Articles Tagged with: Allergy Travel

The Process behind the Products

After operating for years as “Allergy Translation”, it’s a real thrill to relaunch our company and products under the “Equal Eats” banner. It was definitely time for refresh and upgrade absolutely everything. I’m really excited to share more about our future vision of how we can help people with food allergy and dietary restrictions eat safely at home and away.

I am really proud of our new product offering, specifically:

  • 36 pre-set cards
  • 500 allergens available for customized cards
  • 50 languages

As much as I am proud of these products, it’s the process that went into them that truly sets them above and beyond in terms of clarity, effectiveness and accuracy.

In total, we had around 1,700 words that needed to translated. Did we use Google Translate? Absolutely not. My food allergies are life-threatening and I take them incredibly seriously. I would never have full peace of mind by putting my life in the hands of  an automated online translator. But before I hired a top-notch translation company, there were many other steps needed first:

Step 1 – Research

I surveyed my existing customers and learned so much valuable information on what they would like to see included on their dream allergy translation card.

Step 2 – Assemble the team

I started an “A-Team” consisting of customers, trusted advisors and others who wanted to provide higher level feedback as the project rolled on. These people are the true reason why the cards are what they are. We debated on big things, and the very smallest details. It helped me realize that there is no black and white “right way” to convey things that will satisfy everyone, but we can create something that is the most effective in all settings, for most people.

Step 3 – Prototyping & feedback

Many versions of the translation cards were created with the help of a professional product designer. Receiving feedback was enlightening as we found customers and foodservice industry workers met in the middle on a lot of things, but with a clear priority to focus on essential information.

Step 4 – Finalize in English

Once we had the overall design ready, we needed to finalize the message to a tee. We did another survey where we sought input from people with various dietary restrictions to help ensure we didn’t miss a thing. We learned so much at this stage about the concerns of people with specific allergies, and other diets. After countless revisions and approvals, we finally nailed down the overall language. This was then reviewed by a professional editor to smooth out any communication issues.

Step 5 – Professional Translations

Finally, right! That’s how we felt too after months and months of planning and prototyping. We used a professional translation agency and deliberately ordered their “premium” service to ensure top accuracy.

Step 6 – Professional Proofreading

As part of the premium service, a professional proofreader verified the accuracy of all translations for each of the 50 languages orderd.

CROSSROAD ALERT – at this point, many people would be satisfied with the accuracy of the cards. Given that these products are being used to convey life-threatening food allergies, I decided to add in a few more steps to be safe.

Step 7 – Review by native language speakers

I tapped into an incredible network within the food allergy community that volunteered to review the translations for their native language. I loved working with people from all over the world who truly “get” food allergies, and have a first-hand grip on the true everyday spoken language. They found that the translations were fantastic, but could be smoothed out even further to ensure that they are understood in more places. Some thought language needed to be simplified, or expanded upon. It was an incredible team of caring people who I am forever thankful to.

Step 8 – Professional proofreading (again)

This was a classic “Hey….it’s me again…” email where I’m certain they thought this project was over. As much as I trust my native speaking reviewers, I wanted to have a professional simply double check that these recommendations are in fact accurate. They happily obliged (amazing customer service!) and mostly agreed on everything. I was put in the middle of a couple proofreader vs. native speaker debates, and we managed to find optimal solutions.

Step 9 – Layout

Now that the translations were accurate and complete, it was time to start laying out the pre-set cards. I am simply not capable of laying out certain languages with unfamiliar characters and line breaks (picture a steady row of Asian characters, would you know where to press “enter” for a line break that also doesn’t alter the meaning? Me either!) So, I hired a team of native language speaking Photoshop experts to lay out the cards in their respective languages. This step ensured the overall readability and clarity of the cards.

Step 10 – Layout review

I also asked the native language speaking volunteers to review the layout of the cards to ensure the information was in fact entered correctly. This was a formality, but unsurfaced a few small corrections. At this point, we felt incredibly confident about the accuracy of the cards and that the process was well worth it.

Even though we went through this lengthy process and believe we’ve created a gold standard in dietary communication cards, we have an ongoing commitment to improving our cards. If you ever have ideas or suggestions to improve them, please reach out!

It feels good to know that we’ve gone through a process that truly brings both sides of the product into consideration – the user and the foodservice industry. Often these tools have been one-sided in the past. It’s important that you are speaking the foodservice language, and if abroad, in their language! We placed equal weight on both sides in terms of what people want to convey, and what the industry needs to hear.

Now that’s a team!

We’re proud of our products.

We’re proud of our process.

We’re proud of the people that made it all happen.

Kyle Dine Equal Eats

Kyle Dine
Equal Eats

Travelling with Food Allergies – Growing Your Comfort & Travel Zone From Domestic to Exotic

Travelling with one, let alone multiple food allergies is never straightforward. However, it does get more and more complex as you literally venture into more foreign territories.

I’ve had the travel bug for ten years now and have gradually grown my comfort and confidence in travelling abroad. This was built on years of domestic travel where English was the first language and extra precautions consisted of bringing extra epinephrine, extra food and not being too adventurous with new restaurants or food brands.

Then came Europe.

It seemed like a good step into the world of international travel. It was intimidating to think that there were so many languages crammed into one continent. However, I quickly learned that communicating my allergies wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be due to the prevalence of English in touristy areas. My early travels took me to Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Vienna and Stockholm where wait staff were surprisingly helpful accommodating my allergies. I found this to be a great entry into foreign travel and would recommend it to those starting out travelling abroad with food allergies. Plus, big touristy cities are touristy for a reason – they have a lot to offer and are beautiful!

Then came Eastern Europe.

Countries like Croatia, Bulgaria, and Hungary were a bit more of a challenge as English became less prevalent. This is when Allergy Translation Cards were truly valuable. Wait staff that I encountered had somewhat of a grasp on English, but I still wasn’t 100% sure if they knew not only what my allergies were, but that they were possibly life-threatening. The other challenge I found to be with pre-packaged products where ingredient lists commonly featured over a dozen languages in tiny print. Sometimes they would include English under the category (GB) for Great Britain, sometimes not. I found it best to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store finding fresh breads, meats and fruit/veggies. Plus you can use your translation card with bakers, butchers etc. who can help you avoid those food labels altogether.

Then came Asia.

Spending three weeks in a small town in China proved to be the biggest challenge yet. English was practically non-existent and I had a constant “fish out of water” feeling. Allergy Translation Cards were vital during this trip, but found the risk of cross-contamination very high wherever I ate. I bought a hot plate at Wal-Mart (yes they are in China!) and cooked basic, but safe meals in my hotel room. Things like rice, pasta, and soups kept me afloat as I toured around a beautiful country with a vibrant culture. I felt limited at times in terms of cuisine, but I really wasn’t there for that reason. I kept my food expectations low, and as a result, view the trip as a great success as I visited a place I once thought of as “off limits” due to my food allergies.

Where next?

South America seems to be drawing me in as well as Russia. Wherever it will be, I now have the confidence to know that all countries can be manageable as long as you are taking proper precautions and doing your research in advance.

Growing your comfort zone can take time, but with each new country, you will gain that much more confidence and peace of mind knowing that travelling with allergies is not so scary. Things that were once unknown, will be known, and the “what if” scenarios that played out in your mind will hopefully turn into “this could happen, so I’ll prepare by doing this”.

Happy and safe travels wherever you go!

Kyle D.


Food Allergies at a Resort

Recently I travelled to the culturally rich country of Cuba with my food allergies. I was amazed how friendly and overwhelmingly nice the people were. This gave me a lot of comfort right away knowing that they would hopefully be working with me when trying to find safe meals on my vacation.

After all of my travels over the years, it was my first time staying at an all-inclusive resort. I was very curious about what the food situation was like. The resort had several restaurants on site as well as a main buffet area.

I was disappointed that the buffet area did not have any of the foods labeled at all. I did find a couple stations that were very basic (e.g. meats and potatoes) that I felt comfortable with.

However, the restaurants were the true saving grace as it gave me a chance to use my Allergy Translation Card and get a customized meal. I took a customized card in Spanish that featured my list of multiple allergies.

The language barrier was significant. I’m glad I had my card.

Upon trying to explain my allergies in broken Spanish, I realized quickly that I should just stop talking, and start showing my card! Upon first glance, the wait staff knew right away what my allergies were, and how severe they were. They asked me if they could take the card to the kitchen staff which I happily obliged.

On a few occasions I was made a special meal that differed from the menu options. I love that they went out of there way to make a safe meal for me as it really implied that they took my food allergies seriously.

Once again, the Allergy Translation Card helped give some peace of mind on a relaxing and wonderful vacation.

Kyle D.

Setting Yourself up For Success Traveling with Food Allergies

Travelling with food allergies can be a daunting thought for many people, especially with small children. There are many questions about different cultures and taking allergies seriously, emergency preparedness for anaphylaxis, and airline allergy policies.

There is obviously a ton of research that must be done before going on a trip or vacation with food allergies, but there are a few easy things to keep in mind that will help reduce the risk.

Top 5 Tips for Reducing the Risk Traveling with Food Allergies

  1. Read reviews – whether for a hotel, restaurant or airline, look into reviews from others rather than trail blaze yourself. If you can’t find information on allergy-friendly restaurants, look for other qualities that might lend to mindfulness of food restrictions (e.g. vegan restaurant or one with gluten-free options).
  2. Not a time to experiment with food – although food is synonymous with many cultures, try to focus on the other cultural elements such as museums and sights. Stick to the foods that you know and trust and play it safe.
  3. Stick to touristy areas – you will have a much better chance of getting wait staff who are capable in English if you stick to the touristy hot spots. This might mean missing out on some true local flavors, but it will be worth it having more peace of mind at mealtime.
  4. Always have back-up food with you – granola bars, pre-made sandwiches, and other quick snacks will help give you a back-up option in the case you cannot find safe foods. It will also help in not making a foolish decision to risk it with an unknown food on an empty stomach.
  5. Don’t eat airline food – for some reason this is advice that is easier said than done. Pack an incredible meal for yourself that you know will be better than the airline food. Then you won’t feel that you’re missing out. It’s not worth the risk at 20,000 feet.

Happy and safe travels!

Kyle D.