Catering for wedding guests with food allergies
03 Apr 2019
Expert advice for venue and catering teams when dealing with wedding guests with food allergies and intolerances
Chances are there will be at least one person with a severe allergy at a wedding, with it being estimated that 20% of people suffer from some kind of food allergy or intolerance. For these guests, eating at a catered event could be riskier than a restaurant as people often don’t know what they’re eating, especially if it is a buffet for example.
As the caterer, it’s your job to take all of the correct precautions and make sure processes are in place to reduce the risk of a guest becoming ill. George Rouse, owner of George’s Kitchen understands how dangerous food allergies are for sufferers, but also the dangers to caterers who haven’t taken the right steps to prevent and avoid a reaction. Here are his tips on how to cater for guests with allergies, to ensure everyone’s safety.
Processes and procedures
Due to the severity of some reactions, food allergies are not something you should ignore. In 2014 new food information to consumers regulations came into place, making it a legal requirement for caterers to provide consumers with information on the top 14 allergens.
Although tree nuts, eggs and shellfish are among the most common allergies, any food may cause a reaction. Therefore, it is important to have a framework of safeguarding processes and procedures that will ensure the safety of guests. It is also in your interest that allergen management processes are communicated to your staff because you may be held liable for their errors. Ensure, there is regular training provided so they are up date with requirements, this may even include first aid training so you are covered should a reaction occur.
In the kitchen
Ensuring guests are looked after starts in the kitchen. Firstly, you need to check all deliveries that come in to confirm no ingredients have been changed since you last used them. Also, to avoid confusion, make sure labels remain on pre-packed food, so you can keep track of ingredients. At George’s Kitchen, we only use fresh ingredients and make sure we can trace back to where all of our food comes from. It’s all about knowing your products and what goes into your food.
Another key thing to remember in the kitchen is taking precautions to avoid cross-contamination. When cooking, try and remember to change your gloves or wash your hands regularly, as well as using separate utensils and equipment when switching between dishes.
You could also adapt your standard menu to make it more universal for allergen sufferers. For example, avoid the use of allergens as garnishes such as nuts and cheese and avoid cooking with allergen-based oils such as peanut or sesame oil, which will save a lot of hassle in the long run.
It may not always be possible to communicate with guests prior to or during the event and relying on them to tell you could be problematic. If it is a sit-down event, make sure allergens are clearly highlighted on the menu. Canapés or buffet style catering can prove trickier as guests may presume they know what is in the food, but often there are hidden ingredients.
To avoid confusion, it is best to clearly label each food. At George’s Kitchen, we use small chalkboard plaques to highlight allergens in each food. This is in-keeping with our brand and style, but also keeps the guests informed. It could also be useful to reiterate the use of allergens in a dish by incorporating them into the name of the dish, for example a nut and carrot salad make the contents clear.