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Motivations: Food Allergy Baker, Nicole Seevers and Cole’s Moveable Feast August 29, 2016

Filed under: Holiday,Order & Ship,Parent Sanity,Uncategorized — malawer @ 3:45 am

 

My hats are off to all the parents out there who are taking time out of their lives to make life better for all of us with food allergies.

 

I’d like to introduce you to one such parent, fellow food allergy mom, Nicole Seevers of Cole’s Moveable Feast.  On a quest to ensure her son always feels included, she began experimenting in the kitchen.  The results aren’t just safe and delicious for her son, Cole; they are scrumptious for everyone!

 

We were the lucky recipients of the above OUTSTANDING allergy-friendly dessert: iced tea cupcakes with lemonade frosting – possibly my favorite flavor combination of all time. I opened the box and thought they might be almost too beautiful to eat.  Almost.  Their mouth-watering aroma sucked me in immediately.  I’m usually more of a frosting girl (and, oh my gosh, was this frosting good), but it was the moist and tasty cake that balanced the tart and sweet original frosting so well that just made the treat.  My kids loved them and my extended family had no idea they were made without wheat, dairy, peanuts or tree nuts.  I’m planning on ordering these again for my next brunch.  And my food allergic son has requested I call Nicole for his next birthday.  That’s ONE thing off my party planning list!

 

Nicole can cater to almost any allergy and any occasion.  Check out her gallery of goodies at Cole’s Moveable Feast.  And, for those outside her delivery area, please check out our ever-growing list of allergy-friendly bakeries on Allergy Shmallergy’s Allergy Friendly Bakeries page.

 

Inspired by her story and motivation, I took a moment to ask Nicole a few questions…

 

1.  Tell us about how you got into the baking business?  Were you always a baker?
Not long ago, a lot of my friends and family would have been surprised to see the word ‘baker’ connected to my name.  I grew up here in Virginia, and like most people, food was a big part of my family life.  My mom and my grandmother were wonderful cooks, and the desserts were especially good. I learned a lot from them, but it wasn’t a passion for me. I headed to New York after college and stayed there for 12 years, practicing law and eating a majority of my meals in restaurants. My husband is a great cook, but it was never really my thing.  When we did eat at home, I was usually in charge of dessert (I have a big sweet tooth). But things got more complicated when our second child was born.

 

2.  What inspired you to bake allergy-friendly goods?
My son Cole. As soon as we introduced solid food, we knew. His first taste of yogurt made him sick. He vomited and started wheezing. Eggs did the same thing. Over the course of the next few months, we learned he was allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, buckwheat, sesame and shellfish. He also has asthma and spent nearly a year avoiding gluten to try to reduce inflammation. I think under normal circumstances, it could have been overwhelming, especially for someone who didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. But I had watched my own mom handle it. My younger brother struggled with the same allergies and more … including wheat, soy and corn. Those are tough allergies anyway, and in the ’70s, there was no popping into Whole Foods for an allergy-free snack. But my mom rolled up her sleeves and dealt with it.

So for me, it meant figuring out how to make sure Cole didn’t feel deprived or left out. Celebrations are big in our family. I wanted to learn how to make treats we could all enjoy. And it turns out, I LOVED baking. But what about when Cole was invited to a birthday party? Or when he started school, and had to say ‘no thanks’ every time a parent brought in cupcakes for a celebration. I was spending so much money on expensive, processed snack foods that were allergy-friendly but kind of bland. I thought, I can’t be the only one who wants better options. So this spring, I launched Cole’s Moveable Feast.

 

3.  Do you cater only to the food allergic community?
At first I did, but then people started asking me to do “regular” cakes for their events also.  But I’d say 90% of what I do is customized around specific allergies. Frankly, I like some of my allergy-free goodies more than the regular kind! I probably shouldn’t admit that, huh?

 

4.  What are some of your biggest challenges in the kitchen?
Time and space! It’s me, one oven, one dishwasher and two mixers.  I have a separate pantry and fridge for bakery ingredients and dedicated cabinets for equipment. But allergy-free recipes, especially those without gluten or eggs, require additional steps and ingredients, so it takes longer and makes a bigger mess.  And I’m fastidious about sanitizing surfaces and equipment, especially between orders. That takes more time than you’d think. So I’m starting to think about next steps … my dream is a bakery where anyone can walk in and find something on the menu board. Cole has never experienced that.

 

5.  Is there any allergen/other obstacle you’ve had a hard time accommodating?  How do/did you overcome obstacles?
Oh yeah. It’s hard enough to bake without egg, dairy and gluten. In fact, I had to come up with my own gluten-free flour blends and egg substitutes, because I just couldn’t get my baked goods where I wanted them with commercially-available substitutes. But when you take soy and corn out of the equation, it gets even harder. Those ingredients are everywhere because they’re cheap (and genetically-modified and federally-subsidized, but that’s a rant for a different day). But I’ve gotten there, after lots of research and working closely with my customers … and throwing out a TON of failed experiments. I am so thankful for the Internet, for all those people that forged ahead of me and blogged about it. And for companies like Earth Balance, Authentic Foods and Enjoy Life, among others, that are dedicated to producing high-quality allergy-free ingredients.

 

6.  Has taking customized orders forged a connection to your clients?
YES! That was the biggest surprise in all of this. I figured, if I got lucky, word would get out and I’d get a nice flow of orders listing the ingredients that needed to be excluded. I didn’t realize that nearly every single order would come with a unique story. The mother that was told a party venue could handle her child’s food allergies … until they heard it was soy. The child with a severely restricted diet that hasn’t had cake in years. The adult struggling with health issues. Everyone has something they’re dealing with, but we’re wired to connect and comfort, love and celebrate, through FOOD. When I can be part of that connection, it’s  awesome. Baking for someone can be a very intimate act.

 

7.  What has been the most rewarding aspect of starting your company?
Well first and foremost, it’s that connection I was talking about. I really can’t believe I get to do this. Meet interesting people, help them out, bake and get paid for it?! It’s pushing me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to connect, solve puzzles, make mistakes, rethink. But also, my three kids are SO excited about it.  I love letting them be a part of this, letting them witness the fact that you can find what brings you joy and go after it.  My dad has always pushed me to do that: to have a vision and do the hard work to make it happen. I want my kids to learn that lesson too.

 

 

The High Cost of High Prices: EpiPens’ Real Cost to Families August 25, 2016

Filed under: Advocacy,Preparedness — malawer @ 9:12 am

With all the talk about rising cost of EpiPens, it’s important to remember who this situation impacts the most.  At-risk and food insecure families.  There has been a lot of media attention recently focused on the price of EpiPens, but these families, who are already living paycheck to paycheck, have been bearing the burden of added anxiety over whether they can afford the only life-saving medication available for their children for years.  Add in what I most recently learned about the limitations of some ambulances to carry and use epinephrine and there may be a healthcare superstorm brewing on the horizon.


 

By way of background…

 

It’s all over the news:  EpiPen prices have climbed over 400% in the last 10 years, making this one and only lifesaving drug nearly – if not completely – unaffordable for many families.  Ten years ago, a pair of EpiPens cost between $75 and $100.  Today, they are sold for $600-700.  Understanding that families need multiple sets (for school, aftercare programs, home and on-the-go), the financial burden becomes even greater.

 

While there may be programs that do benefit families with certain kinds of healthcare plans and help mitigate the cost of EpiPens, there are a significant number of families who are struggling to justify the cost of this medication.  These aren’t always low income families, some are typical middle class families who earn just enough to take care of their current needs.  The rising cost of EpiPens is tipping that delicate balance unfavorably.

 

As EpiPen prices soar, so does the cost of NOT carrying them.

 

Given the high cost of EpiPens coupled with their relatively short shelf life, families are being forced to make a difficult choice.  And some are choosing to forego filling their prescriptions. More and more, families whose finances are stretched thin are relying on emergency responders as their first line of defense should a severe allergic reaction occur.  They are operating without a safety net and hoping that emergency medical care will catch them.

 

But what do you do if the ambulance you’re waiting for isn’t carrying epinephrine?  What if the EMT that arrives isn’t authorized to administer it?

 

This is the case in many cities and counties across the United States.  The ability to carry epinephrine as well as the local protocols authorizing EMTs to administer it vary from place to place. [Please read: Does Your Ambulance Carry Epinephrine?]

 

This collision of high EpiPen costs and the inconsistent ability of emergency responders to help may cause a far larger problem.  Already low income families* pay 2.5 times more per year on emergency room visits and hospital care than higher earning families.  And, in a 2013 study conducted by FARE, results showed that when people suffering from anaphylaxis used emergency care, epinephrine was not usually used to treat their condition.  It appeared to the researchers that even seasoned emergency medical professionals were reluctant to use epinephrine – despite the fact that it is known to be a safe drug with few short-term side effects.

 

In FARE’s study, 58% of those who called 911 administered epinephrine before an ambulance arrived.  In a life-threatening situation when every second counts, what will happen if more cases of anaphylaxis arrive at the emergency room without having received epinephrine on scene OR en route?  It appears many will also not receive it in the emergency room either.

 

How will lower-paying municipalities compete with higher paying counties and cities to retain competent, capable paramedics and advanced EMTs (those most often allowed to administer epinephrine)?

 

What role does cost play in local government decision-making regarding whether or not to stock ambulances with EpiPens and who has the authority to administer them?

 

These are only some of the unanswered questions that are starting to boil to the surface.   I hope Mylan’s expanded efforts to get EpiPens in more hands helps some of these at risk families.   But I remain concerned that the confluence of high prices and inconsistent policies governing emergency medical use of epinephrine will continue to cause a ripple effect across the healthcare spectrum.  I just hope it remains a ripple and not a tidal wave.


 

* A study, co-authored by Dr. Richi Gupta, published in Pediatrics defined low income families as those earning less than $50,000 per year.

 

The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels August 23, 2016

Filed under: Books and Literature,Parent Sanity,Preparedness,School — malawer @ 9:30 am

 

Here’s the latest article I wrote for Allergy & Asthma Today (Fall 2016), a publication from Allergy and Asthma Network.

 

Look at the beautiful layout and graphics here:  The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels.  And, check out the full issue, featuring Sarah Jessica Parker here:  Allergy & Asthma Today, Fall 2016.


 

Hibiscus Popsicle, uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja, author Joey  

 

When my son was in first grade, he joined his class in celebrating the completion of a school-wide charity project. All the students were so proud and the faculty even more so. The teachers planned to reward the students with popsicles — just the kind of unexpected treat kids live for!

 

Knowing my son’s food allergies, the teacher went to the administrative offices to check the ingredients. The coordinator read off the ingredient list one by one, all safe relative to my son’s peanut, tree nut and dairy allergies. And then she read a final statement, “Contains trace amounts of milk…”

 

“So that should be fine,” the coordinator said.

 

“NO!” replied his teacher, who also has food allergies. “He’s allergic to dairy! Milk is dairy!”

 

My son avoided an allergic reaction that day thanks to his teacher’s quick thinking and familiarity with reading food labels.

 

Many parents, teachers, school nurses and administrators are called upon to make food allergy decisions based on food labels. Deciphering ingredients and warning statements can sometimes feel like reading a foreign language.

 

Understanding the requirements that govern food allergy labeling makes those decisions much easier. In 2006, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect with the goal of improving food labeling information for families with food allergies.

 

  1. Under FALCPA, companies are required to label the top 8 allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. These account for 90% of food allergy reactions in the U.S.

 

  1.  FALCPA also requires companies to label any ingredients made with proteins derived from those allergens.

 

  1.  This law gives manufacturers a choice of how to label the food source allergen.  They can either: 1)  List the allergen in the ingredient list, such as “whey (milk) or lecithin (soy)”; or 2) Use a “Contains” statement, such as “Contains tree nuts, eggs and shellfish.”

 

  1. Manufacturers might use the same facility or equipment to produce two different food products, and if one is an allergen, there is potential for cross-contact. If the manufacturer thinks there’s a chance an allergen may be present in a food product, they can voluntarily put a “May contain…” or “Made in a facility with…” statement. For example, a soy milk label might say “May contain tree nuts” if it was produced on the same equipment as almond milk.

You’ll need to be extra diligent when reading labels to avoid an ingredient outside of the top 8 allergens. Learn alternative names for your allergen that manufacturers sometimes use. For example, sesame seeds may be listed as “tahini” (which is sesame paste), benne seed or generically as “spices.”

Because manufacturers change their ingredients and production methods all the time and without warning, it is very important to read the labels every time you purchase an item.

And if you’re unsure about what’s in a food product but still want to purchase it, call the manufacturer.

AAT Fall 2016

 

 

Dairy-free Frozen Dessert! Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free Peach Pie August 17, 2016

Filed under: Grocery and Supermarkets,Recipes & Cooking — malawer @ 12:00 pm

This is an Evite® and So Delicious® Dairy Free sponsored post.

Evite Peach Pie-30

 

If your family is balancing multiple food allergies, you already know how hard it is

to find recipes that are safe for everyone. I think most of us would agree that if dairy

and gluten are two of the allergens you are avoiding, dessert is the hardest.

Beyond the obvious foods, allergens sneak their way into so many items: dairy is in

chocolate, eggs are in custard, gluten can be found in frozen treats. For some, safe

dessert feels like a lost cause.

 

 

But don’t despair! Just check out this delicious looking Gluten-Free, Vegan Peach Pie

featured on Evite’s Party Ideas page. With a short list of basic ingredients, you could

feed a whole crowd – including those with gluten, dairy and egg allergies! Make it the

day before serving and you have a ready-to- go dessert for your next barbeque. Plus,

it’s peak peach season. So, now you have something you can make from all the ripe,

mouth-watering peaches you picked up from the farmers market.

 

 

And what could make this recipe better? A scoop of creamy, dairy-free frozen

dessert, of course! Enter: So Delicious® Dairy Free Frozen Desserts. To me, vanilla

is the perfect pairing for peach pie. So Delicious Dairy Free makes not one, but two

vanillas using the dairy-free base of your choice. And, their coconut flavor is making

my mouth water as I type this!

 

So Delicious® Dairy Free Soymilk Frozen Dessert in Creamy Vanilla

So Delicious® Dairy Free Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert in Coconut

And their new line, So Delicious® Cashewmilk Frozen Dessert in Very Vanilla

 

 

For the full recipe, check out the original post on Evite’s Party Ideas Page: Ditch the

Dairy and Make This Vegan Peach Pie for Your Next Party.

 

 

So Delicious® Dairy Free is an allergy-aware company. Please read their Allergen

Information statement to see what lengths they go to keep their customers safe.

And, as always, be sure to check the ingredient list.

 

 

Now let’s get baking!

 

Does Your Ambulance Carry Epinephrine? August 8, 2016

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 10:05 am

 

Two weeks ago, I was asked to comment on epinephrine aboard ambulances for Healthline.com – a subject I now realize I took for granted.  Like many people, I assumed that all ambulances carried epinephrine and that all responders had the authority to administer it.  What I learned was fascinating – and disturbing.

 

To prepare for my interview with Cathy Cassata, a fellow food allergy parent and writer for Healthline, I decided to visit my local fire department.  There, I met with a knowledgeable paramedic.  What I thought might be a 15 minute talk about epinephrine use turned into an almost-hour long discussion about everything from EMT training to rescue situations.

 

In Healthline’s article, “Parents Want All Ambulances to Carry EpiPens”,  writer Cathy Cassata explains that most states have two types of ambulances: Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS).  Those who staff the ambulance and the equipment it carries determine which type of ambulance it is.

 

There are three levels of Emergency Medical Technician (or EMT) training: Basic EMTs receive between two and six months of training and an intermediate level of training known as Advanced EMT. Paramedics, the third and highest level, receive one to two years of training including anatomy, physiology, and pathology.  The authority to perform medical procedures and administer medication is based on two factors:  the level of EMT training and local protocols.

 

In our county, Basic EMTs cannot make the determination to use epinephrine, often having to make a call to a physician to gain authority.  And, they are not allowed to administer epinephrine on their own.  Basic EMTs are allowed to assist with auto-injectors that are already on the scene.  Advanced EMTs and paramedics can both administer epinephrine.

 

Because epinephrine is used not only in severe allergic reactions, but in cases of severe asthma and even cardiac arrest among others, the paramedic I spoke to stopped just “short of calling it a miracle drug.”  In his opinion, “If you’re going to call yourself a rescue squad, you have to carry epinephrine.”

 

After generously giving me far more time than I had expected, the alarms went off.   The paramedic packed up the ambulance as he continued educating me until the last second and hopped aboard, off to save another life.

 

I encourage you to read  Healthline’s article, “Parents Want All Ambulances to Carry EpiPens” by Cathy Cassata to gain a better understanding of the emergency response system overall.

 

Giveaway! August 2, 2016

Filed under: Grocery and Supermarkets — malawer @ 3:58 pm

 

 

Woohoo! It’s a GIVEAWAY!

As you know, Snyder’s of Hanover, long known for their fabulous pretzels, has converted their main factory to a PEANUT-FREE facility! Gotta love a company that is forward thinking and inclusive!

 

Now Snyder’s is offering a chance to win a sample package of their peanut-free pretzel line as well as a $25 Visa gift card!

 

To enter:

  1. Like Allergy Shmallergy’s Facebook page; and
  2. Share it with a food allergy friend/parent.
  3. Leave us a comment or photo with the hashtag “‪#‎PretzelsBaby‬” here or on one of Allergy Shmallergy’s social media pages!

Facebook: facebook.com/shmallergy

Twitter: @shmallergy

Instagram: shmallergy

It’s so easy!

(Winners will be chosen by August 7th, 2016.)

 

IMG_2537

And, for more information on Snyder’s of Hanover‘s transition as well as a review of their pretzel line, please see A Company Who Cares: Snyder’s of Hanover.

 

**An insightful reader reminded me that some old products remain on shelves.  Please be sure to read ingredient lists, as always.  Most of Snyder’s pretzels are already produced in their peanut-free facility (and the rest of the pretzel line will be produced there before the end of the year), so be sure to look for Snyder’s Peanut Free label before purchasing.**

IMG_2535

 

Can’t wait to see your entries!  Good luck!

 

A Company Who Cares: Snyder’s of Hanover July 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 12:59 pm
IMG_5145

This is a sponsored post.

#PretzelsBaby

 

Snyder’s of Hanover recently asked me to spread some good news with the food allergy community.  As soon as I heard it, I couldn’t wait to sit down and get this out to you all.

 

Snyder’s of Hanover, long known for their line of delicious pretzels, have made some changes – for the better.  With their consumers’ interest in mind, they recently transitioned their main factory in Pennsylvania to a peanut-free facility.   This inclusion of food allergy families is so meaningful!

 

Already beginning to hit supermarket shelves, kids with and without a peanut allergy can enjoy Snyder’s line of pretzels.  A popular item at snack bars, vending machines and sporting events, kids with peanuts allergies can now munch down some Snyder’s pretzels along with their friends and teammates. Our safe snack universe has just been greatly expanded!

 

[*Food allergy note:  Snyder’s continues to make nut-based pretzels, such as Snyder’s of Hanover Peanut Butter Filled Pieces which are manufactured in a separate facility in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.  The brand also has a snack line which includes chips that are made in this facility.  All products coming from the peanut-free factory in Hanover will have the peanut-free logo under the ingredient label. By the end of 2016, the manufacturing of all Snyder’s pretzels should be transitioned to the peanut-free facility.*]

 

We bought Snyder’s of Hanover Snaps Pretzels for the first time as a tennis team snack.  I got a thrill seeing the “Peanut-Free” symbol following the ingredient list.  Plus, I felt great knowing that other children with peanut allergies, accustomed to being forced to forego group treats, could snack away safely.

***I’d like the decision-making team at Snyder’s of Hanover to understand how much this means to peanut allergic kids and how grateful food allergy parents feel when their children are considered.  I hope that more companies appreciate the powerful statement Snyder’s has made by including peanut allergic kids into their family of products and will think about doing the same. ***

IMG_2536

Our bowls of Snaps before they were quickly devoured!

 

 

Excited to try Snyder’s of Hanover’s now-safe pretzel line, we thought we’d share our first impressions:

Snaps

Snaps Pretzels:

These are the perfect snacks for a group!  Our giant bowl of pretzels was empty in minutes thanks to their fun design and great taste which allows for just the right amount of salt goodness.

 

 

IMG_2659

Soudough Nibblers

Sourdough Nibblers:

I’m fairly certain I’m already addicted to these pretzels.  They are delicious, crisp and crunchy.  And their bite-size shape are perfect when you’re looking for a nibble.  It’s impossible to eat just one without daydreaming about more.  You’ve been warned…

 

Thins

Thins:

The classic.  Slender, baked to perfection, and flavorful, these crispy pretzels are great for dipping.  Try them dipped in cream cheese for a satisfying salty/sweet snack (a favorite combo of mine since middle school).  These pretzels also make hilarious eye glasses that are sure to crack your kids up.

 

 

IMG_2660

Minis

Mini-Pretzels:

These 100-calorie packs are perfect for people on-the-go.  I would stash these in my desk drawer and plan to pack them in my boys’ lunches come fall.  In the meantime, I’m popping a few into my beach and pool bags!  A satisfying snack on its own – you could also pair this will snack-size hummus for a healthy mid-day pick-me-up.

 

 

Thank you to Snyder’s of Hanover and kudos on the factory transition — and a big “woohoo” for the rest of us!

#PretzelsBaby

 

 
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