Hosting for the holidays is a fun way to bring loved ones together during a special time of year. As enjoyable as hosting can be, it’s no small task, especially when guests have food allergies.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education, an organization deadline to improving the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, a food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a certain foods triggers a harmful immune system response. FARE® notes that more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions, and roughly one in 13 children in the United States has a food allergy. And food allergies are not just a danger in the U.S., as data published in the The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2015 revealed that 6.9 percent of Canadian children under the age of 18 self-report having at least one food allergy.
Food allergies are cause for concern, as FARE® notes that every three minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. Before planning holiday menus, hosts should ask guests if they or their children have any food allergies and then plan the menu accordingly. When hosting large gatherings, it may be impossible to avoid foods that trigger guests’ allergies. In such instances, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offers the following food safety tips to hosts.
• Wash hands before and after eating or handling food.
• Prevent cross-contamination in preparation and serving by preparing dishes in separate areas and washing all prep materials, such as cutting boards, before reusing. Keep unsafe foods away from safe foods at all times.
• Read all food labels.
• Prepare and cook safe meals first before sealing them and setting them aside. Then make unsafe foods.
• Use separate serving utensils for each dish. Be careful not to mix them up.
• Wash all prep areas and eating areas with a paper towel and commercial cleaner. Avoid using sponges and rags, which can be a source of allergens.
• Keep food isolated to one area of the home and clean up thoroughly after the meal.
• Make a plate for each child with food allergies before the meal is served to avoid cross contamination. Keep unsafe foods out of reach of young children with allergies.
• Request that children with food allergies sit close to their parents during the meal. Ensure that those eating nearby will be careful not to accidentally spill or share unsafe foods.
• Place packages of wipes near food and encourage everyone to wipe their hands after eating, though encouraging them to use soap and water is best. Walk around periodically to dispose of any uneaten food or dirty plates and napkins.
When planning holiday menus, host should always keep food allergies in mind. Taking steps to safeguard adults and children with food allergies can ensure everyone has a happy, healthy holiday.