Disney’s Gary Jones outlined their food allergy processes

Posted on : 30-05-2017 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : Events, News

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Disney Culinary Dietary Specialist Gary JonesDisney’s Culinary Dietary Specialist for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Chef Gary Jones spoke at the FARE National Conference in San Antonio. He gave a great overview of just how many meals they serve including 750,000 food allergy meals.

He also discussed the basic process for making reservations 180 days in advance and to note your food allergy on each reservation. You can indicate that you have the top 8, plus corn. They added corn based on feedback from the Special Diets team who receive a lot of requests for corn allergies. If you have other allergies, a complex set of allergies or PKU needs, it is suggested that you call and speak to Special Diets, 14 days prior to your trip.

He stressed that you should discuss your food allergies when you arrive at each restaurant. He wasn’t specific about which Cast Member, but we recommend you tell everyone, starting with the host or hostess, the server and anyone who may handle drinks. He also recommended speaking with the chef if you have any questions, and also stressed that the chefs love to do it. He explained the logistics of the chefs coming out to meet with visitors and that, on some days, they were spending more time on the floor than in the kitchen, especially during peak times. Since this prevents the chef from actually cooking, they instigated the food allergy friendly menus and asked Cast Members to suggest their use. However, he again stressed that the Chef will always come out if you ask, and suggests that you ask if you have any questions or concerns. In fact, the chefs insisted that this be recommended at the top of the food allergy friendly menus.

Additionally, we suggest that you review the online versions before you go. Sometimes the food allergy friendly versions are on the Disney site, but you can also find them here, at the Disney Food Allergy group on Facebook or via Google. While they may change a little by the time you arrive, you will still have a good idea what to expect when you arrive and it can help you with your conversation with the chef.

Chef Gary also discussed the process when you travel on Disney Cruise Line. Essentially, your food allergy requests should be sent to the DCL Special Diets team 14 days before you sail, so they can have everything on the ship. He didn’t mention it, but there is also a Dining Session on embarkation day. See more of our Disney Cruise Line food allergy tips.

Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line each have their own Special Diets team and their email addresses are:

Disney World: specialdiets@disneyworld.com

Disneyland: Special.Diets@disneyland.com 

Disney Cruise Line: SpecialServices@disneycruise.com

Chef Gary also discussed a few disclaimers. This included a discussion of the kitchen and that each one as a special prep area for food allergy meals. They do not have separate kitchens. They do have fryers that are peanut and gluten free, but there are no separate kitchens. In the area designated for food allergy prep, they do have dedicated utensils, and other items used just for food allergy meals. But sometimes the dedicated area has to be cleaned and prepped when you arrive, since it may be used for other purposes.

One of the attendees asked about requesting specific brands of foods. Chef Gary said that they have certain specific brands, but those can change. However, specific food brands cannot be requested except in very rare circumstances. Additionally, the chef always knows which brands he has available. Chef Gary didn’t mention it, but we’ve actually reviewed an ingredient list, cut from the box by a chef when we requested it. They can also discuss and “may contain” labeling the food products on hand may have.

Next, he discussed bringing your own food. You can bring it, but Disney cannot store it, keep it cool and prepare your meals with it.

Chef Gary Jones at FARE 2017

He also had a quick discussion about fryers. While they don’t use peanut oil, the oil they used is a mix that includes soy. So, the french fries do contain soy. He also said they are constantly looking to change that, including possibly using highly refined oil, which is supposed have the allergens removed. However, since the science is not yet clear on highly refined oil, Disney does not use it.

Next, he discussed a new process that is coming soon for buffets. Currently, a chef may offer to walk you through the buffet to explain what is safe or can be modified for you. Then, the chef gives you the option to pull from the buffet or he or she can prepare it fresh for you. For cross-contamination concerns, we recommend the chef prepare it.

Coming soon are food allergy guides for buffets. He explained some testing they did, using signs on the buffets. But said they ultimately decided it was too problematic. So, they developed the guides that explain all of the items and the allergies for which they are safe. Then, you have the option to visit the buffet or speak to the chef to have it prepared fresh. Chef Gary stressed that they are just guides and do not replace the interaction with the chef.

There was also a discussion about kiosks. There is one in Animal Kingdom that has pre-packaged food allergy friendly snacks. Update: Unfortunately, this location no longer has food allergy snacks. He also discussed the logistics of food kiosks, like those in Epcot at the Food and Wine Festival. The food in these kiosks is prepared in a kitchen far away and transported to the kiosks, where many opportunities exist for cross-contamination. And while there are managers in the various kiosk zones that can answer questions and even possibly have food allergy safe alternatives prepared, it does come with some risk. However, they have made some gluten-free options available at some kiosk locations.

Afterward, Chef Gary stopped by our table. We discussed some of our favorite chefs and that they are almost like aunts and uncles to our daughter and more important the Mickey Mouse to us. He confirmed that they are all very passionate and love the interactions with guests and getting to know them over the years.

Gluten free feast on the Disney Fantasy

Posted on : 09-10-2016 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : Guest, Quick Review

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Gluten free feast on the Disney Cruise Line. What a way to start the day!!!
xoxºoº Disney Cruise Line chefs and servers!!

Support our GoFundMe for a little boy removed from a plane due to an allergy

Posted on : 26-02-2016 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : Events, Misc, News


disney-cruise-palsWe were contacted by many of our readers about a little boy that was asked to leave a flight because he was allergic to dogs, and one happened to be on the flight. The plane returned from the runway to the terminal and, sadly, the other passengers applauded as he and his family exited the plan.

Here is the full story as reported by KTVB News in Washington.

As mentioned in the news story, Giovanni and his family traveled to Bellingham, Washington, because his father, George Alvarado, wanted to visit as part of his “bucket list” — he has terminal throat cancer. The reaction by Allegiant Airlines and the other passengers soured what was supposed to be a trip of fond memories.

We want to send this boy and his family on a Disney Cruise and we’re turning to our food allergy community to help, since we all know what it’s like to be excluded from activities, including flying on certain other airlines, due to allergies. We feel a cruise, also on George’s bucket list,  would help make up for the mental anguish caused by Allegiant and some of their customers. Plus, Giovanni can meet Pluto on a Disney Cruise, a dog he isn’t allergic to!

Help us make this happen. As you can imagine, time is of the essence. Please visit our GoFundMe page and make a donation. We can show Giovanni and his family that the allergy community is very supportive, when others may not be.

Disney Dream Cruise with food allergies and intorerance

Posted on : 13-12-2014 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : Guest, Review

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Our Disney Cruise food allergy expert, Jennifer, sent us this great review of her latest cruise on the Disney Dream. Be sure to check out her Disney World reviews, too.

Dietary Restrictions:

Anaphylaxis to tree nuts and peanuts
Severe dairy intolerance (possible allergy)
Vegetarian (vegan preferred)

Disney Dream – November 2015


On every one of our four Disney cruises, everyone kept telling us that we had to dine a Palo. With food allergies, intolerances, and preferences, we weren’t sure if we could eat anything there or if it would be worth it. Well, we were wrong, and everyone else was right. We made reservations at Palo for our most recent cruise, and will do so for every future Disney cruise we take.

Per our main dining room server’s recommendation, we went to Palo the evening before our reservation to talk to the restaurant manager, Gonzalo. We were able to sit down with Gonzalo to discuss our restrictions. He reviewed some menu ideas with us and assured us that our meals would be perfectly safe. They would even make dessert!

DIsney Dream with food allergiesWith excitement (and a little hesitation on my part), we arrived for our reservation. We were treated to a spectacular experience; the best food and service on our entire holiday. They made me fresh bread – bread, just for me! – with artichoke hearts and three types of olives, topped with olive oil and 8 year-old balsamic vinegar. Our salad was arugula with grilled asparagus, tomato, courgette, and shredded carrot, again toped with the delightful olive oil and vinegar and a selection of specialty salts. (Smoked salt is my favourite.) The salad has so many flavours. Being an Italian restaurant, the entrée was penne pasta with olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, arugula, garlic, and fresh basil. The flavours complemented each other perfectly. For dessert they made lemon sorbet, strawberry basil sorbet, and fresh berries. We both loved the strawberry basil sorbet! (I would have had seconds if I wasn’t so full.)

Each step of the way, Gonzalo was checking in, explaining ingredients, and making sure everything was perfect. It was a perfect evening and we are counting down the days until we can check in and make Palo reservations for our next Disney cruise (in June 2015).


Disney Dream - Cabanas with food allergiesWe had some pretty good food in the main dining rooms on this cruise. However, our schedule didn’t always align with the main dining room hours. After running the Castaway Cay 5K, you get pretty hungry… so I pre-ordered some pancakes and fruit at Cabanas for after the run. (I actually ordered waffles, but they couldn’t make them for allergies due to cross-contact.) It took about ten minutes for the chef to prepare my order, and then I had more pancakes and fruit than I could eat. Thankfully, my husband was willing to help me out.

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay with food allergiesAs usual, I preordered my meal for on the island. This time, I asked for one of my favourite things to eat at home: rice and beans. I think the chefs took it a little too literally, as I had plain rice and plain beans mixed together without any seasonings or vegetables or anything. Not exactly my favourite meal of the trip, but not as bad as the vegetarian chilli I had the day before (also on Castaway Cay, it tasted like ketchup). Thank goodness they had some fresh fruit and plain Lays crisps to munch on. Overall, the food I had on Castaway Cay was less than stellar, but at least it was safe. Next time I’ll be much more specific when I preorder my meal for on the island. (Kyle had some vegetarian options on his plate – much more to choose from, and I was a bit jealous of his mixed rice.)

Disney Cruise Line Wonder-ful guest feedback

Posted on : 04-12-2014 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : Guest, Quick Review, Review

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Disney Wonder with food allergiesJust wanted to provided a quick up date to the cruise page based on my recent experience on the Disney Wonder. This page was really helpful before I left so I want to make sure it is for others too!

Lactose Intolerance can be set up on your online check-in by yourself. The menus all have Gluten and Dairy Free options listed now… however you can email SpecialServices@disneycruise.com and they will add GF to your file as well (seems that this is better for serious gluten sensitivity).

For the embarkation lunch, go to the sit down restaurant buffet. Your allergy is attached to your room number so the server will know about you before they even say hi! They will bring over the chef who will walk you through the buffet, but then bring you un-cross-contaminated food from the kitchen (was really quick to do this).

Another option for breakfast and lunch is to pre-order the night before with your server, but take it to go from the main restaurant. That way you can join your party by the pool or in the buffet without having to get food from there (as long as you don’t mind carrying your tray).

At dinner the chef was always making me special desserts (creamy ones with no dairy, they also had chocolate lava cake GF/DF) – lots of choices. Also, they will make you as much as want for any meal – just ask!

No food was allowed off the ship for shore excursions due to local customs officers (so plan shorter excursions).

Overall, I never had to worry, the servers were all right on top of things and took it all quite seriously. Even when I ordered a strawberry daiquiri they took the time to check the ingredients (I just figured its rum, strawberries, and sugar but he took the time to double check when I didn’t even give it a second thought!). Both
servers, plus the head server, took the time to come over at every meal and check up on my satisfaction from the food for the day.

If you have an allergy, this is one place you can just let go and enjoy yourself!

Mike from Guelph, Canada

Epi-Pens now available in Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Ships

Posted on : 08-11-2014 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : News

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Epi-Pen locations at Disney World

Epi-Pen location for Hollywood Studios – Click for a larger view

Really exciting news for those with food allergies, and other life-threatening allergies. Mylan, the maker of Epi-Pen, contacted us today to share this information with our readers. They hope to have them available by the end of November at Disney Parks and by the end of the year on Disney Cruise Lines.

We’re excited to announce that Mylan Inc. has entered into a multi-year strategic alliance agreement with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to help enhance access to EpiPen® (epinephrine) and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors and increase awareness of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening (severe) allergic reaction.

Each year, millions of guests visit Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in the U.S. — many of whom are living with and/or managing severe allergies — so for us, this alliance was the perfect fit.

As you know, food allergies are on the rise and continue to be a serious health issue in America. To date, 46 states have passed policies that allow/require schools to maintain undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors for those who may experience anaphylaxis. Our hope is that the positive trend we have seen in the school setting will expand to other public settings.

The corporate alliance between Mylan and Disney will:

• Provide updated maps in Disney’s domestic theme parks and cruise ships, as well as updated signage in parks, highlighting locations of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr Auto-Injectors.

• Introduce educational resources designed to increase awareness of and preparedness for severe allergic reactions. For those living with potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies, it’s critical to have an action plan in place before booking a getaway. Like life, severe allergic reactions are unpredictable:

• Anaphylaxis can progress quickly and without warning.

• Clinical guidelines state that epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, making access critical.

• Families managing known severe allergies are encouraged to follow their individual anaphylaxis action plan, which includes 1) avoiding known allergens, 2) recognizing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, 3) having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors at all times, such as EpiPen Auto-Injector, and 4) seeking immediate emergency medical care should anaphylaxis occur.

The product made available at the parks is not intended to replace a person’s individual emergency anaphylaxis treatment.

It looks as if Disney plans to make them available in the First Aid stations located throughout the parks. Here is a list of Disney World first aid locations. However, if you ever feel you are have an allergic reaction and you don’t know where to find nearest first aid location or it is not nearby, contact a Cast Member and they will have medical personnel come to you. They are very fast and can probably find you quicker than you can walk across the park to find first aid.

The press release is pasted below and available on the EpiPen Auto-Injector media room.

Mylan Signs Strategic Alliance Agreement with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to Enhance Access to EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors

EpiPen® Auto-Injector Locations Designated on Updated Guide Maps and Signage

New Multi-year Alliance to Increase Anaphylaxis Awareness through Multiple Educational Initiatives

PITTSBURGH – Nov. 7, 2014 – Mylan Inc. (Nasdaq: MYL) today announced it has signed a multi-year strategic alliance agreement with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to help increase awareness of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening (severe) allergic reaction. The agreement includes updated maps in Disney’s domestic theme parks and on its cruise ships as well as updated signage in the parks that highlight locations with EpiPen® (epinephrine) and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors. Over time, the companies also will introduce a variety of educational resources designed to increase awareness of and preparedness for severe allergic reactions.

EpiPen® locations will roll out at Disney parks and on cruise ships beginning in late 2014. In addition to emergency medical services (EMS), nurses trained to administer EpiPen Auto-Injectors are available during First Aid station operating hours to assist guests experiencing a severe allergic reaction. To help guests identify EpiPen locations, Disney’s guide maps will now include an EpiPen Auto-Injector symbol and new signage at First Aid stations.

“Mylan’s mission is to provide the world’s 7 billion people access to high quality medicine and set new standards in health care. In support of this mission, we are committed to enhancing access to EpiPen Auto-Injectors and to increasing awareness of anaphylaxis. Like life, severe allergic reactions are unpredictable, so people need to be prepared,” said Mylan CEO Heather Bresch. “We are very proud to be working with Disney, which already has a strong reputation for meeting the needs of people managing severe allergies, and believe we can further raise awareness of anaphylaxis through this collaboration and our joint commitment to education.”

Anaphylaxis is unpredictable, and can progress quickly and without warning. Clinical guidelines state that epinephrine is the first-line treatment when anaphylaxis occurs, making access critical. For those with a known risk, it is important to be prepared with an anaphylaxis action plan that includes 1) avoiding known allergens, 2) recognizing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, 3) having immediate access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen Auto-Injector, and 4) seeking immediate emergency medical care should anaphylaxis occur.

“For our guests who live with severe allergies every day, identifying EpiPen locations is an additional tool they’ll have for their anaphylaxis management plan,” said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “This new strategic alliance will help raise awareness of EpiPen locations so that our Guests with severe allergies may have the best possible experience at our parks and on our cruise ships.”

Families managing known severe allergies are encouraged to follow their individual anaphylaxis action plans and carry their epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times.


Getting back to Disney

Posted on : 06-10-2013 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : News

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Food allergies at Disney WorldIt’s been a crazy few months for us. We decided to move 5 months ago and managed to sell our house in a tough market. Moves are never easy, but we made the move in time to start our daughter in school. Next up, Liz needed to have surgery, which became our priority over the past 6 weeks. Everything is progressing very well, but it’s been extremely difficult to update the website on a regular basis since she is the creative source for our website, which has become a labor of love.

Now we’re back. Our next Disney trip is in late November and we’ve also booked another Disney Cruise in April.

And we’re going to be posting more of our reviews, and we’re ready for more guest reviews and quick reviews from our readers.


A Magical cast member

Posted on : 02-06-2013 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In : Misc


If you’ve ever found yourself fortunate enough to visit any Disney theme park, hotel or cruise ship, you know that “Disney Magic” can be found in some of the extraordinary Cast Members. We have met many incredible chefs, waiters, photographers, ride attendants, mousekeepers and bell staff.

Well, our our Disney Cruise aboard the Magic, we met the incredible Efrain Perez. He was always a joy to talk to and loves the whole Disney experience. He was stationed at the Guest Services desk and always extremely professional, but had a “good friend” vibe. One day, after rough weather on an excursion, I told him about our experience and about how we couldn’t get a refund, and he just listened to me. My daughter and I both just adored how he lent an ear and just listened with concern, even though there was nothing he could do about it. We all laughed at the end of my rant. Later that day, we got a knock at the stateroom door. It was the concierge with a gift from Efrain for our daughter — a giant stuffed Lotso Bear, from Toy Story 3. She was so taken by his kindness, that she wrapped her AllergyFreeMouse bear in a bow to give to him. Wow! Talk about beautiful and rewarding experience. You just can’t find this level of service and caring anywhere else!

Efrain, we love you and hope to see you soon!

Disney Cruise – Fish Extender

Posted on : 16-03-2013 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In :

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What in the world is a fish extender?

A fish extender is a set of pockets that hang from your brass message hook (which is shaped like a fish) next to each stateroom door. You can make them yourself, or buy them online. Etsy has several talented shops that make and sell them.  You can find all sorts of designs and personalization options.
Check Etsy for lots of Fish Extender optionsAnother Fish Extender on the Disney MagicFish Extender on the Disney MagicFish Extenders are a whole lot of funFish Extenders aboard the Disney Magic

But, this is very important, you have to join an Fish Extender or “FE” group to get gifts delivered to your FE pockets. If you’re traveling with a large group, you can create your own FE group — schedule the days for certain people, etc. Or, if traveling with just your family or a couple of friends, join an FE group on the DISboards, the discussion board service. To do this on the DISboards, simply search for the thread for your cruise. Then, search for the Fish Extender organizer on that thread and join. The Fish Extender organizer will send out a list of cabins with names of guests, and each of the children’s age, gender, food allergies (list yours if not asked!), special events being celebrated, and more. Some cruises have large Fish Extender groups, and are broken down into several groups.

Now for the Fish Extender gifts…

You will only be obligated to pass out your Fish Extender gifts on one day. However, you may want to do Pirate Night, Christmas or any other occasion, too.

Fish Extender tips

Fish Extender Gift ideas

click to enlarge
Fun Christmas ornament Fish Extender gifts
Fun Pirate themed Fish Extender gift
More pirate themed Fish Extender gifts
Fish Extender gift - cute paper clips
Fish Extender gifts commemorating the cruise date
  • Christmas ornaments with ship name and date. We loved ours and hung them on our tree last year, and will forever.
  • Pirate coins, eye patches, bandanas
  • Magnets for the doors — see examples on Etsy
  • Dry erase board and markers
  • Personalized highlighters to mark their Navigators
  • Cute pads of paper with pencils and crayons for the little ones
  • Barrets for little girls
  • Door hangers (photo 3236)
  • Goodie bags with all sorts of cute items
  • Decorated wooden clothespins with magnetic backing
  • Gold coins (non-chocolate for those with food allergies) in gold mesh bag with leather tie
  • Keychains
  • Disney soap favors in ribbon tied bag
  • Magic wands
  • Glow sticks for pirate night
  • Bracelets
  • Little packets of hand sanitizer with your a personalized label, like with Mickey Mouse’s hand! (see pinterest)
  • Little bottles
  • Disney themed  luggage tags
  • Miniature shadow box fridge maget
  • Post-it note holders
  • Disney homemade coasters using maps
  • Posit clip boards
  • Homemade bookmarks


Disney Cruise Port Adventures

Posted on : 02-03-2013 | By : Allergy Free Mouse | In :

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Disney Cruise – Port Adventures with food allergies

Port Adventures bring a whole new challenge to the food allergy equation. You cannot take dairy, meat, or fruit to other countries. In fact, you may not take food that is not pre-packaged by the manufacturer. I wish I had known this. I was planning to take a lunch prepared by the kitchen, packing a lunch bag to go. But, that was not an option. And it is way too risky and dangerous to even entertain the thought of preparing food for her in unfamiliar restaurants.  She can only eat in a few restaurants near our home — there’s no way I would try something new in a foreign country. So, plan your port adventures and your meals on board, or take allergy free snacks or meals to get you through.