really a “foodie” destination. If you open a restaurant thinking that you’re going to impose your iron chef will on the patrons, people will just go somewhere else.

                  Also, a fried egg AND bacon on top of a burger?

          2. INTP*

            I feel like it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, though, and you can’t 100% blame people that claim an allergy when they don’t have one. It’s not really a restaurant employee’s business why someone doesn’t want to eat a particular substance, their place is just to say “We can accommodate that to this extent” and be honest. But as you mentioned, sometimes they don’t want to communicate about it, or lie about whether something is gluten free, and then the waitstaff are dealing with kitchen staff that might be dishonest or uncooperative with them. No one is eating gluten free purely for fun, everyone thinks it’s doing SOMETHING for their health or appearance, so I can’t blame people for saying what they think they have to say to get anyone to be honest with them.

            1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

              I am allergic to shellfish (I’ve never faced full-on anaphylaxis, but experience shortness of breath and syncope if I eat even a small amount). My husband and in-laws were very insistent about wanting me to join them for dinner at a place that specialized in steamed crabs. The waitress was upfront that the cook would not be able to accommodate my issue for most of the menu- it just wasn’t feasible to have separate oil for frying or grill space to ensure that the sandwiches and entrees wouldn’t be contaminated. Luckily for me, I had planned on Caesar salad and the French onion soup (thumbs up from the waitress) and they had a club sandwich I could make that they could ensure was safe if I omitted the bacon.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            “I blame people who have elective food restrictions but who lie and tell people they have a “food allergy” because they think it will make a restaurant accommodate them . . .”

            Me, too! I mean, people are entitled to their dietary preferences, and waitstaff often don’t honor them unless you say it’s an allergy, but it really does make it difficult for people with real, actual allergies to be taken seriously.

            One thing that irritates me on the preference/actual need front is when my sister-in-law will say that she’s gluten intolerant, and I always make sure to accommodate her. And then the next time we see her, she’ll be eating bread/cookies/cake/whatever and be all, “Haha, I’m back on the ‘sauce’ again!” And I’m like, “What!? Why make me work to accommodate your dietary restriction and then blatantly rub your flouting of it in my face?” Argh!!

            1. Zombii*

              >>people are entitled to their dietary preferences, and waitstaff often don’t honor them unless you say it’s an allergy, but it really does make it difficult for people with real, actual allergies to be taken seriously.

              I get what you’re saying here (sort of?) but it sounds like the problem is some asshole waitstaff “testing” allergies or kitchenstaff not following food orders, which then makes people with food preferences say something more serious than “I just don’t like it.” It’s a stand-off, basically.

              1. Anna*

                It’s actually worse for the people with allergies. It’s basically crying wolf. The more people cry allergy, the less seriously they’re taken so it’s not even that someone would intentionally put an allergen in food, it’s that they might not be as careful about cross contamination. Stop claiming an allergy if you just don’t like something. It’s shitty.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yeah, I think this is how I feel about it, too. It’s kind of an uncomfortable space to occupy because I’m extremely sympathetic to people who can’t get their food modified because waitstaff or the kitchen are being assholes. And I fully believe people should be accommodated, regardless of their reasons for why they want accommodation.

                  But I am not as sympathetic when someone who does not have a religious/medical/not-strictly-forbidden food restriction and “cries wolf” to obtain the modification. But I think the reason I get frustrated is because those same asshole waitstaff/cooks often begin to mess with people who do have religious or medically-restricted diets in order to test who’s “really” Jewish/allergic/diabetic/vegan/food-intolerant/nauseated-by-raw-tomatoes, etc.

                  I think the best example of what I find objectionable is the comment about people who say they’re GF and then order gluten-filled desserts because they’ve been “good.” I’m much less frustrated with someone who consistently eschews certain ingredients, for whatever reason, than someone who is inconsistent.

                  I think the biggest bad actors are unreasonable restaurants, but I don’t think that unreasonableness fully absolves people who are manufacturing medical restrictions when they don’t actually have them. So INTP’s chicken-and-egg framing is really apt/helpful for explaining how I end up with two very different and somewhat contradictory feelings in my head at the same time.

                2. Hotstreak*

                  @ Banana Hamock – My friend is lactose intolerant, but if her boyfriend is having a brownie with ice cream for desert, she can have a few bites of that without triggering significant symptoms. However, if she ordered the grilled cheese or cream based soup she would be in the bathroom all night. People should be able to manage their own health conditions without explaining themselves to every waiter at every restaurant they goes to. Likewise, folks doing GF for digestive issues might remove croutons from their salad and forgive the waiter, since this is a smaller exposure, but if the mashed potatoes and gravy contain wheat, that’s going to be a huge problem.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  I am just surprised to see that people think there are a lot of other people crying wolf.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @Hotstreak, I agree with you. Not sure if you saw the other comments where I agreed that people (1) should be accommodated, regardless of the reason why, and (2) should not have to disclose a medical diagnosis to be accommodated?

                  I understand why people are inconsistent with certain food sensitivities or intolerances. But if you tell a waiter you’re “allergic to X,” and then order something with “X” or they see you eat someone else’s order of “X,” then it contributes to the idea that people lie about their food allergies, so waiters have greater license to be jerks and push back instead of just accommodating the request. Even just saying, “I’m sensitive to X” or “I cannot eat X” is better than “I’m allergic to X” if you’re not actually allergic.

                  Obviously the waiter/kitchen is still the bad actor, but for people who are deathly allergic to a particular food, the fact that other people misrepresent their food sensitivities does impact an allergic person’s ability to order/receive food that won’t kill them.

                5. Anna*

                  @Not So New Reader I have seen many MANY comments from people who encourage others to claim they have an allergy if they don’t like onions or that say they do claim an allergy because they don’t like something. This isn’t the only place this conversation has happened. Basically waitstaff should pay attention to a customer’s order, but people should not claim a medical condition if they don’t have one.

                6. Anna*

                  I should say I have seen those comments in other discussions on this subject, not that anyone here has recommended people do that.

        2. sunny-dee*

          All the poseurs have made a situation which really sucks for the people who are actually gluten intolerant. My husband is a restaurant GM, and he would always roll his eyes, because people would order some entree to be gluten free (which obviously the restaurant honored) and then would order, like, chocolate cake for dessert because they’d been “good.” True story and sigh.

          1. sam*

            on the flip side, my friend with celiac loves that everyone wants to eat gluten-free food. It has greatly expanded the number of food items available to her at the grocery store as manufacturers seek to cater to all of the fad-dieters.

            1. LiveAndLetDie*

              I was coming here to say the same thing. I have an aunt and a cousin who are celiac, and the trendiness of gluten-free items has really helped them in terms of making grocery shopping easier and more likely to carry some specialty items.

            2. Parenthetically*

              Yep, same. The fact that it’s trendy is annoying, but the explosion of good gluten free products is a godsend for folks with celiac!

            3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Yep; a friend of mine has been struggling financially for years and has commented more than once that having gluten-free foods become trendy has made it not only much easier but also much cheaper for her to find GF foods.

              1. Anna*

                It’s still crazy expensive, even though the prices have come down. I don’t even know what my friend spends on groceries, but I know it’s a lot more than I do.

            4. Leenie*

              My best friend is celiac – it’s kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, when it was something that was exotic and really required explanation, people were apt to take it seriously and she had less chance of being “glutined” by an inattentive server or kitchen staff. On the other hand, the choices have increased exponentially. It was way together to find gluten free food in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

          2. FiveWheels*

            On the other hand, if you’re paying a restaurant to make you food there should be no difficulty in having them make you what you actually ask for. As opposed to “no mayo” (or whatever) and it comes drenched in mayo. And asking for a replacement being treated as unreasonable.

            I’ve never pretended to have an allergy to encourage the restaurant to get my order right, but I understand why some people do. There are some “normal” foods I find as repulsive as the idea of roast tarantula. Unfortunately there’s a big cultural pressure to enjoy what’s put on your plate, being a picky eater is considered a flaw, and for reasons I don’t understand, not liking a friend’s cooking is often thought of as an insult.

            1. Anna*

              It’s a shitty thing to do and just adds to the BS that people with actual allergies deal with. I’m not saying waitstaff shouldn’t pay attention to people who make special requests, but people claiming they have an allergy just because they don’t like X makes life easier for them and more difficult for others.

            2. Not Gordon Ramsay*

              “There are some “normal” foods I find as repulsive as the idea of roast tarantula.”

              Never been to Cambodia, eh?

            3. Clumsy Ninja*

              It’s taken me a long time to come to grips with just shrugging and saying, “Yeah, I have food issues” and expecting people to shut up and deal. I’m not going to expect anyone to cater to my food issues (which are not allergies, just aversions), but this is also why I’d rather eat at a restaurant than at friends’ houses.

          3. Chickia*

            seriously, I would tell them the cake wasn’t gluten free and refuse to serve it to them! After being informed of their gluten allergy you wouldn’t want to be responsible for their adverse reaction would you??? how can anyone be that dense!!?!?? (and yet I totally believe your story!)

            1. msmorlowe*

              I have said something similar to people before, but I can’t outright refuse to serve them. Best I can do is say “I strongly advise you not to order that dish as I can’t guarantee it will be safe for you to eat” and then watch as their allergies become miraculously cured*.

              *Granted, I don’t know all that much about allergies and I tend to just assume that the customer knows what they can handle rather than jumping straight to “they were faking the whole time” because I like to keep some faith in humanity…

              1. sunny-dee*

                The worst was when my husband was younger and bartending and a visibly pregnant woman ordered a drink for herself. He actually went and asked the owner what to do, and they had to serve her, but he said he felt weird giving 3-4 glasses of wine to a pregnant woman.

            2. Zombii*

              To be fair, nowhere does it say the person claimed a gluten sensitivity, only that they ordered a gluten-free meal.

              Some people legitimately believe gluten is “bad for you” in the same way that fat and carbs have also been singled out as being “bad for you” and they think if they ate something “good” for dinner it justifies them having a “bad” dessert—like when my aunt orders a “healthy” dinner (by having a salad with her chicken strip and fries basket) so she “can have” the fudge brownie sundae after.

              This is obviously a really messed-up way to eat, but it’s super-common.

          4. AMPG*

            Yeah, I was once setting up a business lunch and asked for the attendees’ food restrictions. One said she was gluten-free but then ordered cake for dessert. Another said she was allergic to chicken that was not free-range. [insert eyeroll]

            1. Lehigh*

              Yeah, I don’t eat factory-farmed meat but it’s not an allergy.

              Maybe my conscience is allergic to it…

          5. INTP*

            Some people do have varying levels of gluten intolerance, though. They may be able to handle a slice of cake (or consider a small amount of gastric distress worth it), but not a higher-gluten item like bread or pizza crust (anything that is kneaded will be higher in gluten than a tender baked good). So if the menu offers gluten-free bread or pizza crust or similar, then it’s not necessarily out of line for someone to order that with a regular dessert.

            Of course, if someone is demanding that the grill be cleaned of all contamination, and all kinds of annoying accommodations be made besides just using the gluten free ingredient, and then they eat something gluteny for dessert, that’s an issue. I’ll order a latte with almond milk and then food with cheese on it, because a big glass of milk combined with coffee makes me feel really sick but a little cheese doesn’t, but I certainly don’t demand that the milk frother be cleaned of dairy molecules.

            1. Decimus*

              I don’t know about gluten but I must be a bit like you – I have partially-functioning lactose production so I can actually eat SMALL amounts of lactose products without more than a little gas – and having lactose pills helps expand that greatly. But a big cheesy casserole or a big bowl of ice cream is going to leave me horribly sick. But it leaves me in an odd case where I can ask to have a lactose free dinner (like leaving cheese sauce off a steak) and still have a small scoop of ice cream for dessert (because I’ve been saving my lactose pills for that purpose).

              1. Paquita*

                I finally realized I am probably at least somewhat lactose intolerant. After going for years to a nearby buffet and having 1. Ranch dressing (salad) 2. Sour Cream (baked potato) 3. BIG bowl of ice cream, then going home and being sick. Any two I would be ok, just not all of them together.

            2. Elizabeth H.*

              Same! I can’t drink milk at all without getting sick even w/Lactaid, so I get almond milk lattes, but I can eat pizza with Lactaid, plus I love pizza and also almond milk.

              Also when I was eating strict low FODMAPs I would be fine to eat like bread crumbed chicken or something, but not a sandwich or pizza (happy to be feeling better and eating pizza again, LOL)

          6. Not So NewReader*

            Well the same thing with diabetics.
            My husband would order a diet soda and then order some ice cream. At that point there was NO diet ice cream or maybe he would have had that. On the flip side of the coin, you use your cheating calories wisely. Soda is soda, but ice cream is a different class entirely.

            Additionally load tolerances vary. We see that here in the stories people tell. In later years my husband skipped the ice cream entirely going with crackers or some type of chip as his cheat. It wasn’t worth dealing with a body reacting to ice cream.

            And it makes sense to order chocolate cake in a restaurant and just get one slice. You don’t make a chocolate cake at home for reasons (or buy one either).

        3. alter_ego*

          I’m dreading the day that nut free becomes trendy (right now it seems like the opposite is the trend. everything is cashew milk and almond flour) because at least people usually take me seriously when I ask if something has nuts.

          Now, the fact that I’m allergic to raw fruits and vegetables? I think less people believe me on that one than they would about being gluten free.

          1. Bob*

            My twin brother and I also have allergies to nuts as well as raw fruits and veggies (but most canned or frozen fruits and veggies are fine). People have always said we are making it up. When people question me on the nuts, I always say I just wanted to put it out there so they aren’t fighting each other over who gets to give me mouth-to-mouth (I can’t breath after eating tree nuts).

            My mother is a K-12 school nurse and she has a kid that can’t even be in the cafeteria at the same time with someone eating a PB&J sandwich. Imagine ever feeling comfortable sending your kid to another kid’s house with that kind of severe allergy.

          2. Jessica*

            Yeah, but nut milk products rose in popularity as an alternative to cow milk products (which science has determined that most people don’t digest very well) so everyone is kinda damned either way!

            Maybe this will create a revolution in grocery categorization.

          3. SebbyGrrl*

            That reminds me,
            I can’t do spicy. What is mild or tasteless to most people burns my mouth for hours.
            I would get so frustrated with my husband and others when I asked if something spicy and they said no.
            I was reading a quip on notallwaysright.com where a woman had asked I times if the dish had spicy ingredients in it-five times the preparer said no. Then her friends gave her a bad time saying she was being ridiculous asking over and over again. “He said it doesn’t have any chiles in it is not spicy.”
            Then the preparer said oh yeah there are chilies in it.
            so it’s not always that people are being obstinate or trying to test how allergic might be they just don’t know what think of that ingredient in any context other than their own.

        4. Bob*

          My sister is celiac and if you want to see her absolutely flip her lid, imply that she eats gluten-free because Gwyneth Paltrow said it was cool. She was hospitalized several times and treated for all kinds of weird diseases for about 10 years before finally being diagnosed at Hopkins.

        5. Holly*

          Ordering food for someone with a severe allergy can be really hard. My brother is allergic to milk – specifically a protein found in milk (casein). He pretty much only goes to restaurants that don’t serve dairy (mainly Asian restaurants) for that reason and a few select places he knows are cautious about cross-contamination. Because here are the things which can have milk in them which he has to ask about:
          1. Bread that is brushed with butter to make it toasty.
          2. Anything cooked on the same grill that said buttered bread is put on.
          3. If ordering a pizza, he orders it uncut because the knife usually has bits of cheese on it.
          4. No fake cheese. Most fake cheeses contain casein. Same with fake butters – only certain brands don’t use casein.
          5. Remind the staff that cheese and butter are dairy. (many do not realize this)
          6. Parmesan cannot be ‘dusted’ on anything.
          7. Ask that any staff wash their hands and/or change their gloves before preparing his food.
          8. Ask if butter is used in the breading to fry things.
          9. Actually, most restaurant bread has butter or milk in it. So he has to ask about that.
          I imagine there is a similar gauntlet of questions that have to be asked for gluten-free. And I can’t tell you how many times my brother has been sworn up and down to that something is dairy-free only for him to react and they say “I forgot the chef uses butter to grease the pan.”

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Even just plain bread often has whey or milk in it. There’s also just a lot of foods people don’t think of as having dairy, even when it’s a primary ingredient. Prime examples include french toast, crepes, pancakes (and other buttermilk-based items, including almost all baked goods), donuts, certain curries, salad dressing, sometimes just the salad itself, chocolate, biscuits, bean soups, and almost all types of fried chicken, including buffalo wings. And I’m with you on butter as a cooking base—I’ve ended up with a closed airway more than once, even after explicitly requesting that food be cooked in oil in a clean pan or not on a shared griddle (or if that’s not possible, to just omit that item).

            Another common problem is that a lot of people think that if something is “lactose” free it’s safe for someone with a dairy allergy—it isn’t! Most lactose-free products are chock-full of casein and other proteins that trigger dairy allergies (your note re: fake cheeses is a great example of that problem).

            But my personal favorite is when I have to send something back because it’s covered in cheese/butter, and their “solution” is to scrape off the cheese and send it back. I have walked out of restaurants more than once because they pretend not to understand why I can’t just “eat around” the cheesy/buttered parts.

            1. Waitress*

              > I have walked out of restaurants more than once
              >because they pretend not to understand why I can’t just “eat
              >around” the cheesy/buttered parts.

              Out of curiosity, when that happens, do you pay the bill and/or tip or no?

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I do not pay/tip if I walk out. If I’m at a table with friends who have already received their meals, I will ask that the dish be removed from the bill, and I’ll sit and wait for others to finish. At which point everyone who ate pays their bill and tips appropriately (min. 18%, which is pretty low for our metro area). If they haven’t started eating their food and the waitstaff or kitchen refuses to fix the order, I leave and meet up with them after. If the restaurant remakes the dish without contamination and don’t mess with me about it, I pay for it, thank them very nicely, and tip generously (min. 20-25%).

                I used to work in food service, so I understand the ethical concerns and costs of walking out or sending food back. And in most cases, if my order is slightly wrong, so long as it’s dairy-free I’ll still eat it, pay for it, and tip. But if I tell you I’m allergic, order a modified meal, and the kitchen messes up the order and the waitstaff or kitchen blow me off, I’m not going to stay or pay for it. I have had kitchens deliberately screw up my order after remaking a meal, and I’ve had chefs come out to try to bully me into taking the scraped meal. I don’t have the time or patience to spend an already-ruined meal trying to justify or explain that my allergy is a real thing to someone who clearly does not care.

            2. Manager-at-large*

              And then there is a fairly common restaurant practice that puts a little flour in eggs because it makes for fluffier scrambled eggs – no GF person expects that!

              1. Anna*

                IHOP brags about putting pancake batter in their scrambled eggs to make them fluffy. I went with a friend who at the time was trying to figure out what all the issues were with her stomach and so was avoiding gluten and had to warn her off the omelets and scrambled eggs.

              2. Chomps*

                What? They should just put a little water in the eggs. That’s what I do. I think it works pretty well.

          2. Chomps*

            Oh, this is very interesting. I had a milk (dairy?) allergy when I was a baby (as in I got rashes around my mouth when my parents tried to feed me milk-based formula). I’ve grown out of it, fortunately, but I never knew exactly what the allergy was too.

      2. sigh*

        This. As someone with celiac… the great majority of people don’t understand, don’t get it right, and grill you about what you are eating/not eating every time you are in the same room as food.

        1. sam*

          Gah. and here I am perennially researching for good gluten-free cookie recipes so that I can bake yummy things my one gluten-intolerant co-worker can eat (I found a great chocolate brownie cookie recipe, by the way, which is essentially just several different types of chocolate and gluten-free confectioners sugar mixed together and then baked. They were a huge hit with everyone. The only difficulty being that the batter is basically like trying to mix cement.)

          1. Kate, Short for Bob*

            Slightly off topic, but there’s a wonderful recipe book “red velvet and chocolate heartache” which is full of vegetable cake recipes. The chocolate heartache is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had, uses aubergines and almond flour, no wheat flour in sight. Should be available on Kindle, and you could end up making your friend very fat indeed ;-)

          2. LG*

            Ooh, I highly recommend almond macaroons! They are super tasty and don’t need replacement flour or anything. I use the first recipe listed on Epicurious, cut the sugar by 1/3, and skip the powdered sugar entirely. (You can also dip the macaroons in chocolate once they are cooled, if you have a good gluten-free dark chocolate.) I am not GF but this is my go-to dessert for friends who are.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I hope I’m not too off-topic, but have you checked out Minimalist Baker? Some of her GF recipes are meh, but there are quite a few good ones. I find the recipe ratings are pretty accurate.

      3. 2 Cents*

        Wow, a lunch in her honor and STILL couldn’t get it right!? That’s really, really inconsiderate. That’s like saying, “We’d like to celebrate your birthday. I know it’s on Aug. 14, but it’s really more convenient for everyone if it’s June 3rd, so we’re moving it to then.”

        1. Jessica*

          Yeah, that’s Castaway-level cluelessness. (Thinking of the scene where they threw Tom Hanks a huge welcome-back party, and catered in a ton of seafood and sushi.)

      4. many bells down*

        My husband sometimes has the problem that the restaurant the company orders from on a given day HAS GF options … but some places are really passive-aggressive about it. Jimmy John’s will do a lettuce wrap sub, but this particular location would find an astonishing number of ways to screw up his order until he just gave up.

        1. Zombii*

          I tend to low-carb it and haven’t had issues from the nearest JJ franchise but now I’m really curious: How did they screw up a lettuce wrap? O_o

          1. many bells down*

            It came entirely filled with more lettuce, it came soaked in a pint of mayo, it came with the wrong fillings … it was really bizarre. The JJ’s by our house never gave us any trouble, but the one his work ordered from just could or would not get it right.

      5. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, that’s super-lame. Now I know why my GF friends get so happy when I make them GF food. (It’s not that hard people!) (But harder to keep a communal kitchen GF so I understand that problem.)

      6. curmudgeon*

        lol – Scouts had a dinner where my Da was Guest of Honor; they forgot to make sure he (a diabetic & cardiac patient) would be able to get an entree he could eat. Was served something heavy in cream sauce, carbs, something very sweet and served sugared soda & sugared ice tea; no salad, the veggies were overcooked massively & swimming in butter. When Ma requested they get him a meal he could actually eat, the staff scraped up a plate with leftover cheese, crackers, veggies and fruit from the appetizer table. Yum, a leftover plate with food that had been sitting on a table for 2 hours & had been picked over.
        I think that was the last straw for him working with them.

      7. Jane Eyre*

        @Anderson Darling, exactly this! Everyone in my office knows I am allergic to wheat, yet they still bring cakes in for birthdays and think I’m rude for declining. I constantly have to remind people and after years, that gets tiresome.

        1. Not Gordon Ramsay*

          You’re certainly not rude for declining, but I think it’s unjustified to insist that people stop bringing in cakes for birthdays just because of your wheat allergy. (Sure, it would be great if at least some of those cakes were flourless.)

          1. ReanaZ*

            I assumed she meant she still got a wheat cake for *her* birthday, which I do think is an issue.

          2. Used to be a lurker*

            I read it not as “Stop bringing cakes,” but more as “don’t give me crap when I refuse to eat your cake if you didn’t make something I can actually eat.”

      8. GF OP*

        Yeah it’s the lack on inclusivity that bums me out. I usually miss the big team lunches where everyone eats together because my food was screwed up or forgotten, so I have to go out to get something.

      9. TootsNYC*

        I feel sad for her too!

        After I found out about my celiac, I had a birthday at work, and my deputy made a special trip to buy GF cupcakes. I almost cried.

        And then later the guy in our department made strudel and brought it in. When he offered it to everyone else who arrived later than me, he said, “I didn’t mention it to you because I know you can’t eat it; I’m sorry.” And I felt so cared for! Which is funny, bcs he wasn’t actually giving me food. But it felt respectful.

        and then the next birthday, they got ice cream for me, without cones.

        It’s not like it’s that hard; you just have to decide you care.

    2. Observer*

      Even the grocery order should be doable. There are a log of GF certified foods out there, and if you get stuff that is pre-packaged / comes in portions anyway, you don’t have to worry about cross contamination.

      1. OhNo*

        Exactly. There are gluten-free microwaveable or easy-prep meals out there, and it doesn’t seem like a big ask to get some of those added to the grocery list.

        I’ve been in office kitchens that have entirely separate fridges and microwaves for halal food, so it’s possible for some places to really go the extra mile to accommodate dietary differences. Adding a few things to the grocery list barely scratches the surface of what the OP could ask for if they were so inclined.

      2. paul*

        yeah, that part should be a relatively easy fix. The kitchen…less so depending on severity of the allergy.

        1. Observer*

          True. But there is a real difference between not getting ANY of it right and making the effort to do what’s practical.

          I think that’s what’s rubbing me the wrong way about the OP’s situation. It’s probably true that the kitchen is going to be a problem, and I wouldn’t trust a separate microwave, even if the company did it. But can’t get A SINGLE ORDER right? That sounds passive aggressive.

      3. INTP*

        Yep. OP may not get the same freshness or variety of foods as everyone else but it’s easy to find certified gluten free packaged meals, sliced bread, etc. They would need to be clearly labeled with her name so that no one else would eat them or get crumbs on them. A small microwave can be purchased for $50 if OP needs her own.

  3. RT*

    I feel your pain OP. I’m severely allergic to multiple food items, to the point where I keep an epipen in my office drawer and bag. Luckily I work in a small office space where it’s easy to let people know about it. I keep my own utensils and my food is kept separate. I order for myself if we have company take out or buffet food but they cover the tab.

  4. Tannenburg*

    I feel the OP’s pain. I am wheat-intolerant…and inevitably when work provides treats it’s pizza, subs, donuts, or bagels. I watch a lot of other people eat.

    1. NYC Weez*

      Yeah, a lot of the food “rewards” at work are desserts like ice cream or cupcakes with buttercream frosting that I can’t tolerate. I felt very sad for a long time that I was always on the sidelines, to the point that I finally began keeping a stash of safe treats at my desk so that I could at least join in the fun. But it’s still frustrating to me at times that the organizers rarely provide an option for the group of us who can never enjoy the rewards…especially bc the solution in our case is a very tasty GF/DF cookie that the cake shop sells and it’s super simple for them to grab a package when they pick up the cake.

  5. Morning Glory*

    My stepmother has celiac disease and I’ve seen firsthand how sick a gluten intolerance can make someone, so you have my sympathies. I also know, (from experience, unfortunately for my stepmom) that it can be really easy at first for people to forget about taking the right measures to prevent you from getting sick.

    For cross-contamination, I know you mentioned individually packaged foods – maybe a kind of compromise could be just pre-packaged foods, and no other measures to prevent cross-contamination? That way, you could grab your sealed gluten-free granola bar, or add hot water to your sealed, gluten free ramen, etc., and go hack to your deak without having to trust that all 49 of your coworkers remembered to take the appropriate measures to protect you that day. It would mean limited yourself to processed, food, which sucks, but would at least give you part of the perk.

    1. Gen*

      My father has coeliac. On catered days he has them order a huge sealed fruit basket and prepared veggies with a selection of dips, and then shares it with the rest of the staff once he’s safely taken his choices. It’s healthy and avoids cross contamination. Not filling really but it makes it feel like he’s joining in

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I suspect gluten is especially tricky because there are so many people with self-diagnosed gluten intolerances that they strictly abide by Tuesday, then ignore Wednesday because they are in the mood for pizza. (“It’s my cheat day.”) So getting everyone in the chain–food orderer, food preppers–to take cross-contamination seriously is probably even more difficult with gluten than with, say, nuts.

      Though in fairness, I have heard of people deciding that nut allergies were all in people’s heads–if you don’t think your airways are shutting down, they don’t shut down!–and merrily strewing nuts over the Thanksgiving dinner with no warning.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        My mother in law chooses to not eat gluten but does not have celiac or an allergy to it; she just feels better if she doesn’t. When we went to a seafood restaurant and she asked if one of the dishes had gluten, the waiter got the chef, and the chef came out and asked whether her not eating gluten was a medical necessity or a preference–because if she was violently allergic to it, they wouldn’t serve her. That sounds like an asshole move, but it’s because the restaurant also made pizza in the same kitchen, the flour gets everywhere, and while he could say “yes, the cioppino has no gluten-containing ingredients in it,” he couldn’t guarantee that some of the flour from mixing/kneading/tossing the pizzas hadn’t become airborne and landed in the soup pot.

        She was offended at first (“I don’t want to eat it, why are you asking?”) but understood when he explained about the pizza. Because she can certainly tolerate a tiny amount of wheat flour landing in her soup… but someone with a severe sensitivity or allergy couldn’t.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I think that’s legit. I’ve noticed similar signs in Panera that basically say “We have menu items that don’t have gluten-full ingredients in there, but we make no claims that anything you get here will be gluten-FREE.”

          1. Is it Friday Yet?*

            Yeah there’s no way Panera could have anything be TOTALLY gluten free. They’d have to get separate bread slicers, pans, knives, cutting boards, etc.

          2. Bea*

            Yes! This happens with peanuts/nuts in general all the time, it makes sense. “There are peanuts on our menu.” is for the allergies that are “you get a whiff and you’re in danger.” and “you just cannot put a nut in your mouth and chew it and you get hives” kind of thing.

        2. paul*


          I’m allergic to peanuts: if I eat a peanut butter cup my mouth will burn a bit, my stomach will be upset. But I’m not in mortal danger, and I wouldn’t worry about cross contamination.

          I’m allergic to cantaloupe; sometime in the last two years it went from being like my peanut allergy to “Oh crap that fruit mix had cantaloupe didn’t it cause I can’t breath were’s my epi” and it was NOT fun learning that the hard way.

          Allergies kind of span the spectrum of severity and sensitivity.

          1. Xarcady*

            And as you point out, allergies can change with little or no warning. That’s why I get upset when people “test” someone’s allergy by putting the allergen in their food. That might be the bite that tips the scales and changes a mild allergy to a severe one.

            Yes, I have acquaintances that I think have made-up food allergies. No, I do not ever serve them something they claim to be allergic to. I’m not going to be the person who sends them to the hospital, gasping for breath.

        3. sam*

          I’ve had the same thing happen to me when I ask for no nuts. I just don’t like nuts, but I’m not allergic – but kitchens that actually care about this stuff will do some serious sanitizing if you are allergic.

        4. Salamander*

          Totally not an asshole move on the chef’s part. I wish more restaurants did that. In terms of liability, they have to cover themselves, and it’s best to be honest with folks who could have a life-threatening reaction. Not all food intolerance or preferences can be accommodated in every environment, and it really is the best move to refuse service if the accommodation cannot be made.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I don’t think restaurants should refuse service. I think they should inform you of the risk and then decide if that is a risk you want to take. I am medically necessary gluten and dairy free. I will get sick but not deathly sick from serious cross contamination. I might get bloated/gassy from mild cross contamination.

            I was traveling once and went to a restaurant for brunch. We had waiting an hour to get in and all other restaurants had long waits. I was on a medication where I needed to eat too and while I usually travel with emergency food, I was all out at this point. When it came time to order I told my waiter I was GF/DF and ordered eggs and a slice of ham or something. The chef made a big deal about how he wouldn’t serve me because he couldn’t guarantee no cross contamination in a kitchen that also made pancakes etc. I told him it was not a life threatening allergy and if he made the eggs on one side of the griddle with the pancakes on the other I would be fine. It turned into a very embarrassing debate with them continuing to refuse to serve me until I basically started crying and said I had to eat because of my medicine, I was traveling and out of packaged food, all other restaurants had an hour wait, I couldn’t wait another hour, and please just make some eggs and do your best and I won’t sue you if I get sick. It was mortifying. It was my risk to take, not theirs.

            1. Ellen N.*

              Sorry, but I disagree. If the employees of a restaurant believe that they can’t guarantee your safety they should ask you to eat elsewhere. They are in a better position than you to know how much risk of cross contamination there is in their particular kitchen. They are just trying to keep allergy sufferers safe.

              1. ceiswyn*

                And the allergy sufferer is in a much better position than the kitchen to know what actually IS ‘safe’ for them.

            2. Kate 2*

              I am so sorry that happened to you. I am hypoglycemic, so I understand having to eat now, right now.

              With that said though, unless they get a recording or a signed waiver beforehand, they really can’t take the risk of serving someone anyway and risk having them sue because they didn’t listen or believe the staff. Sadly people sue over all kinds of things, and even if you win businesses (and the people who own them) can be bankrupted fighting it.

              I used to work in customer service and the number of people who would blatantly lie about what another associate had said, or who actively misheard what was said to what they wanted to hear and seemed to really believe it was mind boggling.

              Not to say that you would ever do anything like that, but that the waitstaff doesn’t know that you are a good person, and wouldn’t lie or sue or get them fired.

              TL;DR I am so sorry that happened, but I understand why they did that.

              1. TL -*

                Yeah, if you’re desperate to eat, you can choose not to disclose – I’ve had restaurants say they can’t serve me and I’m fine with that. I also won’t eat from any restaurant that makes any kind of bread from scratch.

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            Also, more on this subject.

            Even my freaking grocery store is trying to absolve itself of liability. The section where you get your raw chicken and raw beef has signs that say that they take strive to avoid cross contamination but they work with marinades with nuts/dairy/wheat etc and they cannot promise food is safe. If I can’t get RAW MEAT at the grocery store anymore, what else am I supposed to do to feed myself? What if they just said we refuse to sell to people with allergies?

            1. Hedgehog*

              But would it be somehow preferable for them not to disclose that risk? Forget the store’s liability, what about the person who actually has an allergic reaction? They are going to be wishing a disclosure had been posted.

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                What is the person with an allergy supposed to do? I’m asking seriously. If even the grocery store is saying they can’t guarantee safety, where do you go? Hunting in the woods? All three grocery store chains near me have the same disclaimer.

                1. CMart*

                  I think there’s a leap you’re making that putting up a disclaimer sign means they’re simultaneously throwing their hands in the air and suddenly stopping following any of the procedures they had in place to avoid cross contamination.

                  It’s a CYA for sure, but I don’t think “we can’t 100% promise an errant spritz of marinade somehow misted through the air over this particular ham” means they aren’t still doing their best to have clean, sanitized surfaces and preparation tools. From my own experience working in restaurants, it’s just a way of saying “we’re doing what we can and want you to be safe, but if one molecule of your allergen will kill you then uh, don’t sue us because that’s too high of a bar to clear. Purchase at your own discretion”.

                  And as Hedgehog asked: would you rather not be informed that a peanut-based (or w/e) marinade is prepared 20 feet away down the line? Surely more information is better in this regard.

                2. Observer*

                  There are always other places. There are, for instance, plenty of places that do NOT do marinades, or keep the raw stuff completely separate from anything cooked.

                  Of course, it’s your decision what to buy and where. But, if someone really has an allergy, they need to know this.

                3. Zombii*

                  I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but you’re concern-trolling a really giant leap to say grocery stores posting warnings are somehow similar to refusing to sell you food, and I think you’ve upset yourself into not seeing the options you truly do have. If I was severely allergic to any of the things they warned about, I would probably purchase meat that had been packaged before it got to the store (Tyson, Jenny-O, anything in the freezer section, etc) instead of anything that was touched by store employees. (If I was so allergic that I couldn’t even touch an outer packaging that may have been contaminated, I think I would be dead long before I made it to the raw meat aisle.)

        5. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          That’s also why you see statements like “Produced in a plant that also processes [common allergen]” on food labels, though the food in question isn’t made with said allergen.

        6. Observer*

          I have some odd food sensitivities. And, I really appreciate when someone does what the Chef did here, because some of the sensitivities are worse than others. So, if you tell me that x is all over the place even when it’s not an official ingredient, I’ll probably avoid eating. But if you tell me “we don’t put Y in this dish, but it’s flying around” I’ll be ok. Avoiding these foods is a medical necessity, but the level exposure matters.

      2. Antilles*

        It’s also tricky because gluten isn’t a specific food group the way other allergies are. So people who aren’t GF themselves don’t realize just how prevalent it is. If you’re allergic to shellfish, then I know pretty well that we shouldn’t pick a seafood place…whereas if you’re allergic to gluten, I’ll know not to order pasta, but might not realize that it’s a buried ingredient in various artificial flavors or artificial coloring.

        1. Sadie Doyle*

          Exactly. And just because something usually doesn’t contain it doesn’t mean that it ALWAYS doesn’t contain it (even before you take things like cross contamination into play). My mom (who has celiac) got sick from wheat flour in plain vanilla ice cream. (Obviously, she should have read the label before eating it, but she had been lulled into a false sense of security because of past experiences. Just shows that you never know.)

          1. many bells down*

            I said earlier that my husband bought himself a plain chocolate bar last week. The first ingredient was wheat. It’s snuck into all sorts of things. Seasoning mixes are always tricky; those seat salt and cracked pepper fries don’t JUST have salt and pepper, they have those things mixed into flour and used as a coating.

      3. Alton*

        Ideally, though, I think the answer is to follow people’s lead and try to avoid assuming. My understanding is that celiac can vary in severity, and honestly, my first thought when I do encounter someone who mentions that they’re having a cheat day is that their condition may be mild enough right now that they can afford to do that, and that they know how to manage it better than I do. I wouldn’t take for granted that this makes it okay to give them gluten without warning them.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Yeah, and even people with more severe allergies will cheat sometimes. I have an ex- with celiac who would eat a sub every couple of months even though it meant a few hours of agony, because he just freaking loved sandwiches and hated GF bread. My sister is allergic to chocolate but will risk the hives and rash for a special occasion.

      4. GF OP*

        I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they sympathize because they’re “trying to avoid wheat too”. I usually just smile, agree and move on.

    3. Bostonian*

      I agree. In an ideal world, everybody would be able to make the necessary precautions so OP could cook/prepare food, too. However, for her own safety, it’s probably more realistic to ask for prepackaged items (canned soup, granola/protein bars, etc., as long as you provide a list of “safe” brands). Honestly, as someone who has had dietary restrictions for years, I’m usually more than happy to have “less” food than others as long as I get something. You don’t have to resolve to opting out completely!

    4. Decima Dewey*

      My library system has an annual All Staff Day meeting. Your meal ticket is your proof you showed up, and you can’t leave the building (except to feed the parking meter) until the end. One guy with celiac demanded a lunch he could actually eat. They served him a wan green salad. Not only gluten free, virtually food free.

  6. KEG*

    As an admin that has had to order for both medical and preference based diets, this can be hard to do. In particular it makes it harder to order for a group because you have to order individual meals and not all places have a lot of options for that. I’m sure they an accommodate it on take out days, but do your orderer a favour and pick out your own meal. It’s super annoying when people at our office say I can’t eat X, Y, Z, you figure it out. If you push too much about the groceries and the kitchen I’ll guess they’ll just remove this perk all together.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I work with a client who has handled this beautifully. Here’s the email I saw them send out about this recently (identifying details changed/removed):

      You might not have noticed, but our team has grown by ELEVENTY BILLION people this year, and with that awesome growth, our food preferences now span a very wide spectrum: I’m talking paleo to vegan!

      Within that spectrum, we’re finding it hard to find catering that can please everyone, so here’s our solution for meetings in the future:
      We will still try really hard to select food options where everyone on our team can find something to eat;
      We will provide you with the menu(s) ahead of time; and
      If you will not get enough nutrition from those menus, you can feel free to order your own food (no judgment!) on us. We just ask that you let X know you’re doing so ahead of time so we can adjust numbers for our caterers.
      We’re going to try this out for (meeting) next week! Below you will find the planned menus, and we’d love for you to look them over, see if the meals work for you, and, if not, give X a heads up by Tuesday morning at the latest.

      1. Saturnalia*

        Gah this would have been so wonderful to hear!! Love this approach, word choice, everything.

      2. Princess Carolyn*

        Love this attitude, and it seems like a reasonable amount of additional effort to keep everyone happy — especially if these meals are handled by a designated admin and not as a one-off duty for someone whose job is totally unrelated to handling events and meals.

        I know of at least one company that asks for dietary restrictions (in addition to preferred gender pronouns!) during onboarding. Not sure how that plays out when it’s time to get get food, but at least they care to ask! This company’s employees are mostly in New York, DC, and Los Angeles, so I suspect they have plenty of takeout and catering options available.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        The “we will provide you with the menus ahead of time and you can order other food” is a huge help, because the one thing that made me go bonkers when I was trying to feed friends for a gaming group was “oh, just make sure you order me something gluten free/nut-free/vegan!”

        Because I don’t know what’s likely to have hidden gluten/nuts/dairy-or-meat. I don’t know that I need to check whether the Mongolian beef with rice noodles has been dusted with flour before frying; I don’t know that many Thai dishes need to be checked for peanut sauce; I don’t know that the vegetarian risotto probably still has butter and cheese. (Well, now I do. But I didn’t at the time.)

        Whereas if I’d said, “We’re ordering from this place. Here’s a menu. Tell me what you can eat,” life would have been SO much easier.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This seems like a reasonable and sensible compromise. I wish folks would save this and copy/paste it into their future planning emails.

      5. Squeeble*

        What I really love about this email is that the language is positive and warm–it doesn’t treat the food accommodations like a big annoying chore that they *have* to slog through, but just as an inclusive and fair change to meeting operations. Nice work!

    2. Lora*

      When I had to have lunch brought in for clients, I solved this problem by shopping around for caterers until I found two who could accommodate the various preferences, reviewed a set of menus, and then set them up with my corporate card so all I had to do was send an email 24 hours in advance that said how many people and whether it was to be a hot meal or cold.

      Took about half a day to find them, but totally worth it when I realized I’d been spending at least that every two weeks running around setting up client lunches. Cost about $12-15/person, which is very reasonable as corporate lunches go in New England. It took me five minutes to find out how many people and send the email, and then, like magic, at 11:45 the next day there was a buzz from the front desk saying the food is here can I please let them in. And everyone got to eat.

      If you have a Roche Bros. near you, they will set up the food and keep it all separate and carefully wrapped and whatnot. They’re really good about that.

  7. Workfromhome*

    Absolutely they should fix up the take out order issue. Allowing you to order on your own shouldn’t be an imposition. The kitchen thing is unfortunately a different issue. The stocked kitchen is a perk. But using that perk is not a job requirement. If someone is pouring gluten on your desk where you have to sit and work then yes they need to accommodate that so you can work.

    You can certainly ask people to make reasonable efforts to clean up after themselves in a company kitchen. But to ensure no cross contamination doesn’t strike me as something that would be possible. Unless they provide you with your own kitchen it can’t be 100%.

  8. Falling Diphthong*

    If cross-contamination is a big problem, then that would seem to knock out a lot of options just because you can’t be sure if the cutting board they used for the salad had something with wheat on it earlier. I would suggest that whatever accommodation you make in your private life is reasonable to try and cross over to work–with just bringing your own food if there’s a question being the default I’m familiar with. (Especially for kids who had food intolerances–bringing your own cupcake beats a trip to the ER.)

    So if you can usually eat takeout fine so long as it’s from a gluten-free sub-menu at a normal restaurant, then it’s reasonable to either have a set order from each place that you can eat, or to have the food person tell you “next week is Judy’s Diner” and you can get back to them with the dish they should order for you. If cross-contamination is enough of a problem that you are hesitant about takeout then that’s just a food issue that means you bring your own food, like someone I knew who couldn’t have distilled vinegar.

    Though…. if you’re able to eat takeout without problems outside of work, and the only problem is a determinedly clueless food orderer, then this is in a sticky space between the food person being unreasonable, but if you squeak so loudly management decides that taking everyone’s food is the solution then the office will turn on you as the reason they can’t have nice things anymore, which is not a good way to have everyone identify you.

  9. animaniactoo*

    I think in part this depends on how much your co-workers are using those groceries to make food for themselves during the week. If it’s something most people are relying on then I think you have an avenue to asking about something like being able to keep a separate mini fridge for your stuff and asking to add some yogurts or stuff like that which are sealed and can’t be contaminated.

    But otherwise, I think this is something that just sometimes – we get stuck with the drawbacks of our ailments and recognize that it’s not fair to ask others to bear the cost of them (too much).

    However, on the take-out days – I would definitely address that. I would approach it by asking what can be done to resolve it – acknowledging that it is tricky to deal with but that the current method isn’t working because several times you’ve gotten a meal that you can’t eat and that’s a waste of the company’s money and effort on your behalf. Plus, then you’re hungry and aggravated and have to go find food when you thought it was taken care of, so what you’d like to do is see if it would work if you could order separately or what other solution can be worked out that would mean that you get food you can eat when the company is ordering lunch for you.

    1. Kate 2*

      Yeah, I don’t have a medical condition that really prevents me from having the soda and candy our office has as a perk. Except for the obesity issues that run in my family and my own hypoglycemia.

      But I also don’t like candy and I don’t like the soda brands that they offer. It really sucks watching somebody hoover up handfuls of candy and drink can after can of soda, thinking how much I would enjoy a tenth of the money’s worth they are eating to spend on a single piece of chocolate or one soda in the brand I like once in a while. Or really good tea or yogurt or fruit.

      But this is what my company chooses to offer, it is what most people here enjoy. So I just accept it, knowing I am usually going to be the odd person out in this area.

      1. Zombii*

        Have you tried mentioning to anyone that you’re not into the high-sugar/empty calories options and asking if there might be alternatives available they’d be willing to try?

        When I worked somewhere that spent a good portion of their “employee engagement fund” on filling candy dishes, someone requested that they also have healthy snacks available. Next order, they had candy like usual but also small bags of pretzels, crackers, nuts, fruit snacks with 100% fruit juice, fruit cups, things like that. The healthy snacks disappeared immediately, because it turns out people who eat anything they see out of boredom will eat anything, not just candy.

  10. Jesmlet*

    I think you’re going to have to give up on the ability to use the kitchen if cross-contamination concerns are that significant, or at least put it off until they’re a little more aware. They should be able to accommodate your take-out needs though and any groceries that don’t require preparation. I’d definitely bring it up and give them a very clear list on what is and isn’t okay

    1. paul*

      Yeah, if OP is *that* allergic, that having her food on a counter that recently had bread on it (but was briefly wiped down afterwards) is going to make them sick…ADA stuff gets weird, but a full disinfection/deep clean every day after most people eat lunch a pretty damn big request for accommodation .

  11. Lily Rowan*

    The company should definitely pay for your take-out on those days even if it’s separately ordered. That’s just rude.

    I can see the kitchen/groceries being harder to figure out, so if that’s not the hill you’re willing to die on, it’s a total bummer for you, but doesn’t seem to me to be as bad as the takeout thing.

  12. Liz*

    I choose to be vegan and bc my son is GF it is just easier to be GF too at home. I think Allison’s suggestions to ask for say a certain nutrition bar or apples or similar as part of the food prep order and to ask to be able to order your own food on take out days is right. I know people get things wrong all the time, like it only has a little chicken in it or it was cooked in butter, you can eat it, right? They go out of their way to make food for me that I don’t eat. It is frustrating on all sides. Good luck.

  13. Cyndi*

    Hi OP,
    I’m a Celiac as well. What kind of food is being delivered from the grocery? Is there a possibility that they can deliver packed gluten-free foods, e.g. TV dinners, freezer dinners, etc? Whole fruits?

    Is there also a possibility for them to get you a kitchen cart so you can prepare your own food? Your own microwave? That might be easier to them than going without taking advantage of the perks, and you can also say “Hey, unfortunately I can’t take a part in the food and the facilities because of XYZ, is it possible to have ABC?”

    It’s difficult navigating the office environment as a Celiac… it takes a lot of work! Your work might be more accommodating if they’re bringing in food all the time.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      Is airborne cross contamination an issue in microwaves? My office is good about making sure the microwave stays physically clean. I always have my gluten free food on a plate that I cover but I get nervous microwaving it right after someone else microwaved something gluteny.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        It depends on the allergy. For allergies involving volatile oils, it can be. For other allergies it may or may not be, if you wipe out and air out the microwave between uses (and not just when it looks dirty, but between uses even if it looks clean). I don’t know about gluten; I know it can be a problem with peanut and allium allergies.

      2. Cyndi*

        Microwaves? Not for airborne as a Celiac, but if it’s a crumby mess inside or on the handle, it’s a risk. I get triggered when I see crumbs of any kind.

        1. Cyndi*

          The only times airborne is really an issue is like in bakeries or pizzerias or any places with wheat growing or processing, especially when there’s flour floating in the air.

  14. AW*

    Even if the kitchen issues can’t be resolved, I agree that the take-out part is fixable.

    Is the food organizer getting told when your food is inedible and/or missing? I’m not clear on how exactly your orders are getting messed up but either way do they know they’re getting it wrong? (Or possibly the place they’re ordering it from is messing up but she’s putting in the order right.)

    It’s OK to speak up on this. What’s the point of spending the money if you can’t eat the food, right?

    1. AMPG*

      It’s tough, because the takeout part SHOULD be the easiest thing to fix, but because it involves human error and working relationships, it will probably require a fairly delicate approach. But I do think it’s worth pushing back at least a little.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I don’t understand the food organizer at all. If you are organizing food for people, shouldn’t you know a thing or two about how food allergies, etc., work?

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah but it’s not THAT hard to learn about how food allergies work. Everyone who has one and their mothers know how they work and a lot of us with friends with allergies knows how they work. My friend’s younger kid has a nut allergy and her older kid has been asking restaurants about their nut policy since she was about 8. Since this is part of this person’s *job*, it should be a requirement that this person figure it out.

  15. CityMouse*

    I am sympathetic to OP but I don’t think there is an easy workaround here. A close friend of mine has celiac and it is so, so easy to cross contaminate without meaning too, so many things you wouldn’t think of have gluten in them and the slightest mistakes and cause cross contamination. Based on this, if I were OP I wouldn’t trust the food unless it was kept totally separate where no one else can access it, and given the kitchen situation I am not sure that is reasonable. It is tough.

  16. GraceW*

    I’ve worked with people who kept kosher and they didn’t use the communal kitchen and didn’t seem to have any issues. Not everything will work for everybody.

    1. MV*

      This is were I fall. There are many perks at work that I cannot take advantage off, that save my coworkers hundreds each month. I don’t request something different that I can use in the place though.

      But the take out food, I think you should have a talk with the person ordering, it sounds like you can be easily accommodated but they are making errors in ordering.

  17. NoWheatPete*

    Hi OP-
    I understand how frustrating and sometimes isolating this can feel. I’m not celiac, but I have an anaphylactic reaction to wheat. I’m talking one crumb transferred from wheat bread to my food can make me start to swell up like the Hindenberg. I’ve known of this allergy for over 20 years now, so I get what you are going through. I’ve never been able to eat at family reunions or work events, etc. I am now working at a company that provides a lot of snacks and meals as a perk. 99.9% of the time I can’t enjoy them, but I just bring my own safe meal from home and have a good attitude. I try to focus on how grateful I am to know about the allergy and remaining grateful that I can find and provide foods that don’t make me sick. It’s my dietary restriction and I take ownership of it. I always thank organizers of an event for their work, even if I couldn’t eat because they aren’t responsible for my body. It’s always a pleasant surprise when I can participate in the treats because I don’t expect them.

  18. Stellaaaaa*

    This gets tricky if the company is providing the food to ensure that the employees don’t leave for lunch, or to give the appearance of staff appreciation in lieu of more expensive things like raises and benefits. While no one else there has severe allergies, there are bound to be people who don’t particularly care for the food that’s being ordered, or who have minor intolerances that force them to order the same thing every time. (This is why meat-eaters often jump on new vegetarian options – it kinda sucks being limited to deli meat and having your boss act like you should be grateful.) Your employer is likely going to want to avoid a situation where they’re paying for everyone to order whatever they want from whichever deli/cafe/grocery store they want, since that’s not saving them money anymore.

    I’d approach the conversation with alternative ideas in mind. Could they keep you stocked on the tea or k-cups you like? Could they order your choice of snack bars or popcorn to keep at your desk?

  19. B*

    As someone who orders food for a lot of dietary types the takeout issue should not be an issue. If you know where they are ordering from ahead of time tell the person placing the order what you would like. If you cannot eat from that option due to cross contamination I would check with your supervisor if they can make an accommodation for you to order from somewhere else on those days.

    For the groceries, give the person ordering a list of pre-packaged items you can eat. This way you are safe and the person ordering can just look at the list and pick it out. Makes things much easier on both ends.

    If nothing helps I do suggest talking to your supervisor regarding this.

  20. Paloma Pigeon*

    Hi there, overprotective mom of food allergy kid here. My suggestions:

    1) a small separate fridge, kept near your workspace or separately in the kitchen, just for individuals with allergies/celiac (there are many of you and this should be not be an issue) and labeled clearly: NO GLUTEN/DAIRY Fridge (etc.)
    2) Ditto Toaster Oven/Toaster/Microwave – again, clearly labeled.
    3) Ample supply of paper/reusable plates/utensils. There are many types that are recyclable.
    4) Bring a good cleaner that you trust and keep with you to help wipe down surfaces – it’s a small thing but will go a long way toward making you feel comfortable.
    3) Bulk ordering of foods that have good shelf life – my son likes Ener-G foods (You can order on Amazon) and the bread stays shelf stable for months. Ditto Enjoy Life cookies, etc.

    Good luck!

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I can’t speak for every single person’s individual medical situation, but I have a hard time understanding the contamination issues of using the same fridge, and I have food allergies too. If you put a closed container in the fridge and nobody touches it, the allergens that exist outside that container in the fridge shouldn’t have any possible way to get inside it! Unless the fridge is extremely dirty, to a degree that would disturb healthy people too, I don’t see the problem here. Same with microwave, if the food is covered with something clean, I don’t understand what could go wrong there.

      1. deets*

        Maybe skin contamination? I used to babysit a kid with severe nut allergies, and he once had a reaction because one of his classmates got peanut butter on something in the classroom, which allergic kid then touched. (This resulted in his classroom being nut-free until the kids were old enough to understand how careful to be with hand washing and whatnot.) I’m not sure about the staying power of gluten, though.

      2. Hedgehog*

        And on the other hand if cross contamination is enough of an issue that a separate fridge and microwave are necessary, I wouldn’t trust my life to people knowing what does/doesn’t have gluten. If the other microwave is in use, someone could easily decide to microwave, say, their Chinese takeout leftovers thinking, “The carb here is rice, which is gluten free, I’m good to use the GF microwave” not knowing that there is gluten in the soy sauce they just doused it with (or any number of other potential hidden sources of gluten).

        1. AfterBurner313*

          Unless you have ultra exceptional people at your work place….

          If the mini fridge and microwave can’t be kept in MY office, you know some lug nut with be microwaving lasagna, and turning the microwave into a crime scene.

          People will go the extra mile for kids. No one truly cares about adults with food allergies (anaphylaxis). The best you can hope for is they only view you as a PITA, and keep their opinions to themselves.

          *Coast and really urban areas may be different. Here nightmare.

      3. Zombii*

        I think the separate fridge is a visual cue to help avoid cross-contamination that could happen outside the fridge to otherwise gluten-free foods that don’t stay gluten-free during typical use in a communal kitchen (like if someone is putting mayo on a sandwich and gets breadcrumbs in the mayo—this is avoided by having a separate jar of “gluten-free” mayo in the separate gluten-free fridge).

      4. Agnodike*

        You touch your sandwich, then you touch the outside of the sandwich bag without having washed your hands in between. Normal, right? Now the sandwich bag has gluten on it. Then the person with celiac disease touches your sandwich bag to move it out of the way. Now they have gluten on their hands. Then they pick up an apple to eat. It really can take such tiny trace amounts to make somebody sick. Reactions to a concentration of 10 ppm have been documented.

        Or the peanut butter lives in the regular fridge, and someone dips a knife in it, spreads it on a Saltine, then puts the knife back in the jar. Easy to do without thinking. If you’ve got gluten-free peanut butter in the gluten-free fridge, that doesn’t happen.

        All that being said, I can’t imagine any office buying separate kitchen equipment for someone’s allergy. I think having your own fridge at work and your own cutting board/knife/other food prep stuff, and wiping everything down before you use counter space is the best you can hope for. It sucks to have a food restriction (I have celiac disease, so well I know it!) but my view is pretty much that it’s just life. I wish I was taller, too.

        I do think that if they’re ordering food, whether groceries or take-out, it’s reasonable for you to be included in that. Maybe make a list of comparable GF options and give it to whoever does the ordering?

  21. Sara*

    I think the take out order can be corrected (though the kitchen thing seems a little harder to course correct since that’s several people using it not just one) if you’re willing to strong arm educate the person in charge of ordering. Frequently I think people believe that allergies or intolerances are ‘made up’ to get special treatment – have you tried getting a note from a doctor and explaining what will happen if you’re eating something your body can’t process? If you’ve blatantly laid out the real life medical issue with the wrong orders, I feel like they’re being willfully ignorant at that point and I’d honestly complain about the wrong orders. They’re wasting money special ordering for you if s/he can’t manage to get it right. The grocery and cross contamination kitchen thing, you may have to walk away from though.

    1. Erin*

      I agree. I think your compromise is that you can get the take out food but won’t be able to participate in the groceries/kitchen thing. I would only bring a doctor’s note though if you think it’s really necessary (which maybe it is).

  22. Princess Carolyn*

    The take-out part is absolutely worth asking about. If the office typically orders from certain restaurants/caterers, it might help to go through those menus and point out the specific dishes OP can have. (I have a feeling the food organizer understands “no gluten” but is confused about which foods have gluten, or doesn’t understand the difference between “gluten sensitive” and “gluten free.”)

    As for the kitchen: Are there some prepackaged foods OP could request that could at least serve as snacks? I can see how preparing a full meal on shared surfaces might not be realistic, but having some string cheese (or whatever) on hand might feel more inclusive and convenient than avoiding the kitchen altogether.

    OP may be the only employee with a food sensitivity right now, but between turnover/new hires and existing employees developing/discovering new sensitivities, this is likely to come up again and it’s worth trying to accommodate people.

  23. Mary Dempster*

    Maybe it was just a turn of phrase to make it more readable, but I thought gluten intolerant was not a thing? You either have Celiacs, or you don’t.

    My sister, for example, claims she’s gluten intolerant – but she’s not. She can eat things that share a fryer with gluten products and doesn’t worry about cross-contamination(though that seems to be a worry here), and has never had it confirmed by a doctor, only a ‘holistic practitioner’ – the same guy who told me I had more “issues with your father because of the tenseness differentiation on the left and right sides of my body” – which was so incorrect I snorted, walked out, and never went back. She also claims she know this because pasta and bread makes her tired – like… like everyone else in the world.

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      People use the different terms veru inconcistently so we can’t deduce anything from that. Gluten free people include people with celiac disease, wheat allergy (in varying degrees of severity), irritable bowel, gluten sensitivity (which I believe is recognized by at least some medical experts to be a real thing but everyone agrees that we don’t know much about it), people who for unknown reasons feel better without gluten, and people who follow a fad diet. Based on the fact that OP has to think about cross contamination, they probably have either celiac disease or severe wheat allergy.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What you’re describing doesn’t hinge on whether a person has celiac disease or does not. It hinges on how their body interacts with a food. I suspect you’re disinclined to believe your sister because you think her diagnostician is a crank, but gluten intolerance is “a thing” in the medical sense.

      Gluten intolerance doesn’t mean a person has celiac disease; it means they can eat gluten, but they feel much better when they do not. Cross-contamination is not a concern because, generally, food intolerance is a gastrointestinal issue. And that intolerance can certainly have an effect on things like how congested, groggy, or tired you feel. But the fact that it isn’t a full-blown allergy doesn’t mean it’s “not a thing” in the medical sense.

      A gluten allergy or celiac disease is distinct because both are related to immune system problems. The former is an immune system attack on an otherwise “benign” contaminant, and the latter is an autoimmune disorder in which consumption results in the body attacking its own organs.

      So the modalities are completely different, and the severity of a person’s response can also be different. An allergy isn’t the same thing as celiac disease, but both can be very serious. Or a person could be mildly allergic (as paul describes upthread) but develop a more severe allergy as time goes by.

      1. A Cita*

        Perfectly stated. Thank you. And also thank you for better clarifying the how each relates to immune system problems.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      My sense is that Celiac is autoimmune/allergy (or in that ballpark) whereas intolerance is “it won’t kill me but the side effects aren’t cute.” I think it’s perfectly acceptable to self-diagnose an intolerance. If you know that certain foods bug your stomach, it’s reasonable to decide on your own that you don’t want to eat them anymore. People in this category have no trouble digesting gluten-free food that shared a cooking space with gluten.

      As for your sister, she may be lying, or she may have found that she feels better if she skips the gluten. You don’t need a doctor to tell you if bread gives you stomach aches.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        There are a great many studies that show how you think about what you’re eating affects how your body reacts to what its eating. In other words, psychosomatic symptoms.

        So, self-diagnoses of allergies and intolerances are frequently inaccurate.

        1. fposte*

          The other problem is that a lot of people have reactions to wheat that aren’t necessarily to gluten, but they don’t realize that it’s other components that are bothering them when gluten’s getting all the press.

          1. A Cita*

            Why does it matter though? It’s easier to choose gluten free options than to suss out which particularly thing is triggering your autoimmune response (if you suffer from an autoimmune disorder) or immune response (if it’s an allergy) or if that particular thing is in your food item. It’s an easy shortcut. The specifics of an individuals medical situation doesn’t really matter to the outside observer.

            1. Zombii*

              It’s generally better to be correct about your autoimmune and allergy triggers, so if someone has an allergic reaction, they should usually get testing to pinpoint the trigger instead of assuming they knew what it was (there are also some weird food similarities that aren’t obvious: people with allergies to mushrooms are more likely to also have banana allergies, frex).

              Not trying to diagnose someone’s health condition on the internet, but in general, if someone is getting tired after a massive influx of bread and pasta (carbs), that’s more symptomatic of high blood sugar, and should also probably get checked with a doc. Going gluten-free will help with that because many high-carb foods have wheat gluten, but it doesn’t address the cause. Since wheat gluten is highly visible, it’s more likely to blamed for the “heavy, sleepy” feeling from too many carbs while ignoring a similar result after eating rice or potatoes or corn tortillas or ice cream or fruit, etc.

              Obviously, if someone doesn’t have the resources to pursue this, cutting out potential allergens is better than doing nothing, and I’m not making specific recommendations to any specific person, just the general statement that seeking medically-accurate information about one’s own health is a good baseline to follow. /PSA

            2. fposte*

              Belatedly, in case you’re subscribing since I just happened on it: it doesn’t matter to me personally, but if your problem is with, say, inulin (very common), gluten-free doesn’t mean you can safely eat it.

        2. Stellaaaaa*

          I still don’t see a problem with that. There’s no point in trying to logic people into ingesting foods that they don’t want to eat. People are annoying. It’s life. I’ve dealt with worse than someone opting out of eating my pizza.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            The problem is when it becomes a fad and the people with a real medical issue are lumped in with the people partaking in the fad.

            1. A Cita*

              Except that’s not actually much of a problem. People with gluten sensitivities, wheat allergies, and celiac disease often are very appreciative of the new options now available in stores and restaurants now that the fad has made carrying those things profitable, even if some waiters are jerks. I suspect many people who have an issue with the fad are people who don’t actually suffer from these debilitating issues.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Many of my friends with celiac disease have mixed feelings about GF being a fad (granted, the sample size is very small, and this is purely anecdotal).

                They’re ecstatic there are more options and more delicious/affordable options. But they’re frustrated with how much more work they have to do to defend the fact that they need a GF meal. My impression is that they have more options in the grocery store, and slightly more options at restaurants. But when I hear that they’re frustrated, it sounds like it’s in the context of restaurant-eating. They’ve noted that in the past, when their condition was seen as “rare” and many people did not elect to eat GF, they were accommodated much more readily than they are, now.

                1. A Cita*

                  I’ve conducted research interviews on this. The evidence collected thus far suggests more people feel the benefits outweigh the the few issues they’ve had at restaurants.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  I’ve only had one restaurant act as though it was OK to label cross-contaminated stuff as “gluten-free” because they were accommodating those “many more” people who just want to avoid gluten for obscure health reasons

                  Everywhere else, I’ve had waiters say stuff like, “Oh, for really strict, medical stuff, eat these foods / we’ll take these steps.”

                  Every time anyone talks about “fad gluten free,” they ACKNOWLEDGE that “medical gluten free” exists. I call that a win!

            2. Stellaaaaa*

              It goes both ways though. I lose patience with ~artisanal food joints that refuse to make simple food modifications unless you state that you have an allergy. I don’t like peanuts. It takes no effort for these Important Chefs to simply not put nuts on my salad, but they’ll insist on adding them unless I state an allergy. I’m the one paying for the food, I tip well, and I’ll say whatever I have to say to make sure I’m getting food I enjoy.

            3. TootsNYC*

              “The problem is when it becomes a fad and the people with a real medical issue are lumped in with the people partaking in the fad”.

              why is this a problem?

              How about we all assume–for practical purposes in real life–that people are entitled to control what they eat. And when they ask for food without X ingredients, let’s just shut up and give them that food.

              And let’s leave the scientific, diagnostic stuff to the scientists.

          1. cleverhandle*

            One only has to get tested if it is needed to identify an effective treatment/management strategy, or perhaps to receive an official diagnosis for insurance purposes. Otherwise, for all practical purposes, the observation that certain foods make one feel bad can be enough to identify an intolerance or allergy.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        In celiac disease gluten won’t kill you immediately, but may cause severe symptom and also every exposure increases your cancer risk in the future so it may kill you eventually. Wheat allergy on the other hand can be immediately lethal but it can also cause a less serious reaction like a rash or stomach pain. And the people whose stomach just doesn’t like gluten for some reason, won’t die immediately or later but they may spend a big part of that day or the next day in the toilet which also is a thing you’d want your employees to avoid.

      3. KR*

        Kind note that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and not an allergy. Essentially it means that wheat causes the villi in your intestine to die, damaging your intestine and making it impossible over time for you to absorb nutrients. Late stage celiac disease looks like someone eating and eating and usually immediately needing to use the bathroom and never gaining weight because the villi just aren’t absorbing anything. Long term gluten exposure can result in increased cancer risks for those with celiac too.

        1. A Cita*

          Yes, thank you. And gluten intolerance that is not Celiac is being found to be connected with to other autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases often create a cascading effect in the body with inflammatory responses and other issues, which often do involve the digestive track. It’s very complicated, and the clinical research on it is in its infancy.

    4. KellyK*

      My understanding is that the only known medical cause of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, but that people can have other issues with wheat. Wheat allergies exist, and there are people who have indigestion or other unpleasant symptoms when they eat wheat. It’s not necessarily the gluten that’s the problem in those cases, but a lot of those people will ask for “gluten free” because it’s what people recognize.

      Also, just because someone doesn’t have to worry about cross-contamination doesn’t mean that wheat doesn’t legitimately make them feel ill. It’s just a different level of sensitivity.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        A straight up gluten allergy is a thing, but it is very rare compared to celiac disease.

        1. KellyK*

          That makes sense. I had thought that most wheat allergies weren’t related to gluten specifically, but if it’s a protein, you can be allergic to it.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        I would posit that, bodies being bodies, it’s reasonable to expect that some bodies might have trouble digesting some foods more than others, even in the absence of an intolerance.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            For the same reason that my poor athleticism isn’t called an activity intolerance. 1) because easily manageable things do not need labels or diagnoses, and 2) because no one’s body is baseline middle-of-the-road perfect in every respect. My pizza digestion is 10/10. If my burrito digestion is 8/10, does that warrant a diagnosis?

            1. TootsNYC*

              So you’re saying “intolerance” is a medical term?

              Why can’t lay people use it too? Why can’t my MIL say, “I have a bell pepper intolerance”? It makes her feel crappy and gives her gas. People should respect that.

        1. KellyK*

          Oh, absolutely. Bodies are complicated. I have IBS, which is a perfect example of this. (I’m sure there are others that don’t have a shiny medical diagnosis attached to them, and, like you said in your next post, things only get labels if they’re medically significant.)

          There are things that will make me horribly sick if I have even a little, but there are also things that are okay only in small quantities, or only if there aren’t other triggers present.

          Another fun complication is that allergies are pretty straightforward. There are both blood and skin allergy tests that can determine whether your body reacts to a specific allergen or not. Intolerances are…fuzzier. The doctor-recommended method of identifying IBS trigger foods is to cut out all the common triggers and anything else you have issues with. Then, once you’ve felt okay for a few days, add a single thing at a time to see if you tolerate it. So I’ve been trying to figure out things like “Do I react to all peppers, or just chiles?” and “Did that pork chop make me sick because I have issues with pork, or was it just too fatty?”

      3. Observer*

        I posted the link elsewhere, but it is actually the case that non-celiac gluten intolerance is actually a real thing. Or perhaps a better way of putting it is that they symptoms – and apparently the long term damage – is the same as with celiac but without the markers used in the standard blood tests.

        But you are correct. Allergy to wheat is a very common issue, and people can have different levels of sensitivity.

    5. Kate 2*

      Ha, your sister sounds like a relative of mine! Has your sister tried to test you yet for food allergies by having you hold the food item to your chest and trying to push your other arm down?

    6. A Cita*

      Gluten sensitivity without Celiac Disease or a wheat allergy is a real thing. My doctors, numerous tests, and various discharges from EDs after debilitating attacks can attest to that. And I can eat gluten up to a point, before it becomes emergency level (dam you delicious chocolate cake and flaky buttery croissants!). Clinical research on the topic is new and still very much active, definitive conclusions about the supposed “fakeness” by those who do not conduct this research notwithstanding.

    7. Observer*

      but I thought gluten intolerant was not a thing? You either have Celiacs, or you don’t.

      Absolutely not true. Celiac is a disease, but gluten intolerance is a thing on it’s own as well. This is the kind of thing that makes people crazy. If something makes me feel sick, blow up, get rashes or whatever else, PLEASE do not tell me that it can’t be the case. It’s true whether that thing is gluten or nuts or anything else. Just STOP.

      It’s hard enough to deal with issues eating commonly used foods. Having people tell you that YES, you CAN eat that food, because the sensitivity “is not a thing” is crazy making.

        1. KellyK*

          That’s really interesting; thank you for sharing that! With the symptoms being so similar, it sounds like celiac disease has an evil twin (not that celiac is the “good” twin) that doesn’t show up on the blood test. (I know they haven’t narrowed down whether gluten is the culprit yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising when the effects are so similar.)

    8. TootsNYC*

      I’m so pissed off about that “gluten intolerance doesn’t exist” bullshit.

      My MIL feels gassy and uncomfortable when she eats bell peppers. Nobody says to her, “bell pepper intolerance is not a thing” or implies she’s delusional or attention-seeking.

      I think that if people feel better when they avoid gluten, then something is going on.
      Even, quite frankly, if it’s just the placebo effect.

      1. KellyK*

        Absolutely. The placebo effect is a real thing, and people are entitled to not eat any food that makes them feel bad, whatever the reason.

  24. Kyrielle*

    OP, I wish I had better advice for you, because that would drive me around the bend.

    I’m not gluten-free but I do have a wide variety of restrictions; I’m lucky in that cross-contamination isn’t a concern except maybe for lactose-intolerance, and I can take a lactase pill if I’m worried about that. I felt like an outsider when there were meetings with food at my old job, because either there was nothing I could eat, or eventually, there was a salad that I could eat most of. (Without dressing, because it happens I don’t like vinaigrette and all the other options I’m familiar with, I can’t have.)

    But that was…very occasional. I cannot imagine how distancing it would be to watch my coworkers have a meal together every day, and be excluded from that. It’s a two-pronged exclusion – first, I have to pay for my lunches while they don’t (somewhat disappointing!), and second, there’s usually a social component to sharing food / food sources, even if you take them back to your desk after a brief prep or chat. I actually don’t love socialization around food given my diet issues, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like an outsider when everyone else is taking part and I can’t.

    That said, it depends on whether you have ideas for a solution that are something they can reasonably do, without it costing them too much time/energy, and which you can trust them to correctly execute – because your health is more important than your social inclusion.

    The real question is – is there a solution that will feel fair to you and fair to the company? Is there a solution that will work? Is the problem that they are not taking it seriously or paying attention, or is it that the logistical challenges are not small? Can you make the logistical challenges smaller?

    With the takeout, you may be able to look at the place(s) they usually order from and give them a “standing order” for you that they can use, as others have suggested – if they’re willing, that should reduce the logistical challenges to “glance at OP’s list of standing orders and ask for the correct one”.

    But for the grocery days – sadly, I think the challenges of keeping a properly gluten-free kitchen prep area are going to make that one much, much harder – and possibly risky to your health.

  25. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    I have several “medium severe” (not lethal but more than just an annoyance) food allergies and when there is a work thing that involves food being served, I never hesitate to bring that stuff up as I think I deserve to get the same perks as everyone else. I’ve found that things work best when I get direct contact to the food makers, instead of talking about my needs with an admin person. When I’m personally in contact with the restaurant / catering service / whatever, I know that my list of allergies is given to them in correct form, they can ask me if anything is unclear, and most importantly I get a sense of if they have a clue about dealing with special diets. And when a group of work people (or friends as well!) informally go to lunch together, I explain that if they want me to be able to come, then they must choose restaurant A or B but C or D don’t offer anything I could eat. This reasoning is usually understood quite well.

    However my experience is from places where this kind of stuff happens quite rarely. Free food every day is a big deal and going through this hassle to get safe food every single day would be very time-consuming and stressfull. It’s a big perk but I’m not sure if it would be worth all the extra stress so I would probably just eat my own food in that situation if I couldn’t trust 100% that everything is OK. It would also be socially difficult for me to work in a culture where shared food is super important. In a place where everyone eats their own food you don’t need to talk about your allergies all the time which for me is a more valuable perk than free food!

  26. Teach*

    Some pre-planning could certainly help this go better – if the OP knew ahead of time the schedule of take out places, they could do their research ahead of time (talking to the chef, reading labels, etc) and be comfortable in placing a specific food order, preferably not through the designated Food Orderer since that doesn’t seem to be going well.
    For cross-contamination, what “safe” items would make it easier? Ordering pre-packaged items and plain fruits or veggies from the grocery is a common suggestion. If the OP had a small lidded plastic storage box with a cutting board, knife, spreader, serving spoon, etc. that weren’t used by other staff, would that work?
    One of my kids had a very close friend with several severe life-threatening food allergies and we traveled and had sleepovers quite often. Restaurants took some pre-planning to call ahead or look on the websites of a national chain. Health needs always took priority over preferences. Cooking at our house was tougher, because I was worried about cross-contamination, so we had a sealed tote with a “safe” cutting board, knife, spoon, and paper towels. Those items were used to prepare the friend’s snacks and meals (all planned to not have the ingredients, of course) and then washed separately and stored. It worked. I know all people with health issues are different, but there are ways for co-workers and friends to be allies that are not inconvenient at all.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      We had a joking debate at my work about whether that could be a worker’s comp claim. A wasp got into the office building somehow, stung my coworker, and she had an allergic reaction. Luckily, she needed minimal medical treatment but it definitely raised a lot of “what if” questions.

      1. BadPlanning*

        It just occurred to me that I’ve bee stung on the job. I was a student worker in college and a professor was explaining what they needed copied and bam, a wasp like thing stung me on the head. Fortunately, I did not have a strong reaction.

    2. MiaRose*

      Dare I say it? The thought of being trapped in a work environment with bees gives me the hives.

      Seriously, though. I’ve only been stung once by a bee on my finger, and my hand swelled up, and this was when I was a kid. If I got stung now, with all my current list of allergies, I would probably have to pull out my epipen. People around me wonder why I always freak out like scared child when I see a bee (or wasp, hornet or yellow jacket). I tell them I don’t want to chance that my 2nd sting in my lifetime may end up sending me to the hospital. I mean, a simple mosquito bit on my thigh once swelled up to the size of a small plate, and flea bites leave lifelong scars.

    3. KellyK*

      Like, your employer brought in beehives, or random bees are just hanging out in the general vicinity? (I keep bees, so I’m fascinated by the idea of having them at a workplace, but that has to be a nightmare for people who are allergic.)

      1. XK*

        Beehives. My understanding is that the chance of being stung is low, as they are active very early. I did feel as though my mild allergy was shrugged off though.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, the chance of being stung is pretty low unless you’re actually opening up the hives or walking barefoot through fields of clover, but brushing off your mild allergy still seems pretty inconsiderate. (Especially because mild allergies can turn into severe allergies with no warning.)

          If you steer clear of the hives and stay out of the flight path (10 feet or so in front of the hive opening), that should reduce your odds of getting stung. Also, at least with my bees, they seem more prone to stinging when it’s about to rain or it’s obnoxiously hot, so you might want to cut a wider berth around the hives at those times.

          1. XK*

            Thanks for the tips! I’m not terribly concerned – but it was weird being overlooked. Also, when I pointed out that most people learn they are allergic when they get stung, they looked at me like I had two heads. I think it was the attitude that stuck with me more than “oh hey bees are here”

  27. Episkey*

    My friend has a daughter that has celiac. Whenever we have a gathering at my house, I am always willing to make something GF for her, but my friend still brings her own food for her daughter because I cannot make my kitchen GF and she is too afraid of cross-contamination. I totally understand and I feel badly sometimes, but our household is just not GF and so I guess I wouldn’t be able to say with 100% assurances food I made in my house would be GF. I think the communal kitchen issue at the workplace is the same kind of situation. But I do agree with the take out day, you should be able to get something. I’m vegetarian (by choice) and it’s a lot easier to accommodate but occasionally I still get left with no or very little food to eat and it sucks.

    1. Snark*

      Cross-contamination is not a thing with gluten; accidental contamination is, like when the stir fry gets a glunk of soy sauce or there’s artificial caramel color in something, or whatver. My feeling is that the issue is that the groceries are delivered, and those groceries are not selected to be GF, and food is made in the communal kitchen using those ingredients, and OP can’t control whether gluten makes it into the communal lunches.

      Gluten isn’t water or oil-soluble, it’s not volatile, and doesn’t linger on surfaces or in sinks, because it’s a gigantic protein molecule. Unless there’s crumbs or something getting mixed in with your food, your food isn’t going to get contaminated with gluten when it touches your pots and pans and cutting boards and such.

      1. a different Vicki*

        A friend of mine was doing gluten-free Christmas treats for her godson. She made them the day before she did the regular Christmas cookies, to avoid the risk of flour dust getting into one of the gluten-free items.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Given that Christmas cookies are traditionally rolled out in flour, I think that represents a special case and not the norm. Surfaces don’t cross contaminate with gluten. And celiac disease is not an allergic reaction in the same way a nut allergy is, so there isn’t the risk of anaphylactic shock from a trace amount isn’t there.

          1. fposte*

            Unfortunately, there’s cumulative damage in celiac disease, so while there isn’t the risk of anaphylactic shock there is a risk of increased damage to the villi; not everybody heals after going gluten free, either.

              1. TootsNYC*

                yeah, that threshold is about three tiny breadcrumbs.

                And gluten does too persist on surfaces and transfer to new food.

          2. Episkey*

            Her daughter was suffering failure to thrive before they diagnosed her with celiac and finally started growing (but she’s still pretty small) after gluten was removed from her diet/their house. So she is understandably nervous about it.

            1. Snark*

              It’s understandable, yeah, but some parents can take it to an extreme that gets problematic.

              1. TootsNYC*

                this is really judgmental!

                I think we should just let people make their own decisions here.

          3. TootsNYC*

            “Surfaces don’t cross contaminate with gluten.”

            What are you basing this on? Can you point to some credible source?

            Yes, you can wash gluten off of stuff. But some surfaces can’t be cleaned well enough, is what I’ve been told.

            And if you don’t wash the surface off, you can cross contaminate!

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              First off, the definition of cross contamination refers strictly to bacteria. So using it in this manner is imprecise. Given the nature of the conversation, I’m taking cross contamination to mean transfer of enough gluten to cause a health issue. Given the threshold values for such a definition, visible particles of a gluten containing food would have to be present, which Snark already covered.

              The fact that people with celiac disease routinely eat foods prepared in the same kitchens as gluten-containing foods should make this obvious.

              Can you point to a credible source source that shows cross contamination with gluten is a thing?

              1. TootsNYC*

                “First off, the definition of cross contamination refers strictly to bacteria.”
                Ah! So you are interjecting a scientific term into a lay-person debate.

                I think that’s unfair. “Given the nature of the conversation,” the rest of us are taking cross-contamination to mean “touching something that touched gluten.” That’s the ONLY way I’ve heard the term used in conversations about celiac, and I’ve heard that term EVERYWHERE.

                If you are going to suddenly bring a non-layperson definition into a layperson conversation, you should be much more specific.

                I can point to tons of first-person accounts that say, “I used a knife that I didn’t know had been used to spread butter on bread, and I got sick” or “My MIL used her cast-iron pan to make my bacon in, and I got sick because she had used it before to fry hush-puppies.” Every advice site I’ve been to says “you need to use a dedicated colander, because gluten will stick in the little holes and make you sick.”

              2. TootsNYC*

                “The fact that people with celiac disease routinely eat foods prepared in the same kitchens as gluten-containing foods should make this obvious.

                Just as routinely, people with celiac disease are sickened by eating food prepared in the same kitchen as gluten-containing foods.

                What -would- be your name for the transfer of a contaminant (gluten) from one object (hush-puppies) to another (french fries) by being cooked in the same oil? Or from bread to vegetables via a knife?

                Gluten is a sticky protein; it gets sticky in water (that’s why they call it glue-ten; it’s the active substance in flour paste). It clings to whatever it touches.

              3. Observer*

                Well, it’s actually not true that all people will celiac can “routinely” eat foods prepared in the same kitchen as celiac containing foods – unless special care it taken.

                As for the (mis)use of the medical definition in a non-medical discussion, TootsNY covered that already.

  28. Carla*

    I’m really surprised that an office of 50 doesn’t have more allergies! I work in a tiny office and we have a lot of allergies. Our size makes it very easy to be considerate when we order food, luckily. I feel for you, OP. There should be options for everyone.

  29. Snark*

    “and b) the food organizer doesn’t understand intolerances, cross contamination, etc., so there’s a significant educational challenge.”

    This, at least, is pretty simple: organize your own food, either with the food organizer, or taking over as food organizer. Ask your boss if you could be allowed to procure your own food for work events because of your particular requirements, and because you’ve had problems with letting the organizer do it on x, y, and z occasions.

  30. INTP*

    OP, would the company be willing to expense a sort of makeshift kitchen kit that you put together yourself? If you had a large silicone pastry mat, a small cutting board, and a knife with its own sheath (like Kuhn Rikon brand), you could create your own food prep surface at your desk (or in the kitchen, if you felt safe with washing off the mat between uses). It wouldn’t be a full kitchen but would allow you to prepare a lot of things, especially if they also allow you to put some gluten-free packaged items on the order (which I think they should, as well as your own container of common things like peanut butter, if there is some sort of safe storage space available).

    For ordering takeout, I would request to expense meals I ordered myself rather than rely on the person doing the ordering. For one, she already has demonstrated that she doesn’t seem to care and she isn’t going to learn all the things she needs to ask, and do so reliably – that’s hard enough even for someone that is motivated. Two, most restaurants don’t guarantee that anything will be free from cross-contamination, even the gluten free items, and may not have any items for you at all. I think it would be much easier for both sides if you found some places in the same price range as those they usually order from that have options for you and offer to order for yourself and expense it.

  31. MCMonkeyBean*

    I’m not sure if there is anything really that can be done for the groceries in the communal kitchen if cross-contamination is a big issue.

    But for the days with take-out, I think it would be a really reasonable request to ask if you can order your own food from a different restaurant and get reimbursed for it.

  32. Sarah*

    I think the key here is to do your own research on what products/meals would work for you from the grocery/restaurants that are being used. If you just say “Please order me a GF option,” the organizer may misunderstand what this means and order something you can’t have — even if they are trying to accommodate you! If you can scout out the store/call the restaurant and confirm that a particular option will be okay for you, instead you can say “Could we add X item to the grocery order?” or “I have a dietary restriction but I’ve talked to the manager at Sal’s and the greek salad will work for me — could you please include this in the order?”

    The kitchen is difficult because even if everyone is considerate and trying hard, it will be challenging to get 50 people to comply with ANY kitchen-cleaning routine. Since this has the potential to make you sick, I would not count on 50 people to perfectly comply every single time. But, if there are some packaged products you know work for you, I don’t see a problem with asking them to be stocked and then keeping them at your desk so they don’t get accidentally contaminated.

  33. NW Mossy*

    OP, I think the most important part of Allison’s answer is that perks really can’t ever be universal – they’re simply the organization’s best attempt to do something that’s broadly appreciated. Because of that, a perk that happens to be of no value to you isn’t necessarily an effort to slight or exclude you and it’s important not to read it in that light. I know it’s hard sometimes not to, but it’s highly unlikely there’s any malice behind their actions. That’s true even for the food organizer, who on average is more likely to be absentminded than rather than hostile.

    Years ago, my organization used to offer a summer hours program where we could leave at 1pm on Fridays. Due to my shifted schedule and the timing of my bus route, it was essentially worthless to me because while I could leave the office a little early, I couldn’t go much of anywhere until the bus arrived. It was really frustrating at first and I was very put off by the rule that you couldn’t take the equivalent number of hours off at a different time. But ultimately, I was able to let go of the resentment by recognizing that there are other perks here that I value a lot (like an on-site gym with fitness classes) that others can’t take advantage of for their own reasons. If the standard for a perk was “all employees must have equal access/ability to use all perks,” there wouldn’t be any at all.

    1. Sarah*

      I think this is a great point — my workplace has both perks I can (and do!) take advantage of such as free lunchtime yoga classes, a public transit pass, and a bottomless pot of coffee and perks I don’t/can’t take advantage of (various perks for parents, a significant discount for the on-side swimming pool). And no doubt there are others who can’t/don’t do yoga, or live in a place that is inconvenient to transit, and are sensitive to caffeine or hate the taste of coffee, but love the pool and the parental benefits. I mean, to a certain extent, great health coverage is a benefit that’s much more valuable in monetary terms to those with serious illnesses than to those without, but the healthy generally aren’t upset about this.

      Maybe it would be helpful to think about whether there are other perks/benefits your office offers that you ARE able to take advantage of, and perhaps others can’t or don’t get as much benefit from, just to sort of psychologically reframe this a bit? And if you really can’t think of any, maybe make some suggestions or offer to organize something — the type of workplace that is providing that much free food probably has a substantial budget for employee perks and may be totally open to you saying “Hey, I thought it would be nice if we could organize a company softball team with X local league — would the company be open to sponsoring something like this if I get the ball rolling?”

    2. GF OP*

      Yeah I totally agree with you here.

      And I don’t read it as a slight at all – but as others have pointed out, team lunches are a communal/bonding experience. So while it’s unintentional, it’s hard not to feel excluded.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I so agree with this, and with Alison of course:
      “OP, I think the most important part of Allison’s answer is that perks really can’t ever be universal – they’re simply the organization’s best attempt to do something that’s broadly appreciated. Because of that, a perk that happens to be of no value to you isn’t necessarily an effort to slight or exclude you and it’s important not to read it in that light.”

      I have celiac, and sometimes I can eat, and sometimes I can’t. I try to focus on the gesture. And to appreciate it on the times when people do go the extra mile. (Though I did say to the food organizer to not bother w/ GF pizza for me anymore, because I’ve decided I simply can’t risk it, since I don’t know what sorts of contamination procedures have been taken–changing of gloves; flour or dough smearies in the grated cheese; clean pizza cutter; etc.)

  34. Lee*

    I feel for you, OP! I think so many people without gluten allergies have made such a stink about “gluten-free food” that it’s losing it’s impact as a real disease…some people don’t even think it exists (or that celiac disease has been around long before it become trendy to prepare foods without gluten). I sweat there was a KUWTK episode where Kourtney pretended to be allergic to gluten…because it “sounded right” or something.
    Would asking to make your plate before everyone else be okay? That may help in avoiding cross-contamination (although I’m unsure how to account for contamination in the kitchen when the food was made). Sometimes restaurants think gluten-free is just making food with gluten-free ingredients, and don’t think about the cross-contamination from utensils, pots, pans, plates, etc.
    You may be better off asking for a separate accommodation for this and maybe only pick restaurants/places you trust? Good luck

  35. just another day*

    I feel for you, OP. I don’t eat beef, poultry, or pork, so I voluntarily skip the group meals, because it is such a hassle for everyone in the arrangements, so I’d rather skip the benefit than be “that” person in the office.

    We recently hired an employee who has about a dozen food allergies and it has resulted in a significant decrease in the team ordering food – not from any conscious decision, but because the ordering process has become so challenging that it is easier to skip it than to try to make the arrangements. So, essentially the whole team has given up the frequent free lunch benefit just to avoid the hassle of dealing with the allergy prone employee’s restrictions.

    1. Recovering Adjunct*

      As a person who frequently cannot eat at social events, I know if can seem like the team is being “punished” but it’s also an opportunity to develop some empathy for people who deal with this stuff every day. It really sucks to attend work events with food and to be the only person not eat at event after event after event. People notice, they ask questions, and then you’re in this weird place where you feel pressured to disclose a disability… it’s taken a lot of the joy out of gatherings for me. Work events, religious events, celebrations, school events, there are so many places where people with food allergies have to just grin and bear it and be hungry.

  36. Springsteen is the best Boss*

    My roommate is allergic to dairy products. She always tells restaurant servers she is very allergic to all cows milk dairy products (milk, butter, and most cheeses). This afternoon we went to our neighborhood Coney Island family restaurant (it’s a Michigan thing). She ate Greek dishes which we thought were made with goats milk feta cheese and without butter. They were not, and she soon became violently ill.

    It’s bad enough for a restaurant to screw up like this. But for the person who orders the OP’s food to screw up her orders is, IMHO, even worse. As an editorial assistant, I used to order Friday lunches for 25 reporters and editors. I did my best to get everyone’s order correct (and yes, we had a vegetarian and a diabetic in the office). How can a take-out joint get anyone’s order right — especially a special order for someone with serious gluten. problems or allergies — if the order-placer doesn’t? Whoever is placing orders for the OP needs to understand OP isn’t just being trendy; they have a medical problem.

    (And yes, my roommate has also been told “Oh, I wouldn’t like being dairy-free. I like eggs too much.” Which blows my mind. Even though our local grocery stores put eggs in the dairy department.)

  37. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

    I’ve been gluten-free for over six years now. I don’t participate in any of the food-related benefits that my current company has because the risk of eating something is way. At a previous company, I knew the person over the cafeteria, and because it’s a medical setting, the cafeteria staff are prepared to work with food allergies/intolerances. I was able to eat some things there, and she would sometimes make a gluten-free option if it was feasible. I had some success there.

    When I travel, I map out my meals for each day, and pack my own food whenever reasonable (I own a lot of coolers.) I don’t share my water bottle with my gluten-guzzling husband, and consign him to a “gluten counter” at home when he partakes of the forbidden. I pay more for food I can eat, both at the grocery store and at (certain select) restaurants. I sometimes opt out of activities with friends because sometimes I just don’t want to be The Girl Who Can’t Eat Anything So We Have To Go To A Weird Restaurant.

    I say this because by the time I get to the food party at work, bringing my safe lunch to the table where everyone else is eating Qdoba or Red Robin is really not that big of a deal anymore. The Fourth of July sugar cookies that look like American flags? I admire the craftsmanship. The homemade cupcakes because it’s someone’s birthday? How sweet, hope you enjoy. (Though the gluten-ous cupcakes for ME on MY birthday were kind of a punch in the gut, to be honest.)

    It really is just a part of being gluten-free in my mind. It’s reasonable to make sure your boss knows you have an intolerance, and you need a special accommodation, especially for something that is so regular. It is a medical condition, and it is more than fair to ask for consideration. Just be prepared that those will be limited. You’ll never have a gluten-free work kitchen that you can be ABSOLUTELY SURE is gluten-free, but you can control take-out orders and request a restaurant that is safe for you if you all go out together.

    Good luck! You are not alone!

  38. How*

    Just as a side note… what kind of office is this that is providing lunch 5 days a week for 50 employees?!

  39. BjBear*

    I think that if you have an allergy/intolerance so severe that it will make you incredibly sick if there’s any cross contamination, then you just have to deal with the fact that you won’t be able to participate in everything the way that people without such issues can.

    I say that as someone who is allergic to things like coffee and chocolate- two ubiquitous foods found in offices. It means that I generally can’t use the kitchen because of the risk of contamination, so I bring food from home, or eat out at places I know to be safe. It means that I can’t partake in a lot of foods that are provided in my office, or baking that people bring in. When we have meals out as a team, paid for by management, I generally can’t get dessert or a hot beverage, like my colleagues do.

    Sure, I could ask for accommodation, but I don’t think it’s fair that my health issue should impact on all of my colleagues, who are very respectful of me. It might seem unfair that some people can utilise something while I can’t, but for me my health trumps a free meal every single time.

  40. Manager-at-Large*

    On the GF front – just a comment here. I was recently at an event for 30+ catered by Olive Garden. I spent some time with the person setting up the food from OG. They could not do a catered GF pasta as it didn’t hold up to travel and buffet, but the host was able to do a box of GF pasta and present in a foil pan on the line. The person setting up the buffet line was very clear on all the other aspects: the marinara was GF and vegan), the meat sauce was GF, the Alfredo was not GF, the sausage was GF, the meatballs were not GF, and the grilled chicken was only chicken for ingredients but it was likely that the grill was not specially cleaned and there could be cross-contamination. Also, the undressed tossed salad was GF , but the dressing was not GF (the host supplied a GF dressing). Some places are paying attention.

    For the OP – I agree with Alison. If it is company snacks and food – make your choices known. Here we have fruit, some veggies, yogurt, milk, cereal, nuts, chips, protein bars, string cheese and single serve hummus provided, If the kitchen itself is an issue, maybe your own knife and cutting board could help. We have paper plates, bowls and plastic utensils – wasteful, but there is no reuse or bad washing.

  41. so_how_sick_do_you_get*

    I’m in an office of 100, and I have celiac disease. I am sensitive to cross-contamination, and my symptoms are Unpleasant and Long Lasting.

    – For events where we order in, I either suggest a location (we have a number of restaurants in my city that are gluten-free but don’t *seem* gluten free – reunnionais food, great taco joints, etc.), or pick up my own lunch (or bring in my own) and submit an expense report.
    – For the communal microwave, I warm my food in a large tupperware over my tupperware. (yo dawg, i heard you like tupperware…) I don’t ever, ever use the toaster or toaster oven. I thought about toasting my own bagels wrapped in foil in the toaster oven, but haven’t risked it yet. I keep a cutting board at my desk, and my own utensils.

    I’m not fortunate enough to have office groceries, but we used to do team breakfasts where people would bring in treats for the department, and in those cases I’d eat uncut fruits, bananas or oranges and the like.
    For things that people bring in for holidays (halloween candy, easter chocolate, etc.), the person who brings it round will bring me the package before anyone else, so I can review the ingredients and pick mine before everyone gets their glutenny hands in the bag.

    In general, I think the responsibility falls to me for what I eat. People around me can take precautions or not, but it’s up to me to make sure I’m OK. For me, that means I say “no, thank you” a lot. It isn’t the best, but neither is being sick for ten days.

    1. TootsNYC*

      do you really have problems in the microwave?

      I have silent celiac, so if I’m doing something that I think is safe (like zapping my food in the microwave) and it’s not, i won’t know.

      1. so_how_sick_do_you_get*

        I have been sick – I think what happened was someone’s exploded food dropped bits onto mine. For most situations, it’s probably overly cautious, but it’s a small step for me to take, so meh!
        When I’m at my mom’s, she just runs the plate through the dishwasher before I come and gives it a wipe.

      2. Kyrielle*

        In my last office, that wouldn’t have been safe – the top of the microwave sometimes had visible food bits on it from spatter from cooking. I’m sure at other times it had some but wasn’t visible. They make microwave plate/bowl covers that you can put over, though I don’t know if the risk of a bit falling through the vent holes would be an issue. (They’re less intended to prevent someone else’s spatter from dropping in, and more intended to prevent the spatter from happening, or at least from being very bad. The vent holes are needed to let steam escape tho.)

  42. Cleo*

    I have Celiac – was diagnosed in 2001, so I’ve been dealing with it for awhile.

    I agree with Alison – not all perks can be used by all employees but its worth asking about food. Sometimes I ask, sometimes I aggressively pursue the person ordering the food and sometimes I let it go. It partly depends on the situation.

    In general my strategy is to befriend whoever is in charge of ordering food, explain my situation and also make it really easy for them to order something safe for me to eat (i.e. I do all of the research and just tell them what to order for me).

    I worked at my previous job 16 years, most of them after I was diagnosed, and I was able to make incremental changes by working with the various admins in charge of ordering food.

    It sounds like you’ve attempted that. So I’d say, try again with the gf take out but be ready to let it go good naturedly if you have to.

    Also, it’s much easier for me to follow my diet if I don’t feel deprived so my underlying strategy at work is to hold the whole thing lightly and make sure I’m going to have something good to eat no matter what (which is why I always bring back up food / snacks).

  43. Mab*

    Just be clear about what will work/tell them. But please please please do it with the idea of advocating for future people and their allergies, rather than as a need to feel special for having allergies. The latter makes people have way less empathy overall.

  44. Quinalla*

    I think if you are sensitive enough that even minor cross-contamination is a concern, you are likely going to miss out on the making lunches at work, but I would at least request they include fruit with a peel for you at least and maybe some individually packaged items that are safe so you can have some level of participation. It does depend on your kitchen setup, if you can keep some separate utensils, etc. at your desk you might be able to do it.

    For the ordered lunches, again I’d be concerned about cross-contamination there too, but that they should be able to accommodate much more easily.

    And while you can’t always accommodate every intolerance, allergy, health restriction or religious/cultural/moral food choice, I think every effort should be made to do so whenever possible. When I am ordering for my office, I make sure to ask anyone new about any food restrictions they have if ordering something for the whole group and we are small enough usually I just have folks send me their exact order so they can make sure they get what they want. That isn’t always possible either, but for a small group, I highly recommend it. Everyone is a lot happier!

  45. GoBlueGirl*

    I’m also Celiac and by default I started taking over any food orders. OP might not be able to do that, and while it can be a hassle for me – at least I know I ordered the right thing. I also make it a point to be the first person in line so get what I need and to have less chance of contamination. I’ve brought in foil, and will make my sandwich on top of the foil. There are a lot more frozen options these days that could be easily microwavable too, maybe those could be ordered with the groceries?

    It’s a great perk, I hope it works out for OP – but not worth risking being sick if the others sadly can’t get a clue.

    PS – when I talk to new people about gluten and cross contamination, I use raw chicken as an example. I ask them if someone brought them a salad, or sandwich, and it had raw chicken on it – would they be ok just “picking it off” and eating it?? Of course not! That’s how we feel about croutons, bread, etc.

  46. sitting with sad salad*

    I posted above but have another strategy to add. Bring your food and share with co-workers. Try to find stuff you can eat that they like as well, then stock up on that. That, in tandem with researching and sharing ordering options can really work wonders.

  47. Former Employee*

    I vote for making sure the OP has something to eat that is provided by the company, just like everyone else. I, too, am suspicious of the person who does the ordering and keeps making “mistakes”.

    To me, the food is a perk that all the other employees are getting, except the OP. I see that as unacceptable. Suppose she were the only Jewish employee and the person who orders the food kept forgetting to order a kosher meal?

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