I have an allergy to dairy, and I do not expect others to know everything that contains dairy. At work, sometimes people bring things they've baked from home, or leftover birthday cake, things like that, which usually contain dairy.

I used to mention my allergy when declining, but some people seem to feel bad that they didn't accomodate me, so now I just decline without saying why.

Which method would be less rude?

I don't mind that I miss out on cake - when it's my own birthday, I make a dairy-free cake.

2 Answers 2


My wife has a food allergy and an additional food intolerance. In my experience most people are happy with receiving the explanation of the reason for any refusal of such offers. In fact, more people accept the reason (thus not being offended by the rejection) than those who "feel bad for not accommodating."

This is especially true when the explanation is prefaced with, "I really appreciate that you were thinking of me," or "That is so very kind of you."

It therefore seems that giving the explanation, far from being rude, shows an honesty (and trust with personal information) with the one making the offer. It also avoids a similar situation with that person in the future, where a "no thank you" alone may not.


I have had a highly restrictive diet for the last 20 years (no sugar, low fibre are the two big ones) and so have been dealing with this situation over and over again.

In most cases I do not mention it. I simply say that I don't want any, or I'm not much of a cake eater, I prefer savouries. Most people will let this pass and allow me to just hang out and enjoy the social occasion without anyone feeling bad or feeling they have to offer to go out of their way to accommodate me in any way.

However, if these are people that I am going to see regularly or are going to be sharing food with often then I would find a way to get the information out there. I'd do it in a different setting, at a time when no one is going to be uncomfortable about food. This will inform their choices for later events, even if it is to give you prior warning so you can bring something yourself to join in with if you wish.

It also removes the 'big reveal' of how no one has considered you when you turn up with a dairy free cake at an event and people find out why.

This is not fool proof. 20 years on many of my friends continue to forget and feel bad, but thankfully they are friends and know I am laid back about it. I also make sure that I eat before events like this or bring a snack as there is rarely food I can eat.

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