Yes, I know this is a strange topic. My inspiration came from a friend who mentioned discovering a child she was keeping had food allergies and not knowing about it. I have severe food allergies and have had since I was a young child. While I have noticed more people are aware of food allergies, many still do not really understand the potential dangers with food allergies.
#10: Awareness. Be alert to possible food allergies when serving food. If you don’t know if your guests have food allergies, then you should ask them.
#9: Saying I have an allergy is not a code word for I don’t like something. Many times I have had people tell me: “Well if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to eat it”. Some people believe the myth that dislikes and allergies are the same thing, especially in children. I have heard adults say they don’t believe a child who says I’m allergic to ___, because the child doesn’t know. Yes some children confuse allergies and dislikes. One easy way to find out is to ask the child what happens when they eat ___. Even a young child with a food allergy knows what happens when they have an allergic reaction. Personally, my allergies prevent me from eating several of my favorite foods. If allergies were based on dislikes, then I would be allergic to lima beans and turnips and not oranges and strawberries.
#8: Please don’t misinterpret my cautiousness about food as being a picky eater. When I inquire about the ingredients in a dish, please understand that I am trying to prevent a possible allergic reaction. I need honest answers not vague or misdirection. Also, please don’t tell me to stop being picky when allergies prevent me from eating most of the food items offered. Yes, there are some things I don’t like, but there are many more I’m allergic to.
#7 I’m not trying to be rude. Apparently, some people think it is rude to inquire about the ingredients of a dish even if it is prefaced with the statement I have food allergies. I have been told that I should stop being rude and take a small portion of the food item I’m allergic. I once had someone prevent me from finding out what was in the food being served because there were several people from another cultural at the party. I was told to shut up, eat the food and stop being picky that it was offensive. Well, I would think having an allergic reaction and possibly dying because I ate something I’m allergic to is far worse than just asking. In fact, I did have an allergic reaction because of this person. He then prevented me from getting help. I had to leave the party and drive home to get help.
#6 Please be aware of cross-contamination. This means a “safe food” has come in contact with a “not-safe” food through common use of utensils, food preparation space or just some other means. Scooped ice cream and buffet style serving are two of the worst for places for this.
#5: Be careful about what food items used as a garnish. It may look pretty to place a slice of orange on top of a dish as garnish or on the side of the plate but for me it can be deadly. No, I can’t just remove the item. Placing that slice of orange or lemon on top of a dish allows a some of the juice from that fruit to contaminate the dish.
#4: If you are unable or unwilling to provide alternative menu items for me especially a beverage please tell me in advance. If I know that something will not be available for me to eat or drink I will provide my own or bring that item to share.
#3: Parties, buffets and church diners can be a scary place for someone with food allergies. Why? It can be a difficult task to determine which food items are safe. First, I must determine the contents of the dish. Next calculate the probability of cross-contamination from serving utensils. One church we attended required people to label dishes.
#2: Children with allergies need a little TLC to stay safe. It can be difficult for child at a party, school or other place where food is served to find out if food is safe. When serving food to youngsters be aware of children with allergies. If the child’s parent provides alternative food items make them available to that child. My mom used to send drinks I could have to school parties however my drink was often mixed with the others or otherwise not given to me. One church we went to when I was younger was very good about this. I used to think it was cool that my snack always came on its own tray. I didn’t realize as a young child that this was done to prevent cross contamination.
#1: “A little bit won’t hurt you“. There seems to be a common myth that eating a little bit of an allergen is not harmful. My response is no but it could kill me.