Cabbage pancakes are fried in canola oil in Washington in 2013. (Sarah L. Voisin/Washington D.C.)

The author of the Nov. 8 Food essay "How '-intolerant' is changing the way we eat" asked whether we are "letting fear go a step too far" and implied that somehow food intolerance is a personal choice rather than an actual medical condition. I gather the author has never put food in her mouth and then worried whether it was going to make her violently ill. Or has never explained to a waiter that she needed to know the ingredients so she could avoid a particular food but was served food that made her ill anyway.

For a family member, the intolerance issue is canola oil. And it is everywhere in the kitchens of restaurants and products on grocery shelves because the experts and politicians declared it was a healthy oil. A food intolerance isn't the same as an allergy. No EpiPen is required, but the bodily reaction is not one anyone would want. Maybe people with such intolerances should stay home, as chef Marco Canora suggested. But my preference is that restaurants and waitstaff be better educated and forthcoming about what is in their food so people can make their own choices. Keep the labels coming.

Mike Stafford, Ashburn