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Twelve million people in the U.S. have food allergies. For those who suffer mild to severe allergies, the holiday season can be especially troublesome at the office. Office parties and potlucks are a great time to connect with co-workers, but for the office member or two or three, with food allergies, they can create socially awkward — and potentially deadly — situations.
Food allergies vary greatly. Just as it’s impossible to prepare food that every person enjoys, it’s even harder to prepare a table of dishes that every person can eat safely. However, the one thing everyone can do is be allergy aware.
These tips may make your next holiday gathering safer and more enjoyable for all.
For allergy sufferers:
- Don’t be embarrassed to let your office mates know of your food allergy, especially during the holiday season when food is aplenty in most offices. The office manager may be relieved to know you didn’t partake of her prize-winning walnut fudge due to allergy rather than dislike.
- Never assume the cook is aware of every ingredient in a prepared dish. If your allergy is especially severe, that’s a chance you can never afford to take. Ultimately, your safety is your responsibility.
- If you’re invited to a prepared feast, never feel uncomfortable about letting the host know you have special dietary needs. They may desire to make a dish especially suited to your needs. Or you may offer to bring something you know you can eat without concern while introducing others to something they may never have tried before.
For office mates of allergy sufferers:
- Be considerate of others’ food allergies if you are aware of them. Break out of the mold and try a new recipe that could help make your co-worker feel less conspicuous and able to put more food on his plate at your gathering.
- During an office meal, don’t put co-workers on the spot about what is or isn’t on their plates. Most people with food allergies have had them since childhood and usually don’t enjoy being singled out.
- If a co-worker with a food allergy brings a specially prepared dish (free of his allergen), try it! If he didn’t want to contribute to the food festivities, he would have brought only a single-serve helping.
For more information about planning special meals and events, look here.