With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life allergen-free.

13 February 2017

Food Allergy Folks You Should Know About: Brandon's Best Allergen-Free Treats

Screenshot from http://www.brandonsbestallergenfree.com/the-sweet-shop/?v=757e5b5109ed
I am not sure when I first heard about Mandy's Pizza. It was years ago! Mandy's is an award winning pizzeria located in Pittsburgh, PA. Steve Negri is the owner. I remember reading that Steve's son had food allergies and that they sold allergy friendly pizza dough. In fact, either Steve or the Mandy's website explained that his son Brandon was the inventor of the pizza dough! I always thought that was so innovative and how wonderful that a pizza place had something for those with food allergies. It was SO long ago, when I first heard about Mandy's  there was no such thing as allergy friendly food at restaurants; it was something that just didn't happen and I knew Mandy's Pizza was special.

Years went by, and then a few months ago I learned that Brandon--now in high school!--has his own website and business! I was blown away. As a high school teacher and mom of two teenagers, I absolutely love hearing about entrepreneurial, innovative young people. The world really is their oyster, and Brandon clearly has ambition and aims to go places! I am very glad Brandon agreed to do a Q & A with Food Allergy Buzz to share more of his story and tell us all about his business, Brandon's Best Allergen-Free Treats

I also had a chance to try some vanilla glazed donuts which Brandon kindly sent along with a Pittsburgh Steelers sign! It's an inside joke between us, as I live in Patriots' territory, and this was before the Superbowl when we didn't know which team was going to advance then! My sons and I enjoyed the donuts; they were super! We especially liked the glaze, nice and sweet with the yummy cakey donuts! The donuts are top 8 allergen free and gluten-free, as are most of Brandon’s products. Specific ingredient information is on his website. Brandon’s products include cookies, donuts, muffins and pizza dough.

Side note: on top of managing multiple food allergies, creating recipes, starting his own business, Brandon still is a full-time high school student and serious hockey player! I don't know how he does it all!!

*I normally share photos of the foods we try but I must apologize as my computer has been misbehaving and I lost some recent photos, as well as Firefox for some reason. I think my computer may be on its last leg.*

FAB:  Please tell us about your connection to food allergies.
Brandon: I have had bad food allergies since I was a baby.  My mom found out when I was 3 and I put a peanut in my mouth.  She pulled it out and my spit went on my cheek and then it started to turn red. 

FAB:  Tell us a little about you manage your allergies.
Brandon: Managing food allergies isn't that hard since my mom taught me how to read labels, and to ask before I eat.  When I went to school my mom packed my lunch but my parents would not let me sit at the no peanuts table.  I asked Dad and he said that if I sat at that table I would always be afraid to be on my own so sit with your friends but not around the one eating peanut butter that day. 

 FAB:Tell us about how you first began to cook and old were you then?
Brandon: I was 9 years old when I started baking because my Dad would bring pizza home to eat but i could not even touch his pizza.  I told him that i wanted him to make me a pizza and he said that he didn't know how.  I told my Dad that I would make it and he said ok.  It took me 6 months to make a pizza that tasted really good.

When I was 11, I started to work on buns because I could never have a hamburger with a bun.  The only bun at whole foods was really nasty and it would fall apart.

I then started to work on desserts because the cookies that we would see were only gluten free and I am allergic to eggs and corn and they always had that in them. 

FAB: How did you begin to develop recipes? How did you come up with recipes?
Brandon: I would look on the internet at pictures and would make them because they looked good.  I then had to look on the internet for egg replacements.  I tried bananas but they made my cookies all taste like banana.  I tried applesauce but that made my stomach upset.  Dad says that apples will make babies poop.  I just tried all kinds of different ways until I liked how they tasted and looked.  

FAB:  How long did it take you?
Brandon: Everything I have made took me a very long time.  My donuts took me 3 years to make until my Dad thought that they tasted like a real donut.  I didn't know because I had never tasted a real donut.

Once I figured how to replace stuff like eggs it was easy to make other foods allergen free but not taste allergen free. 

FAB: I think I remember visiting your Dad's website a few years back and it looks different today. Now there is Brandon's Best Allergen-free Treats, a separate website! How did that happen? What made you decide to take the plunge?
Brandon: It was my Dad that told me that I should have my own website.  I don't know anything about how to make a website but Dad does and he did it for me.  He told me that people get confused when they think that Mandy's pizza sells donuts but it is really me that does that stuff.  I helped Dad pick out what the website will look like but he did all of the work. 

FAB: Have you gotten to chat with any of your customers? What kind of feedback are you receiving?
Brandon: Dad gets to more than me because he is at the pizza shop.  But when I do the allergen free donuts with Santa, the kids, and parents all come up to thank me for what I do.  I think that it is cool because it was hard for me when I was their age and there weren't any good donuts or cookies. 

FAB: What are your plans for the future?
Brandon: Dad and I talked about that the other night and I am going to start selling my cookie dough in jars.  Dad already helps me a lot but it would be a lot more work to make all of these cookies.  It will be easier to put the dough in jars and people can make cookies when they want to. 
FAB: What advice do you have for other young people with food allergies?
Brandon: I went to a lunch today with a guy who sells real estate and he said that life gave me food allergies and I made cookies.  Parents need to make kids not so scared about food allergies because it is not that bad if you try to understand.

FAB:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with Food Allergy Buzz readers?
Brandon: Make food allergies easy for kids but people whose kids don't have food allergies need to live like us for one month, and then they will see how hard it is to worry about getting sick or not fitting in when there is a party.

Just because you have food allergies doesn't mean you are not cool.  We get to eat special stuff every day and that makes us cooler than you. 

19 January 2017

Food Allergy News: Finally Some Good News!

Today Kaleo--manufacturer of the Auvi-Q--released exciting news in a press release. Auvi-Q will be available in the U.S. starting February14. Below is the press release.

RICHMOND, VA. (January 19, 2017)– Kaléo, a privately-held pharmaceutical company, today announced the AUVI-Q® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-injector will be available by prescription starting February 14th, and announced AUVI-Q AffordAbility, a first-of-its-kind access program for AUVI-Q. Through this new program, patients with commercial insurance, even those with high-deductible plans, will have an out-of-pocket cost of $0. For patients who do not have government or commercial insurance, and have a household income of less than $100,000, AUVI-Q will be available free of charge. In addition, the cash price for AUVI-Q is $360 and will be available to those patients without government or commercial insurance. Each AUVI-Q prescription includes two Auto-injectors and one Trainer for AUVI-Q.

“We met with patients and physicians and listened to the very real challenges in the current healthcare environment with obtaining access to affordable medicines,” said Spencer Williamson, President and CEO of kaléo. “As a result, starting February 14, for more than 200 million Americans with commercial insurance, including those with high-deductible plans, the out-of-pocket cost for AUVI-Q will be $0.”

AUVI-Q is a FDA-approved prescription medicine used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, in people who are at risk for or have a history of serious allergic reactions. It is an epinephrine auto-injector with innovative features such as voice instructions that help guide a user with step-by-step instructions through the epinephrine delivery process and an automatic retractable needle system, a first for epinephrine auto-injectors, that injects the epinephrine and retracts the needle back into the device within seconds. “We know how important it is that severely allergic patients have an epinephrine auto-injector that can be with them at all times and used correctly, even without training, during a panic-stricken allergic emergency,” said Eric Edwards M.D., Ph.D, Vice President of Product Strategy at kaléo. “We are excited to make AUVI-Q, an epinephrine auto-injector with innovative features, available for millions of patients living with severe, life-threatening allergies.”

AUVI-Q AffordAbility is a first-of-its-kind program and commitment for AUVI-Q, designed to provide affordable access to this potentially life-saving epinephrine auto-injector for eligible patients. This new program removes potential and previously experienced insurance barriers, restrictions and delays, even for those commercially-insured patients with high-deductible plans. AUVI-Q will also be available via a direct delivery service, that can ensure the best expiration dating for

Identical twin brothers, Eric and Evan Edwards, the inventors of AUVI-Q, grew up with life-threatening allergies. They know what it is like to live in fear of that life-or-death moment, both as patients and parents of food-allergic children. Their goal was to develop an epinephrine auto-injector that contained innovative features, such as a voice instruction system that helps guide patients and caregivers step-by-step through the injection process. Eric and Evan Edwards believe and trust in

AUVI-Q, not only for themselves, but also for their children and other families who may have to depend on it to administer epinephrine during an allergic emergency.

To learn more about AUVI-Q, please visit www.auvi-q.com.

15 January 2017

Food Allergy Consumer Product Review: Better Bites Bakery


Better Bites Bakery
tel. (512) 350-2271

Better Bites Bakery was founded by Leah Lopez, the mom of a boy with food allergies and other dietary restrictions. The Better Bites Bakery's mission on the website says it all--"to bake exceptional, tasty, and delightful treats with special dietary needs and high food standards in mind." I'd say they have achieved their mission!

The FAB Review
Dedicated facility: Yes. Manufacturing facility is free of the top 8 allergens and gluten and is kosher pareve too. They are non-GMO certified through the non-GMO project and verified vegan through Vegan Action. They do not use any artificial colors or preservatives. For the details, please see their website. NOTE: The Mostess Cupcakes contain coconut cream. (coconut is not a tree nut)
Appearance: All three items we sampled looked very lovely. They traveled very well during shipping! They are packaged very well so there were no dents, cracks, etc.

Taste: One word--delicious!
Vanilla Cake Ball

Texture: We sampled three different products--Cake Balls, Better Brownie, and Mostess Mini-cupcakes. The texture for each was exactly the way we had hoped it would be! No weird texture like you sometimes find with gluten-free products. The Cake Balls are heavy, and we kind of enjoyed that aspect, because we felt really satisfied after eating one!
Convenience: Better Bites are available in a number of Whole Foods stores. To see if they are in a store near you, check the Better Bites locator list. If you are like me, and do not live near one of those Whole Foods stores, you can order online and receive your order in the mail.
Price/value: This is a food allergy treat that is on the pricey side, and it should be. These treats are scrumptious, pretty, and are made in a top-8 allergen free bakery. A Cake Ball Sampler which is six 4-packs of cake balls (24 cake balls total) is $40. 12 individually wrapped Better Brownies are $36.00. Four 6-packs of Mini Mostess Cupcakes (24 mini cupcakes total) are $40. Better Bites would be a fantastic gift or treat for someone with food allergies! And if you cannot come up with a special occasion, then you can treat yourself or someone else just because!
Buy again?: Yes, in a heartbeat!

13 January 2017

Food Allergy Consumer Focus: The Not-So-Safe Snack Guide?

By Abhijit Tembhekar from Mumbai, India - Nikon D80 Apple, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7823406

Guest post by Lise Broer, Owner of the Rare Food Anaphylaxis Facebook Group. Rare Food Allergy Anaphylaxis is a forum for people who get life threatening immune responses to allergens that are not among the eight protected under US law. 

SnackSafely published an updated Safe Snack guide this week to accommodate consumer feedback. Wonderful was my first reaction. As the owner of the Rare Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Facebook group I had sent feedback to SnackSafely last year. The details of SnackSafely's updated guide are a disappointment: they chose to prioritize non-GMO and organic foods instead of a disclaimer about rare but potentially deadly allergic reactions to the foods in their guide.

The community I moderate includes people who are anaphylactic to potatoes, which is not a common condition but for someone who has it this is basically the same as an allergy to peanuts or shellfish. It means carrying an epinephrine auto-injector; accidental exposures can result in hospitalization. Very few people are this allergic to potatoes. So in addition to all the other challenges of living safely with the severest type of allergy a person with this diagnosis has to navigate widespread disbelief that their medical condition exists.

How does potato anaphylaxis relate to the SnackSafely guide, you ask? Potatoes are a common substitute for wheat. This is wonderful if you are allergic to wheat, not so good if you are allergic to potatoes. 

Now you might be thinking how impractical it would be to devise a list of safe snacks that eliminated every ingredient known to medicine as a cause of anaphylaxis. This is a fair point. So instead of asking for major revisions I asked SnackSafely to publish a disclaimer about rare anaphylaxis in the fine print. Their guide had no such statement last year. It still has none.

The SnackSafely list gets distributed to schools and scouting troops--all of whom want to ensure the safety of the children in their care. Yet it is possible to read the Safe Snack Guide front to back and come away with the impression that an eight-year-old who says, "I can't eat apples. I'm allergic to apples," is fibbing.

I also happen to be anaphylactic to apples. Even at age forty-eight this makes for challenging conversation because many people have never heard that a deadly immune response to apples is possible. The parents of children who have this medical problem find it deeply frustrating because you can coach a child in what to say and the child can obey perfectly without being believed. Other adults mistake these kids for picky eaters and there is not even one sentence in the fine print within the Safe Snack Guide to help. Many of the foods in the guide feature apples. A publication that brands itself as safe it owes its audience better.

When you add together all the rare causes of anaphylaxis, this type of condition is not all that uncommon. Nearly ten percent of food anaphylaxis sufferers have a life threatening allergy to something that is not a "big 8" allergen. So although you might never meet someone who gets anaphylaxis to potatoes or apples, you may know a person who has an equally serious allergy to mustard or peppermint or tomatoes or bananas or something else.

SnackSafely has tried to acknowledge less common allergies by publishing an alternate eleven allergen guide, yet there remain many anaphylactic allergens that are not accommodated by food manufacturers or by SnackSafely. Instead they could incorporate a disclaimer that popular substitute foods may be deadly in rare cases. If a child insists she can't eat grapes, the child could be right. It would be worth double checking with the parents. Yet instead of this caution, SnackSafely revised its guide to cover GMOs.

Nobody ever stopped breathing because a food was GMO.

Food Allergy Buzz thanks Lise for her contribution and for sharing her insight.

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