Diabetes to Go

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Anyone who’s ever had to follow a “special” diet — whether this means dairy-free, low-calorie, or just plain fresh and healthy — knows that dietary restrictions can throw a wrench into social and entertainment plans. Choosing the right restaurant for a night out with friends can sometimes mean deciding for everyone else, or else munching on a salad while your friends enjoy foods you can’t, or shouldn’t, eat. But as the recent experience of a Brooklyn, NY, man shows, even enjoying an afternoon to yourself can be complicated by food offerings.

As recounted last week in an ABC News article, Michael Kass, 41, a father of three who has Type 2 diabetes, visited a neighborhood movie theater on a Sunday afternoon after dropping his kids off at a birthday party. Before entering the theater, though, he bought some strawberries to eat during the movie, since he knew the theater didn’t have any healthy snacks for sale. When he showed his just-bought ticket for admission to the movie, he was told he couldn’t bring the strawberries inside with him. According to his account of the incident, Kass protested that he had diabetes and couldn’t eat anything sold at the theater, yet still was told he couldn’t bring the food in, and his request for a refund on his ticket was denied. So he decided to enter the theater anyway, bringing the strawberries with him. Before the previews had ended and before he had even opened the strawberry carton, Kass was escorted out of the theater by the manager and two police officers.

In response to this incident, the theater’s owner stated that despite the policy against outside food, an exception should have been made for Kass once he told the staff about his diabetes. This leads, of course, to the question: Who should be allowed to bring outside food into establishments where food is sold? Many people would agree that those with celiac disease, for example, should be allowed to bring gluten-free food into eating establishments and other venues, since food that is reliably free of gluten is often unavailable. But unlike celiac disease, diabetes doesn’t carry any uniform food prohibitions; a “diabetic diet” is not necessarily the same from one person to another. Some people with diabetes might, in fact, find that eating a pint of strawberries gives them high blood glucose levels, while others, like Kass, view them as a healthy snack. It may also be difficult for businesses to justify having one policy for people with recognized medical conditions, and another for the general population; eating healthy foods can, after all, help prevent many conditions, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer, from developing in the first place.

What’s your take on allowing outside food in establishments that sell food — should businesses let certain people, but not others, carry items in? Should places like movie theaters and sports venues, where food is arguably incidental to the service being provided, be more accommodating than restaurants when it comes to outside food? Or should restaurants also recognize that they serve a social function and allow outside food when people have certain dietary restrictions? Have you ever faced a dilemma in deciding whether to attend an event or venue where you knew you couldn’t, or shouldn’t, eat the food? Leave a comment below!

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