* Talk your host ahead of time and explain what your needs are.
* While giving the list of what you can't eat, give a list of what you can: for example,
plain grilled chicken no sauce or marinade or a burger without burger seasoning.
* Offer to bring something to share with everyone (and that will be safe for you). I love it when people remark "Wow, that's gluten free?! It's so good!"
* Now is the time to discuss cross contamination, what it is and how to prevent it. [Cross contamination occurs when, for example cooking utensils like flatware, tongs, pots, pans, sponges or a cutting board is in contact with both a problematic food and then in contact with any other food thus contaminating it.].
* Explain what your known symptoms are if you do in fact ingest something that causes problems, and what to do if you get sick. Especially if you are at risk for anaphylaxis, tell your host what this looks like and what to do if it happens.
* Always have your medications with you. Make sure you have a safe person with you, someone who knows you and your allergies and what to do in case of an emergency. Have a card in your wallet that lists your allergies and their possible reactions or wear a medic alert bracelet
* Go to the party early. Offer to help with set-up. Help your host prepare your dish so you can ensure it's safe for you.
* Ask to see the ingredients - marinades whether purchased or homemade can have many unexpected ingredients in them. When in doubt, leave the marinade out. You can also ask to see the package and read the ingredient list carefully or call the manufacturer's toll-free number. When in any doubt, just ask for your dish to be plain - my fall back choice for a BBQ is olive oil, cumin, salt, & pepper.
* Ask your host to cook yours first before anything else has touched the grill. If you got a peak at the grill and it doesn't look clean, offer to clean it, or ask your host to cook your food in a clean pan or on aluminum on top of the grill, which will minimize cross contamination, but still give you that smokey BBQ taste.
* Make sure nothing has touched your plate that could present a cross contamination issue. For example, someone will often put a roll on my plate before remembering that I cannot have it.
* Remember that BBQs are not only about the food. If you are very sensitive or nervous about this kind of outing remember: you are at a party to socialize, eating is only one part of the fun. You may just want to eat a safe meal at home and go for the fun and games. Or bring your own meal and eat on site something safe and yummy that you've prepared. Never succumb to feeling pressured to eat food you don't feel 100% safe about; no one wants you to be sick.
Here's to summer!