How To Be Allergy-Safe In An Adult Care Facility

Three Steps To Follow

If you have a loved one who has food allergies/intolerances and lives in an adult care facility (also commonly referred to as a retirement or nursing home), ensuring his/her dietary needs are properly met on a daily basis can be concerning. Here are a few steps you can take to help establish a safe environment.

Auto-injectors:  Auto-injectors are medical devices that contain epinephrine, which is the first-line treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions. Examples of auto-injectors are Epi-Pens and Anapens. Ask to meet with facility staff to discuss where your loved one’s auto-injector will be stored, if an auto-injector is required. Ideally, each resident's auto-injector should be stored in an unlocked cabinet that is easy for (only) staff to access. If it is safe to do so, have your loved one carry their auto-injector in a fanny pack. Keep track of all expiry dates.

Food at the facility: Ask the facility supervisor if food suppliers and kitchen staff are aware of all food allergies at your facility. Find out whether the food suppliers/staff who are involved in all aspects of meal preparation are aware of/do the following:

• Are aware of all food allergies and what to look for on ingredient lists.
• Read ingredient lists each time they buy, store, prepare and serve food.
• Label all foods prepared and stored before serving.
• Prevent cross-contamination by washing hands, utensils and surfaces between meal preparation. You can inform staff about the issue of cross-contamination of food allergens.
• Are informed about “may contain” food label statements
• Are aware of food allergies whenever food is offered in the facility (not just during regular meal and snack times). Celebrations and activities can include food and food can be brought in by visitors.

Meal time: Ask staff members to remind residents regularly not to share food, utensils or cups or napkins with others. Find out if residents with food allergies are supervised while eating if unable to follow instructions on what they can or can’t eat. Ask whether all residents and staff wash their hands with soap and water before and after eating and if this is supervised. This helps prevent food from getting on objects and other surfaces. Find out if all the tables and eating surfaces are properly cleaned before and after meals.

Outings and dining out: Request to have a special meal packed for your loved one for picnics, outings and other social gatherings. For any outing to a restaurant, find out whether the restaurant in question can prepare a meal that is allergy-free and free of cross contamination of food allergens. Not all restaurant staff is properly trained to deal with food allergies. Remind staff to ensure your loved one’s Anaphylaxis Response Plan and epinephrine auto-injector(s) are taken on all trips/outings.


Lisa Cantkier is a holistic nutritionist and lifelong celiac who specializes in food allergies and special diets. For more information, visit

Categories: Allergies & Special Diets