Allergies in the Industry

Hey maratime people I have a few questions regarding food allergies. I’m going to be a senior in high school in a few months and I’m 89% certain I want to pursue a career in maratime! I have a deadly food allergy to fish and shellfish, and its been a thought that’s crossed my mind often that this isn’t practical in smintense survival situations. I’ve done plenty of research and even in the rare case that we have to abandon ship, there’s food on board. But I’m more talking about the general day to day cooking. Do the chefs in your experience take extra care against cross contamination, and do they even allow people with these allergies aboard? Thanks!



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7 thoughts on “Allergies in the Industry

  • May 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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    Short answer: you’ll probably be OK, with some things to watch out for. I’m allergic to nuts (makes cleaning turbochargers ‘fun’), and I always talk to the chief steward/chief cook my first day onboard. I’ve gotten pretty lucky so far to sail with really careful stewards departments, and they’d always warn me if something had nuts.

    Fish and shellfish might be a little trickier, because nuts are a dessert/salad thing in a kitchen, but fish/shellfish are a lot more common as main lunch/dinner items; tuna steaks/fish & chips were fairly common on one of my ships.

    As far as being allowed onboard goes, I’d wager it depends on the severity. The USCG is pretty lax when it comes to medical checks, but I really can’t say. My allergies haven’t caused an anaphylactic reaction (though at least some, if not all ships have an epi-pen in their medical bay), so I personally haven’t had any problems.

    Lastly, the food on a lifeboat is pretty much a brick of nutrient. 100% artificial protien/vitamins/whatever. I think I saw some that were lemon flavor.

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  • May 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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    I’ve sailed with someone with a deadly nuts allergy. Even the smell could set him off. So he told the chief steward who was very careful of him. If nut product were on the menu he would tell the officer in advance so he could avoid the galley deck and send the second steward to bring his food to his cabin.

    Also the chief mate was informed. And he always had an epi pen with him and he put an epi pen in the hospital for staff to get in case of emergency.

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  • May 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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    I sailed with one engineer who lived off of nothing but turkey sandwiches for his entire hitch. I know of another guy who did nothing but eat peanut butter and crackers for 80 days at a time. My point is there are many ways to deal with this problem, some are a little more boring than others. As the others have said, communicate with the Stewards Department and the Captain. That way they know to be cautious and, should something really go wrong, they know exactly how to react.

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  • May 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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    I know people on-board my vessel (tanker registered in Canada) who have food allergies. I know one guy who has to go vegetarian for health reasons (I don’t know more because it’s not my place) they cooked special meals for him, or ensured he could eat the meals provided. It’s part of cookies job to ensure that they can eat. The big thing is that your chief is really a lottery. You can end up with someone who serves hotdogs for Christmas, or one who makes fresh bread daily. It’s really depends on the cookie.

    Edit: I do think he was restricted to 500 NM from shore, but again didn’t ask as none of my business.

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  • May 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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    You should be fine. As some other comment stated there are vegetarians onboard and they get special meals.

    Stewards are trained professionals and know their shit, they are also following regulations and are vetted constantly for health and safety.

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  • May 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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    If someone has an allergy the Steward’s department is normally very careful not to cross contaminate and can prepare a special meal for you if needed.

    A good Cheif Steward, and there have been a few who are idiots, will know what the crew needs and wants.

    Once on board hit the galley and explain your needs. As it’s fish, some sauces/condiments contain fish oil.

    I’ve had a number of people who have needed special meals, it’s not a problem.

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  • May 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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    I agree with the other comments here. Most ships will be able to accommodate you and a you can do alter the way you eat to help. EVERY ship I’ve worked on has an epi-pen, and with folks with severe allergies they usually stash a few in their normal work/living spaces.

    Here’s the [USCG Medical Certificate guidance](https://media.defense.gov/2019/Sep/11/2002181050/-1/-1/0/CIM_16721_48.PDF). Check out chapter 9

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