Dealing with Food Allergies on set

Catering is often a contentious issue on set. You hear about those student productions that buy everyone a Happy Meal and say “there’s your dinner”. Then there are the productions that give you “make your own” sandwiches five days in a row. As a producer, you should realise that a poorly fed crew is likely to be a cranky, less productive crew. Yet the majority of lower budget productions do not consider the dietary requirements or allergies of their crew. And as one of those annoying people with more than one allergy, those sets suck for me.

I was recently on set where there were vegetarians, gluten free (GF), dairy free (DF), no pork, and peanut allergies. Unfortunately, unit/catering was run by someone who had none of these requirements. So breakfast options included toast with peanut butter or vegemite, fresh cream buns from the bakery, cereal with milk, and fruit. Can anyone see anything wrong with that? To me, the major mistake was having peanuts on set where there was a peanut allergy because that can be extremely dangerous.

If you are one of those lucky people with no allergies, you may be thinking “so what?”.

We are a world with an ever increasing number of allergies. Symptoms to these allergies can range from skin irritations, bowel irritations, swelling, and (at the extreme end) anaphylactic shock that can result in death.

That should be enough reason to taken extreme precaution on set. If you are the producer that accidentally killed someone, do you think people will want to work with you after that?

OK, so that may be a bit extreme. But there is such a simple way to prevent all of this.

1. Ask your cast and crew if they have any allergies or dietary requirements. Make a list.

2. If you have asked for this information, do not ignore it.

3. If you or your catering doesn’t know what a GF person (or any other allergy) can or cannot eat, ask them!

But if you really want to win the hearts and minds of your allergy stricken crew then all food, snacks and drinks should be able to be enjoyed by all. Meaning all your lollies are GF, all your meals are have vegetarian options (not just a side plate), your chips aren’t cooked in peanut oil, and you provide nuttelex or a similar DF spread if you have sandwiches.

All my productions are food allergy conscious, and yours can be too.

For help dealing with food allergies on set, check out the following links:

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy – Food Allergy

Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease

Premier Website for those Lactose Intolerant (and Dairy Free)



Q: How have you dealt with allergies on set? Or do you have an experience to share as a person with an allergy on set? I’d love to hear all about it…