Tips for dining in or out with food allergies

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Preparing food safely at home

Follow these tips to safely handle and prepare food in your home:

Read food labels. You’ll find the most common allergens printed below the list of ingredients on packaged foods that contain them. If you see vague terms such as “flavors” or “spices” on food labels, contact the manufacturer and ask what they are.

Clean thoroughly. Wash cookware, glassware, dishes and utensils before and between preparing meals. For example, wash a knife you’ve used to spread peanut butter before dipping it into a jelly jar. Wash your hands before and after preparing and eating food. Wipe down kitchen counters with standard household cleansers before and after preparing meals.

Separate foods. Maintain a separate refrigerator and pantry shelf for allergen-free foods. If you’re preparing different meals, prepare allergen-free meals first.

Maintain allergen-free areas. Limit food consumption to certain rooms. Store food allergens in places out of children’s reach.

Eating safely when you’re out

To safely eat at restaurants or in someone else’s home:

Do your research. Ask your host or check restaurant menus online ahead of time to see if they offer allergen-free foods. You can also call ahead and ask if they’re willing to prepare dishes differently to accommodate food allergies. Just remember that even if they are, cross-contamination is still possible.

Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask restaurant staff how the food is prepared or to ask for a list of ingredients. It’s best to speak with the people who will actually be cooking the food.

Carry medication. Always carry medication, such as epinephrine, in case there’s an emergency.

Avoid risky food choices. Avoid eating at buffets, bakeries and potlucks or other parties with many homemade dishes.