Thanksgiving Safety Reminders

One more day to Turkey Day!

Our family has always been really good about our food allergies during holiday meals. My side has been dealing with this for more than one generation, of course, and my husband’s side caught on very quickly.  We still take precautions, and I know that a lot of people have a harder time getting family and friends to take them seriously.  With that in mind, here are a few last-minute food-allergy-safety reminders as we count down to gobble day:

If you’re hosting:

No Peanuts Allowed!!!
  • Make your family allergen policy clear to anyone who intends to bring food to your gathering.  For some, it’s “no foods containing X or Y may come into our house.”  For others, it’s “we don’t completely restrict foods containing X or Y, but we expect you to know whether X or Y are in your food so we can treat it accordingly.” Regardless, have a plan in mind for what you will do if someone forgets your rule, and be ready to follow through.
  • Have a special place where you will segregate any unsafe foods, and make sure you have extra serving utensils in case anyone forgets to bring one. Shared serving utensils are a no-no if unsafe foods are around!
  • Make allergic children aware that they are not to touch foods in the unsafe space.  Teach them to alert you and wash their hands immediately if they touch it by accident.
  • Help store or discard any unsafe leftovers as soon as the meal is over, and then clean the unsafe food area thoroughly.
  • Ask your guests to wash their hands as soon as they’re done eating, to avoid contaminating the rest of your home.
  • Make yourself aware of the dietary restrictions of anyone else attending your gathering.  There’s nothing like leading by example!
Warning:  my feathers may contain egg!

If you’re going to someone else’s house:

  • Know before you go.  Be sure to contact the host to make them aware of your family’s allergies.  Inquire about what foods will be served, whether anything will contain your family’s allergens, and how they plan to segregate foods that do from foods that don’t.  Make plenty of suggestions if they don’t have ready answers!
  • Offer to help in the kitchen.  Specifically offer to help with keeping safe foods and unsafe foods separate, and with other allergy-related concerns.  Tell the host that you’d like to help here because you know that handling food allergies can be a burden, especially when you’re unaccustomed to doing so.
  • If the meal is potluck-style, make sure your offering is not only allergy-friendly, but is one your allergic children like, so there will be at least one food they can fill up on.
  • Bring some extra serving utensils to make sure that no two dishes will need to share.
  • Bring along a safe snack or two, just in case your child rejects the safe offerings (or if you take one look at the spread and decide that kitchen conditions are unsafe for your child.)

No matter where you’ll be dining:

  • If there will be unsafe food available, have a talk with allergic kids beforehand.  Remind them to check with you before helping themselves to any food (or whatever reminder is age-appropriate.)
  • Remind children to report an allergic reaction to you immediately!  Tell them not to “tough it out” or hide it because they don’t want to disrupt the holiday gathering.
  • If unsafe foods are available, arrange to serve people with allergies (or allow them to serve themselves) first, so that they can beat any accidental contamination.
  • If unsafe foods are available, ask everyone to wash their hands when finished eating to avoid contaminating surfaces or giving unsafe hugs.
  • Thank everyone for making safety a priority.
  • If the meal is fully allergen-free, and this meant a deviation from “family tradition” dishes, thank everyone for their support of your necessary lifestyle.
  • Remember to be happy, thankful, and to have fun!  Thanksgiving is one of the few remaining uncorrupted holidays–it’s still about family and being thankful for our blessings, big or small!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and be safe!

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