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Catering for Food Intolerances or Allergies

By: Sam Harrington-Lowe - Updated: 9 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Catering For Food Intolerances Or Allergies

There are many people these days with food allergies and this is something you should be aware of when catering. Allergies can range from mild reactions such as a rash, overheating, itching or hives, to the extreme and in some cases fatal reactions. It’s a good idea to understand a little about the allergies themselves, to remember to check with your guests and also to know what to do in an emergency

Checking with your Guests

If your guests have a severe allergy to something, the chances are that they’ll always warn you when you make any arrangement. They’ll be accustomed to checking and will mostly likely volunteer the information, but it’s very good practice to check when inviting or bookings guests. Find out what the guests are allergic to, how bad the allergy is, and check alternatives to offer as part of the menu. Common allergens include things like nuts, eggs, dairy and wheat and it’s relatively easy to work around these – but check the severity of the allergy too. Some nut allergy sufferers, for example, have such a severe allergy that they will have a reaction to any food that has shared preparation area with food that contains nuts, even if there isn’t the tiniest piece of nut in their food. So be thorough when investigating

Common Food Allergies

It’s possible for people to be allergic to just about anything, but the most common causes make up around 90% of all allergies. These include nuts – peanuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts particularly – shellfish, dairy, wheat and eggs. Coeliacs are intolerant to wheat and gluten, and fall into a similar bracket as allergy-sufferers but strictly speaking this is an intolerance rather than an allergy. All the same, it can make the sufferer very ill and wheat, or wheat flour, is in many, many things, so be vigilant when preparing food

If your guests are intolerant or allergic to any foods, ask them what they prefer as an alternative – for example some who are allergic to cow’s milk or cheese may be fine with goat’s milk – and plan accordingly. Important though is to know what to do if someone has a reaction

Mild Allergies

If the reaction is fairly mild, you can treat the sufferer with antihistamines. You can’t cure the allergy, but can you help with the symptoms such as itching or rashes. Generally anyone who suffers from allergies might be expected to carry antihistamines but it’s good practice to remind them or if it’s a private party for friends, keep some on hand in case

Anaphylactic Shock

This is where the sufferer has a severe reaction to something and it can be life-threatening. The reaction is for the airways to swell, causing the sufferer to stop breathing and the treatment for this is a shot of adrenalin. Most allergy-sufferers who have a risk of anaphylaxis will carry an auto-injection pen which delivers a pre-measured shot easily but in rare cases they may find themselves without it. If this happens, call an ambulance immediately but whilst waiting if possible, encourage the sufferer to drink some coffee or cola as the caffeine will help dilate the airways and give the patient vital assistance with breathing

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