An Open Letter to Narcity About Your Article On Where to Eat When You’re “Allergic to Everything”

UPDATE: It appears that this article has been unpublished since I posted my open letter to Narcity. This is a big win for the food allergy community! Thanks to everyone who commented, shared and helped spread the word. 

As the mom of a toddler with multiple food allergies, there are days when it feels like my precious little boy is actually allergic to everything. Maybe that’s because it’s not easy eating out when you’re dealing with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, egg, sesame, sunflower and (previously) soy. So when I came across your article, entitled 7 Places to Eat in Toronto When You’re Allergic to Everything, it felt like I had struck gold.

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 20.39.39

But you know what they say: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“It’s almost like [the author] forgot what she was writing about halfway through the article. I think what she meant by ‘allergic to everything’ was allergic to dairy. Annoying.” – Victoria (allergy mom)

Here’s the thing: The food allergy community already deals with its fair share of challenges and disappointments on an almost daily basis. We don’t have the time or the patience to be misled by headlines that are essentially clickbait.

And sadly, that’s all this article is.

Because for an article that is supposed to be speaking to an audience that has so many allergies that “people think [they] only eat rabbit food,” it doesn’t do anything more than dangle a carrot (pun intended).

Did you know that none* of the 7 eating spots you listed are actually nut-free? Not one. What was the thought behind leaving peanuts (and other top allergens) out of a piece whose audience is “allergic to everything”? Or did any thought go into this piece at all?

“Okay, I’m fairly certain the author just googled ‘vegan places in Toronto’ because the vast majority of these places are an absolute no-go for anyone with any allergy.” – Danielle (food-allergic individual)

And yet—here’s the kicker—it’s the second result in a Google search for “allergy-safe restaurants in Toronto.” You know what that means? Those who are newly diagnosed are happening upon this article far too often. At best, they are sorely disappointed. At worst, they could possibly put themselves (or their children) in an unsafe situation.

And what about food-allergic tourists? As a publication that “always knows what’s up,” you should be aiming to help visitors with food allergies in their search for accommodating eating spots in the city. Instead, you are misleading them.


So Narcity, I have a favour to ask: The next time you decide to write a post on the topic of allergy-friendly eating spots for people with multiple food allergies, please please please do your research. Then make sure your list (collectively) accommodates all of the top allergens. If you can’t do that, make sure the title of your post reflects the content within.

“The article’s title needs changing. Period! The author needs to be schooled!” – Sierra (food allergy mom)

For future allergy pieces, here are some important points you may want to reference before hitting publish:

Narcity, I strongly urge you to unpublish this piece (or at the very least, rename it) and re-assign the topic to a writer who has an actual understanding of what eating out with food allergies entails. Someone who will produce meaningful content without alienating the audience you were writing for in the first place. Me? (Yes, I’m serious.)

*Not one of your seven eating spots is nut-free, unless you count Bunner’s. This is a contentious spot because, while they do not use nuts in any of their baked goods, they use flour (and possibly other ingredients) that have been manufactured in a facility that processes nuts. Therefore, they cannot guarantee that trace elements won’t be present. Many with nut allergies will not take the risk.

Kathleen O’Hagan
Writer, Foodie & Food Allergy Mom

P.S. If you want to find (at least) 7 allergy-friendly spots, look no further. (You’re welcome!)


11 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Narcity About Your Article On Where to Eat When You’re “Allergic to Everything”

  1. Christina says:

    Great open letter – the article in narcity is atrocious. She even recommends for those “allergic to everything” a PB (peanut butter) smoothie, and almond lime bowl as “surefire winners”. Um, sure, with a side of death.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sak_riz says:

      Great article Kath! As a sufferer from not being able to eat gluten (believe me, not my choice), I agree with the frustration of articles saying that a place is safe and then finding out that it isn’t. It is irresponsible and moreover could make someone sick (which has happened to me), moreover could cost someone their life if they are anaphylactic. My experience has been that people who don’t have these issues don’t appreciate their gravity or the frustration that comes along with them. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had 10 minute conversations with waiters dissecting what is in the food, only to be brought a plate full of gluten….or have found an article online saying a restaurant was safe to eat at, only to find out it isn’t or it is “gluten friendly”, which is still a nightmare for people with an allergy or who have celiac disease. Before writing the articles like Narcity did, a reporter needs to get educated on allergens and where they can be found – they are sneaky little buggers…because as you say, there is a lot of misinformation. There needs to be more care in writing these restaurant review articles so kudos to you for leading the charge!


      • KathleenO says:

        Thanks for chiming in! Totally agreed that people who aren’t dealing with allergies just don’t get it. Personally, I had NO idea food allergies could kill before my own child was diagnosed. That said, a publication like Narcity should not be writing a piece directed AT the food allergy community that is misleading, misinformed, under-researched and potentially dangerous. Articles like these are yet another reason why food allergies aren’t taken seriously. (Can you tell I’m still fuming about this?!) No response from Narcity to date.


  2. Shira Rocklin says:

    First – the title of the article uses the phrase ‘allergic to everything,’ and I feel this phrase is problematic. First, no one is allergic to everything, and this is making fun of people who face a real challenge every time they purchase a food product. It puts a barrier between food preparation and care for other people – as if my child is allergic to ‘everything,’ so give up, he’s an inconvenience, don’t bother eating packaged or prepared foods ever again.

    The article is supposedly about allergen friendly restaurants and at first that looks nice. But then there are only two listed that mention allergies at all! They don’t include many of the most common allergens, but include plenty of intolerances and lifestyle diets! The first two are maybe about allergy, but the rest of the reviews are about ‘healthy’ or vegetarian, etc. Allergies are not lifestyle choices. They are life-threatening realities! And for someone who truly feels “allergic to everything”, someone with multiple allergies, and not just ‘top allergens” that are likely to NOT be labelled at all, this article feels cheap and like it minimizes the reality of wondering whether you will die today from accidental cross contamination of lentils every time you contemplate eating out – and yet being incredibly left out of so many life experiences because you can’t simply try a new food, a majority of the time.

    Here is what a truly allergy friendly restaurant looks like: It has a policy of working with customers to get them safe food for their allergies… by being very aware of their supplies and ingredients, preparation practices, and be able to help any customer find a meal that will be safe for them, whether they need to avoid nuts, beans, seeds, fish, or anything.

    Liked by 1 person

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