Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy References May 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 10:55 am

Just in time for Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 13-20), here is the essential list of reading and graphics to help educate yourself and others.  Post these in your social media feed, forward appropriate articles to school and camp, and print graphics to hang up in school and elsewhere.

#FoodAllergyAwarenessWeek

 

1. Food Allergy Labeling Laws:  The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels

2. The Symptoms and Descriptions of a Food Allergic Reaction: The Language of Food Allergies

3. What to do in a Food Allergy Emergency to Maximize Success:  #Minutes Matter: Be Prepared For Severe Allergic Reactions

4. The Quiet Danger:  Food Allergy Bullying: Not Just a School Problem

5. The ONE Form Everyone Needs: Put This on Your To Do List Today: Food Allergy Action Plan

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Language of Severe reaction

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Allergy Shmallergy Named Among Healthline’s Top Allergy Blogs May 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:15 am

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In advance of Food Allergy Awareness Week, Healthline has published its annual list of the year’s top allergy blogs.  Each blog offers a unique perspective and serves as a great resource to food allergy patients, their families, and their communities.

 

I am honored that Allergy Shmallergy has once again made this list!  Check us and the rest of the winner out here: Healthline Best Allergy Blogs of 2018.

 

Thanks, Healthline!

 

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A Gluten-Free and Egg-Free Passover March 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:00 am

 

Passover is almost here!  The 8 day celebration is a favorite celebration for a great reason: in commemorating the story of Moses, it honors freedom everywhere.  Modern day Jewish people refrain from eating leavened bread to reflect on the Israelites’ quick flight out of Egypt and their perseverance through the desert.  Given the restriction on yeast, many Passover recipes weave matzoh crackers or matzoh meal and eggs into delicious and inventive meals.

 

But of course, if you’re allergic to wheat or eggs, this holiday can be challenging. And finding safe products poses a problem for those who wish to observe the holiday and participate in the traditional Passover dinner, called a seder.

 

Thankfully, companies have begun to take note and gluten-free Passover products are MUCH easier to find today than they were when my son was first diagnosed with a wheat allergy almost 12 years ago.

From matzo crackers to graham crackers, creamy chicken soup to the ever-essential matzo ball soup, and desserts galore, gluten-free alternatives are finding their way onto shelves in supermarket and are available for shipment online.

 

Egg is often used more often during Passover to lighten dishes and replace traditional leavening ingredients.  But what if you are allergic to eggs?  Kugel, gefilte fish, matzo balls, and matzo brei are all held together with egg.  Not to mention desserts?!

 

Of all the Passover recipes, matzo ball soup (a year-round favorite as well) is the most loved.  And, the hardest to recreate without eggs.  Enter aquafaba  [read more about aquafaba here: “Okay, I Give… What is Aquafaba?”, Oct. 2016].

 

The Tablet magazine printed a recipe by Rebecca Klempner [“Matzo Ball Soup – And Hold the Eggs?!”, Aug. 15, 2015] that uses aquafaba combined with xanthan gum to solve our problem:

Egg-Free Matzo Balls

 

soup-2730411_1920 RitaE

 

In trying to recreate your favorite Passover recipes, remember that you can use aquafaba, banana, tofu or apple sauce in place of eggs depending on taste and method of preparation.

 

What are your Passover recipes?  Which Passover dish do you need help recreating safely? (Maybe another reader has mastered it!)

 

 

 

Food Allergies on the Big Screen February 12, 2018

admission-2974645_1920 igorovsyannykov

Sony Pictures and the creators of the upcoming movie “Peter Rabbit” are facing a backlash from parents across the globe after it was revealed that the rabbits use a gardener’s food allergy to attack and impair him.

 

Food allergies are among several disabilities that are used as cheap gags in movies and on TV.  Sometimes, such as in the movie “Hitch” and on the TV show “Modern Family,” they garner laughs because the symptoms of anaphylaxis are so severe and fast-acting that they take the audience by surprise.  Sometimes they are used to show weakness or to emphasize low social status, like nerdiness.  In a recent Party City ad slated to run during this year’s Super Bowl, having a food allergy was deemed “gross” to convey it as annoying.

 

What makes the “Peter Rabbit” use of food allergies particularly distasteful is that 2017 was speckled with stories of food allergy bullying across the world; including the arrest of two young teenagers who knowingly used a peer’s food allergy against her sending her into anaphylaxis and at least one death – that of a 13 year old at the hands of his classmates who had snuck cheese into his sandwich at lunch.

 

The exclamation point on the “Peter Rabbit” case is that the rabbits reportedly state that food allergies are “made up for attention.”  Unfortunately, this plays on some people’s already-formed perception of food allergies and undercuts how serious they truly are.

 

The use of food allergies to prompt laughter reinforces stereotypes, spreads misinformation and strengthens the idea that food allergies are a choice meant for self-importance or as an inconvenience to others.  The use of food allergies in children’s media prays on the worst fears of children with food allergies and their families.  [1 in 13 kids in the United States have food allergies – that’s nearly 20 kids – and about 80 family members – in every screening of “Peter Rabbit” who live with the anxieties of the very severe consequences that just a small crumb of an allergen can trigger.]  These children are watching their nightmare come to life on the big screen.

 

The food allergy community is accustomed to hearing food allergies become the butt of a joke. Jokes, as distasteful as they are to some, may have their place in adult-oriented films and television shows (as is the case with the movie “Hitch” and “Horrible Bosses”).  But when it’s placed in children’s programming, it becomes unacceptable.  Exposure to such imagery, dialogue and attitudes during such a formative time in their lives can affect young audiences with food allergies (and influence those without) both psychologically and socially.  It can scare and scar those with food allergies.  And, showing it “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way” (as Sony describes it in their apology) teaches others that food allergies are not to be taken seriously.  By watching “Peter Rabbit,” kids are learning that using someone’s food allergy against them is both humorous and without consequence.  Meanwhile, children with food allergies are watching – horrified – while the audience jovially cheers the rabbits on. It’s amazing that storylines, such as this one, pass through vast numbers of people for approval without being questioned for their impact on children.

 

Thankfully, Sony has issued an apology recognizing the insensitivity of the “Peter Rabbit” material.  Let’s hope that other production companies learn from this lesson.  Apologizing after the fact is the easiest thing in the world.  How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen in the first place?

 

Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award December 22, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 8:50 am
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A huge THANK YOU to Rachel Alexandra of the fantastic blog, Roots,  for nominating Allergy Shmallergy for the Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award.  What an exciting way to round out a crazy week!

 

As part of the process of accepting this award, nominees answer questions.  [See additional rules and nominees below.]

 

My answers:

1.  What is your biggest regret?
That’s a tough one.  One of the things I regret is not taking more time to travel before I had kids.  I’ve lived overseas multiple times and really enmeshed myself in local culture.  But I’d love to have spent time in Africa or South Asia while I was living relatively nearby.  I guess the kids will have to pack their bags because I’m not done roaming!

 

2.  What is something that your younger self would be most proud of about you?
Great question!  Hm…  I think my younger self would be proud to know I’ve been bold about pursuing my passions.  For example, when I was younger, I wanted to be a writer – now look what I’m doing!

 

3.  What is your favorite fruit and why?
(I love these questions!)  Raspberries and summer ripe blueberries are irresistible to me.  And, it’s hard not to DROOL over kiwi.  Hairy on the outside and sweet, emerald deliciousness on the inside… Mmmm…!

 

4.  If you could play any instrument, what would you play?  (Or what can you play?)
I used to play the flute – and wish I had played for longer.  But I still play the piano!  Now, I just wish I could sing (at all) and play at the same time!  Piano takes concentration!

 

5.  What setting from a book or movie would you like to live in or experience?
That’s easy!  Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  What I wouldn’t do for an hour in that edible room with the chocolate river!

 

6.  Why did you start blogging?
I started writing as a way to find a like-minded food allergy community to connect with.  When you get any kind of diagnosis, you tend to feel alone in the world.  When you can relate to someone else’s journey, it can sometimes take the stress out of your own.

 

7.  What is something you’re looking forward to?
There’s so much to look forward to over the next year!  One thing I’m working on is getting my organization, AllergyStrong, up and running.  AllergyStrong is an organization that revolutionizes food allergy information in education, psychosocial impact and advocates on behalf of all patients with food allergies, but particularly for those at-risk and low-income families who could use the additional support.

 

8.  If job availability/money were not factors, what would be your dream occupation?
A ballroom dancer! It’s harder than it looks and is so elegant when done well.  I’ve taken ballroom dancing from the time I was about 10 through college.

I’d also love to be a television/movie writer or a documentary film maker.  I love storytelling and think very visually.

 

9.  If you could start any charity, what would it be?
I’m starting one:  AllergyStrong!

 

10.  Name a skill you want to learn and why.
I’d love to really learn how to figure skate.  I always played around with it as a kid and never lost that amazing sensation of gliding and spinning on ice.  It was invigorating!

I’d also like singing lessons…  Ooo, and horse back riding!  Tap dancing…  Speaking Italian…  I’ve clearly got to get cracking; I have a lot to catch up on!

 

The Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award

I nominate these excellent bloggers, whose work is inspiring, insightful and on my short list of must-reads:

1.  Michelle of MyVinyasaPractice

2.  Nicole of Cole’s Moveable Feast

3.  Debbie of Femmunity

4.  David of LoveAfterKids

5.  Lisa of No Nuts Moms Group

 

 

The Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to his/her blog.
  2. List the rules of the award and post a picture of the award.
  3. Answer the questions from your nominator.
  4. Nominate other bloggers and be sure to let them know.
  5. Write a list of questions of your nominees to answer.

 

 

Questions for Nominees:

  1. Where do you get inspiration for your blog/writing?
  2. If there are past lives, who were you/what was your profession?
  3. What song brings back a strong memory each time you hear it?
  4. What’s your hidden talent?
  5. What makes you feel grateful?
 

An Allergy Update from Krispy Kreme July 25, 2017

A Dozen Doughnuts from Krispy Kreme sameold2010 flickr

Dozen Doughnuts from Krispy Kreme – unedited by sameold2010 via Flickr Shared thanks to Creative Commons Sharealike license

 

Krispy Kreme contacted me last week to alert the allergy community of an ingredient change.  In December 2016, they introduced a Nutella doughnut.  And starting today, Krispy Kreme will begin to offer a peanut-flavored doughnut.  [Cue the chorus of groans…]

 

So, while Krispy Kreme will no longer be safe for those with peanut or tree nut allergies, do not despair!  If you check Allergy Shmallergy’s ever-growing list of Food Allergy Friendly Bakeries, you’ll notice a number of doughnut shops that are both safe AND delicious.

 

From Krispy Kreme:

“On July 24, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts will introduce a doughnut with peanuts and peanut ingredients in our shops and other locations where Krispy Kreme doughnuts are sold. Because the safety of our customers is our top priority, I wanted you and your community to be among the first in the U.S. to know about the introduction of this ingredient to our menu.

The introduction of this specific peanut menu item at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is new, but Krispy Kreme shops have never been allergy-free and specifically nut-free. Our shops have ingredients that can contain known allergens, including nuts. We receive ingredients from suppliers who produce products with allergens, including nuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. While some shops do not sell products made with nuts on the menu, because of how our products are manufactured, none of our shops are ‘nut-free.’ Following national safety guidelines, we take many steps to clean machines and surfaces in our shops, but there is the possibility that trace allergens might be found in our products. As a result, we post and label known allergens and ask guests to make sure they check the post before entering our shops and the labels before consuming.

 

For more information about Krispy Kreme’s ingredients, please visit http://krispykreme.com/Nutritionals.”

 

Best (and Worst) Practices of Some of Our Favorite Restaurants June 12, 2017

Restaurants need to pay attention to food allergies.  Aside from the obvious risk of health complications, misunderstanding of such common and serious conditions comes off as uninformed, unsympathetic, and negligent.  Sometimes even the best restaurants aren’t well-informed or trained about handling food allergy requests.  But when a restaurant gets it right, it earns a customer’s loyalty forever.  Below are some of the best and worst practices among our experiences.  I’d love to hear some examples of BEST practices from YOUR dining experiences by commenting below.

 

To understand what’s happening behind the kitchen doors, read Allergic Living’s Special Report, What Restaurants Are Getting Right and Wrong on Food Allergies.  And if you work at a restaurant, please read Simple Strategies for Restaurants to Manage Food Allergies for easy ways to improve food allergy service.

 

 

Hops (Greensboro, NC)

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The reputation of this burger joint was impossible to ignore.  And, we knew from our first year eating here that it was well-deserved.  In fact, I had been impressed that they offered gluten-free beer and buns, despite the fact that we do not eat gluten-free.

However, one night, arriving with a large group of friends, we noticed that a vegetarian burger containing nuts was added to the menu.  This greatly increased the possibility of cross-contamination for our peanut and tree nut allergic son.  We asked the server if the restaurant could clean a small portion of the grill before making my son’s hamburger. No. Could they grill his burger in a pan?  No.  Would they consider grilling his burger on a piece of clean tin foil?  No.

 

So, we walked across the street and ate there instead.  Rather than thinking flexibly, the restaurant has lost our business – not just our family’s business, but that of our entire group.

 

Miyagi (McLean, VA)

This Japanese restaurant is always crowded.  Its sushi is consistently fresh and delicious.

 

When we explained that my son had a sesame seed allergy and could not have any sesame on his order, they seemed to understand.   But it was a different story when the plate arrived with sesame seeds covering the side dish.  And the replacement was sent back on the same plate with the side dish scraped off.

 

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill (Moorsetown, NJ)

Driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, we all grew hungry and needed a break from the car.  We decided to stop at Firebirds off exit 4 on a whim.  And, what a great choice!  The food was great and the servers were extra careful with our food allergy requests.  The chef himself came over to our table to answer each question we had.

“I like to visit each table with food allergies personally,” he said, “so that you know I understand your concerns and we can discuss a plan so you know you’re eating safely.”

The chef watched his best friend deal with celiac disease and food allergies at restaurants and wanted to change that experience for his own customers.  The effort was enormously appreciated!

 

Clare and Don’s Beach Shack (Falls Church, VA)

This local restaurant is an experience unto itself.  In addition to its fun and friendly indoor ambiance, it has generous outdoor seating with a fire pit for the cool months and live music for the warmer ones.  The owners always make everyone feel warm and welcome.  Their quick response to our questions (even when that requires contacting suppliers or figuring out how to make something safe on the fly) is part of their natural, good-natured customer service.  And, it’s something we’re incredibly grateful for.

In fact, they’ve become so accommodating with and accustomed to my son’s orders that when the ticket comes into the kitchen, his meals often return to the table with a greeting from one of the owners herself.

 

Burton’s Grill (Charlottesville, VA and elsewhere)

This restaurant gets kids’ menus right.  Rather than ordering and substituting everything as food allergy families usually do, this menu allows kids (and their parents) to customize each piece.  And for those of us with dietary restrictions, that means more options, less hassle.  We still had a few questions for our server (safety of hamburger buns and fry oil) and were pleased to see the seriousness with which they sought the answers.  Such a great experience, we made a repeat visit within the same weekend.

 

Harvey Cedar’s Shellfish Co (Long Beach Island, NJ)

This is a perennial favorite for our family and friends.  A down-to-earth seafood restaurant with friendly staff is a no-brainer.  But nothing with food allergies is completely straight-forward.  As my son became more and more adventurous and we posed more and more questions about their menu, one server in particular took it upon himself to create an allergen menu with the help of the owner and chefs.  We were hugely impressed with this simple and easy to navigate menu.  It has encouraged my son to try even MORE menu items which has resulted in his love of swordfish, mussels, and lobster!

 

La Tela (Kiawah Island, SC)

We waited for 45 minutes to sit down at this popular wood-fired pizza and Italian restaurant just off Kiawah Island.  By the time we had been seated, it was late and the kids were STARVING.  We had a great time eating here a couple of years prior and were looking forward to a good meal.

When we told the waiter my son was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds and sensitive to dairy (because of his EOE), a manager returned to discuss the menu with us.  She had thorough knowledge of kitchen preparations and ingredients.  As it turns out, because they use pine nuts in their pesto pizza (which contaminates the oven) only salad and plain pasta were safe for him – a HUGE disappointment.  But they were willing to prepare pasta for my son in a dedicated pot to ensure it was safe.  He was not thrilled, but we appreciated the extra step.

Unfortunately, the pasta arrived covered in sauce – something my son doesn’t like and specifically ordered against.  When we pointed this out to our server, he was clearly put out.  Annoyed and not hiding it, he said that although the kitchen could prepare another batch of pasta, it would take a very long time.  He suggested that my son just eat the meal in front of him.

The last thing you want to do is tell a food allergic child (or anyone with a medical condition) to just suck it up.  We left frustrated with our mixed experience.  While the restaurant itself was great, this visit emphasizes how much of your experience lies with the individual you are working with.  In our case: the server.

 

Sandbox (Long Beach Island, NJ)

Breakfast is tricky for those with dairy allergies.  So much of what kids want to order in the morning (pancakes, waffles, even scrambled eggs) is made with milk.  My son has become used to having fruit and bacon when we’re out at breakfast.  But on this one morning, he really wanted French Toast.  There were a lot of hurdles to overcome before we could safely order this: safety of the bread and preparation surface, can they coat it only in egg…?    Yes on all accounts.  This specially prepared French Toast – made in a separate pan – makes my son SO happy.  Sandbox’s flexible thinking makes him feel great and relaxed.

 

But, when we spoke with the owner, we experienced a funny lack of awareness.  While we complimented her restaurant at being so good at handling food allergies, she made a few insensitive comments.  We told her about my son’s many food allergies. Having been a former teacher, she said, “Oh!  I would have HATED to have you in my class!”  Later, my son asked, “What’s wrong?  Why wouldn’t she have wanted to teach me?”  Not the message you want your customers leaving with.  Also, you wouldn’t say that to someone in a wheelchair or with a serious illness.  Why say that to a child who similarly didn’t choose to have food allergies?

 

Rocco’s Tacos (throughout Florida)

Rocco’s Tacos is our Florida obsession.  My whole family loves eating at this festive and delicious restaurant.  It’s made even easier to love because across locations, Rocco’s takes food allergies seriously.  They seek out ingredients and are creative at work-arounds when necessary.  At our most recent visit in Boca Raton, the server approached us to let me know that his brother had food allergies, conveying that he understood our questions and concerns whole-heartedly.  That kind of information is so helpful when explaining what you (as the food allergy family) are looking for.

And, look!  They flag food allergy orders from the kitchen to table so that mistakes are avoided.  Love that system!

 

Sakura (Vienna, VA)

Japanese hibachi restaurants, as it turns out, can be a fantastic place to eat with food allergies.  Many do not use any dairy.  And their prep surface is diligently cleaned right in front of customers.

 

Sakura’s menu clearly states that they don’t use peanuts or peanut oil in any of its menu items.  They take time to understand the food allergies at our table and craft a careful plan to cook each meal in the proper order to ensure its safety.  When we eat with our extended family, as we often do, we need to avoid my son’s food allergies as well as my in-law’s – that means, no peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy, or shrimp.  They prepare everything with ease (and great skill!) right in front of us.

 

Panzone’s Pizza (Long Beach Island, NJ)

Panzone’s boasts some of the best pizza on the Jersey Shore.  But it was when we began ordering their other menu items that we realized how easy they made things for food allergic families like ours.  The owner pulled out a binder filled with ingredient lists for all menu items, including those from her suppliers.  Stock from suppliers is typically our biggest roadblock for information.  Restaurants often have no idea what is in a supplied item and cannot take the time to call to inquire.

 

Perusing Panzone’s ingredient binder allowed us to partake in items that are usually not safe elsewhere: like (cheeseless) cheesesteaks, amazing breaded wings, and fish tacos.