Association Insights


Top 3 tips to prevent food allergies at your event

Jun 06 2017

Content provided by Québec City Business Destination

Food allergies and dietary restrictions are hot topics in the event planning industry—especially during an era where the number of people with allergies or respecting certain diets is rising at a rapid-fire pace.

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 15 million people in the US are affected by food allergies. Similarly, Food Allergy Canada reports that 2.5 million Canadians have at least one food allergy. That’s a lot of people!

Dietary restrictions and diets also abound, whether for health, religious, cultural or social reasons, such as Celiac disease, diabetes, veganism and vegetarianism, Paleo diets, Halal foods, and Hindu dietary customs—just to name a few.

That’s why it’s so important for event planners to diligently plan for food allergies and dietary restrictions during their conventions, conferences and tradeshows to mitigate risks and ensure delegates’ safety. Here are our top 3 tips planners should incorporate in their next event strategy.

Tip 1: Plan in advance

Addressing any food allergies or dietary restrictions starts at the very beginning of your event planning. First, carefully research your venues and F&B partners for their approaches, ability and history in dealing with this aspect of their catering services. What information do they need from attendees and when? What is their strategy during meal times to identify people with allergies and specific diets? What role does the service staff play? Are qualified personnel on hand should a medical emergency arise?

Next, make sure that all stakeholders—including F&B partners, sponsors, clients and your team—keep their expectations in check. Due to the wide array of allergies and dietary restrictions, creativity and variety may have to take second stage. Of course, you want to your attendees to enjoy their dining experiences; however, safety must be at the top of your list of requirements.

Tip 2: Communicate, communicate, communicate

At the onset of your event planning, communicate with all attendees to know exactly what their food requirements are. Provide a thorough list that goes beyond just having attendees tick “Vegetarian” or “Kosher.” Your list should include the “Big 8” allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish) as well as a space for delegates to add other food considerations you may not have thought of.

However, don’t stop there. Once you have determined your on-site strategy, that is, how people with food allergies or dietary restrictions will be identified and serviced during meals, you must provide attendees with your event’s rules of engagement. Sometimes, unfortunately, attendees may decide to sit somewhere else during a gala dinner, rather than their pre-appointed seat. Others may indicate that they are allergic to a certain food, but downplay the severity to taste a tantalizing dish. It’s important for delegates to be informed of all the actions you are taking in order to ensure their safety.

Regularly follow up with attendees to make sure you’ve confirmed everybody’s allergies and restrictions; the last thing you want is a delegate showing up who forgot to inform you that he is severely allergic to seafood…during your “Sailing the High Seas” theme night!

Tip 3: Train on-site staff

Read the complete article on the Québec City Business Destination blog.