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GOT AN ALLERGY? Ordering food in a foreign country has never been so easy
SELECT WISELY FOOD ALLERGY CARDSA couple of years ago there was a movie called Lost in Translation.  While that film wasnt about communicating food allergies, it had a title that says it all when it comes to telling foreign-speaking restaurant staff about foods allergies.  You feel like you are lost in translation. 

One of the great pleasures of foreign travel is interacting with local people.  And a great way to gain an understanding of a culture is to share in the local cuisine. Food allergy, gluten free, diabetes, lactose, vegetarian translation cards

Ordering food is easy.  Even if you dont know the language, you can always point to an item on a restaurant menu or point to the actual food if you are at a market.  But what do you do when you dont want to eat a certain food?  What do you do if you are so allergic to a certain food that if you eat it, you will go into shock?  One answer is to not eat.  Another is to visually inspect the food.  And yet another is to use sign language?

A few years ago a young person went traveling through Europe and  upon her return she complained that she was so racked with anxiety about what foods to eat, that the trip was marred with tension.  She ate the same food day after day in fear that she might ingest a peanut or a nut hidden in a dinner meal or a dessert.  Every meal was a potential crisis waiting to happen.

This trip became the inspiration of a new company: SelectWisely. The company, originally formed with food allergies in mind, provided custom-made, foreign language translation cards for people with food allergies any and all food allergies. 

VIETNAMESE NUT ALLERGY CARDSThe company launched a web site  www.selectwisely.com - where people could go and select different types of cards with various languages and foods.  The concept immediately connected with travelers who suffered from food allergies.  It offered an easy-to-carry, wallet-sized card that had basic translations such as I have a life-threatening allergy to nuts, peanuts and peanut oil.   The cards graphic design and the sturdy lamination gave the card the authenticity needed when showing to restaurant wait staff and chefs. Customers confirmed that the cards text was very effective in opening communication with the food handlers. 
This was 4 years ago.  Thousands of customers later, the site is still helping solve food allergy translation problems, still providing people with a simple tool to improve communication and according to customer feedback, still saving people from a trip to the hospital.
In addition to food allergies, Selectwisely now offers cards to travelers with diabetes, asthma, lactose intolerance, Celiac disease (or Gluten intolerance) and other common food-centric ailments.  Their emergency cards, picture cards, English-only restaurant cards and new low-salt and smoke-free cards offer a variety of health related issues to choose from.

For more information, visit: www.selectwisely.com

Some basic travel advice from the experts at SelectWisely for travelers with food allergies  - or food quality concerns in general:

  • Be prepared to communicate your needs to restaurant waiters, hotel managers, open air market vendors, grocery store clerks, street kiosk vendors, and transportation personnel.  Don't be shy about asking questions and using the SelectWisely card.  
  • If you are buying packaged foods from a grocery store, show the SelectWisely card to the store clerk and ask them to check the product label.  Product labeling is varies from country to country so be cautious.
  • Some countries use potentially allergic foods in their sauces and seasonings for flavoring and thickening.
  • Spain uses ground almonds often to replace flour in cake baking.
  • A type of German beer is based on wheat (Weisse).
  • Japan and China use soy in their cooking broth.
  • Miso (soybeans and barley or wheat or rice) is a basic element in many Japanese soups, stews and braised dishes.
  • Peanuts are present in some types of Dim Sum (congee) and hot mustard greens in China.
  • Rice is sometimes mixed with barley or soybeans for flavor and nutrition in Korea.  And fish can be stirred into a common breakfast porridge.
  • Borscht (beet soup) can be thickened with barley in Russia.
  • Be wary of pastries in Argentina and Portugal that might contain almonds, almond paste or powder.
  • Cookies, chocolate candy and cakes often have peanuts or nuts in the United States so be especially careful of packaged foods.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk.  Eat only pasteurized dairy products.
  • In the major cities you can safely drink water in restaurants.  However, if you want to be extra careful, drink bottled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles.  Make sure to check the seal on the cap to ensure that the bottle wasnt already used and resealed.  Avoid fountain drinks.
  • If you are concerned about the drinking water, remember that ice cubes fall into this same category.
  • Bring a small pocket knife and a fork.  This is especially important when traveling to regions that use chopsticks or no utensils at all like parts of East Asia.
  • In countries where multiple languages are spoken as in China or India, be highly selective.  If you are traveling in remote areas, local people may not be able to read.  The international prohibitory sign and picture of the product on the SelectWisely card will help get your message across.
  • Check your food after ordering.  Visually inspect it and confirm by using the SelectWisely card again.
  • If you are highly toxic, prepare and eat only your own food.  Drink only sealed bottled water.
  • Dont eat raw meat, undercooked ground beef or poultry.  To be on the safe side, order your meats well-done.
  • Carry snacks  fruit, packaged crackers, bottled water.
  • If you purchase food from an open air market in remote areas, purchase thick skinned fruit that you can peal like bananas or mangos.  Stay away from foods that might be washed in local tap water.  Use you own knife to cut the fruit.
  • Bring a package of antihistamines like Benadryl.

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