Having A Peanut Allergy In Paris, France
In 2018 I went to Paris, France, and had virtually no luck by emailing restaurants and bakeries beforehand to find peanut-free spots. Shortly after my trip, Spokin came out with a Paris, France Allergy Guide, listing hotel suggestions, and places to eat both savory and sweet! If you’re going to Paris, be sure to check it out!
While in Paris, I also discovered restaurants and grocery store products I could safely eat, so that information is what I am sharing here today. Based on my experience in Paris, and in France in general, it seems peanuts are often used and somewhat of a staple, as are many top allergens and tree nuts, so this is a city I’d personally try to get a hotel with a kitchen/kitchenette. You can read my post about managing food allergies in hotels here for more tips.
If you’re planning a trip to the lovely and expansive city of Paris, France, here is my list of restaurants that I contacted that were either not safe and did use peanuts in their kitchens, or that I didn’t hear back from. I did a lot of research upfront online about where people with food allergies often ate in Paris, so that steered my list in many ways. I hope this may help those interested get a head start checking elsewhere.
There were at least a dozen more places that I contacted and didn’t hear back from, but these were the ones I saved in my running document because I was hoping to eat at them based on their menu items if any got back to me. The below all used peanuts in their kitchens in 2018:
- Restaurant Benoit
- Vapiano (France)
- Fatima Merani
- Mariage Freres (Bulk Tea Shop)
- Le George
- Arena Cafe
- Poilâne Bakery
- Cafe Pinson
- Le Comptoir Belge
Food Allergies In France & EU Food Labeling Laws
Luckily, there are plenty of grocery stores and markets in Paris and across France! In fact, one UK-based grocery store I loved is Marks & Spencer. They had a lot of items I was able to eat that were labeled in English and listed the allergens in the facility. To be clear, this labeling isn’t a Marks & Spencer specific thing, this is because it’s an EU law requirement to label 14 allergens and if they contain or may contain.
Due to this allergen transparency across the EU, when shopping in grocery stores and dining out in the EU, it’s easier than in the U.S. where there’s a lack of food labeling laws and transparency required by these same corporations. I speak more about this United States food labeling problem on Invisibly Allergic and in specific posts like this one on the big 10 food conglomorates, because I want to raise awareness that the U.S. is decades behind the EU in terms of transparency with food labeling.
Since I didn’t have much luck finding a dedicated allergen-free place to eat the months and weeks leading up to our trip, we didn’t let that rain on our time in Paris! We packed a lunch and safe snacks and brought it around the city with us. I had read online from multiple sources that nearly every café and bar has peanuts out for snacking in Paris, which seems to be a typical pub thing across Europe, so I skipped going into any cafés or bars, with the exception of one we found that was near the Eiffel Towel and my friend who speaks fluent French was able to talk to the chef and host about if peanuts were used and amazingly they weren’t. Funnily enough, after finishing up our day out and about, we did sit down for a beer at a restaurant, Le Champ de Mars, near the base of the Eiffel Tower and my friend went in before us and confirmed with them in French that they did not have peanuts on the menu! I was very surprised! However, since they are so commonly used, I didn’t want to risk eating off the menu since I hadn’t emailed with them prior. I did use their glassware and have a beer, and it was a lovely end to our day in Paris.
This brings me to my next topic about reading food labels for allergens in other languages, such as in French. Even with the better food labeling in the EU, I imagine having food allergies in France can be more tricky since there are a number of words for peanuts, nuts, tree nuts, etc. compared to other countries in the EU with possibly more simpler terminology for top food allergens.
The Many Words For Nut & Peanut In French
I am lucky to have a wonderful friend who has dual citizenship in France and the U.S., and she helped me navigate the many ways “peanut” and “nut” can be translated in the French language. I’ll share what she told me here, because I used this to help write all my emails to restaurants and for food allergy cards I passed out. Note: there is a difference between Canadian French and the French they speak in France. Some online translator tools will take the difference in dialect into consideration, so that’s something to consider, these translations are for using in France and would differ somewhat if used in Canada:
Peanut Butter, Peanut Oil, & Peanut In French Explained:
- Je suis très allergique aux arachides/cacahuètes
- I am very allergic to peanuts
- J’ai une allergie analphylactique aux arachides/cacahuètes
- I have an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts
- Je suis gravement allergique aux cacahuètes et à l’huile d’arachide
- I am seriously allergic to peanuts and peanut oil
- Do not just ask if the food contains “noix”. This word for nut is used to refer specifically to walnuts, and misleadingly doesn’t encompass all nuts.
- Peanuts (most commonly used in France)
- Peanuts (most commonly used in Quebec, Canada, but also sometimes used in France)
- Huile d’arachides
- Peanut oil
- Beurre de cacahuètes/arachides
- Peanut butter
- Fruit à coque
- Translated as “fruits in shells”, this term is used as a catch-all for nuts, and is used on lots of labels in France
My Recipe For An Amazing Day In Paris
My friend showed us all around Paris, and it was a really nice time, despite not being able to find a safe spot to eat. All in all, I was happy I didn’t risk eating out, because we only had one day there and I didn’t want to jeopardize my limited time.
Overall, even with the difficulty of eating out and peanuts being out & about, I absolutely want to go back to Paris! I explored The Louvre Art Museum while Paul (my husband with no food allergies) enjoyed some French treats at a nearby cafe, then we went to The L’Orangerie Museum, walked the Le Marais neighborhood, went under the Eiffel Tower, went to a local art gallery, explored along the river Siene, got a feel for living in Paris by walking the small side-streets, walked past Sainte Chapelle and the Notre-Dame, and so much more! It was 70 degrees and sunny, so we lucked out with the weather.
My top non-food recommendations:
- The Louvre Art Museum
- The L’Orangerie Museum
- Le Marais neighborhood
- Go see the Eiffel Tower (we chose to not pay the entrance see and skipped going in)
- Explore along the river Siene
- If they interest you, check out Sainte Chapelle and the Notre-Dame
Food Allergies & Transportation
One food allergy struggle, besides not being able to find a restaurant or bakery that didn’t use peanuts before traveling there, was the train ride to and from Paris from Brussels. The train served food with peanut items, and everyone around us was eating and snacking. Since it’s such a busy destination, the train was completely full, so we did not have the luxury to choose an open seat further away from people, and it was stressful and reminded me of my experience during air travel where it’s close proximity and recycled air. Nothing bad happened, I wore my N95 face mask the entire train ride, wiped down my clothes and purse and phone afterwards really well to prevent cross-contact, just tried to avoid touching my face as much as possible.
Enjoy some photos from Paris!
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thank you Zoë for taking time to blog your experiences in order to help many of us with severe food allergies and airborne allergy reactions navigate safe and stress free trip planning to Europe and beyond! Your information offers first hand guidance and tips for this New age of allergy sensitivity making life a little bit more comfortable while traveling. Planning for a kitchenette where you lodge is a wise idea that allows you to taste local foods and giving yourself control over what you eat but cooking it yourself! bravo!
Thanks so much for this guide; especially the warning about the prevalence of peanuts and the translations! I am bookmarking this page for our trip next year to France.
You’re welcome!! I’m so happy to hear it & help!