In the latest issue of Successful Meetings, Tracy Stuckrath, CMM, president/chief connecting officer of Thrive! Meetings and Events, discussed the important issues surrounding food allergies and events and how planners should ensure they have considered potential risks that could face their attendees. To be prepared for food allergies at events, it's also key to understand the facts of food allergies.
10 Fast Facts About Food Allergies
- More than 32 million Americans have food allergies, 26 million of them adults.
- Every 3 minutes, a food-allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. Annually, this results in some 200,000 emergency-room visits and 200 deaths.
- While sometimes food-allergy symptoms can be mild (rash, itching, hives, swelling), they also can be severe (wheezing, loss of consciousness) or deadly.
- Fully half of all fatal allergies are triggered from food consumed outside the home.
- Allergic reactions can be triggered via ingestion, touch or even inhalation.
- Eight foods account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions worldwide: eggs, milk, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, tree nuts and peanuts.
- Allergen food labeling is required in the European Union on all unpackaged foods (such as event dishes). They require identification of eggs, milk, soy, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, tree nuts and peanuts, and cereals containing gluten, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin and/or sulfites.
- There is no cure for a food allergy. The only way to prevent a reaction is strict avoidance of the allergen.
- To alleviate confusion: A food allergy is an immune-system response to a typically harmless food protein that when ingested the body deems it a threat and triggers a reaction. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease affecting the small intestine and digestive tract, caused by an abnormal reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that in turn can cause serious complications, including malnourishment and intestinal damage.
- Food allergies adversely affect the quality of life. Detriments can range from internal stress and anxiety to bullying at school and feelings of exclusion at food functions.
Tracy Stuckrath, CMM, is president/chief connecting officer of Thrive! Meetings and Events. She works with organizations to help them understand how food and beverage affects risk, employee well-being, company culture and the bottom line.