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.

22 January 2016

Food Allergy Gloom and Doom No More

Life threatening food allergies can be deadly. It's true. Indeed, it's a fact. Just in the last 24 hours, there has been news of yet another tragic food allergy related death. Thankfully, these tragedies make up a very small percentage of the individuals who live with food allergies. So why do so many food allergy advocates, bloggers,and groups have such a gloom and doom focus? Have you noticed it?

"Weren't feeling quite worried enough about possible cross-contamination? Well, look no further! We have a wide selection of new foods and places your allergens-to-avoid might be hiding!" When I read posts in various food allergy discussion groups, I often see sentiments almost like that! Sometimes it seems like there is almost a sort of glee in commiserating about how hard we--who manage food allergies--have it. That seems wrong, to me!

When I talk to friends who have fought cancer and gone into remission, they tell me how they coped. They didn't support each other by dwelling on how unfortunate they were or how difficult their lots in life were. In fact, most of my friends kept it mainly to themselves. In addition, they all have told me the way they got through it was by thinking "I am not going to let this stop me. I am going to fight this thing with every fiber of my being!" As you know, when cancer goes into remission, the cancer is not necessarily gone. You have to keep going back to be checked, and it can come back. There is no cure, but I see cancer survivors everywhere celebrating life. According to Allergy Home, there are roughly 20 food allergy related deaths in children per year. Allergic Child cites a 2007 study which states there were 31 anaphylaxis related deaths in one year.  Any premature death is an unfortunate loss, and my heart goes out to those families. It is clear, however, from these statistics that death from food allergies is relatively rare! Why then aren't there more posts in food allergy groups celebrating life? Why aren't we celebrating our lives with food allergies? Shouldn't we celebrate what we accomplish or what our children accomplish despite food allergies?

I think one reason we don't see more people celebrating life with food allergies is that many feel helpless. I think many feel that the people and organizations we expect to look out for us, aren't: food manufacturers, some allergists, some pediatricians, the FDA, schools, fellow parents, etc. I think many feel almost like victims. Individuals with food allergies are not victims! Food allergies are manageable and while we cannot control everything, we can control quite a bit! People need to be equipped with more knowledge, so one of my 2016 writing goals is to focus on empowerment through knowledge.

We can help avert tragedy and other unfortunate food allergy related incidents by arming ourselves with knowledge. I hope to make Food Allergy Buzz an even better vehicle for sharing food allergy information and news, and promotion of food allergy awareness to the food allergy community. I hope to be an agent of positive change and not foster fear or sadness. While there is no cure yet, there are many treatments being researched and implemented around the world. We have a great deal for which to feel thankful. In addition, we need to remember--food allergies are manageable! They are not a death sentence. With the right information and vigilance, it is easy for almost all individuals with food allergies to live very full and productive lives. Your dietary restrictions should not--and I know I am nearly repeating Sloane Miller's words, but they are so fitting!--limit your ability to enjoy life! If they are, stick with me, and I will help introduce you to resources which can show you ways to enjoy the good things in life "allergen-free"*. That is, without the allergens that you need to avoid! In the meantime, take a look at some of my old posts. We've covered a lot of ground since 2008. And if you know of a great food allergy resource which you think others would appreciate, please share in a comment below or shoot me an email jennifer AT foodallergybuzz DOT com.

*I know there is no such thing as allergen-free! I mean free of your allergens-to-avoid!

14 January 2016

New Allergy Friendly Dining App Coming Soon!

Disclosure: This post contains sponsored links from iMenus
Imagine a world where you can use your smartphone to order allergy-friendly takeout directly from your favorite restaurants. You’re able to view a comprehensive rating system based on ingredient data gathered from trusted databases, cross-checked and verified ingredients, restaurant training, restaurant audits, and actual user reviews. Instead of trusting the word of one manager who may or may not have trained his staff on preventing cross contamination, you have an entire allergy-friendly dining community that has verified his restaurant (and many others) at your fingertips. 

Guess what? This world is only 6 months away! Our friends at iMenus are working hard to build their allergy-friendly app that will be revolutionary for the food allergy and food intolerance community.

The thing is, iMenus needs your help! On January 20th, they’re launching their crowdfunding campaign that will help them finish their app by this summer. To help them reach their funding goals, they're throwing a social media flash mob to raise awareness of allergy-friendly dining and get the word out about their crowdfunding campaign.

Please join their social media flash mob to help get the word out to the rest of the food allergy and food intolerance community. In exchange for participating in their social media flashmob, they’re hosting a one-week giveaway of a Restaurant.com gift card right here on the Food Allergy Buzz blog! To enter, follow the simple instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

08 January 2016

Food Allergy News: Enjoy Life Foods

This little newsbit caught my eye as I was drinking my morning coffee:

Enjoy Life Foods to Open New Manufacturing Facility

There has been a bit of speculation about the future of Enjoy Life Foods and their allergen-friendly "status" now that they are part of Mondelez. According to this BusinessWire article, the new plant will replace the one in Schiller, Illinois. It is going to be a larger dedicated allergy-friendly facility located in Indiana.

Also, they are expanding their product line to offer protein "on the go" snacks in the spring:

Free from brand Enjoy Life to launch protein snacks as it aims to raise profile

27 December 2015

Is this safe?

What does safe mean to you, when it comes to food allergies? The word safe means different things to different people in the food allergy community. For some, safe means no peanut ingredients. For others, it may mean no dairy and made on a line where dairy is never present. Some consider a product safe if there is no voluntary "may contains" statement. For yet others, a food needs to be free of dairy ingredients and manufactured in a facility where no dairy is present at all. 

Food allergies are tricky. People have varying degrees of sensitivity, different reactions and one reaction is not an accurate predictor of the severity of future reactions. In addition, people have different comfort levels. Some have never had an allergic reaction. Some have had multiple anaphylactic reactions. Some are traumatized by their experiences and others view past reactions as a fluke or minimize the seriousness of the allergy.

Whenever I see a comment in an online food allergy support or discussion group asking about a product or a brand "Is this safe?" I reply "That depends on what safe means to you." It's almost as though people don't feel comfortable being responsible on their own for managing food allergies. They are looking for someone else to help them make their decision. The reality is, it's up to you to determine what you are comfortable with and what you deem to be safe for the allergies you are managing. Some support groups try--repeatedly--to provide guidance to their members by asking them to indicate the allergies they manage and what their comfort level is when asking such questions--shared lines, dedicated facility, voluntary labeling. People ask "Is this safe?" and others respond with enthusiasm "Yes, DS eats them all the time." "Yes, I called and they're safe." "I've never called, but we have never had any probs." Maybe not everyone is relying on the free food safety advice they obtain in food allergy support groups, but chances  are, some are relying on that advice. 

As someone who has been managing food allergies for nearly a decade and has been observing and participating in the online food allergy community for almost as long, the apparent lack of independence and confidence in making food purchase decisions is really concerning. Why are these parents in the dark? I often ask parents "What did the allergist tell you to do?" More parents than you would expect, share that they received no specific directions from their allergist; just "avoid" the allergen, and they don't know precisely what that means. I remember when we first visited our allergist; he could not have been more clear. He told me not to feed my son anything containing peanuts or tree nuts, or anything made in a facility where peanuts or tree nuts are present. He said I have to contact every manufacturer, so that is what I do.

As we near the end of 2015, one theme I plan to visit several times in 2016 is the empowerment of parents of children with food allergies. There are so many comments and posts from parents online, expressing grief about their child's allergies and how their children are--in essence--victims. Parents write of how they become emotional and cry about their child's plight. Many express great  frustration about those who do not understand food allergies. Some almost sound bitter and angry. 

I hope allergists will provide more information and better support to parents when diagnosing children with food allergies. In general, it seems there is a dearth of support to the parents of newly diagnosed children with food allergies (as well as newly diagnosed adults!). I hope more parents of newly diagnosed children will be put in touch with local support groups and online resources. Instead of a never-ending stream of reminders of food allergy deaths and extreme cases,  I hope we will see more food allergy education campaigns directed at the adults managing food allergies and reminding us that food allergies are manageable! We, as parents, have the power to manage food allergies. We can arm ourselves and our children with information and knowledge, to live as full a life as possible in spite of food allergies. I think Sloane Miller of Please Don't Pass the Nuts put it so well "Just because you have a restricted diet, doesn't mean you have a restricted life." If you feel like your life is being substantially limited by food allergies, you need to change how you're doing things! Seek help from others--allergists, food allergy support groups, therapists, psychologists--to find out how you can make food allergy safe changes to enjoy the good things in life free of your allergens-to-avoid.

Where Can Parents Start Looking for Food Allergy Information?
There are so many wonderful food allergy resources online, but my favorite for parents of children with food allergies is Kids with Food Allergies. They have so much wonderful information, access to top allergists, and a very supportive online community where parents can exchange tips and experiences. I would strongly recommend beginning your food allergy education there. If you would like some additional suggestions, please take a peek at the resources and blogs on the right side of this page or email me jennifer AT foodallergybuzz DOT com.

Best wishes for a Happy 2016!

17 December 2015

Food Allergy Friendly Tradition: Gingerbread House

We are in the midst of our annual gingerbread house assembly! Did you make yours yet? What are you waiting for?? Tomorrow is the last day to order!!

Every year we get a great top 8+ free gingerbread house kit from A & J Bakery (aandjbakery.net). It's a tradition for us!

It is peanut-free, nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, sesame-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.... and no fish or shellfish too.

This photo is a teaser as we are just in the early stages of assembly. I want to make sure the walls are nice and solid before we move on to the next phase of construction!

Check out the A&J website quick! Last day to order for delivery of A&J treats is tomorrow, December 18!!!!

Below is a photo of our last gingerbread house effort.  I think we did a pretty good job. I am going for a snowier roof this year tho!

12 December 2015

Food Allergen Labeling Inconsistency

Easy to understand labeling from Divvies!
As we, in the U.S., are in the midst of the holiday season, those of you who are members of online food allergy support groups or follow food allergy blogs or magazines may have noticed the uptick in baking related posts. One of the most popular topics this year is Hersheyettes, Hershey's version of M&Ms. Many people have called and obtained reassuring information from Hershey's leading them to believe that some of the Hersheyettes are safe for consumption by individuals managing life threatening allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. If they are indeed safe, I have to wonder, why on earth wouldn't Hershey's be shouting this from the mountaintops? I know I would buy tons of them! I am sure others managing life threatening peanut and tree nut allergies would as well. It could only be good for business. 

Look at Dove Chocolate. They have a section on their website written expressly to explain which Dove chocolates are made in peanut-free, nut-free facilities. Fantastic! They do not, however, state that the facility is peanut-free and nut-free on the actual labels--why not?

Then there are M&Ms. Most peanut and tree nut allergic individuals do not consider plain M&Ms safe for peanut or tree nut allergies. There have been cases of people having allergic reactions to plain M&Ms and the packages do bear a "may contain" warning.

Now enter Hersheyettes. When I visited Hershey Park about ten years ago, one thing I remember was the overwhelming smell of peanut butter in various locations there. A number of moms--and I say moms because I have not yet seen a post from a dad on this subject--have commented in online food allergy support groups that they have called Hershey's and been told that some of the Hersheyettes are manufactured in a peanut-free, nut-free facility. This info is being passed around and around food allergy support groups with great joy and enthusiasm, understandably. What concerns me is that there are no allergen statements confirming this on the Hershey website or on the packages. I haven't seen anything in writing that confirms the nut-free, peanut-free status of Hersheyettes. That worries me. If they don't have the nerve to put it in writing somewhere, there is a reason. 

If my information is wrong or I am unjustified in my skepticism, I hope Hersheys or someone with clear written confirmation from Hershey's will send me the proof! That would be great! I would love to get some of those Hersheyettes--if they truly are from a peanut-free, nut-free facility--for my son, and I would love to help share that written confirmation with Food Allergy Buzz followers. Thank you, in advance, to anyone who can send me that proof! Just send me a tweet @FoodAllergyBuzz or email me jennifer AT foodallergybuzz DOT com. Thanks in advance, and happy holidays!

02 December 2015

Food Allergy "Xmas List" for Epinephrine Auto-Injector Manufacturers

Dear Epinephrine Auto-Injector Manufacturers:

Thank you so much for reading Food Allergy Buzz's blog, tweets and Facebook posts over the years. In August 2012, I suggested that more celebrities--like Adrian Peterson, who at the time had just publicly acknowledged his seafood allergy--step up to bring more attention and more awareness to food allergies. Not long after, Jerome Bettis, Adrian Peterson and other celebrities were brought on by the manufacturers of epinephrine auto-injectors to do exactly that--help promote food allergy awareness.

While celebrities are good at being attention grabbers, they live very different lives than the average individual managing life threatening food allergies. As a blogger, the possibility of interviewing a celebrity who happened to have food allergies was somewhat appealing. As a parent of a child with food allergies, however, I questioned what wisdom a celebrity with food allergies would have to impart to me and my readers, that I had not already figured out myself.

It is hard to get over the high prices of everything these days. Prices are going up and up; health insurance covers less and less; and incomes don't seem to be rising at the same rate prices are. It has been a couple decades since I asked for something for Christmas. I have never been big into material things anyway. But I've made something of Xmas list for you, the manufacturers of epinephrine auto-injectors in the U.S.

1. Please bring back Auvi-Q. It was so wonderful to easily fit 2 life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors in our pockets.
2. Someone please make the Epi-bracelet a reality. What a convenient way that would be to carry epinephrine!
3. Please continue the co-pay coupons throughout 2016. They are a God-send for many of us!
4. Please expand your patient assistance programs to help families with insurance with high deductibles more easily afford this life saving medicine.
5. Please consider retaining ordinary individuals managing food allergies--instead of celebrities--to help promote awareness. Most people cannot relate to celebrities.
6. Please consider the diversity of people managing food allergies in the U.S. We come from many different backgrounds and socio-economic situations.

Thank you so much!
Jennifer B

P.S. Let me know what you think of my list! :)
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