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Dining with Food Allergies

Nourishing meals for all

One in 25 Americans have food allergies. Eight foods account for 90% of the food-allergic reactions in the United States. These are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Sesame is another common food allergy. BC Dining ensures that students with these food allergies dine safely on campus. We created this handout to guide allergen-free dining.

What is a Food Allergy?

  • An immune system reaction to a protein in food that acts as an allergen. The immune system identifies the allergen as a threat and attacks it.
  • Symptoms range from mild to severe. Anaphylaxis is a severe, whole-body reaction and can be fatal.
  • People with food allergies practice strict avoidance of the allergic food.

Managing a Food Allergy

If you have a food allergy and have not met with our Dietitian, contact Kate Sweeney as soon as possible to learn about safely dining on campus with a food allergy. Having a food allergy can sometimes get in the way of balanced eating. Find out more about what balanced eating is and how to navigate BC Dining to eat balanced.

Follow BC's Meal Accommodation Policy. This includes meeting with Kate and registering with the Disabilities Services Office. You can seek meal accommodations, such as receiving a brown-bag lunch for a BC-sponsored event, a personalized menu from our Dietitian, or pre-ordering an allergen-free meal.

If you aren't sure what an item contains or have other questions, ask a manager!

Carry epinephrine in the form of an EpiPen if it is prescribed for the treatment of an allergic reaction. In the case of an allergic reaction, call BC Police at 2-4444 or 911 from a landline. You should always have an EpiPen on you if you have a food allergy. An EpiPen can be administered by yourself, a trusted friend or family member, or emergency personnel. BC Dining staff cannot administer the EpiPen.

Avoiding Cross-Contact

Cross-contact occurs when an allergen is inadvertently transferred from a food containing the allergen to a food that does not contain the allergen. 

If you are concerned about cross-contact, ask for a manager! Inform them that you have a food allergy, and they will be happy to have a chef prepare you an allergen-free meal in a separate area of the kitchen.

Did You Know? 

  • Our Plain and Simple dinner station, open every evening at Corcoran, Stuart, and McElroy, serves meals free of the 8 top allergens (milk, soy, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts), gluten, and sesame.
  • We host allergy focus groups! Email to learn more.
  • Hillside's fryers use canola oil, but items fried in it contain soybean oil. No other allergens are present in the fryers, including gluten-containing foods.
  • Use the Online Allergen Filter to check for allergen-free offerings at Corcoran, McElroy, Hillside, Stuart, and Lyons.
  • Hard cheese, like cheddar, is free of lactose.
  • Some people with lactose intolerance can eat Greek yogurt because it has less lactose than regular yogurt.
  • Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) provides food allergy information, newsletters, and resource information.
  • Our Pesto sauce is nut-free.
  • Our granola is nut-free; it is made in a bakery that processes peanuts, treee nuts, and soy.
  • Salad bars, grain bars, and yogurt bars are nut-free to reduce the possibility of cross-contact.
  • Menu items containing nuts are identified with signage in the dining halls in red font and on the online menu.
  • Bakery items should be avoided, since they are produced in our BC Bakery that also uses nuts.
  • The FDA is advising people who are highly allergic to peanuts to consider avoiding products that contain ground cumin or cumin powder. For more information, please see this special peanut allergy alert from the FDA.
  • Soy milk is available at Carney’s, Lower Live, and Stuart in dispensers.
  • Unsweetened and vanilla almond milk is available every day at McElroy, Stuar, Corcoran, Lyons, and Walsh in dispensers.
  • Soy milk, Lactaid milk, and almond milk are available in the grab n' go cases at McElroy, Stuart, Hillside, and Corcoran.
  • Soy lattes are available at the Chocolate Bar and Hillside.
  • Many soups on the rotating menu do not contain dairy - check the online menu or ingredient labels.
  • Oatmeal is made with water in all dining locations.
  • Acai bowls in McElory can be made with non-dairy milk - acai bowls in Addie's use almond milk - just ask!

Prescreen your menu choices for specific allergens (eggs, fish, shellfish, milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and/or wheat) and get complete ingredient information by setting an allergen filter on our online menu. To access the online menu, first select your preferred dining location. The allergen filter is located on the top right hand side of the page. Note: BC is not an allergen-free facility.

For information regarding accommodations for a medically prescribed diet while dining on campus, please refer to our University protocol.

Learn about our gluten-free and food allergy focus group:

Food allergy is a growing public health concern in the U.S.

More than 12 million Americans have food allergies. That’s one in 25, or four percent of the population.

About three million children in the U.S. have food allergies.

Food allergy is believed to be the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting, causing an estimated 50,000 emergency department visits each year in the U.S.

Each year in the U.S., it is estimated that anaphylaxis caused by food results in 150 deaths. Death can be sudden, sometimes occurring within minutes.

Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions to food are important measures to prevent serious health consequences.

Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.

Most people who’ve had an allergic reaction to something they ate thought that it was safe to eat.

Early administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) is crucial to successfully treating an anaphylactic reaction.

Liability and Disclaimer Notice 

Boston College Dining Services uses soy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, dairy, shellfish, wheat, sesame, gluten-containing foods, and other potential allergens in meal preparation. BC Dining staff are trained on and aware of the severity of food allergies and Celiac disease, and allergens are identified to the best of our ability. However, manufacturers change product formulation without notifying BC Dining and cross-contact is possible. Students need to be aware of risks and take responsibility for asking the manager on duty for assistance. BC Dining strongly encourages students with food allergies or Celiac Disease to follow the Policy for Meal Accommodations, and meet with the Administrative Dietitian.