01 October 2013

The Workplace: Managing Food Allergies

Managing Food Allergies in the Workplace

by Rebecca Fortelka

Being diagnosed with a myriad of food allergies at the age of 22 was not only terrifying but it meant a whole lifestyle change. I could not just eat whatever I wanted and go out with friends like I was so accustom to. I needed to learn how to cook and plan strategically every time we did go out to eat.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology group a recent studies shows that as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies. Another 2 million suffer from celiac disease, and many more suffer from food intolerances. As food allergies continue to rise, more young adults with food allergies are entering the workforce, and employers should take notice.

I was working a traditional 9 to 5 job at the time of my diagnosis and was baffled by how I could handle the day at work with all types of social situations involving food. I was constantly surrounded by foods I was allergic to and felt the need constantly educate my co-workers about how I was airborne allergic to certain foods.  (Airborne allergic means foods I am allergic to, even being in the same air space as me can evoke a reaction.)  I have to sanitize my workspace and ask that others always clean up after themselves others in common areas because even a small speck of allergen can cause me to react.
I came up with a few ways to educate everyone about what it is like to live with food allergies:
  1. 1.     Ask the boss to allow me to make a powerpoint presentation and set aside 20 minutes to educate and have a discussion about cross-contamination and common hazards that come with food allergies.
  2. 2.     I made index cards for all my co-workers and boss that states my allergies both food and environmental, how to recognize an allergic reaction, and what they should do in a medical emergency. Make sure they know where you keep your medications, including epinephrine, if appropriate.
  3. 3.     Help plan office events to ensure that there are some safe food options for all to enjoy.

All and all, it is important to educate your co-worker and boss about food allergies. Because knowledge is power and an open dialogue is very important. Although, allergies can be intimidating being knowledgeable and proactive is a surefire way you can still live life and enjoy.
You can contact Rebecca for more information at Rebecca Fortelka rfortelka@gmail.com or read more about her by clicking here. 


  1. Allergies are something no one has control over. Everyone should be careful while eating outside the canteen of the workplace because you can't claim for your health issues from the company if you had eaten even once outside of your company's canteen.

    Arnold Brame

  2. It was a wonderful post to read. Thank you for coming up with the useful information.


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