Food Allergies and Intolerance
Some complex issues characterize the delicate yet ever so fulfilling world of catering.The more perplexing of them is navigating through food allergies in catering.Coming up with a wholesome and elegant inclusive menu in consideration of food allergies and intolerances may seem a daunting task.Do you need to create many mini-menus to cater for the special dietary needs? How will you collect such data from the guests?Should the client pay more for the special meals? Should you have a standby doctor on board?Wow! That sounds daunting indeed, but you will find it is manageable. This guide illustrates how to pull off an award winning catering gig on an accommodating menu.
Understanding Food Intolerances and Allergies
An allergy sums up a situation where your immune system overreacts to a stimulant.In this case, when you consume the food or beverage to which you are allergic, your body labels it a toxin and the resulting move to self-protect manifests in reactions like:
- Excessive itchiness
- Localized or general swelling
The magnitude of the threat posed by these reactions varies from mild to life threatening or fatal as it affects various organs in the body.Often the patient requires urgent medical attention to alleviate the discomfort or to stop any fatal outcomes.
Are Food Intolerances Similar to Allergies?
Food intolerances differ from dietary allergies in that they are less severe.Additionally, food intolerances often manifest as digestive problems only and usually appear very much later after the ingesting of the food or drink.
All the same, intolerance causes notable discomfort and might need medical attention.
Intolerance arises when the digestive system is unable to break down food properly due to enzyme deficiency.Another difference is that if you consume small amounts of foods for which you suffer intolerance, you might not experience any digestive problems unlike in food allergies where any consumption of the said food must cause a reaction.Therefore, food intolerance or food sensitivity only involves the digestive system while food allergies involve the immune system.The significant symptoms of food sensitivity include bloating or intestinal gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain and flatulence usually caused by gas, migraines, swelling, and cramps.Although the condition comes from some foods or drinks, the most notable causative products are food additives such as preservatives, gluten, tyramine, lactose, and glucose.Celiac disease, which features acute digestive problems as part of the symptoms, often goes misdiagnosed as a food allergy or food sensitivity.Gluten is the culprit here, but some people who suffer from it can tolerate some amount of gluten without adverse outcomes. For that reason, many view it as intolerance.
Foods Which Often Cause Allergies
The culinary world has myriad possibilities and intolerances vary as much as consumers do.
Indeed food allergies will at times arise from unidentified sources.
All the same, the foods that account for just about all allergy cases include eggs, dairy products, peanuts, soy, meats like mutton and pork, and some seafood like shellfish and fish.The list, however, is barely exhaustive considering that derivatives of most of those foods equally provoke the reactions.It’s notable, however, that most of these foods comprise proteins. That’s a thought to keep in perspective in your menu planning.
Catering Dietary Risks Myth Buster
Probably out of ignorance or negligence, some misconceptions appear rife in the culinary industry concerning contamination of foods and beverages with allergens.It’s advisable to remain vigilant in the light of the earlier discussed dangers pertaining to the health problems.As a caterer, be wary and enlighten your staff about the following erroneous assumptions that:
- Cooking using fryers or freezing it destroys allergens
- Cooking food with nuts and then picking them off later removes allergy risk
- You can prepare allergy and allergy-free food at the same counter simultaneously
- You can use the same utensils to handle allergen laden foods and allergen-free foods without cleaning them in between
The short on this is that these two types of foods must remain as far apart as possible in all stages of preparation, packaging, and serving.
How to Accommodate Special Dietary Needs
The prospect of accommodating food allergies in catering is a legal requirement and ensures you have a thriving business.An accommodating menu will get you more clients and profits since food allergies and intolerances are a common problem today.Besides, there are numerous food movements and quirky fads cropping up ever so often, and all this means you must be a versatile caterer to ace the game.The suggested tips below will keep you playing safe while providing wholesome, flavorful and elegant meals.
Follow Up On RSVPs
Considering that the food and drink are a highlight of most social events, as a caterer you recognize that guests are not able to leave the venue to look for alternative meals.That’s in the event that they find the menu is unsuitable due to the presence of foods to which they suffer allergies and intolerances.Regardless the level of your involvement in the event, whether you are the event planner or caterer, you should track the RSVPs to gather data on the guests’ dietary preferences and restrictions.Liaise with your client to gather all that from the guests at the event planning stage.The information will become a guide to the planning of the menu, the preparation of the meals and their service to avoid any form of contamination.
In as much as you seek to adhere to catering guidelines to give professional service, none of the guests should feel singled out for their special culinary needs.Regardless the size of the event you are catering, you can prepare a buffet and label the dishes.Alternatively, you can provide a brief note of ingredients of the dishes served so that guests can make out any that contain risky ingredients.Since a buffet provides quite a variety, guests have adequate information to make safe choices from the fare on offer.
Enhance the Menu
Sometimes an allergen could be a component of the main course.As a caterer, you would consider it abhorrent that a guest should leave your event on an empty stomach.To avoid such an eventuality, enhance your menu with side dishes, garnishes, and sauces.Such options will enable guests with limited food choices to have something reasonable to consume and complement their portions in place of the restricted meal options.Similarly, you can create a menu around foods that rarely pose health risks but are still filling and delicious.
Pick an Allergy Friendly Menu
Since you may find yourself accommodating several types of food intolerances and allergies, you should look into picking a menu along the following groups:
- Vegetarian menu
This serves for guests with meat intolerance. Nevertheless, some other people prefer vegetarian dishes for their health benefits and not because of dietary restrictions.The vegetarian option runs at a cheaper cost than meat options; therefore this menu should not raise catering fees.
- Gluten-Free Menu
Although gluten intolerance for some guests may not be an issue with minimal consumption of such products.It could pose a serious threat for any with celiac disease or serious intolerance.You should choose quality gluten-free products for the dishes. If the meal must have gluten products, you can prepare a gluten-free appetizer, entrée or dessert for the guests.
- Vegan Menu
Vegans avoid animal products such as eggs, meat, and dairy products such as cream and cheese.A suggestion to work around this is by having either a starch or vegetable platter as a main dish.
- Religious Preferences
Some meals must follow specific religious guidelines such as kosher in their preparation without which they become unacceptable to some guests.
Have Back-Up on Site Kitchen
As a caterer, you agree that making a gourmet class menu while navigating food allergies in catering could be daunting.A brilliant idea to consider is having a kitchen on site where you can prepare allergen-free dishes from scratch for the affected guests.Remember to educate your staff on the dangers involved and remain vigilant in supervising the preparation and serving of the meal to confirm adherence to the required safety measures.
Learn Basic Medical Emergency Practices
Just as a precautionary measure, catering and event planning staff should have first aid skills in handling medical emergencies related to allergic reactions.Some reactions can lead to lethal a condition like anaphylaxis that requires urgent medical attention and hospitalization.You could consider hiring an onsite medical team as part of the event-planning package since food intolerance and allergies are a common problem today.
My Delicious Homemade has wide experience in planning and catering events in consideration of food intolerances and allergies.We handle all such requests with compassion and follow through diligently to ensure the safety of our clients.We continue to echo our commitment to making your event a success by customizing our services to meet your unique needs, and at affordable feesContact us for elaborate consultations and a free quotation for any of your upcoming events.