August 20, 2013
New AAAAI Article for Meeting Planners: Education, Communication and Planning Needed to Safely Serve Food Allergic Attendees at Events
MILWAUKEE, WI – The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) has a new article on its website targeted specifically at meeting planners. Written and reviewed by food allergy experts, it details information and strategies that meeting planners can use when catering for guests with food allergies. Appropriate education, communication and planning are essential to safely serve food allergic attendees at events.
Eating at a catered event presents special circumstances. Many important “screening” steps and decisions may be taken out of the control of food allergic guests, including not having the opportunity to assess the food allergy knowledge and policies of the catering hall. Another complicating factor is that many menu items served at events are pre-prepared or at least “prepped” prior to the arrival of the guests. In other words, many foods are handled or prepared without being able to prevent cross contact. Cross contact is a common cause of allergic reactions.
Safety depends on effective communication and partnering between the event planners, any staff responsible for any of the food eaten by guests with food allergies and guests. Event planners need to ask if there are attendees with food allergies and provide those food allergic attendees with opportunities to notify them of any special accommodations. This helps planners, caterers and other eating establishments plan for safe alternatives when possible. It also gives guests time to work through acceptable and safe alternatives.
Additional precautions for event planners include:
• Offering a wide variety of food to accommodate all allergies and restrictions. Provide simple options that can be made from scratch for specific guests.
• Always labeling all food offerings and encouraging staff to confirm/double check for food allergens and cross contaminations. However, this requires that the caterer is extremely aware of ingredients and how meals were prepared in order to label food specifically enough to allow a food allergic consumer to eat it safely.
It is the responsibility of guests to respond to planners’ requests to alert them of their allergy needs and follow up by always alerting the server and manager about allergies upon arriving at the function. But all catering staff, which includes front of the house, back of the house, management, etc., must have protocols for dealing with food allergy, as well as thorough training. The training should include communication, label reading, knowledge of hidden ingredients, prevention of cross contact and/or cleaning techniques and processes for promptly dealing with allergic and other medical emergencies.
Visit the AAAAI website for more information on food allergy.
The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,700 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.
Note: While the article is intended to increase awareness of the need for communication and additional information when catering for food allergic guests, it not intended to be a replacement or substitute for training necessary to safely serve those with food allergies.