Holiday Season Dining Dangers

It's time for the old end-of-year office party or family holiday dinner. During the holiday season the likelihood that you will ingest high-risk foods that may cause allergic reactions is at an all-time high. So if you are one of the estimated 11 million people affected by food allergies, focus on being a label detective in order to avoid these potentially hazardous ordeals.

Watch our for these holiday culprits:

  • Eggnog (the word albumin on a label indicates the presence of eggs)
  • Fruitcakes (may contain nuts)
  • Glazed rolls and bread or other bakery items (containing egg)
  • Mixed nuts
  • Chocolate, candies and other confectionery items (many contain nuts, milk)
  • Dips, fondues and salsas (may contain diary cream and egg)
  • Quiches (often contain egg)
  • Fried foods - if you are seafood-allergic (as the same oil used in the fried fish may also be used in the preparation of other fried foods such as French fries)
  • At least some alcoholic beverages (if you are grain or wheat sensitive)
  • Soybean oil salad dressings - (if soy sensitive)
  • Caesar or Greek salad (may contain anchovies)
  • Marzipan (a paste made of ground almonds, egg and/or milk)
  • Worcestershire sauce (may contain fish)
  • Yams, sweet potato pie (may contain egg, pecans, walnuts or dairy)
  • Pumpkin pie (may contain peanut/nuts, nutmeg)
  • Gingerbread cookies (may contain egg, milk, soy, corn and wheat)
  • Potato pancakes served for a Chanukah celebration (may contain egg)

Here are some strategies for the holidays:

  • Use caution if you eat Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Mexican cuisine as many foods may contain nuts.
  • Keep a "restaurant food allergen ingredient card" with you to make the kitchen staff aware of your food allergy when dining out. Ask for a list of ingredients before ordering.
  • Be a label detective! Learn to read food labels as many ingredients can be misleading or confusing. Check out the recommendations on "How to Read a Label" at www.foodallergy.org.
  • When visiting with friends and family, let your host know if you need to avoid certain foods so they can prepare alternate choices.
  • Bring safe, homemade, allergy-free dishes when invited to someone's house.
  • Keep a spot in the food preparation area of the kitchen free of food allergens.
  • Be sure and know the earliest signs of an allergic reaction and how to give the emergency medication(s) prescribed by your allergist/physician.
  • Develop an emergency plan that includes ample medication, including epinephrine auto-injectors (be prepared for prolonged reactions).
  • Plan ahead if you need to travel during the holidays and have safe snacks and foods with you, especially if you have a food-allergic child.
  • Stay with "simple dishes" that avoid hidden ingredients.
  • Avoid salad bars where containers can have traces of allergens and cross contamination is common.
  • Use caution when ordering deli meats where the same equipment may be used to slice meat and milk-based cheeses.

Having an allergy to a food does not mean you cannot enjoy the many and varied holiday foods this time of the year. Many alternate foods can be substituted and still ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday season! For more tips on avoiding food allergens during the holidays, vitit www.aaaai.orgor www.acaai.org.