When I think of the winter holidays, I get such a warm, fuzzy feeling. For many people, the traditions at this time of year are so rich with love. There's a lot of joy for people spending time with their families including watching the classic Christmas movies, catching up for the past year, holiday meals, decorating, gift giving and of course, baking! But there is an underlying threat in all of this and you don't want to accidentally injure or kill someone.
Television gives the impression that there is a lot of baking this time of year and giving that away as gifts. I have been the recipient and giver of many candy and cookies. I am proud to be able to give my goodies away to my friends and family - in fact, I love hearing how delicious it all is and how much people enjoy my cooking. However, I admit - I do not always know if my recipients have any food allergies or sensitivities. I never even ask and I know many baking gift givers probably do not know their audience either. But I should. What I typically do instead is ask when I give the Christmas tin to them, then explain any products that have allergies.
This thought pattern shouldn't be a surprise - there are many schools that have rules that allow only store-bought baked goods for school celebrations. The reason is for the label! They need to be able to read the label to know what ingredients are in it and specifically what allergens are in it. And though people are aware of those types of rules at school, they forget to think about it when they give baked goods away for gifts.
So, here are 5 steps you can do to help your gift recipients trust your baked goods:
1. ASK if they are allergic to anything. If you are surprising, that's okay, try to find out in a way that doesn't reveal your intent. If you're not surprising them, it's completely appropriate to ask.
2. LIST INGREDIENTS Your family recipe is most likely NOT patented for a trade secret. However, even if it is, the law would require you to list any allergens on the label and list out all of the ingredients in order by percentage in the formula. So, get over yourself and write it down for people to read for themselves. If anything, list the Big 8 allergens if the goodie contains any of them: Milk (or dairy), Eggs, Soy, Peanuts, Tree nuts (list which one specifically), Wheat and it is unlikely in a holiday baked good, but fish and shellfish should also be called out if they are in the recipe as well. Consider Sesame seeds and any color additives as well like Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6 and any others that might cause reactions.
3. AVOID CROSS-CONTACT OF ALLERGENS - Preparing non-allergen containing products BEFORE the allergen containing products. And if that is not an option, be sure to wash all kitchen tools and appliances thoroughly with hot soapy water and clean and sanitize the prep area thoroughly before creating the non-allergen containing goodie.
4. AVOID CO-MINGLING TREATS: Keep treats completely separated in their storage containers - preferably in separate containers. I am completely guilty of this, but have started putting treats in baggies in the holiday tins, so that they do not touch each other. With the oils in many allergen containing products, that probably still is not adequate. Going forward, I am going to keep them in separate Christmas tins entirely.
5. BE RESPECTFUL Regardless if you follow rules 1-4 or not, be respectful to anyone that does not accept your gift due to allergies or food sensitivities. They are prioritizing their health and feel bad enough that they cannot enjoy your gesture. For a little perspective of the allergic person, read this article.
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