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Hosting Guests with Celiac Disease, Food Allergies or Sensitivities? Have a Safe Holiday with Home Food Safety Tips

2013-11-20

Media Contacts: Ryan O'Malley, Allison MacMunn
800/877-1600, ext. 4769, 4802 media@eatright.org

CHICAGO – Food allergies are on the rise, and so is the likelihood that one or more of your holiday guests may have a food allergy, food intolerance or celiac disease—an autoimmune disorder that reacts to gluten. Keep guests safe this holiday season with tips from the Home Food Safety program, a collaboration between the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods.

"Because reactions may be severe, even life-threatening, food allergies can’t be taken lightly," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Angela Lemond. "But with planning you can offer a meal with foods that are suitable for those with dietary concerns."

While you may not be familiar with food allergies or gluten-free eating, your guests most likely know best if they deal with this issue daily, Lemond said. "The most important thing you can do to help keep guests safe is to listen carefully to their food needs, ask questions if you’re unsure and confirm their requests."

It is important to separate foods as you shop, cook and eat to avoid cross-contact (when the food allergen or gluten is transferred to a food meant to be allergen- or gluten-free). Even a small amount can make guests ill. "Separation is key to avoiding cross-contact," Lemond said.

The Home Food Safety program offers the following tips for those preparing food for guests with food allergies or celiac disease:


Safety Starts at the Store

  • Learn which ingredients are problematic and read ingredient labels on foods.
  • When shopping, keep problematic foods in plastic bags or place them in a second cart, and keep them separate at checkout and in the car.
  • Avoid foods from bulk bins, hot/cold salad bars and the deli counter, as these are common sites for cross-contact.

Set Up a Storage System
If you can’t keep the entire house free from the problematic food:

  • Label allergen and/or gluten-free foods to avoid confusion and place gluten- and allergen-containing foods on shelves below allergen/gluten-free foods.

Conscious Cooking is Key

  • Use separate sets of utensils, cookware and cooking tools, and small appliances (toasters and blenders).
  • Prepare and cook allergen/gluten-free dishes first and in/on cleaned equipment and surfaces.
  • If possible, dedicate a kitchen space to allergen/gluten-free preparation.

Wash and Sterilize

  • Wash and sterilize everything coming into contact with the allergen/gluten-free food being prepared.
  • Wash hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds.
  • Change gloves and aprons.
  • To clean surfaces and larger appliances, use a dry towel to wipe down crumbs first, then wash or sterilize.

Avoid Cross-Contact while Serving

  • Serve allergen/gluten-free guests first and carry their dishes separate from others.
  • Cross-contact with an allergen or gluten through condiments is common due to double-dipping with a utensil. Choose squeeze bottles when possible to eliminate double dipping, and clearly label the option that is free from the allergen or gluten.
  • Avoid "make-your-own" dishes with high risk for cross-contact, including sundaes, salads and topping bars.

Learn more about the differences between food allergies, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, as well as how to prevent cross-contact at home. And as you’re preparing for the holidays, download our Holiday Helper tip sheet and the Kitchen Safety Checklist to ensure you’re equipped for a happy and healthy holiday.

"With a bit of preparation and communication, your guests can focus on appreciating the meal and time spent with family and friends, rather than their food allergy or celiac disease," Lemond said. "And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?"

To learn more about the award-winning Home Food Safety program, visit www.HomeFoodSafety.org, or download the free Is My Food Safe? app for Apple and Android mobile devices.

For media interviews with registered dietitian nutritionists who specialize in food safety, contact media@eatright.org.

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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods’ Home Food Safety program is dedicated to raising consumer awareness about the seriousness of food poisoning and providing solutions for easily and safely handling food in their own kitchens. More information can be found at www.HomeFoodSafety.org.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. To locate a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.EatRight.org.

ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG) is one of North America's largest packaged food companies with branded and private branded foods found 99 percent of America's households, as well we a strong commercial foods business serving restaurants and foodservice operations globally. Consumers can find recognized brands such as Egg Beaters®, Healthy Choice®, Hunt's®, Marie Callender's®, Orville Redenbacher's®, and many other ConAgra Foods brands, along with food sold by ConAgra Foods under private brand labels, in grocery, convenience, mass merchandise, club stores and drugstores. ConAgra Foods also has a strong commercial foods presence, supplying frozen potato and sweet potato products as well as other vegetable, spice, bakery and grain products to a variety of well-known restaurants, foodservice operators and commercial customers. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com.