Food Allergies and Potlucks – Should I stay or should I go?

With allergies, comes decision-making; should I eat this, should I go there, should I risk it? You need to remember to always do what is right for you! You know what situations may be dangerous for you and need to do what is best for your health and safety.

With the holidays quickly approaching, potlucks are upon us. Trusting other people with food allergies can often be a tricky thing to do. Last year I had a negative experience with a school potluck that is making me reconsider my decision to attend this year. Everyone was informed of the allergens that were not to be brought to the potluck, but people forgot and they were present. I was not comfortable eating any of the food and left the room, as there was food on most surfaces.

Pot lucks can be a tricky situation at any holiday event

Pot lucks can be a tricky situation at any holiday event.

It was upsetting as I had been looking forward to the Christmas party and all my friends were able to participate. With this year’s potluck being this Friday, I am in the decision process of trying to decide whether or not I am comfortable in attending. Having food allergies can make it difficult to trust others with something as simple as food.

Best Practice - Write out all of the ingredients on the dish you bring.

Best Practice – Write out all of the ingredients on the dish you bring.

With situations like this, don’t worry about what anyone will think and do what is right for you. My teacher has posted the allergens on all the invitations and sign up sheets so I might attend. I have till Friday to decide, but in the end I will only do what I am truly comfortable with. That is just something that comes with food allergies! Have you ever had a tricky situation where you have had to decide whether you would participate or not?

7 responses

  1. It is a bummer to not be able to try the different dishes, but I always bring my own meal. I make sure it is something special I will look forward to eating and I enjoy myself much more not having to worry. I appreciate people who try and make allergy friendly dishes for me, but unless they have allergies, I never feel confident in eating the foods. If I were as reactive as you, I think I’d bring my own paper place mat and silverware as well, then be careful not to touch anything. I don’t experience anaphlaxis, so I don’t have to worry about foods on surfaces I touch and in the air like you do. I am guessing you can never feel 100% safe. 😦

  2. Can you attend the potluck and just not eat, or bring your own food? Or can you not be in the same room as your allergens? A few years ago I made the rule for myself that if I haven’t read it, I won’t eat it. Meaning if I haven’t personally witnessed the person making the food and seen the ingredients that are going into it, I don’t touch it. There are a FEW exceptions, like when my own mother or husband cooks for me, but other than that I don’t risk it. Allergens can be hidden in so many different ingredients (as you know) and people who don’t have allergies just have no clue where to look sometimes, and it’s neither their fault nor responsibility. It’s my responsibility to keep myself alive and healthy, that’s the way I see it anyway.

    Even at my bachelorette party my best friend made an “allergen-free breakfast” and I asked to read the labels of the butter and milk she used in the pancakes just to make sure. Sure enough, the butter was a rare brand that puts FISH OIL in it, so I could have potentially gone into anaphylactic shock had I eaten it. She never thought to read the ingredients of the butter because she knows I’m not allergic to butter.

    Anyway, I think it’s always better to play it safe. Sure, we end up missing out on some events but it’s worth it to not be stressed and anxious over it. In fact, I’m attending my work’s Christmas dinner this Friday and I won’t be eating anything except the snack food I’ll have stashed in my purse 😀

    Hope you are happy with whatever decision you end up making!

  3. I just started at a new job and am having to re-educate people in regards to my gluten allergy so I can participate in some things. That being said, my department is having a holiday potluck for which I just received an invitation. There is no mention of allergies or to ask people to consider labeling their food, etc. I’m not sure what to do. Food has become overly stressful for me and I’m not sure I’m up for playing a guessing game – or just eating what I bring for myself. These kinds of things can feel very alienating!

  4. Ah, potlucks. My friends have frequent potluck dinners and I am so not a fan. But I learned (after a few unsatisfactory and hungry but thankfully not anaphylactic tries) that the best thing to do is bring your own food. If your airborne needs are met, you can bring your own meal and eat it while socializing – the company is more important than the food! I avoid the buffet table altogether. Though, when I used to participate when I had fewer allergies, I would offer to bring the main dish so I would know I would have a substantialish meal, and ask the host who brought which dishes and hound them wih questions before they put them out. You have to arrive early for that, but offering to help makes that easier. Then, I’d take first and enough to make sure I didn’t need seconds. Getting seconds is asking for cross contamination issues. Usually, hosts are nice enough to quietly open the buffet to just you. As always, only eat from cooks who you think are clean and trustworthy.

    Hopefully your teachers will accommodate you per the above. But there’s nothing wrong worth bringing a Tupperware of your own food and partying alongside everyone else!

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