We all know someone who can’t eat something. Whether the foods they avoid are by choice or necessity, it’s important to understand dietary restrictions.
Here are five things you should definitely know about food allergies- especially if you’re a boss!
What they are.
Peanuts and gluten have become the most publicly understood allergens, but there are many more including tree nuts, dairy, eggs, and shellfish.
Allergens trigger an autoimmune response, causing the body to attack itself to try to get rid of the invading allergen.
Dietary preferences, on the other hand, are a lifestyle choice, such as being vegan or vegetarian.
You may not know your employees have food allergies.
You’re likely to know of any physical disabilities an employee may have, but food allergies are a silent disability that are easy to miss. In fact, more than 12 million Americans have food allergies. That’s 1 in 25 people!
Before hiring a corporate lunch caterer or bringing in any type of food, have your employees fill out a form listing their food sensitivities and allergies. You’ll have a much easier time ordering something that everyone can enjoy, and will be able to let employees know which foods contain allergens.
Sounds like a lot of work? Try finding a caterer who offers customizable meals with options sensitive to different dietary needs.
Employees are not trying to be difficult.
While the gluten-free trend has turned into a fad, there are still many people with severe allergies to it and other foods. An allergy is not a choice, and the effects of eating or coming in contact with an allergen can be severe for some people.
Employees with allergens are not trying to be difficult; they’re trying to prevent a serious reaction.
If certain employees seem to isolate themselves, they may have a food allergy.
Working around food allergies can be a challenge, and many employees may not want to take on the “difficult” persona. Instead of being honest about their allergies, they may eat alone or never partake in food-related celebrations.
Help these employees feel included by offering allergen-free treats during the holidays, and having a break room dedicated to being allergy free. Be sure to stock it with a microwave, utensils, and a refrigerator that can only be used for allergen-free foods. It’s definitely an undertaking, but the boost in morale and inclusion will be worth it.
You should have an emergency plan in place.
Most people with food allergies carry an Epipen, an injection of medicine that treats severe reactions when exposed to allergens. However, it’s important to also implement a larger scale emergency plan at your office and train employees on what to do if a co-worker goes into anaphylaxis.
Take a shortcut with the plan developed by the Food Allergy Research & Education organization.
Food allergies are a serious matter, so be sure to educate yourself and your office on what they are, how to work with employees who have them, and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Meg is a dreamer, entrepreneur, and homesteader based in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She loves her cats, feasting, and road trips in her green VW Bug.