As we head into Memorial Day and summer, barbecues replace traditional home cooked meals — and present a challenge for those of us with food allergies. Buffet style service, lots of foods being cooked on one grill and the abundance of sauces are all possible dangers. If you’re invited to a barbecue, here are the steps you can take to stay safe.
Let your host know about your food allergies. Ask them to clean their grill thoroughly before beginning to cook and to provide you with aluminum foil, so you can wrap up your meat or vegetables and prevent cross-contact. Request that they label foods with allergens clearly, so you know to stay away from them. Mention that barbecue sauce frequently contains allergens and let them know how they can make or buy one which is free of top allergens (or just bring your own).
Hosts without food allergies, even extremely sensitive friends, aren’t likely to keep everything 100% free of cross-contact. So come prepared with your own wipes to clean off chairs and tables. Bring a marker to write your name on your disposable cup, so you don’t have to worry about someone accidentally drinking out of yours. Bring your own insect repellent and sunscreen which you know are allergy-free.
Whenever you go to a large gathering where you are unsure about allergy safety, it’s best not to come hungry. That way if the food is heavy on allergens or cross-contact seems rampant, you won’t be starved. This is especially important if your kids are allergic. Feed them a small meal ahead of time and bring along allergy-free food you know they can eat. If it turns out they can enjoy the food being served, that’s an extra bonus.
Etiquette may dictate that you wait your turn, but if you let other guests know that you have food allergies, they won’t object to your filling your plate from the various serving dishes first. Take enough so that you don’t have to go back for more, and you don’t have to worry about cross-contact from serving spoons and fingers.
As with anywhere you go, bring your epipen along in case you accidentally ingest an allergen. Barbecues are usually held in direct sunlight and summer heat which can damage the medication. Keep your epipen close by but at room temperature. If there’s nowhere to store it safely, bring along a cooler to keep it cool.
Barbecues with lots of people and various dishes might sound like a challenge. But these types of gatherings are primarily about family and friends, and you don’t want to miss out on that. We recommend putting in the extra effort to be able to attend and to spend time with the people you care about.
During our recent visit to Israel, we really struggled to find food for our son who has anaphylactic level allergies to egg and sesame. We approached both restaurants and hotels and were told they were unable or unwilling to take responsibility for preparing his food.
After learning about Dr. Eliana on-line, we contacted her in the hopes that she could provide a ‘normal’ restaurant experience for our family.
Both she and Shani were meticulous in their preparations with the restaurants to ensure that our son had a wonderful and safe experience.
We truly appreciate their efforts to take care of our son, and to provide us with a lovely vacation experience.
T.M., Chicago, USA
We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing gift you have given us over this Pesach- the gift of having you with us!!!!
We have NEVER felt more comfortable, calm, and at ease than we did these past 10 days. Your warmth, professionalism, kindness, and care shown through in all that you did.
My children are so grateful that they were able to be with you this Pesach. You made sure that they were so well looked after and they felt so at ease and comfortable with you! You were so amazing and approachable to them! And they LOVED all the food you so amazingly prepared (supervised allergy-free food preparation, managed menus) for them!
It’s very difficult for us to trust people when it comes to our kids and allergies. You magically were able to take away ALL of our anxieties, and nervousness (and we don’t give that away so easily!!)
We can never fully thank you enough. We truly feel that you instantly became part of our family and we look forward to G-d willing being able to be with you and plan amazing trips with you many many many more times!!!!
Thank you and may Hashem bless you for the work you do. My son Jacob said your allergy card has been very helpful. I am so grateful- beyond words.
L.R., NY, NY
Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel. We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!
All the best,
S.C., New Jersey
We can't thank you enough for assembling this top-notch team of specialists to work with our daughter while she is in Israel.
T.G., Philadelphia, PA
"Food Allergy Concierge assisted us with a very helpful, detailed customized allergy card in Hebrew. The Allergy card was extremely helpful for multiple allergies and allowed us to eat safely in several eateries and hotels. Highly recommended.”
G.A. Illinois USA