Just last week, I read again about another food allergy death that could have been prevented. This time it was a young boy.
I know that many cooks read this blog. As a person who has nut and sea food allergies, I ask all of you to take food allergies very seriously. They are life-threatening and it does not take much of an allergen exposure to start a reaction.
So when entertaining this holiday season remember to ask if any of your guests have food allergies. Clearly tell them which foods are “safe” for them to eat and which are not. If they just choose to not eat at all, do not be offended. They are just being safe and enjoying your company.
Contaminating foods with allergens is so very easy to do. Keep in mind that even using the same spatula when baking cookies or not washing off the cookie sheet or counter top causes cross-contamination sufficient to cause an allergic reaction.
For a person who is allergic to shellfish or nuts, like me, shaking hands with people who have just eaten shrimp or something that contained nuts and still have those oils still on their hands can trigger a reaction. Even kissing someone who has just eaten something that a person is allergic to can be and has been deadly. Also, breathing in the scent of brewing hazelnut coffee can trigger a reaction in someone allergic to nuts.
Waiters, waitresses and chefs need to ask if their customers have any allergies to food. Pay attention and take it seriously. I once ordered a chicken tortilla at an upscale restaurant, and it came with dipping sauce that I asked the waiter about several times. As it had a tan colored tint I decided not to try it. The waiter eventually came running back to my table yelling not to eat it as it contained peanuts.
I cannot stress strongly enough how very important it is to read food labels…carefully and thoroughly. Just last week, I was looking for colored sugar sprinkle decorations for my Christmas baking only to notice that some of those are made in a factory with nuts. If it says that the product was made in a facility that handles nuts it is off limits for anyone with a nut allergy. I have discovered much to my surprise that some frozen pizzas contain nuts; Ramen noodles are processed with shellfish; and many all-natural lotions, shampoos and soaps contain nut oils.
To safeguard family, friends and guests this holiday season let us all remember to be food allergy aware:
1. ASK! Ask about food allergies.
2. TELL! If you have food allergies tell your host. Hosts share with your guests exactly what is in the food you are serving, down to the tiniest detail.
3. READ THOSE LABELS! Read every label completely. Even if it does not seem logical that there would be an allergen in the food, read the label anyway. Do not be offended if an allergic person asks to read the label themselves. It really is a matter of life or death for them.
4. EPI PEN! To those who have a food allergies….be a good guest! Tell your host or hostess about your allergies. If you have food allergies always carry your Epi-pen with you. It does no good whatsoever if it is at home or in your car. It must be with you. Also, let your host or hostess know that you carry an Epi-pen. Share how to use it. Should a severe reaction occur, you may not be able to inject yourself in your thigh and require assistance. Seconds count, be prepared!
I hope that everyone has a happy, safe and food allergy reaction free holiday season!