Allergy/Asthma Information Association

New translation cards help travellers with allergies

Misty Harris, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, July 09, 2007

Food may be a universal language, but when something gets lost in translation, the consequences can be devastating — and not just for your palate.

For as many as 3.3 million Canadians with food allergies, eating abroad can be like a game of Russian roulette. One false inflection or misspoken word in a foreign tongue can see an evening of haute cuisine end in a hospital visit.

But where most allergy sufferers might see this as a problem, one peanut-plagued man saw it as a business opportunity.

Over the past year, Kyle Dine has sold more than 1,000 "allergy translation cards" that help vacationers surmount the language barrier at restaurants. A recent commerce graduate of the University of Ottawa, Mr. Dine got the idea for Next link will open in a new windowAllergyTranslation.com after living in Sweden as an exchange student in 2005. "It was a big eye-opener just trying to eat and stay alive over there," says Mr. Dine, for whom even a trace of nuts causes anaphylactic shock.

"I'd see all these nice restaurants, but I'd end up going into a Swedish grocery store and buying a bag of Kit-Kat bars because they were less of a gamble."

Mr. Dine's credit-card-sized printouts can be tailored to almost any dietary restriction, with translations for more than 175 food allergies and 11 special diets in 22 languages, ranging from French, Spanish and German to Turkish, Slovenian and Croatian.

After paying an $8 fee, consumers are free to print as many of the customized cards as they want, then present them to waiters or chefs when dining out.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

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