Whether you are packing the picnic hamper, going camping, or joining friends for a barbecue, food allergies can take the fun out of summer foods. Try these tips to keep food allergies from raining on your picnic:
• Pack plenty – Whether you are planning the picnic or are going as a guest, make sure you pack enough “safe” foods for someone who has food allergies. That way he won’t go hungry if there is any question about ingredients. Make sure foods are all packed in separate containers to prevent cross-contamination. Cross-contamination can happen if a food allergen is transferred into a food that should be safe. It can also happen during preparation, storage, cooking or serving. Common causes of cross-contamination are utensils that are accidentally shared between foods, splatters during cooking, and serving bowls that brush against each other on the table or in a serving line.
• Table covers – Some people react to their food allergen if they touch a spot on a table where the food was spilled. Since you can’t know what the previous picnickers were eating, don’t take for granted that a table is clean. Bring your own plastic table cloth to provide a barrier from any leftover food particles.
• Grilling – Be careful to keep food separate on and around the grill. Food for the person with food allergies should be cooked on a clean surface, such as in a cast iron skillet or in aluminum foil packets. You’ll also need a separate spatula or other utensils to prevent cross contamination during cooking and serving.
• Serving line – It’s easy for cross-contamination to happen around the serving line. It can happen if a spoon gets moved from one bowl to another or if drips fall off the spoon into another dish. Make sure the person with food allergies goes to the front of the serving line. And just to be safe, set aside a second “clean” plate of everything he might want for seconds.
• Condiments – Large jars of mustard and mayo make it easy for utensils to be shared from one container to another. Bring individual packets of condiments to help prevent cross-contamination.
• Don’t Feed Me! – If your child has food allergies, he may be safe if you are picnicking with a small group of family and friends who understand what he can and cannot eat. If you are with a larger group, you can remind helpful adults not to feed your child by having him wear “allergy alert” clothing. An internet search can help you located companies that sell clothing with labels such as “I’m allergic to peanuts”.
• Clean-up – You may not have access to running water for washing hands after the meal. Be sure to bring plenty of baby wipes, wet wipes, or damp washcloths sealed in plastic bags. Make sure everyone washes up after the meal to prevent cross-contamination from fingers to Frisbees and other toys.
• Medications - Make sure you have all necessary medications close at hand, especially rescue medicines like epinephrine if your doctor has prescribed them.
• Cell phones – If your picnic is off the beaten path, you may not have cell phone coverage. Check your cell phone as soon as you get to the picnic site and have a plan in case you need emergency help.
Knowing exactly what foods your guest is allergic to can help you plan a safe menu that will leave everyone satisfied and safe when the picnic is over.
Reviewed May 24, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton