Parties, BBQs and food allergy
Parties can be a lot of fun. However, they can be the source of some seriously awkward moments when you’ve got a food allergy.
Tables will often be crowded with various food items, designed for communal consumption. Alcohol is flowing. The BBQ is fired up. For some with food allergy, these factors can cause discomfort or even anxiety. The whole food thing may make you feel uncomfortable attending a party. That said, you can manage it; don’t let your food allergy stop you from having the time of your life. Create strategies, have a plan and then… most importantly, have fun!
Simple steps you can follow to help keep yourself safe include:
Contact the host
As you know, it’s important to disclose your allergies to your friends. But what if you’re not that close to the person hosting the party?
Try getting in touch with the host before the party, send them a message on Facebook or Instagram. Let them know about your food allergy and ask if there will be food available that is safe for you to eat.
If you know the host well, you could ask them to keep the packaging of any food they do put out so that you can read the ingredient label when you arrive.
Think about taking a dish that is safe for you to share with others. That way, you can serve yourself first and be eating food others are eating so you don’t feel left out.
If you’re unable to get in touch with the host, or from discussion you’ve had with the host, you’re uncertain the food available at the party will be safe, you can eat at home before the party. It’s better to be well-fed than go hungry or to take risks because you’re starving.
You can also consider taking your own snacks to the party too, especially if you’re planning to have a few alcoholic drinks.. Should you get hungry after a few hours you’ll know the food you’re eating is safe.
A note on BBQs:
Your friends may decide to cook up some meat and sausages on a BBQ for lunch or dinner. It’s important to note that when it comes to BBQ’s, cross contamination is a real risk. However, we do have some tips for cooking with BBQs when you have food allergy:
- Use a non-stick hot plate liner or cook your food on a piece of aluminum foil
- Ask for your piece of meat (or veg) to be cooked first
- Place your food at the top of the BBQ (on foil or liner) so that fats and marinades from other meats do not run and contaminate your food
- Cook your food at home, wrap in some aluminum foil and simply reheat at the party – make sure you store it appropriately until you eat to avoid food poisoning from bacteria
- Cook your food separately in a clean frypan/skillet if possible
Keep a hold of any utensils you use to eat (if you plan on eating at the party), as they can be mistakenly picked-up by someone else by mistake. If you misplace your cutlery, grab a clean set before you eat anything else.
Growing up with food allergy, you will have been taught not to accept food from others without asking what the ingredients are. It goes without saying that you should take the same approach when it comes to being offered drinks.
If you’re unsure of what’s in a particular drink (i.e. you cannot read the label) – don’t consume it. Sharing cups should also be avoided as a person may have consumed the food you’re allergic to, earlier in the day.
You may not realise, but common food allergens – such as egg, milk, wheat and fish – are used in the manufacture of some alcoholic drinks.
Consuming alcohol can also lead you to make risky food choices as alcohol can affect your judgement. Make sure you’re aware of the risks and have plans in place should you find yourself in a difficult situation. Read more about food allergy and alcohol.
Speak to your friends before the party. Let them know where they can find your EpiPen® and ASCIA Action Plan (emergency response plan) in case of emergency. Remind the host of your food allergy when you arrive, and ask which foods you should steer clear from keeping in mind others can contaminate food that was deemed safe by the host. Finally, if you do find yourself having an allergic reaction when at a party – TELL SOMEONE and put your emergency plan into action!