Helping Guests with Food Allergies

Did you know that roughly 11 milliion Americans suffer from food allergies? There is currently no cure for food allergies. Those who suffer from these allergies simply have to avoid eating certain foods. This is easier said than done.

Eight commonly available foods are responsible for 9/10ths of all food-allergic reactions.

These foods are: milk, eggs, tree nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans pistachios, and pine nuts), peanuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.

Food allergens are caused when the body’s immune system erroneously believes that a specific food is harmful. The immune system creates antibodies in response. When people with these allergies eat a food containing the allergen, their immune systems release histamines and other biochemicals into their bodies. These chemicals can trigger allergic reactions that can affect the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, or the gastrointestinal tract.

Physical symptoms can include a tingling in the mouth, a swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in blood pressure, and even death.

For more information on food allergies, visit

What can innkeepers do to help guests with food allergies?

1) Know what ingredients are in the foods that you serve.

2) Label all foods in a breakfast buffet.

3) Avoid cross contamination in the kitchen. For example, if you used spoon to fill a ramekin with cashew butter, put the dirty spoon in the sink. Don’t lightly wipe it and use it for another application.

4) Allow some guests to bring their own foods. For example, guests with gluten allergies may want to bring their own gluten free bread. If this happens, label the bread. Store it.

5) Make sure the kitchen staff is aware of guests with food allergies.