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.

24 January 2015

Food Allergies Caused A Semantic Change in English

For some time, people have been using the words "Epi-pen", "Epipen" or "EpiPen"--a brand name of an epinephrine injector--for any epinephrine injector. EpiPen is manufactured by Mylan. The shortened "epi" is used as a noun, an abbreviation for epinephrine--"Don't forget your epis!" You may also have noticed a variant of the word EpiPen or epinephrine being used as a verb: "Did you have to epi her?"

I was just catching up on my reading and spotted a headline with yet another use of the word "epi-pen". Take a look!

The Chronicle Herald
In this Chronicle Herald headline, the author uses the word "epi-pen" to describe an emergency measure taken by the Bank of Canada. "So when the bank does do something surprising, as it did Wednesday in reducing its benchmark overnight borrowing rate from one per cent to 0.75 per cent, you can safely conclude it has a very good reason — even an urgent one."

So, when you feel like progress is slow in the world of promoting food allergy awareness, take heart! There is so much more awareness of food allergies today, the word "EpiPen"--which is the brand name of a life-saving device for those managing food allergies (and other allergic conditions)--is actually undergoing semantic changes and is being used in other contexts, completely unrelated to food allergies. When you think about it, that is amazing! Keep advocating, keep promoting food allergy awareness, it is making a difference slowly but surely.  That headline is proof of how the general public is more aware.

21 January 2015

Food Allergy Survey from Student Entrepreneurs in Portugal

I was so excited when three graduate students in Portugal contacted Food Allergy Buzz for assistance with a survey for a group project. The students are members of an Entrepreneurship Course promoted by Eugénio de Almeida Foundation in partnership with the I.E.F.P. (Portuguese government agency for Employment Services and Training) in Évora, Portugal. They are hoping to get input from individuals managing food allergies around the world about how food allergies affect their day-to-day lives. The survey results will help them determine the focus of their class project. Please click below to participate and support these student entrepreneurs' efforts!

The survey is open until February 8, 2015.

18 January 2015

Food Allergy Fright at Orange Julius

Here is a truly frightening story that happened only miles away from me. A young boy had a drink at Orange Julius at a local mall, after his father specifically verified with Orange Julius staff that the drink contained no egg since his son suffers from an egg allergy. The child began to drink, and it soon became obvious he had been exposed to eggs, for he was suddenly covered with hives and was experiencing a progressive anaphylactic reaction. The parents immediately went back to Orange Julius, where the worker then checked the package of flavoring only to discover that the flavoring actually did contain egg white. The parents--both ER medics--drove the child to a nearby hospital and thankfully he was ok. What a horrifying and unnecessary ordeal! The parents are pushing for better education of restaurant staff, and some changes have been made at the local Orange Julius, but this just underscores the need for better food allergy education of restaurant staff. Keep in mind this took place in Massachusetts, generally viewed as one of the leaders in food allergy friendliness in restaurants due to the Food Allergy Awareness Act of 2009! Yipes!!

Please watch this video of the local news report.

16 January 2015

Food Allergy Petition: Add Sesame to FDA's List of Top Food Allergens

Back in 2008, I wrote a post which I felt very strongly about and still do--Is FDA's List of Top Allergens Complete? I was trying to promote more discussion of the idea to add sesame--a common hidden ingredient in many foods--to FDA's list of top food allergens. Over the last year or so, the campaign to add sesame has gathered more support. I learned from leading food allergy advocate, Homa Woodrum's blog that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) was pushing to get a petition for the FDA to include sesame labeling. For more information about how the petition, please take a look at Homa's blog post and also take a few moments to visit the other site she links to in that post.

Once again, I hope I can help promote support for adding sesame to FDA's list of top allergens. To that end, I am re-posting my original post below, and also sharing the link to the FDA petition. Please consider supporting the petition and share with friends and family who you think may be interested. Thank you.

11/06/2008  Is FDA's List of Top Food Allergens Complete?

A fellow member of Food Allergy Support suggested that I write a post about including sesame in the list of the Food and Drug Administration's top food allergens.  FDA's current list of 8 includes "milk, eggs, fish (e.g. bass, flounder, cod), crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, almonds, pecans), peanuts, wheat and soybeans."

Sesame allergy is growing in the U.S.--Allergic Child mentions that it is considered by some to be the 9th most common allergen in the U.S. A 2005 article on CTV.com entitled Sesame allergy becoming more common: study noted that "sesame seed allergy seems to be following in the footsteps of peanut allergy." Some speculate sesame allergy is on the rise in the U.S. due to the increased "internationalization" of the American diet. I do not have to look too far to see evidence of the popularity of sesame--my school age son takes pita and hummus--which contains tahini (sesame paste)--to school for lunch about once a week.  I had never even heard of hummus thirty years ago, and the only place I was aware of sesame seeds was on hamburger buns. That is certainly not the case today. It often is a "hidden ingredient" used in many processed and packaged foods. It is present in many Asian foods and is also in a number of non-food items such as cosmetics. Sesame is in so many foods, is not clearly labeled, and is not recognized by many food manufacturers. What to do?

A quick look at other similar countries' allergen labeling standards reveals that sesame is included in their lists of common allergens.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency lists 9 top allergens including "peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat, and sulphites (a food additive)." (emphasis added)  
  • The Foods Standards Agency in the United Kingdom lists "gluten, crustaceans, molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin and sulphur dioxide at levels above 10mg/kg, or 10 mg/litre, expressed as SO2." (emphasis added) 
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand's list includes peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, finned fish, milk, eggs, sesame, soybean, and wheat. (emphasis added)
  • The European Commission guidelines require that the following allergens be labeled: "Cereals containing gluten and products thereof, Crustaceans and products thereof, Eggs and products thereof, Fish and products thereof, Peanuts and products thereof, Soybeans and products thereof, Milk and dairy products (including lactose), Nuts and nut products, Celery and products thereof, Mustard and products thereof, Sesame seeds and products thereofand Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/l expressed as SO2." (emphasis added)
If you are unfamiliar with sesame allergy, some basic facts and frequently asked questions are available on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's page on Sesame Allergy. There is also an excellent brochure from the Government of Canada about sesame allergy, possible sources of sesame seeds, non-food sources of sesame seeds, and other names for sesame seeds.

The FDA will continue to accept comments on advisory labeling statements until January 15, 2009. This is an opportunity to voice your opinion about requiring clear labeling for sesame and expanding the list of common allergens to include sesame. If you haven't already done so, please consider sending in your comments to the FDA. Submit comments electronically at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064806b7555. Just click on the little yellow bubble that says "add a comment".  It may be helpful if you refer to Docket No. FDA-2008-N-0429.

One individual in particular motivated me to write this post. She's a member of two wonderful discussion groups/forums I frequent: Food Allergy Support and Kids with Food Allergies. She also provided a number of links to articles and websites about sesame allergy, most of which I've now read, and some of which I link to in this post. Without all of her efforts, it would have taken me far longer to get up to speed on sesame allergy. I've barely scratched the surface in this post, but hopefully I've persuaded a few of you to support requiring labeling for sesame along with the other common food allergens as defined by FDA. Whether or not you agree that sesame should be included in FDA's list of common allergens, one thing is certain: this opportunity to submit comments to the FDA regarding labeling is not to be missed by those of us in the food allergy community! This is your chance--make yourself heard!

Feel free to comment here too! Do you agree sesame labeling should be required along with the other 8 common allergens? Do you think there are others that should be? What do you think?

10 January 2015

Food Allergy Silver Lining

One of the unexpected upsides of being an elementary school student with life threatening food allergies is that sometimes your lunch and snack look so different and scrumptious, the other students are envious! It's so nice to hear my son recount a happy lunchtime story of how his classmates admired his super-gigantic food allergy safe cupcake with all the sprinkles . A few friends always join him at the allergy table with food allergy safe lunches, even though they themselves do not have food allergies. It is the sweets that catch their eyes more than the nutritional meal part of lunch, but how good it must make him feel to not only feel included, but to have a food that that draws positive attention and is appealing to the other children. Being the "food allergy kid" often means you have extraordinary food!

04 January 2015

New Allergen Regulations in the European Union Apply to Soup Kitchens

When I saw the Nottingham Post headline Soup kitchens could face fines of up to £5,000 if found flouting new EU allergen rules, I thought it was absolutely fascinating! Over the years, I have noticed--as you probably have--the different, more stringent labeling standards in the EU and especially the longer list of allergens that must be labeled.

According to the article, "New EU regulations, which came into force last week, mean that 14 allergenic ingredients including nuts and mustard must be listed by any organisation that regularly provides un-packaged food." A 14-day improvement notice is hoped to encourage change and adherence to the new regulations, but if it is ineffective, organizations may face fines of up to £5,000.

Please take a look at the article! Perhaps it is a peek at where U.S. allergen regulations may be headed someday...

02 January 2015

New Food Allergy Book for Children

Amber Devore, a Registered Dietician and mother of a child with tree nut and sunflower seed allergies, recently notified Food Allergy Buzz about her new children's book. It is entitled "My Food Allergies" and is available in paperback and most e-book formats. Please visit http://www.myfoodallergiesbook.com/ or amazon.com for additional information or to purchase. Congratulations to Amber on the publishing of her book!
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