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.

02 September 2014

Food Allergy Find: Peanut-Free Lofthouse Cookies

I had read that Lofthoue had begun making peanut-free frosted cookies at a new manufacturing facility and finally spotted some over the holiday weekend. On the one hand, it is exciting to see another peanut-free option at a local store. On the other hand, the two stores where I spotted them had them sitting side by side with the non-peanut free cookies. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. Although the new peanut-free cookies are labeled "peanut-free", they do look quite similar to the packages of non-peanut free cookies. This brought to mind two things:
  1. Is there any way the peanut-free labels can be put onto the non-peanut free cookies?
  2. How long will it be before someone accidentally buys and feeds the non-peanut-free cookies to an allergic individual (thinking they are the "safe" ones)? The label looks way too similar!! YIPES!
What do you think?

25 August 2014

Food Allergy Bloggers: Two Tips

Today, everyone has a blog! I started Food Allergy Buzz back in 2008, when there weren't very many food allergy bloggers. Now, there are a lot of food allergy blogs, and every major food allergy friendly food manufacturer and their PR folks know they can offer product in exchange for a review or an informational post on a multitude of food allergy blogs.

I recently received a request from a marketing firm which clearly asked me to accept payment for publishing posts linking to a company, not to disclose that the posts are sponsored, and also to use follow links, not nofollow links to web addresses they would provide. That breaks a couple of basic guidelines from the FTC and major search engines. I like to get paid as much as the next gal, but not if I have to break rules and mislead my readers! I imagine I am not the only food allergy blogger encountering these sorts of requests, so I thought I would share a few pieces of important info about digital advertising, reviews, and sponsored posts.

Disclosures in your blog
Ever been contacted about writing a post or publishing a post provided by the marketing/PR person in exchange for compensation? By compensation, I mean food, coupons, gift certificates/cards, any kind of payment in exchange for publishing the post. This would include reviews! If you accept any compensation, you need to include a "clear" and "conspicuous" disclosure, per Federal Trade Commission guidelines. The FTC has a great guide, entitled .com disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, which even includes examples of what NOT to do. I encourage you to take a look at it.

Follow versus nofollow links
How about those companies that want you to link to a specific website, to help drive business their way? Google and other search engines have very specific guidelines about linking to other sites in exchange for compensation. If you link to other sites in exchange for compensation, Google recommends you place a nofollow link. I am no expert on SEO, but I do know that using a follow link means the site you link to will benefit from your own site's PageRank. That is important because PageRank relates directly to where your site pops up in search engine results. If you have a good PageRank and you link to another site with a follow link, you actually will be boosting that other site's PageRank. If you do that in exchange for money, Google views that negatively. Not surprising, they want advertisers to use their advertising services! In its webmaster guidelines, Google refers to placing a follow link in exchange for compensation as a "link scheme". It is a no-no, and you can be penalized by Google. This is probably something you want to avoid!

What to do? If you do place a text link or hyperlink to another site for compensation, don't shoot yourself in the foot! Use a nofollow link. It's a simple solution!

I hope this info is helpful! Feel free to send along other bloggy questions, and I will try to answer them in another post.

21 August 2014

Food Allergy Research at EMU: Please Participate in This Survey

Below is information from Eastern Michigan University about a pediatric psychology study related to food allergies which is being conducted currently. Please take a look and consider participating!

The goal of this research project is to learn more about how families cope with children’s severe food allergies so that we can design interventions for children and families that are needed and parent-informed. Some examples of interventions that psychologists might provide to families of children with allergies include: support groups; mobile “apps” that provide parents with allergy information; tools or checklists to help children entering a new school setting; or online behavior-management programs to teach parents how to help their child manage their allergy in social situations or firmly refuse risky foods. But we need to hear from parents to know where to start in developing better interventions; for example, some parents may want written information about allergies in schools, whereas other parents may want emotional support to help manage their own worry about their child. Some parents may want to receive this information through a doctor’s office, whereas others may want to use internet-based or mobile technology only. Other diseases, like diabetes and cancer, are the subject of many research studies, but there is very little research focusing on psychological support for the food allergy population.
By completing this survey, parents will be helping us to learn about what parents of children with food allergies need and how they wish to receive information and support. Parents will be asked to answer questions about their child’s allergies (including allergens, reactions, self-care), their allergy knowledge, the effect on family activities, worry, confidence in managing allergies, and information needs. Parent responses will remain anonymous and will not be linked to a name. Parents can receive a $10 gift card as a thank you for participation by clicking on a separate, secure survey link at the end of the survey to enter your address. This study has been approved by the Eastern Michigan University Human Subjects committee (#140609).

Thank you again for your interest in our research study! Parents can access the survey at the following link:

Should you have any additional comments or questions, or any difficulties accessing the survey, please e-mail us at EMUpedspsych@gmail.com.

Thank you!

The EMU Pediatric Psychology Research Lab
Catherine Peterson, Ph.D.


18 August 2014

Some New Food Additives Cause Allergic Reactions?

A recent article in The Washington Post, entitled "Food Additives on the Rise as FDA Scrutiny Wanes", is particularly interesting, especially for those of us already managing food allergies. Among other things, it discusses how a change in FDA approval processes inadvertently opened the door for food manufacturers to use new additives without a thorough review from the FDA. Please take a look!

15 July 2014

Food Allergy Medication: Affordable Care Act Coverage for Epinephrine Injectors

Like many of my fellow food allergy bloggers, I received an email from a food allergy mom about a petition to help get life-saving epinephrine injectors included by the Affordable Care Act. Her email is below. Please read, take a look at her petition, and consider signing.

Hi Jennifer,
My 2.5 year old son is allergic to dairy. I was shocked to learn that the Affordable Care Act does not cover epinephrine injectors, life-saving medication for people with food allergies. I wrote a petition on change.org asking the US Government to mandate that all insurance plans cover epinephrine injectors. Please take a look and consider signing and sharing this petition on your blog with your followers..
Lisa Kane

13 July 2014

Food Allergy Picnics

Ahhh summer vacation. Whether you go on short day trips or extended vacations, when you manage food allergies, it helps to become an expert picnicker! I tend to do things the cheapest, food allergy safe way I can manage.

Picnic Tools
A good cooler is a must. You need to have something to keep food cold to avoid food spoilage and bacterial growth. The FDA website has some excellent information about food safety when picnicking. We got one on wheels to make transport a little easier.

Another important tool for picnics is wipes to wash those hands off when you don't have access to soap and water. Of course, nothing is better than good 'ol soap and water.

The right food storage containers make a difference too. By this time, you probably have invested in some good multipurpose food storage containers. If not, this is the perfect occasion to do so. In addition to food containers, you need to bring something to eat off of and serving utensils, and that will depend on what you are eating, where you are eating, and how green you are. We use a combination of our own plastic dishes that we keep for trips and disposable plates, bowls and utensils.

Don't forget to bring along paper towel and trash bags too. It seems you can never bring too many paper towels ad trash bags!
Food for Car Trips
We manage peanut and tree nut allergies so snacks for us might include: Pirate's Booty, dried fruits (check label carefully for "may contain"), crackers/cut-up veggies with cheese or hummus, fresh fruit. For meals, we bring along all the ingredients we need for sandwiches--food allergy safe bread, cheese, and meat--as well as pasta or rice salad. We make use of a large cooler which we keep ice cold throughout the trip. We scope out food allergy friendly restaurant options in advance and make use of local supermarkets to round things out for meals.
Have Fun
We do enjoy our meals and snacks no matter where we are, but it's the activity and the company that is the focus of our outings, not the food. We don't let food allergies rule our world, they are just another factor we keep in mind as we plan our adventures.

01 July 2014

Food Allergy Bloggers: Introduce Yourselves!

When I began blogging 6+ years ago, there were other women blogging about food allergies already. Now, there were not many, but there were a few, and some of them had fantastic blogs that still exist and thrive today. To me, they were like voices in the darkness, as there was not much information about food allergies online a decade or so ago. You had to make do with what resources you could find-- a handful of books (the real kind, made out of paper), your allergist, and if you were lucky, a local support group. 

Over the years, the number of food allergy blogs has increased significantly. With so many voices, the drum of food allergy awareness has become marvelously louder; more voices singing the same message ultimately will help lead to better quality of life for individuals with food allergies. Although so many of us blog about food allergies, there really is quite a variety in the topics covered and motivations for blogging. People author food allergy blogs for different purposes: to educate, to share information or recipes, to share a story of life with food allergies and connect with others, to vent or let off steam, to promote or support a food allergy related business, to provoke controversy and discussion, etc. It is an impressive collection, to be sure.

So, food allergy friends, now that school is out for the summer and I finally have more time to write again (WHOOPEE!), I'd love to learn more about you! What brought you to the food allergy blogosphere? Obviously, you are managing food allergies for yourself or someone else, but what made you decide to blog? How long have you been blogging? What is the end-goal for your blog? How has your blog changed since starting it?

Please share! I'll start:

I love writing and wanted to both exercise my writing muscles and share information, answers to questions I encountered in this food allergy journey, which I thought would be helpful to others in similar situations. I have been blogging for 6+ years. My end-goal for my blog? I haven't decided yet. It definitely has exceeded all my expectations! :) How has my blog changed? It's really amazing--Food Allergy Buzz almost has a life of its own now. It's on G+, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels, and sometimes I feel like I actually can make a difference! Like when we got #foodallergy to trend #1 on Twitter in some locations. How cool is that?!

Looking forward to hearing from you!
-Jennifer B
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