Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Super Bowl Parties and Food Allergies How To Throw A Great Party

Whether you're hosting a Super Bowl party and anticipating guests with food allergies, or whether you have allergies and are planning to host a crowd, one thing's for sure: this is one bash where gluttony's the norm. Is it possible to have an allergy-friendly Super Bowl party that will satisfy your guests who can (and will) eat anything and everything? Absolutely -- with some pre-party planning and creativity.

Do Your Homework
If you're sending out written invitations, ask guests to let you know about dietary restrictions when they RSVP. Spreading the word over e-mail? Include a request for anyone who's concerned about party fare to drop you a line. Whether your guests have allergies, dietary intolerances, or are avoiding particular foods due to IBS or ethical concerns, they'll appreciate the consideration. The benefit for you is, if at all possible, knowing well in advance which allergens to avoid and avoiding a scenario where a guest doesn't have safe food to eat.

Once you have been diagnosed with an allergy, the most important skill you can develop is reading labels. Here's how to keep yourself safe while shopping for food. Consider this "Label Reading 101."

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Ongoing
Here's How:

Find the complete label. This will usually, but not always, be located near the Nutrition Facts box. On an item that is marked "Not Labeled for Individual Sale," the complete list of ingredients may be on the larger container from which the item was taken. Remember: if you're not sure of every ingredient that went into a cooked item, don't eat it!

Read each ingredients on the label, paying special attention to boldfaced items, parentheses, and items listed below the complete list of ingredients.

For prepared foods (i.e., anything that is made from more than one ingredient), check the label for a warning that the food was made in a factory where your allergens may have been used on the same manufacturing lines.

Always read labels, even if you've bought the same food before. Manufacturing formulations sometimes change.

Foods manufactured since January 1, 2006 are required to follow FDA rules that mandate that the top eight food allergens be listed in plain language either in the body of the ingredients or in boldface after the ingredients. However, be aware that some foods are older, or include hidden allergens.

Learn the lists of ingredients that might indicate hidden allergens (see below). Consider keeping a pocket-sized list on hand.

Many chain restaurants and fast food restaurants include allergy information on their websites. Save time by checking before you go.
Sign up for FDA or CFIA allergy recall alerts so that you'll know immediately if a food has been recalled for not having complete information on its label.

Segregate Unsafe Eats

Many guests with allergies or other dietary restrictions won't expect that you banish foods they can't eat from your household. However, if you're serving some unsafe foods at your party, one gesture that would surely be appreciated would be to set up a table with safe foods and a separate stash of plates, cups, and flatware, along with a prominent note asking guests to be careful about keeping the area allergen-free.

Prevent Cross-Contamination

Especially at large parties, consider having guests label disposable cups with their names using a permanent marker. If you're serving wine, charms on the stems can help avoid mix-ups. This can prevent guests with allergies from drinking from a cup used by someone who has eaten an allergen. Also, make sure that each item on a buffet table has its own serving utensil and that allergenic items are served on their own plates. (If a guest has a dairy allergy, for example, don't put meat or fruit on the same plate with cheese.) This will help minimize the chance of cross-contamination between serving dishes of safe and unsafe foods.

What are the most common food allergies?

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, the eight most common food allergies, which account for 90% of the food allergies in the United States, are:

Dairy allergies
Soy allergies
Wheat allergies
Shellfish allergies
Fish allergies
Peanut allergies
Tree nut allergies
Egg allergies

Safe, Popular Eats

Homemade chili can be made safe for most allergies and is a classic Super Bowl party dish. Many chips are allergy-safe (check with your guests if you need specific recommendations); guacamole and many salsas are crowd-pleasing and safe for many allergies. Baked chicken wings or thighs are safe, as are some Italian sausages. And a large fruit salad complements salty food. Try a champagne dressing rather than corn syrup-preserved canned fruits to make fruit salad last longer.

When You're The Guest

If you've got allergies and you're not hosting the Super Bowl party, all the usual precautions for eating away from home apply. Never eat anything unless you're absolutely certain of all the ingredients and certain that it's free of cross-contamination. Expect the game to last at least four hours (including the halftime show and advertising time); you may be at the party longer if you arrive during pregame. Consider eating beforehand, bringing some portable safe snacks, or offering to bring a safe dish or two to share.



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