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.

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. 

08 August 2018

Food Allergy News: Kudos to Kaleo

I have to give Kaleo credit--again!--for being innovative. Earlier this morning, I received an email from Kaleo's PR people about new Amazon Alexa Skill regarding life threatening allergies. Now Alexa will be equipped Ask Auvi-Q, which has helpful information about life threatening allergies. It's a great idea! I personally don't own a device with Alexa, and to be honest, don't plan to, but for those who do own one, I think this is a superb use of the technology.
For more information, visit the Amazon page here.

16 July 2018

How SmartLabel Can Help Consumers with Top 8 Food Allergies

The recent discussions on Twitter and Facebook regarding Chips Ahoy packaging made me realize I have never given much thought to packaging for food allergies. I have always thought more about the labeling: how I feel labeling can be improved, especially for individuals managing non top-8 allergies; how some labeling is misleading; the errors in labeling which result in recalls, etc. I never thought about the rest of the package. 

Trying to be introspective and think about my own shopping habits, I remember I have found packaging to be somewhat misleading, when it comes to food allergies. I can't tell you how often I have come across packages that claim contents are "nut-free" but when I've checked the nutrition label to verify ingredients, there has been a voluntary "may contains" for nuts or peanuts. Over the years, I've come to not trust packaging and only go by the nutrition label and list of ingredients on the package. For me, food packaging breaks down into two pieces--the marketing eye-appealing part of a food container, sort of like an advertisement, and the label part with the need-to-know ingredient/nutrition. Truly, it is the rare food package that really gives consumers with top-8 food allergies all the information they need and/or want to know.  Enter SmartLabel.

I've written before about SmartLabel previously. SmartLabel is a tool from a collaborative group called the Trading Partner Alliance, that consists of representatives from both the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute. Take a look at this video:

I think this tool has real possibilities for people in the U.S. managing food allergies.  SmartLabel is now on about half or slightly more than half the products in typical supermarkets already. It looks like food packages will eventually all have QR codes and many (hopefully most!) will participate in SmartLabel, giving us, as consumers, the ability to check for top 8 allergens we need to avoid and to verify the ingredients. Some companies, such as Hershey, are including facility information too. If we as consumers support these manufacturers' efforts to reach out to and better communicate important information to consumers with food allergies thru SmartLabel, it can only help.

*On a personal note, I want to acknowledge food allergy friends with non-top 8 food allergies. The fact that ingredients containing non-top 8 allergens are not required to be listed on food packaged is such an incredibly serious problem. I believe manufacturers should be required to list all ingredients.* 

10 July 2018

Air Travel with Peanut Allergy 2018

By Tmeers91 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Last night Twitter and Facebook were buzzing about the upcoming end to Southwest Airlines practice of serving peanuts in-flight.
Many who have peanut allergy or whose children have a peanut allergy have, understandably, strong feelings about peanuts being served on flights. Proximity risk and the enclosed space are just two of the factors figuring into that equation.
There have been a few studies published in academic journals regarding in-flight risk/danger for those managing a peanut allergy, but certainly more research is needed for a better understanding of the in-flight risks for travelers with food allergies.
While the academic journal articles are not available to share for free, the "Ministerial Inquiry into Allergies to Peanuts, Nuts and Sesame Seeds in Commercial Air Travel -Report of the Inquiry Officer" is. If you haven't perused it, it's worth a look!