Working with your Caterer to Accommodate Food Allergies

It’s important to make sure all of your guests feel comfortable at your event, regardless of any food allergies they may suffer from. While there are more than 160 foods that can cause allergic reactions in people with food allergies, eight foods are the most common. These eight accounts for 90% of all allergic reactions. These foods are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. These allergens can hide in the most inconspicuous dishes, therefore people with these allergies have to be cautious.

According to a new study, less than 4% of Americans have food allergies or intolerances. However, adverse reactions to food can range in severity and include vomiting, headaches, hives, gastrointestinal irritation, and even anaphylaxis. Therefore, it’s important to make sure to have options available for guests that suffer from these allergies. Experienced caterers know exactly how to accommodate these types of guests to ensure all guests can let loose and focus on having a great time!

Know your Guests

Be sure to poll your guests ahead of time, whether it be a response card for wedding, or via email/digitally for other events. Include a field where guests can write in any allergies or dietary restrictions they have. Be specific, request guests indicate if they have “severe allergies”. Otherwise, you may get guests who list thing they prefer to avoid, vs foods they must avoid for health reasons.

Gluten Free Catering Menus

Choosing the Best Caterer

Whether you are at the point of interviewing caterers or have already chosen one, be sure to communicate the types of dietary restrictions your guests may have. Ask them what kind of experience they have in customizing catering menus for specific situations. The best caterers will take precautions to avoid cross-contamination. A caterer’s vendors much properly prepare, package and transport food free from allergens. Food must be cooked with clean utensils, packed in separate containers and never come into contact with an allergen. Professional caterers can then creatively incorporate the many dietary restrictions people have.

Provide an Advance Catering Menu

Ask your caterer to provide an advance copy of your finalized catering menu. That way you can provide it to any guests that have severe allergies. If needed, ask your caterer for a detailed ingredient list.

Label Everything

In situations where food is placed out for guests to take, such as a buffet or food station, be sure to label each item. Note if it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegetarian or vegan.

Provide Separate Meals if Appropriate

The most ideal situation is to be able to make minor adjustments to an existing dish in order to make it work for guests with dietary restrictions (ie replace the wheat bread on a dish with gluten-free bread for those with gluten sensitivities), however, that may not always be an option. Be prepared to have your caterer provide separate meals for guests with certain restrictive food allergies. This can be done whether you are serving a plated meal or a buffet.

Enjoy the Day

Your caterer should be prepared to handle food allergies. Just be sure to communicate with your caterer, as well as your guests. And be as transparent as possible with regards to labeling food and ingredients. This will ensure both you, and your guests, can relax and truly enjoy the event!

Messina’s Catering and Events is celebrating 58 years of providing full service catering to the New Orleans area. We specialize in working with clients with food allergies. Check out some of our other articles related to food allergies including Creative Vegetarian Catering Menu Options, Gluten Free Catering Menus, as well as 7 Tips for Choosing the Best Wedding Caterers.