Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2013

These Chefs are Meeting the Challenge of Attendee Dietary Restrictions

By Barbara Palmer, Senior Editor

in a professional hospitality company. He said: “It’s the price of admission.”

Breakout: What the Science Says

Discussions about whether people are unnecessarily complicating things by eliminating ingredients, including gluten, are simmering — not just on meeting-planner discussion forums, but in the medical community. Here are few basic facts.

More than 160 different foods have been linked to adverse reactions, but the top eight are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The public health agency Health Canada lists the major allergens slightly differently: eggs; milk; mustard; peanuts; seafood, including fish, crustaceans, and shellfish; sesame; soy; tree nuts; sulfites; and wheat and other cereal grains containing gluten.

About 1 percent of people in the United States have celiac disease, which has been linked to arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and kidney and liver disease. It is on the rise worldwide, according to Peter H.R. Green, M.D., director of Columbia University’s Celiac Center. In the United States, most people who have celiac are unaware of it — although, because of increased awareness of the condition, it’s estimated that the number of undiagnosed cases has dropped since 2010 from 95 percent of the population to 83 percent, said Beckee Moreland, director of gluten-free industry initiatives at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).

Some gastroenterologists say that for every patient with celiac disease, they see six to eight who have the same symptoms, but without the antibodies or intestinal damage that confirm celiac disease. Although medical experts now largely agree that there is a condition related to gluten intolerance that is separate from celiac disease, Kenneth Chang reported on The New York Times health blog, much is unknown about how many people may be affected or how to reliably diagnose it.

Test Time

Once you finish reading this CMP Series article, read the following material:

Gluten Freedom,” an article from the December 2010 issue of Convene that outlines the basics about serving gluten-free meals at events.

Gluten-Free Diet,” a guide to gluten-free food, including lists of frequently overlooked foods, from the Celiac Disease Foundation.

To earn one hour of CEU credit, visit pcma.org/convenecmp to answer questions about the information contained in this CMP Series article and the additional material.

The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is a registered trademark of the Convention Industry Council.


  1. 1 Barbara Palmer 01 Aug
    That is a great question, Sue. Let me see if I can round up some expert advice for you. 
  2. 2 Sue 26 Jul
    In addition to 5-10% vegetarian (we do 10%), what % of meals should we plan on to be gluten-free or have other dietary restrictions?

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