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.

09 October 2015

Food Allergy Resource Fair in Hopkins Minnesota

Halloween news from the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota:

News Release:
Allergy-safe trick-or-treating for children at upcoming food allergy resource fair

HOPKINS, Minn. 9/14/15 -- Halloween is one of the trickiest holidays for kids with food allergies to navigate. Allergies to common foods such as milk, eggs and peanuts are on the rise, leaving families and schools more confused than ever. 

Parents, children, teachers and medical professionals are invited to attend a special Halloween-themed Food Allergy Resource Fair event 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, October 10, at the Hopkins Eisenhower Community Center at 1001 Highway 7 in Hopkins.
Resource Fair vendors will feature allergy-friendly food and products and many will provide free samples and coupons. Allergists, pharmacists and nutritionists will also be available to provide free advice at “Ask the Professional” booths. 

Children are encouraged to come in costume and trick-or-treat, stopping at approximately 40 tables that will hand out allergy-friendly candy (free of the top 8 allergens which are peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat). Families will also receive tips for safe Trick-or-Treating with food allergies. 

The event is free, however a suggested $5 donation per family is encouraged. For more information about the Food Allergy Resource Fair or the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota, visit foodallergysupportMN.org. There will also be a silent auction at the event to raise funds to support the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota.

24 September 2015

Food Allergies and Halloween: Just Wear Gloves!

Every year, my younger son looks forward to Halloween. It falls less than a month after his birthday and he loves a celebration. He cannot eat any food that contains peanuts or tree nuts or was manufactured in a facility where peanuts or tree nuts are present. He has had a horrifying throat-closing reaction. He also is contact sensitive, and has broken out in hives from touching closed packages of candy. Despite food allergies, he never skipped trick-or-treating. It was such fun trying to decide what to be for Halloween and then finding or making the right costume. He looked forward to Halloween with such anticipation, not because of the candy, but because of the chance to be in costume, and be out at night in the dark, with friends. Before Halloween, there was a night of Halloween bingo at the elementary school, where children would have a chance to wear their costumes while playing bingo and winning prizes. Those were joy-filled nights. Halloween was a night out late on a school night with friends. Halloween was a chance to wander in the darkness with our flashlights and say hello to neighbors at the other end of the street. It was a chance to play flashlight tag in the dark in costume with all the other kids in the neighborhood. We never feared Halloween or thought about being excluded because of food allergies. He just wore his gloves (to avoid contact reactions), we went out and had fun with friends, and he reached for the treats himself at each door. At the end of the night, I would take the bag of candy collected, and get out my own stash of safe treats. By the time we got home, we were usually pretty tired from all the fun, and not much in the mood for eating candy anyway.

Now he is in middle school, so we are on to different things. Maybe he'll answer the door with friends this year instead. Maybe they'll do it in costume. Maybe we'll give out Tootsie candies and Smarties, and some non-food treats this year.  However you choose to celebrate it, enjoy Halloween! It should not be a source of stress for mom, dad, or the kids. It's all about fun; and it is easy to be food allergy safe while having fun. If you aren't having fun, it's time to reconsider your strategy!

14 September 2015

Food Allergy Consumer Review: The Switch Witch and the Magic of Switchcraft

With Halloween preparations come worries for many parents of children with food allergies. Should we go trick-or-treating? If we do, should we let our child eat the "safe" candy? What if no candy collected is safe for our child? Although there are more food allergy friendly sweets on the market today than there were a decade ago, most trick or treaters will come home with candies containing nuts or nut traces, soy, and/or dairy. Parents want their children to have fun and they want them to be safe. That can seem daunting when it comes to Halloween since candy is notoriously risky for those managing food allergies.

My son has life threatening peanut and tree nut allergies, so I know these worries firsthand. My children always trick-or-treated. I never considered letting food allergies spoil our fun! After all, where is written that you must eat the candy you collect? Nowhere! My younger son would wear a costume and we'd incorporate gloves into the costume to avoid contact. One year, we skipped the gloves--I wrongly thought maybe I was being overly careful--and he broke out in hives all over just from touching the closed packages of candy! Our winning formula for a super Halloween is:

wear an awesome costume
wear gloves to avoid contact
be sure to say "thank you"
no running from house to house
switch the candy collected for candy Mom bought

This year, there is a new children's book entitled The Switch Witch and the Magic of Switchcraft. It is a charming story about how the Switch Witch will switch out your candy for you.
Since this is already a tradition many food allergy families have adopted, this lovely hardcover book is the perfect complement for that tradition. It is an ideal Halloween gift for a child with food allergies. The story has a fun rhyming structure and is 20 pages from start to finish.

The illustrations are very cute, with a lot of colorful detail which I enjoyed and am sure children will also. 
The book also comes with an adorable little witch to sit on your mantel or dresser or wherever you like! It's a bit like Elf on a Shelf, in that regard. Below is a one minute and ten second video that features the book's author, Audrey Kinsman.

In addition, there are also some companion online resources on the Switch Witch website. There is a blog, an app, and the Switch Witches are also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

FAB Review
The Switch Witch and the Magic of Switchcraft, a delightful Halloween story about switching out candy for non-food treats, is a colorful hardcover book. It is ideal for younger children up to approximately ages 9 or 10. It is currently available at Target for $29.99, and comes with your very own Switch Witch. It would make a perfect Halloween gift!

12 September 2015

Food Allergy Consumer News: New Food Allergy Friendly Frozen Treat

I haven't had a chance to try these yet, but whenever I see something new in the food allergy world from my neck of the woods, I have to give it a "shout out".  A new frozen treat that is gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free and free of a few other things has just become available in Brookline, MA. It is called perfectly free and it is made by WikiFoods, Inc of Cambridge, MA. For more info on this new product, please take a look "Cambridge-based business announces new allergy and gluten-free treat" from the Cambridge Patch.

09 September 2015

Food Allergy Support Group Meetings: New Season for New England Chapter of AAFA

For those of you in Massachusetts, 2 educational support group meetings for the New England Chapter of AAFA have been scheduled so far this season, with more to come! Check their website for the details. There are several regional support groups and you  may find one in your area. The groups meet approximately once per month.

I am copying and pasting from the AAFA New England site. Please check their site for up-to-date info!

Newton, MA 
Meets 7:00 p.m. at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, 2014 Washington st., Newton MA (one quarter mile from the intersection of Routes 16 & 128 (I-95 – Exit 21/21A at Route 16 East (Washington St .)
Leader:  Sharon Schumack
Medical Advisor: Curtis Moody , MD
FALL 2015 
Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015
(Note: This group traditionally has met on Tuesdays, but this month will meet on a Thursday.)
“First Month of School and Child Care: Share Your Tales of Frustration and Success”
This will be an “open forum” meeting for parents of children with food allergies and asthma, to talk over your issues and challenges and strategize about how to handle them. Spend an evening building community and learning from others who share your concerns. We’ll bring along some books and other resources from the AAFA New England library."

Lexington, MA 
Meets 6:45 p.m. at Beth Israel and Children’s Hospital Medical Care Center, 482 Bedford St. , Lexington , MA .
Directions:  Rt. 128, take exit 31B (“Bedford, Rts. 4 & 225”). Get in right lane to make “Jug handle” U-turn,  then turn into parking lot.
Leaders:  Laurel Francoeur, Heather Tighe
Medical Advisor:  Ana Dioun Broyles, MD
FALL 2015

Monday, Sept. 21, 2015
“Back to School with Food Allergies and Asthma”
What challenges are you facing this school year? What good approaches have worked well for you that you could share with others? Your concerns will shape the agenda. There will be short presentations on how to work effectively with your child’s school, followed by lots of time for discussion. Presenters are pediatric nurse and asthma educator June Mayo and support group leader Laurel Francoeur, author of “How to Advocate for Your Food Allergic Child: A Manual for Getting What Your Child Needs at School” and templates for individual health care plans (www.greenlaureldocuments.com). Both are parents with years of experience as advocates for their own children with food allergies and asthma."