Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Fun for Everyone: Candy Bar Birthday Party April 12, 2017

I wish I could take credit for this adorable idea.  But I can’t.  My friend is just a genius.

 

Her own kids aren’t allergic, but my thoughtful and creative friend had kids with food allergies on her mind when she thought about what special treat her daughter could share with ALL of her party guests.  Like my friend, many parents are concerned with how to be inclusive of guests with food allergies.  Sometimes, the best answer is also the simplest.

 

After singing a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday” to our favorite 7 year old, the kids were each given a festive party bag that they could fill with any (or ALL) of their favorite candy.  Best of all, everything was dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and most was also gluten-free.  There’s nothing that makes a child happier than being included in on the fun!

 

Plus, no goodie bag needed!  The kids all got to bring their loot home.  HUGE bonus in my opinion!

 

If you’re going to replicate this fantastic idea, I would recommend a few things:

  1.  Check Allergy Shmallergy’s Safe List of Nut-Free Candy page.  This is not a comprehensive list.  And, it doesn’t account for other allergies.  But you’ll find that many of the candies listed are also dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.  Read ingredient lists carefully and if you have any doubts of an item’s safety, snap a photo and email the child’s parent to verify.
  2. Save ingredient lists and bring them to the party.  If anything needs to be double-checked, you’ll have all your information at hand.
  3. Be careful when serving similar looking items (like M&Ms and Skittles).  Not only is chance of cross-contamination a concern with unwrapped candy, but I’ve seen unsafe candy fall into safe candy bowls.  For the purposes of a party, I would stick to the idea that “everything on the table is safe for party guests” principle.

 

Look at this fun, inviting table set up!
Looking for containers and scoops like the ones above?

Set of 12 Clear Plastic Candy Scoops

Penny Candy Jars (set of 2)

Amcan Scalloped Container, Large

Vista Premium Quality Plastic 10″ Serving Bowl (set of 2)


  
Smarties.  A classic!


Caught red handed!  My son and his best friend/brother of the birthday girl.

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping low income and at risk families with food allergies.)

 

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

 

 

Updated (July 12, 2016)! – Peanut Residue in Flour: Growing List of Product Recalls June 15, 2016

Filed under: Grocery and Supermarkets,School — malawer @ 9:30 am

Slide1

Updated (7/12/16):

 

I just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the products recalls underway.  Grain Craft, a wholesale supplier of flour to manufacturers, found peanut residue in its soft red winter flour.  It has notified the FDA and many companies who use that flour are issuing voluntary recalls.

 

 

Read:

FDA’s Investigation of Low-Level Peanut Residue Found in Limited Flour and Flour Products

 

Grain Craft Recall Response

 

FARE Alerts page information.

 

 

Products currently recalled – click on link for complete list and details:

Honey Maid Teddy Grahams Cinnamon Cubs Graham Snacks (sold in Foodservice channels)

 

Snyder-Lance Lance brand Oyster Crackers

 

Spartan Fresh Selection Cheesecakes (select varieties using Kellogg’s graham cracker crust)

 

Tippin’s Gourmet Pies 8-inch Key Lime pies

 

Garnder Pie Company Cheesecake and Key Lime Pies

 

Armour Snackmakers Keebler Animal Crackers

 

Mars Chocolate – select varieties and runs of COMBOS snacks

 

Kellogg’s (Kellogg’s, Keebler, Famous Amos, Mother’s, Murray – mostly select cookies, brownies, and crumbs)

Rold Gold Pretzel – select varieties

Hostess Snack Cakes and Donuts

Cinnabon Stix   

Chick Fil-A Chocolate Chunk Cookies   

Acme 12″ Decorated Chocolate Chip Cookies   

Jewel 12″ Decorated Chocolate Chip Cookies

Safeway 8″ Single Layer Red Velvet Cake

 

 

Hostess has reported two allergic reactions following consumption of their products.  Please check your pantry and contact the manufacturers directly with any questions.

 

FYI:  You can sign up to receive food allergy alerts via FARE (Food Allergy Research Education) here or register to receive FDA alerts here.

 

 

FDA Safety Recall information page: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm

FARE Food Allergy Alerts information page: https://www.foodallergy.org/alerts

Save

Save

 

‘Tis the Season: 504 Plans April 15, 2016

 

Fall and the start of school seem far away – I mean, who can think about going back to school when summer is just around the corner?!  That said, many of you are now sitting in front of a pile of forms thinking about 504 Plans for your children for next fall.

 

504 refer to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  These plans are set in place to provide accommodations to school age children with disabilities (food allergies are listed among the qualifiers) to ensure that they are afforded equal access to learning and academic success as their peers.

 

These plans are created in collaboration with your child’s school and spell out food allergy management.  In addition to a Food Allergy Action Plan, 504 Plans can cover a broad range of topics such as snacks and meals, storage of emergency medication, addresses classroom issues related to food allergies such as science projects and other manipulatives, as well as hand washing policies.

 

Many people, including school administrators, get 504 Plans confused with IEPs.  An IEP is an Individual Education Plan which allows students with disabilities (often learning or cognitive disabilities) to receive specialized instruction and/or related services.  IEP qualification is determined both at meetings and in conjunction with standardized assessments, as well as other data collection.  504 Plans are determined by looking at medical records. Both are federally funded programs: 504 Plans guarantee access to education while IEPs provide supplemental academic services.

 

I recently came across an incredibly thorough and helpful article written by Vivian Stock-Hendel on fellow blogger, Sharon Wong’s blog “Nut Free Wok.”  Entitled, Food Allergy 101: 1, 2, 3…504 , you will learn everything you need to know about completing a 504 Plan and what to do if you need both a 504 and IEP.

 

Keep in mind, both plans can be used at schools which receive federal funding.  If your child attends private school, ask someone in administration if the school makes food allergy accommodations through 504 Plans or by another means.

 

Best of luck!

 

Additional Resources:

FARE: Advocacy – Section 504 and Written Management Plans

Food Allergy Action Plan Template

 

Food Allergy Education: Allergy and Asthma Today Spring 2016 March 8, 2016

 

As you all know, I strongly support the need for food allergy education in school.  The non-profit Allergy and Asthma Network (AANMA) recently picked up one of my articles on the subject for their publication, “Asthma and Allergy Today.”

asthma allergy today spring 2016

Here’s a link to my article in their Spring 2016 issue:  Thank You For Being a Friend.

 

Or, read it below. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you!  Comment below, on our Facebook page, or email me: erin@allergystrong.com:

  • I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
  • What your school is doing right;
  • Any issues you or your child has faced as a result of insufficient food allergy information/education;
  • Suggestions you have for schools/teachers to create a safer, more inclusive school environment;
  • General comments.

Thank you as always for your support!

 

Thank You For Being a Friend
published in Allergy & Asthma Today – Spring 2016
By Erin Malawer

 

Walking through the halls of an elementary school, you might see inspirational bulletin boards, posters promoting “School Spirit Week,” perhaps a donation box for clothes or backpacks.

 

You would not expect to see a whole walnut rolling around on the floor. That’s what some students at my son’s elementary school found recently. At first they didn’t even know what it was.

 

One of the students bent down to inspect it. “Hey,” he yelled to my 10-year- old son, who is allergic to tree nuts. “Come over here. Is this a walnut?”

Feeling a little nervous, my son backed away, explaining that he, of all people, is not qualified to be a nut inspector. A classmate, a girl also diagnosed with food allergies, stepped in to remind everyone about my son’s allergies. Soon after, the kids began to file into their classroom. Somehow the nut followed them.

 

My son’s deskmate grabbed the walnut and teased him with it, waving the walnut close to his face saying, “Oooooh … A walnut.”

 

My son began to speak up – we had practiced for these types of situations at home. The same girl quickly interjected, “Are you crazy? He’s ALLERGIC to nuts! He could go to the hospital!”

 

My son wasn’t harmed. But he WAS upset when I picked him up from the bus.

 

“Mom,” he said, “I know I seem really tough – like my feelings are as thick as a wall. But inside, they can be as thin as paper.”

 

We discussed what he was feeling, things he would have liked to have said, how thankful he was to have a friend like the girl who stood up for him. He felt sure his classmates acted out of misunderstanding or lack of education, rather than malice.

 

This incident was innocent enough. The first boy was curious; the second boy truly didn’t understand the potential consequences of his actions. He thought my son would join in on the joke because they are friends.

 

I asked the school if I could come into the classroom to teach the kids about food allergies – and they agreed. The students were attentive and engaged, and had intelligent questions. They were very sympathetic to how difficult it is to manage food allergies.

 

Both boys apologized to my son, explaining they had no idea about the severity of allergic reactions.

 

In the end, the incident brought my son and his classmates closer together. Looking back, it’s very easy to imagine a different outcome. But as my husband rightly points out, “Kids WANT to do the right thing and be supportive. Sometimes they don’t have enough facts to know how.”

 

Statistically, there are two students in every classroom with food allergies.  But that number is growing.  We need to teach our kids the facts about this condition, so they can act appropriately. And we need to teach them to be supportive of each other.  A lesson in food allergies is a lesson in empathy – and it just might save a life.

 

If your school doesn’t include food allergy education in their health curriculum, I encourage you to volunteer your time to do it yourself.

 

 

Girl Scout Cookies Allergen Reference February 24, 2016

Thanks-A-Lot Girl Scout Cookies

I remember being a Brownie.  To me, selling Girl Scout cookies was kind of intimidating.  I didn’t like going door to door and asking people to buy things.  There wasn’t any opportunity to set up a stand with friends in my town.  I might have been braver in that case:  you know, power in numbers.

 

As an adult, I want to support those adorable, little Girl Scouts who are sometimes nervous just like I was.   Which is why I hate having to say no due to food allergies issues.

 

So, I did a little research in the hopes that it helps you all make good decisions and allows you to support your local Brownies and Girl Scouts… by buying delicious cookies!  Now that I’m armed with some information, our family may try some ourselves this year!

 

Girl Scout cookies are made by one of two manufacturers:  ABC Smart Cookies or Little Brownie Bakers.  To find out which manufacturer bakes your local Girl Scout cookies, you must contact your local council:  locate your council here.

 ——————————

While Little Brownie Bakers do not list ingredients lists for their cookies on their website, their allergen statement looks thorough.  All it should take is a quick peruse of the ingredient list on the box to determine whether the box is safe for your family.  Here’s their allergen statement:

The allergen statement clearly states the top 8 allergens contained inside each package. We encourage consumers with food allergies to check the ingredient statement on each package for the most current ingredient information because product formulations can change at any time.

If the allergen in concern is not listed below the ingredient statement, we are confident that the product is safe for consumption. Please trust the labeling. We do use a may contain statement for peanuts and tree nuts when the product is produced on a line that shares equipment with another product that does contain peanuts or tree nuts. Scientific evidence has shown that consumers with peanut and tree nut allergies can have a severe reaction to amounts that are below the current detectable limits based on existing technology.

For this reason, we have chosen to warn consumers allergic to peanuts and tree nuts of the potential for extremely low levels by using a may contain statement. The equipment is thoroughly cleaned in between processes and we follow Good Manufacturing Practices in all of our facilities. Beyond the top eight allergens, all ingredients are declared within the ingredient statement. If you are concerned about a specific ingredient, please review the ingredient statement to determine if it is part of the product formulation.

 

——————————

 

ABC Smart Cookies, the Girl Scout’s other cookie manufacturer, also seems food allergy savvy.  They produce gluten-free cookies in a certified gluten-free facility and have a well-educated allergen statement which reads:

 

Over a decade ago, ABC partnered with Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN™) to learn more about life-threatening food allergies and the impact of ingredient labeling and allergen warnings. We have also worked with the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program in association with the University of Nebraska to review our sanitation, handling, and training procedures.  ABC adopted what is known as “product-specific” allergen labeling. Product-specific labeling enables the allergy-affected consumer to make an informed decision based on information specific to that particular product.

Product-specific labeling requires strict compliance to good manufacturing practices to prevent cross contamination such as:

  • Segregation of known allergens from the general production environment
  • Color-coding of storage units and utensils
  • Curtained-off production areas
  • Designated lanes for transportation of known allergens
  • Swabbing and testing of allergen shared equipment

In addition, we call out all allergens on our packaging, order cards and web site and provide specific warning if a product is made on a line that also produces product with a common allergen such as peanuts. ABC’s proactive approach to allergens is an example of our commitment to producing the best quality Girl Scout Cookies possible for the millions of valued consumers who support Girl Scouting every year.

 

 ——————————

 

A quick review of ingredients show that all of the cookies were egg-free; Thin Mints, Cranberry Citrus Crisps, Lemonades, and Thanks-a-Lots are nut-free; several were vegan and therefore dairy-free; and at least one variety was gluten-free.  Check out their sites and I think you’ll find, like I did, that Girl Scout cookies are far more food allergy-friendly than you think!  Now, get out there and say YES! to some Girl Scouts.  You’ll make their day!

 

 

Girl Scout cookies

 

 

Three Sweet Ways to Say “I Love You” Dairy, Egg, Peanut and Tree Nut-Free February 11, 2016

Since we have the weekend to prep for Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d suggest three simple and sweet ways to brighten your Valentine’s day.  All three are easy to prepare, GREAT for classrooms and parties, and all are dairy, peanut, tree nut and egg free.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

 

Cupid’s Arrows

Grab some fruit and a cookie cutter and you have yourself one adorable (and healthy – shhhh…) fruit kabob!

IMG_0133

 

 

Sweetheart Sorbet Pie

Trickiest thing is remembering to prep this a few hours in advance.  And, then not eating it before presenting it to your sweetheart.

20140127-133110.jpg

 

Rice Krispie Hearts

Subbing out the dairy, makes these hearts safe and scrumptious.  If you have letter cookie cutters, you could also spell out the words, “LOVE” or “HUGS” or “XOXO”.  Infinite possibilities!

20140214-152730.jpg