Barbecuing for Food Allergy Sufferers You want your barbecue to be a relaxed affair, possibly even a spur-of-the-moment occasion. All you want to do is put a few burgers on the grill and chill out. But if you're inviting people over for food, it's worth just asking a couple of questions to make that your signature chicken satay isn't going to claim its first victim. Sure, it's every individual's responsibility to check what they're putting in their mouth but if you think to ask first and save them the bother of raising the subject then you're going to look like a very gracious host indeed. A Bit of Background First of all, there's a difference between a potentially fatal food allergy and a food intolerance. A food allergy is when the body's immune system mistakes particular foods, for example eggs, shellfish or nuts, as harmful. Reactions can range from mild to very serious and even fatal. A food intolerance can make the sufferer feel ill but it isn't usually harmful in the same way that an allergy might be. That said, from the chef's point of view, you don't really want to trigger either of them. Foods that commonly cause allergies include peanuts, tree nuts (Brazils, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans), fish and shellfish, cows' milk, eggs, soya, gluten and wheat. In the UK, about ten people die every year from an allergic reaction to food and many more end up in hospital. If one of your guests has a very severe allergy then it's probably safest not to include that ingredient in any of your dishes to eliminate the possibility of cross contamination via the barbecues surface or utensils. Symptoms Food allergy symptoms include: itchy or swollen lips, mouth, tongue and throat skin reactions (e.g. swelling and itching, a rash around your mouth, eczema and flushing) wheezing or shortness of breath diarrhoea, feeling sick, vomiting and bloating coughing runny nose sore, red and itchy eyes Some people develop a severe, whole-body allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock; a rare but potentially fatal. If this happens they need immediate treatment with an Epipen adrenalin injection which, if they're prone to this reaction, they'll be carrying with them. Somebody needs to give them the injection and then call an ambulance. If they don't have an Epipen, get them to drink plenty of water (assuming they're conscious) while you wait for the ambulance.
Nuts Allergies to nuts can be bad. If you have a guest who is severely allergic to nuts or peanuts, it's just easier (and safer) to not serve anything with nuts or nut-derived ingredients. If their allergy is really bad it can be triggered just by touching or being near someone who is eating nuts or has so done recently. Just being in the same room as nuts can be a genuine problem. Seven Steps to Success 1. Understand the difference between allergy and intolerance and take your guests needs seriously 2. Find out what allergies your guests have well in advance so that you can choose recipes that everyone will enjoy. If this is not possible, for example if you aren't sure who will be coming, or if you are catering for a large number, then provide a number of different options that are suitable for the main allergy types and remember to choose a nut free menu - just in case! 3. Check the labels on packaged foods. In foods such as bread, crisps, pastries and desserts you can sometimes find ingredients that you wouldn't normally expect; for example, milk powder is a common ingredient in some brands of crisps. Strange. (Save the labels so your guest can check the ingredients if they feel they need to - you'll find that they have to be a bit paranoid just to get by.) 4. Label the dishes for guests with allergies/intolerances and ensure their food is 'ringfenced' so that your other guests don't inadvertently eat it and leave them with nothing. 5. Ensure that small children with allergies can't access any food or drinks that they shouldn't. 6. If in doubt about an ingredient or product, leave it out â€“ it's not worth the gamble. 7. Don't be offended if the allergy sufferer asks you lots of questions about ingredients or even â€“ being helpful â€“ offers to bring their own food. The really good news is that most barbeque dishes can be adapted for allergy sufferers. For example a person with a wheat allergy can still enjoy burgers and sausages providing they've not been made with wheatflour. Serve them with salad or potatoes instead of bread or buy one of the many brands of wheat- and gluten-free buns available in most supermarkets. Here are some of the most common allergies and tips of how to deal with them when catering for a BBQ: Dairy No milk products whatsoever, including cheese, cream and yoghurt. Remember that some processed foods have milk or milk powder as an ingredient when you would least expect it. Eggs Check the label as some products can contain egg for what seems like no apparent reason. If you'd normally use egg in your homemade burgers, you can buy egg replacer from most good health food shops. You can also buy egg free mayonnaise.
Wheat and Gluten Some people are allergic to both â€“ some to just one or the other. The main food product you'll be serving that contains wheat and gluten is probably bread. Keep some burgers and sausages to one side and serve with a side salad or baked potato instead. Alternatively, buy wheat- and gluten-free bread or buns in larger supermarkets or health food shops. Once again, check labels for hidden wheat and gluten, especially on products such as beef burgers which often contain wheat to bulk them out. It is also important to remember that many alcoholic drinks contain wheat and gluten, e.g. beer, lager, whiskey and some vodka. Soya Soya (sometimes called soy) is a common allergy and it's found in many processed foods. It's also a key ingredient in many vegetarian burgers and sausages, so if you are serving these, make sure that anyone with a soya allergy knows which ones to avoid. Nuts and peanuts Nuts and peanuts are used in lots of different products including dressings, breads and desserts. Check labels carefully.