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Gluten-Free Food Taken Away At Sea World
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I had by gluten-free sandwich taken away at the gates of Sea World. They don't allow outside food, and although they told me they make exceptions for children, the guard wouldn't accept food allergies as reason to bring in a sandwich.

What happened is the following: My wife's company paid for families to go to Sea World in San Antonio for a Saturday (May 12, 2012). We bussed there, and got dropped off to be picked up later.

Since we would be there all day I made a sandwich with gluten-free bread and certified gluten-free sandwich meat.

The guards at the gate search peoples' bags and one guard found the gluten-free sandwich in my backpack and asked, "Do you two have a child?"

My wife and I responded, "No."

She then said, "Unless you have a child I can't let you bring that inside."

I told her, "I have food allergies, I can't eat the food served here safely. I need this."

She looked at me and said, "Sir, I can't let you take this inside."

I repeated, "But I have food allergies - ".

She interrupted and said, "You can bring it back to your car and eat it there."

I told her I was dropped off by a bus with a large group and the bus left already. She told me again that I couldn't take the sandwich inside, she grabbed it and then asked me, "So do you want me to throw this away?"

I said, "I guess if you want me to go hungry!"

And she took it.

Fruit and smoothies are very hard to find at Sea World, so I went hungry that day.

I wrote a letter to Sea World, starting off with "I'm writing to try to encourage Sea World to add an exception for people with food allergies to its 'no outside food' policy." I went on to describe Celiac disease, what happened at the gate, etc.

Sea World's response to my letter:

From: SWT Guest Correspondence <SWT.GuestCorrespondence@seaworld.com>

Date: Tue, May 15, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Subject: RE: New Website Contact Request Form

To: "xxx" <xxx>

Dear Michael xxx,

I wanted to thank you for bringing to our attention the incident that you encountered while visiting SeaWorld San Antonio. We appreciate hearing from our guests, as your feedback will aid to improve the SeaWorld experience for all our guests.

I was very disappointed to hear we failed to meet your expectations and our standards regarding our Outside Food Policy. Please accept our sincerest apologies. Please see the list below of things allowed and not allowed in our park.

IS ALLOWED:

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I carry a doctors note with me in case this happens. I also check the outside food policy ahead of time to see if there will be an issue. If I can't find any clear way to bring my food. I email or call. I have had to send the doctors note once ( which actually may be illegal to require that per ADA). I don't mind them knowing why I need my food. celiac is nothing to be ashamed of.

When I get the response that it is OK, I copy that email and bring it with me. I had to show it once.

I always tell the person checking the bags that I have food and why, before they find it. It looks less sneaky that way. I do not bring in foods or drinks I could reasonably expect to find and purchase like chips or candy or Pepsi.

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That's awful! I'm sorry! There is an amusement park right by my house called lake compounce. They wouldn't let me bring my food in! But luckily I could put my food in my car and go get it at lunch time. Sorry for your bad experience! Some people just enjoy being rude!

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Sea World does let you bring in food for allergies. The security person was wrong and doesn't know their policy. You should have insisted on speaking to management.

It's a stupid policy they have. Disney doesn't question you one bit. We have annual passes and always bring in food. They never say anything to us about it.

I would follow up by calling the managers at the park that you visited. Be very firm that you want them to make sure this is handled. Go as high on the chain as you have to go. Give them a description of the security person and the time you entered if you don't have a name. Then tell them you are extremely disappointed with your visit, you were starving all day. EMBELLISH. Tell them you had a headache and you felt nauseous from low blood sugar. Tell them it ruined your trip.

Then say "I'd like to know what you can do to compensate me for this. I think a free return trip would be a reasonable compensation."

See what they offer. Most likely they will offer you something IF you are firm, but not belligerent. Don't yell and scream or they'll say screw you. Just be firm, polite and business like.

In the future if you go again, go straight to a manager if you have a problem.

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Sea World in CA does have gluten free food but it's dicey. Disneyland does gluten free really well. Once they gave us the wrong hot dog bun but we go all the time and have only had one mistake ever.

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I carry a doctor's note for my daughter for this reason. I am so scared that we will be stuck in a situation where she will not have anything to eat. I wonder if the Sea World employee that checked your bag was even fully aware of the policy. It seems like they should have had their manager come over to talk to you and decide whether to approve the food. When we went on vacation a couple of years ago, we brought a whole suitcase full of food and a doctor's note. I am so glad that I never had to argue to have safe food for my family on that trip.

I am so sorry that this happened to you on what should have been a fun day!

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I wear cargo pants and put my "sandwich" in one of the pockets. Then I find a semi-secluded place to eat it.

I understand that they want you to buy food from them instead of bringing your own, but that is ridiculous. They should fire that person!

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Seaworld's issue is that people who do not know any better try to feed the animals there. Those creatures could become ill from eating the kinds of things some people want to give them. That is the reason for the policy.

I think that they should provide a dining area with free lockers for people with food allergies to store their food, and then the entire family could dine together in that area. That way they can control where people take the food items, and still accomodate those of us with dietary restrictions.

It is a real shame that there are people in the world who cannot follow the rules because we are all penalized for it.

They were wrong to take your food away from you and leave with nothing to eat for the entire day. I agree with sandsurfgirl --complain to Seaworld management at that location and see if you can get some kind of compensation for your suffering. No one should have to go without food for a day anyplace.

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Seaworld's issue is that people who do not know any better try to feed the animals there. Those creatures could become ill from eating the kinds of things some people want to give them. That is the reason for the policy.

When I asked the manager why they have that policy he told me it was because they will lose money from people not buying food there. Which is just stupid. Most people don't want to lug food with them when they don't have to.

I don't think it's the feeding animals issue because there are snack stands all over the place, carts, popcorn, etc. They don't limit where you can eat their food. You walk around with the overpriced garbage they sell just like you would walk around with your own food. There's no difference between a moron who will feed an animal Sea World chips and one who will feed an animal their own chips.

There are very few exhibits where you even have access to the animals and the ones that do have access have plenty of employees watching.

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The guard is technically correct to take away your sandwich. Sandwiches are specifically mentioned in the list of food and beverages that are NOT allowed in Sea World. I don't fully understand why you thought that your sandwich would be allowed even if it is gluten free because it is still a sandwich which is against their rules. Unless you didn't research sea worlds outside food policy prior to going to sea world. It would have been easier/smarter to bring foods that you find filling that aren't expressly forbidden in the outside food rules. There is no medical need on why you had to bring a sandwich instead of kind bars, lara bars, nuts, whole fruit, beef jerky, etc. The policy also states that in order to bring medical need food into the park you need MANAGER approval, which you didn't have so they can still refuse to allow you to bring in the sandwich because you didn't have management approval. The outside food and beverage policy is easy to find in the FAQs section of the sea world website. Since their policy is very clear and available online it seems that you went hungry because you didn't do the appropriate research into bringing outside food into sea world. While venues do have to make accommodations for us we do need to do the research into the venue's policies and what needs to be done to GET the accommodation. In this instance you need manager approval other places may have a more lenient policy and you may only need to tell the guard that it's a medical need. This is why it's important to know the policy of the venue you are going to and make and needed phone calls/emails to assure that you will be able to bring in the food.

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I definitely don't think you should embellish, nor ask for something free in return....quite frankly, you're less likely to get something for free if you ask for it, especially if you aren't telling the whole truth. Please do not listen to the advice of the person who told you to do this. Next time, definitely reach out to management prior to your visit to find out what the appropriate procedure is for bringing in outside food (even if you already know, if you make the effort to reach out and talk to someone, it's greatly appreciated) and always maintain a calm, polite attitude. I'm sorry that this happened, I know it's frustrating but these places have rules in place for a reason, whether we agree with them or not.

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Right. Do not embellish or ask for anything. Just make sure to describe the events accurately and send it to the management of Seaworld. Maybe they will give you something to placate you. It is important that they understand exactly what the situation is, so that maybe they can take corrective action so that this kind of thing does not happen in the future.

Also, it is important to do some research before going to amusement parks, attractions, or events. Find out what restrictions are in place before you arrive.

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