Hosting Holiday Guests with Celiac Disease, Food Allergies or Sensitivies?

November 22, 2013

Hosting Holiday Guests with Celiac Disease, Food Allergies or Sensitivies?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares details on keeping guests safe during the holidays, plus an app to help you do it.

The following is a press release from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

CHICAGO, Nov. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/— 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, guests that have these special dietary needs most likely will, Lemond said. “One of the first and most important steps hosts can take to help keep guests safe is to ask them directly about their specific needs, and ask more questions if you are still unclear.”

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, food intolerances 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, or download the free Is My Food Safe? app for Apple and Android mobile devices.

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


About the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Association
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

About ConAgra Foods, Inc.
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(R), Healthy Choice(R), Hunt’s(R), Marie Callender’s(R), Orville Redenbacher’s(R), 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