The World Health Organisation estimates food allergies to be present in about 1-3% of adults and 4-6% of children worldwide. In the same report led by the International Food Safety Authorities Network, more than 70 foods were found to be causing allergies. The best way to protect individuals from food allergy attacks is by increasing awareness of allergic symptoms and offering food varieties for food suppliers and those who prepare the food.
Allergy concerns do not only challenge parents but restaurants, food manufacturers and event planners as well. But how do event planners ensure those with allergies are catered to?
Common dietary restrictions
There are different dietary restrictions that event planners and caterers may encounter in their careers. Often, the problems that may arise can be avoided. Prevention – rather than a cure – is still the best way to deal with allergies. Event planners should know about all the major allergies and dietary restrictions. Here they are below:
Peanut allergy is the most common allergy problem faced today. Those who have the problem may become sensitive to even a hint of peanut in their foods. As well as being very common, this allergy can be potentially dangerous. For caterers, it is advised that food containing peanuts be handled separately to avoid contamination of other food and utensils since contact with peanut residue may cause allergic reactions.
Although peanut allergy is the most common, other allergy attacks may be brought on by seafoods and meats. Others may even be unaware of these allergies and may be clueless to what’s happening to them in the first place.
Vegetarians don’t eat meat poultry and fish, of course. As a caterer, this can be easily remedied by providing a variety of servings including vegetables, beans, salads, yogurt and other protein alternatives. But these limitations don’t mean you can’t whip up a good menu for guests. A good caterer will always find a way.
Lactose intolerance may cause digestion problems once the affected person eats products derived from dairy. Although there might not be much health danger, it may cause discomfort among guests. It can easily be remedied by proving options without dairy products.
Vegans have similarities with vegetarians but they also avoid consuming animal derived products. Make sure there are vegan options at any event you cater, because it is a very popular lifestyle.
Diabetics have stricter rules about sugar and sweets. Caterers should provide sugar free options for guests or limit the amount of sugary baked goods.
Celiac disease required those affected to follow a gluten free diet. For guests with celiac disease, a food platter containing ingredients like wheat, barley and oats is not a good idea. Caterers can simply make gluten free versions of menu items.
Caterers should be informed about kosher events or guests well beforehand. This way, the kosher meat can be prepared in proper manner.
Halal meals may not that be hard to prepare. Simply include cuisines that do not have pork or meat that hasn’t been blessed in a particular manner. Caterers who are experts in their field will have experience with halal preparations and will understand the restrictions.
Precautions for event planners and caterers
You can’t always please everyone at an event but you can make sure you offer a variety of food. Here are a few different ways to keep your event manageable while still addressing the dietary restrictions:
1. Offer variety
Offering a wide variety of foods will ensure that your guests with dietary restrictions have options. To be safe and to allow your guests to choose their own food, opt for a buffet instead of a seat down meal. Include food options that are peanut free, gluten free, meat free and dairy free. Some caterers address diversity in foods by offering different food stations.
2. Label food
To be really safe you can ask caterers to list down ingredients that they used in the food served. You can put these labels in front of the food served to keep people from accidentally eating something they might be allergic to. Make the labels easy to read but still stylish.
3. Inform caterers
Prior to the event, you may ask or survey your guests about their possible dietary restrictions. Your guests should understand this will help to avoid any emergency cases at the event. After you’ve gathered all the info you need, inform the caterer about it and work with them as to how to work around the problems.
4. Talk with those in charge of preparation
Those who will prepare the food are different from those who will be serving it. As an event planner, you will need to talk to both of these groups. Ask to see the chef and relay the possible dietary restrictions. Chefs already know about these problems and they have ideas in order to cater to these guests.
5. Make sure staff is aware
When you talk to the head of the catering service, request to talk to the staff that will be serving at the event. It is best for them to be aware of what they are serving in case guests ask and in case any allergy incidents occur.
Be on alert
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of having fun. Simply stay alert about what is happening, especially during the buffet and cocktail serving times. In case something happens, always have emergency numbers on hand.
Get immediate help
Allergy attacks can get worse in a matter of minutes. In case the emergency teams don’t arrive quickly enough to alleviate the symptoms of an allergy sufferer, you may take the matter into your own hands and ask a reliable person to drive the patient to the emergency room or drive them yourself if you are able. Do this without causing a panic among guests and without disrupting the event.
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While some allergies are potentially fatal, they can be managed as long as you know what to do. At big events like corporate gatherings, it can’t be avoided that people may eat foods they are not supposed to. The only way to combat potential allergy attacks is to first remind people about food selections before the buffet starts and be alert in case anyone develops symptoms of an allergy attack.