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OFFICIAL DINNERS: THE BUSINESSMAN’S DILEMMA

Author, Business mir #16 - 2010-05 MAIL PRINT 
Business travellers who are constantly on the go don’t always have a choice in deciding on the foods they may be expected to eat. Some dishes, appetising as they may seem, can have drastic consequences on people who suffer from food allergies. What foods should one be most wary of under the circumstances? And what kinds of precautionary measures can be taken in these cases?
What would become of business-related appointments, meetings or even conferences without the quintessential buffet or formal meal? Business deals are never concluded on an empty stomach, and the pleasurable aspects of sampling delectable specialties and negotiating a mutually satisfying result often go hand-in-hand. However, it sometimes happens that a business dinner may be brought to a dramatically premature end if one of the parties present ingests an ingredient that brings on a severe allergic reaction. Some regular business travellers have come to dread these supposedly ‘convivial’ work-related meals – don’t they run the risk of an allergic reaction to some exotic edibles?
Although approximately a third of the Western world’s population suffers from atopic disorders – meaning that they have a genetic pre-disposition to developing allergies – the situation is not all that alarming. “People with allergy issues are usually aware of the risks. It is very rare that a severe allergy to any product develops out of nowhere, without the slightest forerunning symptom”, explains Dr. Dominique Jaques, an allergy specialist in Geneva.
Unfortunately, once a food allergy is diagnosed, the means of controlling it are rather limited. Aside from desensitising treatments available to control animalrelated allergies (the most common being mites or cat hair) and allergies to pollens, the best way to deal with an allergy is by assiduously avoiding the offensive product. “Contrary to popular belief, allergy specialists don’t believe in exposing patients to the products they are allergic to as a form of treatment. After identifying the source of the problem, the best way to handle a food allergy is to simply avoid it”, advises Dr. Jaques. Some emergency first aid products are available for use in case of exposure to allergens and can temporarily neutralise reactions until a medical team arrives on the scene.
The most common food allergies include reactions to products like peanuts, walnuts or almonds (and other nuts as well). The problem is that these products are often used by cooks in dishes of all kinds, be they industrialised foods or ‘homemade’. An allergy sufferer is obliged to avoid any contact whatsoever with the product in question, even if it means taking the risk of offending one’s host.
None of this means that one should be particularly wary of exotic foods, which Western digestive tracts may be unaccustomed to absorbing. Dr. Jaques explains that “allergies almost always develop in early childhood as the result of an over-zealous immune system which develops aberrant reactions to contact with everyday products”. This is due to the antiseptic environment prevalent in industrialised companies which prevent the immune system from developing properly. Sushi, curries and other Asian dishes are therefore no more dangerous than the foods one regularly encounters.
Although one may be tempted to take the precaution of having a full screening in the hopes of identifying potential allergies, it’s not necessarily recommended to proceed in this manner. “One runs the risk of entering an endless medical procedure”, explains Dr. Jacques, “If no particular allergic symptoms occur, it’s not particularly useful to go looking for allergic reactions”. One can continue enjoying even the most exotic business-related meals without thinking twice…
Author, Business mir #16 - 2010-05  MAIL PRINT 
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