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.

25 May 2015

Food Labeling News

Have you heard of the Just Label It campaign? It is a campaign pushing for national legislation for labeling of genetically modified foods. Not only would I like to know whether or food has been genetically modified, I would like to know what is in my food in general. How do individuals with allergies outside of the Big 8 realistically manage their allergies when food manufacturers are not required to reveal all the ingredients? What does "spices" mean? What are "fruit flavors"?

Homa Woodrum, along with Brian Heller, and the good people at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have worked hard to try to get a new rule that would:

"1) require sesame-based ingredients to be listed by name (“sesame”) in the ingredient lists of all foods and;
 2) add sesame to FDA’s list of allergens in Sec. 555.250 of its Compliance Policy Guides Manual, “Statement of Policy for Labeling and Preventing Cross-contact of Common Food Allergens” to address both labeling and cross contact issues related to food manufacturing practices."


This would be a huge improvement, a massive step in the right direction, in providing what seems to be very fundamental information--more precise information about ingredients that are in the food being sold at the grocery store. Shouldn't we know what we are buying, and what we are eating? It is actually a matter of life and death for some of us, so why the resistance?

So let's continue this journey by creating a new rule for sesame, and see where it takes us. Sesame is quite high up on the list of common food allergens, and a number of other countries already require it to be labeled specifically on food packaging. We in the U.S. are really behind on this. What can you do to support the food labeling effort? Homa's blog post, Lobbying for Sesame Labeling in Washington D.C., suggests contributing to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, if possible. For updates on the sesame labeling issue, also be sure to visit The Allergy Law Project or Homa's blog, Oh Ma Deehness.

19 May 2015

Top Food Allergy Site Needs Your Help!

One of the best food allergy websites around, AllergyEats, wants to hear from you! The site and their app are undergoing major renovations to serve the food allergy community even better, and is seeking input from the food allergy community.

Please take their 15 minute survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/PQ22QVJ and share the link to the survey with #foodallergy friends.

Don't know AllergyEats? Please visit the site and take a look? They've helped thousands of individuals with food allergies find a safe restaurant to eat and provide a place to share the good and the bad about a restaurant experience, from the perspective of someone managing food allergies.

Note: I received no compensation for this plug! I just believe in their work!

18 May 2015

Food Allergy Hostility or Community?

This is truly such an anomaly in the online food allergy community, I feel I should share it. Early this morning, I posted on the Facebook page for Food Allergy Buzz the following:

I also posted on Twitter:

It breaks my heart to read posts and tweets from families who struggle to pay for the life saving epinephrine injectors, even with the co-pay cards, and who can't quite make the low-income affordability programs. So many families need to purchase multiple sets in order for their children to have a set of injectors at school, home, etc.

Apparently my post really hit a nerve, but not the way I expected! I always am proclaiming how supportive and helpful the online food allergy community is, but something was very different today. When I got out of work, I received a tweet from another food allergy blogger saying "So you're against pharmaceutical companies spending money on spreading food allergy and anaphylaxis awareness?" It seemed a strange reply to my post. Anyone who has followed Food Allergy Buzz over the last 7+ years knows I am an ardent advocate for food allergy awareness.

Another tweet stated "education is key & I support initiatives even if I'm not invited that can reach more people to spread awareness."  It was like two ships passing in the night. I really did not know what these bloggers were talking about. Little did I know, a bunch of food allergy bloggers were meeting at that very moment at an event in Disneyland, sponsored by Mylan!! 

It feels silly even explaining this, but rest assured the fact that I didn't go to Disneyland with Mylan did not prompt me to post to Facebook early this morning. Mylan and Sanofi have invited me to events previously, and I continue to receive emails from Mylan and Sanofi. For various reasons, I just have chosen not to take advantage of opportunities they have offered to me. That is my choice and it is ok.

This is the first time since 2008 that I have witnessed and been drawn into a public debate, and not a good-natured one, in the online food allergy community. We usually have great, informative and enlightening discussions on Twitter and on Facebook, but not today. It was very disappointing, but I hope for increased food allergy awareness, education, and community. I know the future is bright!

Note: Post updated to include photo of my tweet.

24 April 2015

Food Allergy Bullying Must Stop

In the wee hours of the morning the other day, I received a heart moving message from a mom of young man with life threatening peanut allergy. Kenya Baldwin Swiss asked me to share her message to bring attention to the very serious problem of food allergy bullying. I am sharing her message below and have kept the names in the message as she requested. The pain is palpable. Food allergy bullying must be stopped.

"Over the past 4 years, especially during baseball season, the Food Allergy Bullying cranks up in high gear. The insults, the players & parents with no conscience, allowing a player, team captain--a kid, to feel he's unsafe. Those who have watched silently & not stood up and to those who seem to find pleasure in being hurtful and more disturbing thinking it's funny to purposefully have peanuts/treenuts that are life-threatening around Jordan Swiss. Is it so important to make your point, that you can't omit nuts for the 2 hours of a baseball game? Are you really willing to risk Jordan's life? You have ridiculed with no remorse. You know who you all are. To you I say......you ought to be ashamed...

To those who understand, we hope you will help us raise awareness by sharing this post. Jordan's journey will be going public very soon. It starts in sharing....we hope his story can help kids who have been dealing with food allergy bullying. We hope you can help his goal to raise awareness by sharing our post."

23 April 2015

Food Allergy Awareness Week Twitter Party - 2015

In case you missed it, here is the invitation for the 2015 Food Allergy Awareness Party. Be sure to use #foodallergy during the party in order to participate and for partygoers to see your tweets.

If you are interested in entering the prize giveaways, you must RSVP to the party invitation and complete the entry form linked there.

Below are my Twitter Party tips, in case you are a little unsure how to "attend" one. It's easy!

Twitter Party Tips

If you're new to Twitter, attending a Twitter Party can seem pretty complicated and even a bit daunting. Fear not! A couple of easy steps, and you'll be ready to watch the Tweets fly, and maybe...before the hour's up, you might even decide to Tweet too!

Basic Twitter Tips
If you think you might want to Tweet during the party, you will need to get a Twitter account. It's free and easy to do. They don't require much personal info at all to open an account. Just visit www.twitter.com and click on the Sign Up button on the right. You will be asked to provide your full name, a user name, a password and your email address. Having a Twitter account means you can Tweet a message to everyone and anyone on Twitter, provided you keep it to 140 characters or less in length. You can follow other people on Twitter who you think have interesting things to say and likewise, people can follow you! If someone unseemly follows you, you can always block them.

When you rest your cursor on a tweet on your screen, you'll see you have the option to reply or retweet. If you read a tweet that you think is worth repeating to your followers, you can retweet. You'll see the tweet with a RT in front, ready to send. Hitting reply automatically puts the screenname of the Twitter user you are replying to at the beginning of your Tweet. For example, if you reply to a Tweet from me, your reply would begin "@FoodAllergyBuzz". If you see a Tweet you want to save, click on the star to "favorite" it.

Attending a Twitter Party
So, you've signed up for Twitter. You get how to reply, retweet, favorite, and tweet. How do you participate in the Twitter Party? A few important things will make it easy for you.

First, you need to know what the hashtag is. For the Food Allergy Awareness Week Twitter Party, we use #foodallergy. That means all tweets intended for the Food Allergy Twitter Party must include "#foodallergy" in that 140 character tweet or the people at the party won't see it! Using the hashtag enables everyone there to filter out tweets unrelated to the party. The tweets tend to come fast and furious during Twitter parties. It can be difficult to keep up. The last thing you need is unrelated Tweets interspersed with Twitter Party Tweets. That'll just confuse you and make your eyes go buggy!

Twitter Search
If you want to keep it simple, use Twitter Search. You can just type #foodallergy into the search box on the right side of your twitter page about a third of the way down. That brings you "real time" search results for tweets with #foodallergy. Sometimes it does not refresh as fast as you'd like, and you'll find it's difficult to keep up because while you're waiting for your search results to refresh, people are still tweeting away. It keeps things simple and uncluttered, though, and you can keep your Twitter page open in a separate window in case you wish to Tweet, Retweet, or Reply.

Twitter Dashboards
If you are comfortable with a very minimal amount of learning an application/tool, try a Twitter Dashboard, such as Tweetdeck or Tweetgrid. There are many. I find using a Twitter dashboard makes it easier to keep track of replies, direct messages, and #foodallergy tweets simultaneously. I recommend Tweetdeck--it's free and simple to use. For the party itself, I recommend using 3 columns: Mentions, Direct Messages, and a column for #foodallergy search results. That way, you can see all of the relevant info simultaneously.

That's my quick and dirty lesson on how to attend a Twitter Party. I am sure I am leaving out quite a bit, but hopefully this is enough to get you started!  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me jenniferATfoodallergybuzz.com--I'll reply as quick as I can. Hope to see you at the party!  

22 April 2015

Food Allergen Test for Tree Nuts Now Available

I spotted an article about Neogen's new tree nut test last week and have been meaning to share this info with all of you. I got a little excited reading about it, because one of the reasons we see more peanut-free foods than tree nut-free (or nut-free) foods at the grocery store is because there hasn't been a good test to verify that no tree nuts are present in a food. Over the years, companies like Maplehurst have told me that there are no tree nuts in the facility but they weren't able to test and therefore did not feel completely comfortable putting that on that label.

Now, Neogen has launched a new test that can detect 6 tree nuts within ten minutes of extraction. This is really exciting! According to the Food Quality News article, "The test helps food manufacturers in cleaning validations or verification of existing procedures to prevent cross-contamination of tree nuts within manufacturing facilities."

18 April 2015

Food Allergies Rock! (Thanks Kyle Dine!)

If you have children with food allergies who are elementary school age or younger, and Kyle Dine has a concert within driving distance from you, I urge you to make plans to attend! Kyle is such a charming and engaging performer and really connects with kids. His show is educational and fun, and it's a great opportunity for children with food allergies to be surrounded by...other children with food allergies! How often does that happen?!

We had a chance to see lots of other children with food allergies, and many parents of children with food allergies too--a room full of people who truly understand food allergies. Wow!

It was such a treat to see Kyle's show today in Norwood, Massachusetts! A big thanks to Kyle for the wonderful work he does, and to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter for having Kyle come visit Norwood, MA.

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