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Eating Belgian Chocolate with a Nuts Allergy

Hello - My family will be traveling to Europe next Summer. Our 13 year-old daughter has an allergy to cashews and pistachios. She loves chocolate and it would be very disappointing not to be able to sample Belgian chocolate while we are visiting Bruges. Does anybody have any advice about this?

Posted by
7257 posts

I have the same allergy. You should read the ingredients or inquire about them before sampling. And you can look up the Dutch and French words for tree nut ingredients online. My experience is that most people in shops speak English in Belgium. And bring an epipen in case

Posted by
21287 posts

Caveat: I have no medical training.

European countries seem to be at least as good as we are about dealing with allergens, maybe better. Are you comfortable with your daughter consuming chocolates from a fancy chocolate shop in the US? If so, I don't think Europe would be any riskier.

You'll need to travel with multiple copies of a printed statement (get them laminated) about ner allergy and its severity. Choose languages appropriate for your destinations. Folks who have to deal with such conditions (I do not) have reported that you can find appropriate text on line.

I assume you'll be traveling with multiple Epi-Pens, right?

Posted by
8293 posts

" ...... it would be very disappointing for her not to be able to sample the chocolate ..."

No doubt, but it would be safer. I expect there are things at home that your daughter cannot eat also, so she must be a bit used to abiding by some safety rules.

Posted by
5556 posts

Does she currently eat plain U.S. chocolate bars, without knowing if they are made in a plant that also makes bars with nuts? I have never seen a label "Cashew and Pistachio Free." This is not a conclusive inquiry, but your OP question is extremely broad. Does she also avoid all tree nuts, or only the two you named?

Posted by
68 posts

Thanks everyone! These are all useful replies.

Gianna is allergic to tree nuts. However, she primarily reacts to cashews and pistachios. She has never had anaphylaxis. Benadryl has done the trick in the cases where she's eaten them. However, we will carry two epi-pens with us when we travel to Europe. We have been criticized for being a bit lax with her allergy, in that she's eaten stuff that says 'manufactured in a a facility that may have contact with tree nuts'. She also eats milky ways, hershey bars, M&Ms etc without trouble. When we go to a restaurant (which we do regularly), we tend to ask if there are any nuts in the dishes and if so, just ask them to leave them out.

I just figured in Europe we should be a bit more diligent...

Posted by
7257 posts

I have the same allergy tree nuts:
walnuts pecans almonds pistaccios hazelnuts cashews
everyone is different but I never had a reaction when the label says manufactured on machine that process nuts in 48 years

Posted by
5648 posts

While I don't seem to have any food allergies myself, and I've probably eaten more than my share of Milky Way bars, Belgian chocolate is unquestionably finer -- an entirely superior class of candy. And Belgians refer to little chocolates, what in the USA might be called either truffles or bon-bons, as "Pralines." In the USA (New Orleans, at least), "Pralines" implies pecans, but that's not the case in Belgium, where their pralines are pieces of chocolate, that could have a softer center, and might include nuts, but probably won't. She will definitely want to confirm "no nuts" before tasting something, but don't automatically be turned off when you hear "Praline" in Bruges.

Posted by
21287 posts

There are most definitely praline fillings that include ground-up nuts. They are some of my favorites, but best to know that a smooth filling isn't necessarily nut-free.

Posted by
1681 posts

This is not a uncommon question, so (at least) some shops must be familiar dealing with allergies. You can contact the TI in Bruges to start with, hopefully they can help you further: toerisme@brugge.be

Posted by
68 posts

Oh you all are giving me such chocolate cravings!!!!

It sounds like--with a bit of advanced prep--that Gianna will indeed be able to enjoy eating her way through Europe just as she does here in New York. I appreciate all of your pointers.

Of course, I am still hoping that the doctor gives us some miracle news at her first follow-up visit in over 4 years. Maybe she's grown out of it! LOL

Posted by
4684 posts

Cashews are not commonly used in chocolates in Europe, pistachios are much more common.

Question: has your daughter ever had a reaction to something that did not contain cashews or pistachios as a declared ingredient, because of traces? If not, and as long as you have anti-allergy medication, it would probably be safe to eat Belgian chocolates, as long as she doesn't have anything that's explicitly pistachio-flavoured.

Posted by
68 posts

Gianna really hasn't had a reaction to eating products that "may contain traces" of tree nuts.

Based on all of your feedback, I am confident that she will be able to enjoy the chocolate from Belgium as long as we communicate with them.

Posted by
11613 posts

I would consume or purchase chocolates that are made by the shop, the staff will be able to tell you if there are any ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction.

Posted by
415 posts

My friends 5 year old had a horrible reaction to pine nuts in Italy. We didn't even know he was allergic to pine nuts. He had a gelato that was scooped up with a scooped that also served gelato containing pine nuts. His face swelled up really bad. They took him to a local small clinic. They patched him up (I mean that in a good way because the care he received was excellent). My friends tried to pay but they said no and that they needed to take him immediately to the large hospital. The hospital got him all back to normal. They also called a pharmacy near our timeshare (we were in Tuscany) and told them to expect us after hours.

Funny side note. At the hospital you pay your bill at a machine. The machine was broken. My friends wanted to pay somebody. But the staff told them you can only pay the machine but it's broken so bye bye. They said they could not accept the money.

It was a really scary situation but it ended well. None of the hospital staff really spoke English but they all did an excellent job.