This is a copy of an email I sent to WDW, but I think it is important for people to understand the limitations with the allergy menus and current practices we saw this past week at WDW!
I hope it helps someone…
"My family and I just returned from a week at Walt Disney World. I am writing this email in hopes that other families with allergies will not have the same experience we did.
My youngest son is 5.5 years old and was diagnosed with anaphylactic allergies to peanuts and tree nuts at his 1 year birthday. We have been dealing with his allergy since then and have travelled many places, including out of the country and on cruise ships. Our favorite place to travel, however, has been Disney because of the care that they have taken with his allergies and the fact that he would often get to have special treats and not feel different than everyone else. We have been annual pass members at both Disneyland and Disneyworld and taken multiple trips. Our previous trip was less than a year ago to WDW and we had the same excellent care we had in the past.
This past trip, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment regarding his allergies. We came home from this trip deciding to not travel to Disney anytime in the next few years solely due to the way that his allergies were handled.
There were a few restaurants that did stand out and really take care of him, namely Hoop-de-doo review, Be Our Guest, Garden Grill and Crystal Palace.
Other than that, our experience was the same regardless of park. We would check in for our meal and be given an allergy menu. Most of the time, most things on the menu were listed as “safe for peanut/tree nut allergy”. Including desserts and breads. We would then sit down at a table and a server would ask some variation of “Well, it’s not a serious allergy is it?” To which my 5-year-old son would reply “I might DIE!”. They would then try to tell me that everything with a green check was completely safe. I would ask where breads and desserts were made, if there was a common bakery used, etc. Some servers would try to tell me there was no risk of cross-contamination. Eventually after asking I would be able to talk to a chef. On previous visits I would talk to a chef, walk through a buffet, they would offer to bring food from the back. Instead, this time, when I eventually was able to talk to a chef they would continue to tell me foods were safe until I pressed multiple times asking if they were made in the restaurant or somewhere else. Eventually they would tell me that most of their desserts were made somewhere else, in a place that also made their desserts that contain nuts. Comments such as “Well if you’re really going to care about where something is made, then I have nothing to offer you” were a regular occurrence. On previous trips I always found chefs to be incredibly helpful in knowing where different items on a buffet or menu were made, etc. This trip I had to ask multiple times and often chefs were unsure. Occasionally they would come back with a bag of enjoy life cookies and toss them at my son. The highlight of the trip for him was Crystal Palace when the chef brought out a doughnut, brownie and cupcake for him- he talked about it for two days, that they “had things that were safe for me Mommy, just like before!”
Our worst experience was Bon Voyage breakfast where the allergy menu stated that pastries were safe. A serving was brought to the table in the frying pain. Again, server tried to tell us allergy wasn’t serious. She told us “I have a gluten allergy so I know that it doesn’t really matter if things come in contact during preparation” Finally talked to chef who informed us that he had nothing in his restaurant to offer my son. He knew all of the pastries were made in a facility with nuts. I asked about allergy-safe muffins and was informed those were also made and baked in that same facility with nuts. My son wanted waffles and I was informed that those were also prepared in the same facility with nuts. I asked about an alternative such as Enjoy Life brand and was told he would look and see but was pretty sure they didn’t have anything like that. He did eventually return with some brownies but by this point the damage was done. We had been so excited about a meal with male characters for my two sons but the tone of this interaction set the whole day.
Another disappointing experience was the Pirate and Pals cruise, I had called and asked multiple times about options available to him and was told that they had alternatives. When we got the allergy menu the only thing that was safe for him was grapes, apples, chips and salsa. Even the chocolate coins were unsafe and there was no alternative. When I asked about it I was told that the servers inside would have alternative options. When we got inside my boys got in line to see the characters and I immediately talked to the servers who offered a gluten-free cookie. Another server offered to get an option from the back and returned with a plate with 3 little 1 inch cookies on it. That was it. Meanwhile, around him all the other kids and families are eating multiple different desserts. The reality was, none of our family had time for desserts, because by the time they took pictures with Captain Hook and Smee they were telling us to take kids to bathroom at end of hall as it was time for the fireworks cruise. Our entire time in the “dessert party” wasn’t even 30 minutes. Again, extremely disappointing but lesson was learned to not trust Disney to be prepared even when I call, indicate on booking, and speak with Cast Members upon check-in.
As I stated before, Disney has been our “go-to” option for vacations due to the comfort level we have always had in talking to chefs at restaurants and not having to explain “cross-contamination” etc and their willingness to go the extra mile to let him have desserts that we knew were safe. The comfort we felt in talking to someone who understood the issues and (up until this past trip!) volunteered all the information I needed including where things were processed, what they KNEW were safe (because they were processed in the restaurant) vs things that were processed in other places not to mention the offer to bring food from the back to decrease risk of cross-contamination made our previous trips to Disney less stressful for all of us.
As previously stated, we have lived with his allergies for a long time and are well-versed in risks and questions to ask. Your new policies and procedures scare me because I know that there are people that would trust the allergy menu that states things that are known to be produced in same area as nuts are safe. Eventually someone will have a serious reaction (probably already have) and may even die. I understand the previous method of talking to chefs immediately was not convenient for them, but I think it’s important that in cases of anaphylaxis and not “intolerance” that there be a higher standard of information available.
Thank you for your time, I am happy to discuss this further with anyone if our experiences can keep someone else from having the same experience or even being hurt."