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.


10 July 2016

How to Evaluate Online Food Allergy Information Sources

If you have been following Food Allergy Buzz this year, you are probably familiar with our theme of empowering yourself with food allergy knowledge. You know the old saying "knowledge is power"? This is true in so many things, and being well-informed about your food allergies can make managing them much easier. When my son was first diagnosed, there was minimal information available online, so I learned about food allergies the old-fashioned way--reading books. There were only a few blogs at that time, but I read them and was comforted by the fact other people were dealing with the same situation. I didn't know anyone personally who was managing food allergies, and I couldn't get to the nearest support group meetings.

Today, there is a plethora of food allergy information online. That's a good thing and a bad thing. It's good in the sense that all the information you might need is at your fingertips; and it's bad because there is a great deal of inaccurate and false information available on very professional looking websites and blogs, and in Facebook food allergy groups with sizable memberships.

What's a food allergy newbie to do? Well, you need to know how to sift through the information. Freedom of speech means everyone is entitled to a voice. As consumers managing food allergies, it is vital that we be able to sort through the many voices. Don't just assume an authoritative-sounding, popular source is accurate or reliable. Sometimes, they aren't! Here are a few simple steps that can help you sort through it all.

Step 1. Consider the source. 
Who is the publisher? Are they reputable? What are their credentials or qualifications? Is the publisher:
  • an allergist or other physician?
  • a dietician or nutritionist?
  • major non-profit food allergy organization?
  • a chef?
  • a book author?
  • a food allergy business?
  • a food allergy parent or adult managing his or her own food allergies?
Always consider the source of the information.

Step 2. Motivation and bias. 
This is a biggie. What is the blogger's motivation for writing? Who or what company funds their blog? Do they sell something? Do they make money from advertisers? Are they sharing facts--such as statistical or scientifically proven information--or opinion?

Physicians sometimes blog to share helpful information about how to manage allergies or to dispel common misconceptions. Perhaps he or she is trying to gain exposure as an expert on the subject. A dietician or nutritionist's motivation could be similar. In addition, he or she may have a private business and be using the blog to connect with potential customers. Food allergy parents or adults managing their own food allergies typically write to share their experiences and connect with others in similar situations. Food allergy businesses--like other businesses--use blogs as marketing tools. It's like an infomercial or advertorial. 

It's extremely important to have an awareness of a blog publisher's motivation and bias, so you can correctly assess the value and reliability of the information contained in his or her blog posts. Lakeland Community College's Library has an excellent PDF with simple, easy-to-follow directions on how to evaluate sources. I have included some of my favorite tips from their page in this blog post. Watch out for the following red flags:
  • "persuasive or loaded language". Loaded language is "using words and sentences that solicit a positive or negative response from the reader or that lead the reader to the specific conclusion." 
  • inaccurate or poor paraphrasing or summarizing of the original source
  • selective facts--using only some of the facts but omitting others to lead the reader to a particular conclusion
Bottom line? Remember, blog posts are frequently examples of persuasive writing, especially those written by businesses. It's the nature of the beast--for businesses, blogs are fantastic marketing tools! That means you have to take it with a grain of salt, and read it knowing they are not objective news sources. Any decent business will readily admit to that. They're trying to make a buck. (and good for them!)
 
3. Accuracy
This is so important!! It comes down to trust. Can you trust the publisher? Is the publisher's information accurate? Can it be verified by other reliable sources? If not, avoid!

If an article or blog post is merely summarizing a press release or other article, just visit the original source! Read the original article, study, survey, etc. yourself, instead of reading someone else's analysis or summary of it. It is so much better to read it yourself without someone else's bias coloring the facts.
 
Once a publisher has lost his or her credibility due to inaccurate information, beware! They cannot be trusted. A few months ago, many in the food allergy community took blog posts about Keebler authored by a food allergy business as fact. Hindsight 20/20, it is clear the dramatic and fear-inducing headlines regarding the addition of peanut flour to certain snacks manufactured by Keebler were a marketing strategy.Those headlines and blog posts used "loaded language"--a big red flag!

Unfortunately, many food allergy parents, especially those of children with peanut allergies, took the bait. There was even a petition against Keebler. An article entitled Buzz Marketing with Petitions by Portent explains how petitions are used as marketing tools--"Buzz Marketing is essentially the art of pumping so much emotion into your readers, that they feel the need to shout your message from the nearest rooftop." That certainly was the case with the exaggerated and inaccurate information which was delivered in the Keebler blog posts. Again, while food allergy businesses play a very important role in the food allergy community, they are not news sources, and we need to remember that. 

Another red flag
*There are non-food allergy related businesses that set up sites with food allergy and other medical-subject articles copied from other sources and press releases. Their mission is to attract website visitors and make money from advertisers. These sites are sometimes referred to as scraper sites. Please don't support these plagiarizing sites with your clicks/web traffic.*

More on evaluating sources
Please don't just take my word for it. Do your own investigating. My goal in this blog post is to plant the seed, and encourage you to dig deeper! Below are some good articles and resources about how to evaluate sources. There are many more available. Just Google "evaluating websites" or "evaluating internet resources" or something similar. Good luck, and feel free to share any good resources you use in the comments below!
 
https://digitalliteracy.cornell.edu/tutorial/SourceEvaluationChecklist.pdf
http://library.lakelandcc.edu/PDFs/research/evaluatingsources.pdf
https://www.ivcc.edu/stylebooks/stylebook6.aspx?id=14724
http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/howdoi/webeval.html
 

07 June 2016

How to Create Your Own Best Food Allergy News Source

One of the themes of Food Allergy Buzz this year is empowerment and empowering yourself with food allergy knowledge. Today, I'm going to show you an easy way to keep up on food allergy news without needing to follow or subscribe to any blogs. After all, you have the same resources available at your fingertips as all those food allergy bloggers do! You can easily obtain that news yourself and have it automatically delivered to your email inbox with virtually no effort by using Google alerts!

Here's how it works.

Go to Google alerts. You will see a box that says "Create an alert about..."


In that box, type in a keyword for a subject about which you would like to receive news article and blog post alerts, such as "food allergy" or "dairy allergy" or "anaphylaxis".


There are additional options you can select before you hit "create alert". You choose how often you receive alerts, what sources (blogs, news, sites), language, how many results, and the email address where you would like to receive the alerts. You will see a preview of your alert, so you can see if it will provide you with the information you seek., and you can tweak your alert as needed.


This is such an easy way to keep up on food allergy news. No more waiting for a favorite blog or website to share the latest. In fact, there is a good chance you may get the news before anyone can even write a blog post about it!

Another important tool for those managing food allergies is FDA recalls. What if you miss one? How can you make sure you hear about all of them? Go to http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ to sign up for email alerts of FDA recalls. Click on the link that says "sign up to receive Recalls, Market Withdrawals, and Safety Alerts". You will see a new window open that looks like this:


Just enter your email address and then click on "Submit:. You will receive every recall by email. While it may be a bit of overload, you certainly won't have to worry about missing any, anymore.

I hope this post helps you find some new ways to get your food allergy news. Empowering yourself with food allergy knowledge makes managing food allergies so much easier!

08 May 2016

Food Allergy Awareness Week 2016: Turn It Teal

Turn It Teal is a grassroots effort which begin in 2014, and was founded by Stephanie Lowe. According to the Turn It Teal website, turnitteal.org, their mission is "to light as many sites as possible during Food Allergy Awareness Week, May 8-14 this year." They seek to encourage "more people to become educated about food allergies, their daily impact on people, and how they can help those with allergies, perhaps some day helping to find a cure."

Turn It Teal has succeeded in getting a number of locations to light a site in teal in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week. I am copying the latest information from the Turn It Teal Facebook page to share with you here:

"If you haven't already done so, you can ‪#‎turnitteal‬ here on Facebook and Twitter with a
http://twibbon.com/support/founder-22

Here is the most up to date listing of lightings. Use #TurnItTeal if you are able to make it to any (here, on Twitter or Instagram).
Month of May: Concourse at Landmark Center (aka The King and Queen) – Atlanta, GA
May 8-14: Big Dam Bridge – Little Rock, AR
May 8-14: JFK Airport Air Traffic Control Tower – New York, NY (blue due to lighting constraints)
May 8-14 Lumiere Casino and Hotel – St. Louis, MO
May 8: Empire State Building- New York, NY
May 8: Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
May 9-15: Kanawha Boulevard Bridge – Charleston, WV
May 9: Terminal Tower – Cleveland, OH
May 9: University East Building – Cleveland, OH
May 10: Wells Fargo’s Duke Energy Center – Charlotte, NC
May 13: Peace Bridge – Buffalo, NY
May 13: Pacific Science Center – Seattle, WA
May 13: Niagara Falls – Buffalo, NY/Canada (Around 10 PM for 15 minutes blue due to lighting constraints)
May 14: The Zakim Bridge – Boston, MA
May 9-14: Mid-Hudson Bridge – Poughkeepsie/Highland, NY
May 15: CN Tower – Toronto, ON (Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative)
May 15: Toronto City Hall – Toronto, ON (Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative)
May 15: 3D Toronto Sign – Toronto, ON (Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative)
May 15: City of Mississauga Clock Tower – Mississauga, ON (Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative)"


Kudos to Turn It Teal!!! They deserve so much credit for their efforts, and what a beautiful way to bring attention to Food Allergy Awareness Week!!!!

21 April 2016

#BCRFancy Twitter Party Tips

Reposting an oldie but a goodie...updated now.

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".

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

Hashtags
First, you need to know what the hashtag is. For the #BCRFancy Party, we will use #BCRFancy. That means all tweets intended for our Twitter Party must include "#BCRFancy" 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'm a Tweetdeck fan myself--it's free and simple to use. I find using a Twitter dashboard makes it easier to keep track of replies, direct messages, and #foodallergy tweets simultaneously. For the party itself, I recommend using 4 columns: Mentions, Direct Messages, a column for #foodallergy search results, and a column for your tweets. 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! Please also take a look at a related post about Twitter Parties and how they work over at Best Allergy Sites. 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!


25 March 2016

#BCRFancy Twitter Party April 21, 2016


Have you heard? Food Allergy Buzz is teaming up with Fancypants Baking Co. for a fun-filled Twitter Party on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 8:00 pm EDT/5:00 pm PDT. A few lucky party-goers will win some amazing Fancypants Baking Co. cookies. To find out more about the party and the prizes, please view the invitation. The hashtag is #BCRFancy. The BCR stands for Bite. Crunch. Repeat. -- the words you see on every Crunch cookies package and they are what you'll want to do once you try Crunch cookies!

When I first discovered Fancypants Baking Co. cookies at a local supermarket about 8 years ago, I could not believe my luck.  Finding peanut and tree nut-free cookies made in a nut-free, peanut-free facility in the bakery department at the supermarket was very unusual then. It wasn't like today where you can find nut-free cupcakes, Lofthouse peanut-free cookies, Enjoy Life cookies and bars, or Skeeter Snacks. In fact, it was just the beginning of being able to find Enjoy Life Foods in supermarkets.

Not only has Fancypants Baking Co. been around for years, but they have been nut-free and peanut-free the entire time. Their decorated cookies come in delightful designs and each cookie is decorated by hand. You can see the detail and care with which each cookie is made, in the above photo. They are non-GMO verified, certified Kosher, and the icing is colored with plant-derived colors not artificial

In more recent years, Fancypants Baking Co. has expanded their product line to include Crunch Cookies. Their Crunch cookies are available in supermarkets around the U.S. and come in four different flavors--brown sugar, chocolate chip, double chocolate, and sugar. They are non-GMO verified and certified Kosher too. There are also seasonal varieties as well, too many to list here.
Here is a 2014 video about Fancypants Baking Co. when they were preparing to expand into their now current, newer, bigger facility: 

If you cannot find Fancypants' cookies in your local supermarket, ask your supermarket to carry them. In the meantime, you can always place an order online on the Fancypants Baking Co website!

Hope to see you at the @BCRFancy Twitter Party!


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