Whether it's due to an increase in our ability to diagnose food allergies or an increase in people's sensitivity to food, the current decade sees more people with food allergies than any of the ones before. This means that we have to be extremely careful when arranging any sort of public event involving food, whether its dinner parties in our lofts, food festivals, or weddings, lest someone end up hurt or worse. Here are some tips on detecting and accommodating food allergies in your catered event.
The first step in any catering process is always to find out whether any of the attendees suffers from a food allergy. If you have a set guest list this is fairly easy, as you can just forward the list to and they can deal with it. However, at a public event it will likely not be possible to ask every attendee whether he or she suffers from an allergy. In this case you have to assume that there will be someone with every conceivable allergy attending the event.
The most common food allergy is to peanuts, and since so many people with peanut allergies will have life threatening reactions on exposure, it is always a good idea to eliminate peanuts from your menu. Other common types of allergies include tree nuts, dairy, wheat, seafood, and eggs. Coming into contact with these substances at a mortgage conference for instance, even if they have not eaten the food directly, can sometimes cause severe swelling of the throat and require immediate Epipen treatment followed by hospitalization. With any public event, first aid volunteers should always be present.
Just because there are people with food allergies attending your conference doesn't mean you are limited to serving only water as a refreshment. It is possible to prepare food in special ways that eliminate the need for the offending substance. You can make cakes without eggs, pasta without wheat, and cheesecakes without milk if you know the recipe. It's up to you whether you want to prepare all the dishes using the alternative recipe or just prepare a special batch for the afflicted guests.
In any case, you should label every food item at the event if it could possibly contain an allergen. Even a food that was prepared with the same utensils as a food containing an allergen or was manufactured in the same factory should have a label. You'll also want to include an allergy alert sheet with the name badges so that guests will know what food there are at the event and whether or not they'll have to avoid it or bring their own food to eat.