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.

30 June 2019

Food Allergies and Labeling: Exercise Your Power

I saw a tweet earlier today and I cannot stop thinking about it. I was surprised and a bit disappointed to see criticism of Whole Foods for something they are not required by law to do--provide information on the label or packaging regarding cross-contact/cross-contamination. But, we are all entitled to our opinion, and food allergy reactions can be absolutely terrifying! The customer had a severe reaction to a bakery item that was labeled as "vegan" and believed there had been cross-contamination with non-vegan ingredients. Thankfully, the customer is ok. Very scary!!! 

Please note the FDA does not regulate the use of the terms "vegan" or "vegetarian." It is potentially dangerous to assume those terms mean a food does not contain traces of eggs or dairy. 

I must admit that I have seen many customer stories about reactions to cross-contamination in Whole Foods bakery items over the years. Unfortunately, supermarket bakeries are notorious for cross-contamination. Often times, there is a CYA statement on supermarket bakery items because of the cross-contamination risk. It is our responsibility, as consumers, to read labels for the food allergies we manage. If you need to know about shared facilities or shared equipment, don't make assumptions. If the information is not clearly on the label, ask! It is up to us, the consumers, to look out for ourselves, and why shouldn't it be? We need to know how food should be labeled (by law), and if we need more information than is provided on the label, it is up to us to ask! We can read, we can advocate for ourselves, and ask questions. We have power! 

People with food allergies are not helpless. They are not victims. They are not vulnerable. Feel empowered, for you have a great deal of power and control over what you choose to eat. Exercise your power. Ask questions, and when in doubt, do without. 

Can food labeling be improved in the United States? Of course! I am not saying it is perfect or that it should stay as it is, but it is always our responsibility as consumers to look out for ourselves in the context of existing labeling laws. 

My food labeling dream: I would love to see all ingredients labeled on food packaging in the United States. That would be a fantastic improvement, and I think a realistic one. Why focus on 8 allergens when people can have allergic reactions to over 100 foods? 

What is your food labeling dream?

18 April 2019

Food Allergy Tools: Podcasts from AAAAI

Good morning, food allergy friends! Here is an excellent food allergy information resource made available for both patients and physicians from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The link will take you to a page that houses several podcasts including the most recent one: "All About Food Allergies: From Diagnosis to Treatment. David M. Fleischer, MD."

22 February 2019

There's No Such Thing as Allergy-Free!

Today in Google Alerts, I noticed a press release for Safe + Fair's new top 8 free granola: "The Safe + Fair Food Company Introduces Allergy-Free Granola Line." Silly editors, there's no such thing as Allergy-Free food! Interesting to hear about this top-8 free addition to Safe + Fair's product line though...

It's very hard to compete with a company like Enjoy Life Foods. Many consumers with food allergies really feel that Enjoy Life cares about its customers, and Enjoy Life has made a real effort to connect with its customers since the beginning. Safe + Fair? Not so much! It was not long ago when Safe + Fair CEO gave us this gem: "If you have a peanut allergy, you want to eat as much gluten and dairy as you can--you have no empathy for the other allergies...You already have to give up a huge subset of food." Moreover, according to Crain's Chicago Business, Holsworth said "people allergic to multiples of the 14 ingredients on Enjoy Life's no-go list make up a tiny fraction of the already small food allergy community, and creating food that tastes good without any of those ingredients is nearly impossible." --https://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20180720/ISSUE01/180719843/allergy-friendly-packaged-foods-take-off

Those remarks do not exactly come off as friendly or sympathetic to the multiple food allergy community.

Maybe Safe + Fair has changed its mind and done an about-face, or at least sees the value $$$ in products for those with multiple food allergies now.

23 October 2018

Helpful Links for Info Re: Peanut Dust, Airborne Exposure and Air Travel

The below tweet from the Trasnportation Security Administration attracted attention from some consumers managing peanut and nut allergies yesterday.

Some feel it is irresponsible and dangerous for TSA to suggest bringing nuts on board.

While there are varying opinions about the risks posed by nuts and peanuts on airplanes, there is still little research. The following link from the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology provides a good summary of research on the topic of airborne exposure and peanuts on passenger airplanes: https://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/peanut-air-travel

Kids with Food Allergies Foundation hosted a webinar in 2014 regarding flying with food allergies. You can view the video on their website.

If you know of additional authoritative and science-backed resources on this topic, please let us know and share in a comment! Thank you.

20 August 2018

Food Allergy Consumer Perspective: Safe and Fair for Some, Insensitive to All

On July 20, 2018, Grain's Chicago Business published an article entitled "Could allergy-friendly be the next gluten-free? These food companies think so". While I am glad to see an article focused on manufacturers whose prime consumer base is people with food allergies, I could not have been more disappointed by what I read about Safe + Fair

"Safe + Fair, a line of allergy-safe cookies, macaroni and cheese and cake mixes focuses on eliminating merely the main culprits. Its chocolate chip cookies, for example, are free of the most common allergen, peanuts, plus tree nuts, but they do contain wheat, soy and egg." Note dairy or milk is not even mentioned. Yet in some studies, it is dairy allergy that is the most common in children, not peanuts, and for adults, it is shellfish. At a minimum, it is safe to say the jury is still out on which allergy is most common.

Then there is the use of the term "allergy-safe" in the article. "Allergy-safe" is a term which is confusing at best, and could be dangerously confusing for those managing allergies that are not Safe + Fair's focus. Terms like "allergy-safe" and "school safe" can lead to errors by well meaning caregivers, thinking it means safe for all food allergies. Actually, the manufacturer's name Safe + Fair is itself confusing in the same way. 

But these aspects are not the most concerning part of the article focused on Safe + Fair. No. It is this quote from Mr. Holsworth, the CEO: "If you have a peanut allergy, you want to eat as much gluten and dairy as you can--you have no empathy for the other allergies...You already have to give up a huge subset of food." Not only are his words offensive but they are also inaccurate. My son has peanut and tree nut allergies. There are so few foods that he is unable to eat; there is no "huge subset" of food he has had to give up or avoid. In fact, peanuts and tree nuts are not ingredients in many foods, except for baked goods and desserts. Furthermore, my son does not seek out or crave gluten and dairy or any other ingredients as a result of his allergies, and I have never heard of any children or adults with peanut and/or nut allergies wanting to eat as much gluten and dairy as they can. Many are quite happy to eat top-8 free products and many do not even seek products from dedicated facilities. Where is Mr. Holsworth getting his information? Furthermore, suggesting people who have peanut and nut allergies have no empathy for other allergies is truly offensive. In fact, people with food allergies, regardless of the specific food, all share a common enemy--anaphylaxis. People with food allergies have a certain set of precautions they all need to take to prevent reactions. People with peanut and tree nut allergies "get" other food allergies better than the general public might because they understand what it is like to live with a life threatening food allergy. His comment is a slap in the face to people like my son and shows little sensitivity for people with additional food allergies.

Based on the sentiments expressed by Mr. Holsworth, it seems Safe + Fair is not interested in creating "a more inclusive community for all." The article certainly does not paint a picture of Safe + Fair as allergy friendly, as Mr. Holsworth's words certainly were not friendly or considerate to people with any food allergy. One would hope a manufacturer would think a bit better of their own target consumer base. Skeeter Snacks was a friendly company. 

18 August 2018

Food Allergy News Update: Kaiser Rationing EAIs

I reached out to a number of people yesterday morning to share my post regarding Kaiser rationing Adrenaclick/generic epinephrine autoinjectors,and only providing a single injector versus the recommended and prescribed 2 injectors as they are packaged. I am thrilled that Julie Watts of 5WPIX in San Francisco recognized the seriousness of this situation and covered this in a report on the 5 o'clock news on Friday, August 17, 2018.

17 August 2018

Food Allergy News: No One is Talking About Kaiser Permanente & Adrenaclick

Image courtesy of A.P. 
**UPDATE: I shared this post and what I knew with Julie Watts on August 17 and am thrilled she took on the story. It was the lead story at 5 o'clock that day. Here is a link to the newstory on 5WPIX in San Francisco.**

While the food allergy community is focused on the shortage of Epi-pens and yesterday's welcome announcement from the FDA regarding approval of Teva's generic epinephrine auto-injector, no one is talking about how Kaiser Permanente is handling the shortage and they should be! Kaiser provides for Adrenaclick or the generic Adrenaclick, not Epi-pen.  Over the past few months, mothers of children with food allergies have posting in food allergy support groups on Facebook about receiving only a single epinephrine auto-injector (EAI) when they filled their child's prescription at the Kaiser pharmacy. They are told they can only receive one due to the shortage but can return in 3 or so weeks to obtain a second single EAI. One patient I was in touch with informed me not only did she receive a single EAI, she was given a trainer for an Epi-pen, not the generic Adrenaclick . Note that Adrenaclick does not function like an Epi-pen; it has two caps that need to be removed instead of one.

This practice flies in the face of recommendations in the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States (see page 28) which were issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many allergists recommend carrying two doses and public schools in many locations require that children who have life threatening allergies provide two doses to the school nurse, not one single dose. Several studies have been done that indicate that 20-30% of anaphylactic emergencies require a second dose. 

While patients filling Epi-pen prescriptions are having difficulty obtaining their EAI's due to the shortage, pharmacies fill those prescription with an entire 2-pak. It's difficult to understand how Kaiser can justify rationing their Adrenaclick or generic Adrenaclick EAI's. 

I contacted Kaiser and here is the statement they provided: 

"Kaiser Permanente Statement
Permanente is committed to delivering high-quality, safe care for our members. We are aware of and have been monitoring the national shortage of epinephrine auto-injectors. Because of the shortage, Kaiser Permanente pharmacies will provide no more than one syringe at a time, at a member’s normal copayment. By doing this we hope to preserve supplies for all Kaiser Permanente members who need this medication until supplies become normal again."

It would seem anyone with a prescription for an EAI and a life threatening allergy would qualify as having a "documented need" and should therefore be provided the recommended and prescribed two doses. I hate to think what would happen if a patient had an anaphylactic reaction and had only one single EAI due to Kaiser's rationing and needed a second dose. It seems a formula for disaster.