My name is Davide, and I’m an energy engineer.

I live with several food allergies: milk and dairy products, peanuts, all tree nuts (e.g., almond, pistachio, etc.), and crustaceans. Yes, I have never been able to dig into a jar of Nutella… I always carry with me two AAI (Adrenaline Auto-Injector) devices to treat a severe anaphylaxis allergic reaction in case of emergency. When I was a child, my mother prepared special meals for me. Over time, she adapted her cuisine – and consequently the family meal recipes – to my diet. However, outside the home, the scenario was very different.

When I went to school and university, I couldn’t eat any meal in any cafeteria. The reason was not only the lack of food allergy free menus but also the poor competence and willingness of the food operators. They didn’t guarantee avoiding cross-contamination that may cause an anaphylactic shock, so I had to eat less than a standard meal or bring food from home. During my years as a university student, I had to overcome two anaphylaxis episodes. That was quite psychologically destabilising. This meant that from then on, eating outside was never the same.

Life-threatening food anxiety

In general, as an individual with several life-threatening food allergies, I feel anxious about planning for the future, in particular for dining out and travelling abroad (especially in other countries). For me, the main difficulty is overcoming my initial distrust towards kitchen personnel. For instance, I chose only fruits, vegetables, and beverages in my previous workplace canteen during the first few weeks at the self-service counter. All the menu items were pasta or meat dishes that were very seasoned or exposed to other foods I’m allergic to (i.e., pasta with Parmesan or cheesecakes). The risk of cross-contamination and an anaphylactic episode was too high. Later, I sent an e-mail to the catering company that provided food to the canteen, asking them if they could guarantee me a special meal. I also attached to the mail a medical certificate attesting my food allergy and the high risk of anaphylaxis.

From the next day, I could consume a completely satisfying – and safe! – meal every day. It usually included a variable seasoned dish with pasta, meat of some kind or hard-boiled eggs, vegetables and some fruit. Sometimes, I also could enjoy my favourite pre-packed apricot tarts! In my new place of work, there is no canteen. Hence, I always bring self-prepared food.

Eating Out

However, a few of my colleagues meet regularly on Thursday to eat at a bar near our workplace. At first, I was reluctant to join them. This was a clear limit, especially in making more personal connections that are more than just a working relationship. As in the above case, I cast aside any qualms and talked with the bar owners, asking them if they could meet my needs. They showed great sensitivity and were enthusiastic about preparing me a meal of seasoned pasta without the allergens I must avoid.

I am generally reluctant to try new restaurants or other public places. If I had to choose, I would prefer Italian restaurants, not because I’m narrow-minded. Still, just because I know our culinary culture better (Mediterranean diet), this helps me communicate with operators and visually inspect the food. Even if the operators show confidence in managing food allergies, I always check the food carefully before eating it. Better safe than sorry, right?

I always inform restaurants, bars, caterers, etc., about my food allergy. I also always carry a chef card in my wallet. It allows me to communicate my food allergies to restaurant staff or any public place abroad. Here in Italy and abroad, I read ingredient labels every time I buy a food product, especially if I have never tried it. I prefer to buy products I’ve already tested and assessed as safe. I avoid those products with PALs that include my food allergens. The temptation is not worth the risk.


My name is Elisa; I am 23 years old and live in Padua. I am allergic to nuts, peanuts and prawns. How did I find out? At the age of 1, I had my first anaphylactic shock. I was sitting on my dad’s lap while he was peeling peanuts. At that moment, I only had a serious reaction by breathing the dust from the skin. Since then, my parents have always been careful about food, particularly telling others what I could not eat.

For this reason, there was a relationship of affection-protection with my parents, which has made me grow up always being on guard and trying to get everything under control, which has also expanded in other areas. It’s not easy because it affects my relationships with people a little. It often affects my mood when I feel there are potential threats around me. When I was eight, I had a second anaphylactic shock. I was at my grandma’s house, and she offered me some chocolates. I accepted without worrying that they could make me feel bad and cause an anaphylactic shock since a family member offered them.

After a while, I started to feel tightness while swallowing, as if I had marbles in my throat, and then I started to vomit. My parents took me to the hospital, and they had to give me an aerosol. Thanks to the fact that my body immediately expelled what had hurt me, and thanks to the timely reaction, my life was saved. It’s been a long time now, but the memory that I have of the feelings I felt is very strong and still causes me anxiety when I find myself in a situation where I feel in danger.


In adolescence, I felt different from the others because I couldn’t do everything like them; I couldn’t go out to get ice cream because the machines used to make fruit sorbets are the same used for chocolate ice cream, hazelnut and so on. I couldn’t go for breakfast, eat a brioche, or take a slice of cake for the same reasons. The machines used to make custard and the brioche dough are the same ones used to make the chocolate cream… So there were situations that I had to avoid, feeling limited and suffering.

A person with food allergies is in a constant state of fear of dying(having an anaphylactic shock) when faced with a situation of having to eat outside the home and feels emotionally distressed when in contact with people who, not being familiar with the problem, can’t understand the real gravity of it. You risk not only in the first person but even in a place where others are eating what you are allergic to. Physical contact between me and another person, a handshake, a kiss or any other gesture is enough to cause the presence of the allergen to come into contact with the mouth. This may trigger an allergic reaction.


Moreover, when you go out, you need to trust people whom you don’t know and who have to cook for you with the risk that even a slight mistake can cause an anaphylactic shock and, therefore, the risk of death. It is not simple, and it creates tension and anxiety. I often felt like a burden to others, especially to little-known people. This leads us to say, ‘I’m not hungry, do not worry, no thanks’. But I slowly learned to accept all this, firstly myself and then the people I meet and who are close to me.

My first advice is to be bold and talk to those close to us. That special attention must be given to us. We didn’t choose to be born with this allergy and shouldn’t believe that it is our fault. We have the RIGHT to be understood, to have the same opportunities as everyone, and to be able to enjoy meals pleasantly. I have also gained awareness thanks to the trips I wanted to do alone to get out of safe family spaces and have the same opportunities as others, even against the will (for concern) of many people dear to me.

With some attention and security, often with sacrifices, with moments of difficulty, I  still managed to do it. I started with the Czech Republic, then most of Europe. I set off on adventurous trips to India and Georgia, and this is only the beginning!