Navigating Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival with Food Allergies
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For those of us with severe allergies, going out to eat or to a theme park can be a dreadful experience. The fear of cross contamination can ruin even the nicest of days and the best of meals. I will admit that Disney is one of the only places I always feel safe at with my severe allergy to all nuts and nut products. They go above and beyond for all types of food allergies to ensure that every person who visits the Happiest Place on Earth has an amazing experience.
Chris and I first went to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival a few years ago, and I was so nervous about it because I didn’t know what to expect. In truth, I thought that there would be very little I could eat so I wasn’t looking forward to going. I should have known that Disney would make it possible for me to enjoy myself without being worried about how the food was prepped and what it was cooked with. Because of that first great experience at the festival, Chris and I have continued to go back and enjoy ourselves year after year. And today, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips for a stress-free visit to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival with food allergies.
1. Always ask a Cast Member about the food when you get up to the front of the line! Even if you’d had the food on previous trips, it never hurts to double check. They’ll probably call out a chef and have them talk to you (which does take some time), but Disney really does want to make sure you’re not in danger when eating their food.
2. Know that (specifically at any of the Epcot Festival’s where they offer food) the Cast Member’s cannot alter any food that they serve. Meaning, if you really want that cheese plate from Greece but can’t because it has nuts on it you’ll just have to skip it. For me, there are a few stands that I don’t go near because of this, which is a shame because I’d love to try the food!
3. Go to the Festival during the week. The weekends are overly crowed and full of annoying drunks who are loud, obnoxious, and they act like buffoons. It’ll be easier to take your time and ask questions if you have any allergy concerns when there aren’t drunks behind you wondering (quite loudly) why it’s taking so long for them to get their next beverage.
4. Allergy concerns aren’t just about the food! If you’re drinking alcohol make sure you ask about that too! I can’t have coconut rum, so I have to be careful when getting drinks sometimes because of that. Honestly, it’s better to ask and know exactly what’s going into your beverage than be sorry about it later.
5. Cast Members are there to help. They want to do whatever they can to give you peace of mind while you’re on vacation. Do not feel bad that they have to get on the phone and call a chef to come talk to you. Do not feel bad if they don’t know an answer to a question you’ve asked and they have to go look it up. It is their job. They can get in a lot of trouble if they don’t address your concerns and something happens.
Have you ever been to a food festival before? What was your experience like?
I love Disney for this reason! They are so helpful in terms of allergies. It’s one of the main reasons we are considering a Disney cruise! I won’t have to worry so much about my son’s allergies!
These are great tips. I don’t have any food allergies but I have family members who do. This is great to know they will accommodate you.
My daughter had a reaction to the lamb chops with Mint pest at the Australia booth. I haven’t been able to find out if the pesto sauce has nuts. Next step is to contact Disney or wait till next year and ask. Thank you!
That had to be so scary, I’m so Lissy! I’ve found that I can’t eat pesto with my peanut allergy, I hope you find out if nuts were the cause of her reaction.
It’s actually so funny that I’ve come across this comment. I can confirm that the mint pesto has walnuts in it, as I had an allergic reaction tonight & went to the hospital shortly after eating it. I have had other pestos from various other places on Disney property & none of them had nuts… just so happens that the one place I didn’t ask did unfortunately have what i’m allergic to. After eating it, we asked the cast member who then called the chef & asked but had to call a second time to make sure what nut it is. The chef came out & confirmed it is walnuts & from then on multiple cast members, security guards & managers came out. Gave myself an epipen & benedryl then the paramedics came & took me to the hospital. It sucks that it happened, but I’ve had reactions before so I knew what to expect. The part that really sucked was how Disney handled it. I’m very disappointed & almost shocked that they don’t indicate which food items have nuts as they are such a common & sometimes deadly allergy. The cast member said they indicate vegetarian & gluten friendly, but I think it’s ridiculous because I’ve never heard of someone dying from eating a cow or a chicken while being vegetarian (I’ve been veg & vegan & have many vegetarian friends), but I have heard of people dying from eating walnuts or peanuts. I’m hoping that Disney will realize that they need to be more considerate towards people with nut allergies because it’s a pain in the behind to have to get a chef to come out every single time I want to eat something.
I am so sorry that happened to you at Disney! I’ve been very fortunate to not have an epi reaction but it’s good to know that Disney responds quickly to get you the care you need.
I definitely agree that it is a hassle to have the chef come out (we’ve waited upwards of 30 minutes before) every time I want to try something. I think the hard thing with allergies is that there are so many things that can cause anaphylactic reactions now-a-days that it would be hard to mark everything on the stands in front of the food pavilions. Most places have a binder that they can reference to let you know if the food is safe or not, but if a Cast Member is still unsure after referencing it they’ll call the chef.
The best case scenario would be Cast Members who are trained in food allergies and know how to answer guest questions. But the problem there is that Cast Members rotate positions and some end up working the Food & Wine when they have little experience in Food & Beverage. While I definitely agree it’s a hassle, I think it’s worth it to talk to a chef since they are trained in food allergies!
I hope that you were able to go back and enjoy the rest of your trip. It’s so frustrating to have to take time out of your vacation like that. But I am so glad you’re okay and got the care you needed!