How to Build a Menu Around Food Allergies


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Did you know that if you don’t provide healthy food for people with food allergies at your events that you’re in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act? In addition to the six major allergens, meeting planners may also have to make menu allowances for religious or dietary preferences. How do you keep everyone feeling full and happy? In this session, Paula Rigling will share her tips for building menus around food allergies and restrictions with an eye towards creating healthier and more fulfilling meal functions for everyone. This session is worth .5 CMP-IS clock hours in Strategic Domain G: Meeting or Event Design. Presented by Paula Rigling at PYM LIVE Austin on May 21, 2014. For more information about PYM and its events for meeting and event planners, visit Claim your free subscription at

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How to Build a Menu Around Food Allergies

  1. 1. #YAYPYM 1 How to Build a Menu Around Food Allergies ! Presented by Paula J. Rigling, CMP President Meeting Planning Professionals
  2. 2. #YAYPYM 2 Special Thanks Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, founder and chief connecting officer of Thrive! Meetings & Events for serving as a resource for this presentation.
  3. 3. #YAYPYM 3 Facts About Food Allergies The number of people with food allergies in the U.S. has grown: ! • Food allergies increased 50% among children between 1997 and 2011 ! • Those children are now old enough to attend your meetings, along with your older attendees ! • Millions of people suffer from food sensitivities or allergies, and they are attending your meetings!
  4. 4. #YAYPYM 4 Other Special Menu Accommodations • Chronic Disease-Hypertension • Diabetes • Celiac Disease, Crohn’s • Obesity • Lifestyle Choice- Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, Pescitarian, Clean Eating • Religious Constraints
  5. 5. #YAYPYM 5 Understanding Food Preferences ! Vegetarians: No meat, will eat eggs and milk ! Vegans: No meat, eggs, milk or even honey ! Gluten-Free: No rye, wheat, barley, some oats ! Paleo: No grains, sugar, dairy or legumes
  6. 6. #YAYPYM Chefs Say: •Attendees shouldn’t be punished for having a dietary need •Guests should receive the same quality of food when their needs are being accommodated •The food and the service reflect on the property and chef
  7. 7. #YAYPYM The Top 8 Food Allergens ! Eggs Fish Shellfish Soy Tree Nuts Peanuts Wheat Lactose
  8. 8. #YAYPYM 8 Facts About Food Allergens • The top 8 allergens represent 120 foods ! • These 8 cause 90% of allergic reactions ! • There are 150 deaths yearly from food allergic reactions ! • 50% of these deaths occur outside the home- in restaurants, hotels or meetings
  9. 9. #YAYPYM 9 Steps to Take as a Planner • Conduct tastings, get detailed ingredients list ! • Ask: How will the chef prevent cross-contamination? ! • Ask: How will the venue accommodate guests - tickets, color dots, names, seating chart? ! • The banquet captain should have a complete ingredient list
  10. 10. #YAYPYM 10 Steps to Take as a Planner • Include complete menu descriptions on the registration site ! • Include photos of your meal selections ! • Make sure all ingredients are clearly labeled ! • If you have a large number of vegetarians, serve a vegetarian dish for the entree
  11. 11. #YAYPYM 11 Capture Info at Registration Add check boxes for: • Gluten • Vegetarian • Vegan • Kosher • Pescitarian
  12. 12. #YAYPYM 12 • Eggs • Fish • Soy • Fish • Shellfish • Wheat • Tree Nuts • Peanuts Capture Info at Registration Add check boxes for the 8 most common food allergies.
  13. 13. #YAYPYM 13 Capture Info at Registration • Who is your emergency contact with phone #? ! • Do you carry an Epi Pen? ! • What else do you require from us to help keep you safe?
  14. 14. #YAYPYM 14 Most Important Step of All • Communicate directly with your guests who have special requests, follow up to ensure understanding of their needs ! • Inform these guests how their special needs will be met ! • Those with food allergies are encouraged to read ingredient labels and make decisions for themselves.  So, labels must be posted, available and easy to read so people can make informed (and safe) decisions! ! • Accuracy is the key — no "secret ingredients" or undocumented, creative additions.
  15. 15. #YAYPYM 15 Risk Management • Follow applicable federal, state and district laws ! • Develop standard operating procedures ! • Designate a person to manage ! • Food allergy action plans ! • Be prepared for reactions
  16. 16. #YAYPYM 16 When People with Dietary Needs Were Asked About Eating at Events ! 50% don’t return to events or do not attend events ! That’s an incredible number of potential meeting attendees being left out of your events
  17. 17. #YAYPYM 17 Primary Benefit of Accommodating Dietary Needs ! Once attendees feel safe and secure with their eating experience, they become loyal and repeat customers.
  18. 18. #YAYPYM 18 ! Contact me: Paula J. Rigling, CMP President, Meeting Planning Professionals 512-791-4701