Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

The Future of Food Allergies: Recommendations from the Experts December 8, 2016

Last week, the National Academies of Sciences put out a report outlining the gaps in global food allergy management.  Titled, “Finding a Path to Safety in Food Allergy Assessment of the Global Burden, Causes, Prevention, Management, and Public Policy,” the authors made recommendations that would lead to significant change in the quality of life of patients and families living with food allergies.

 

This was an important and informative report which helps prioritize ways in which we may see adjustments to food allergy diagnosis, information and policy in the future.  I listened to the live presentation while furiously taking notes, but you can read the report for yourself at:

nationalacademies.org/FoodAllergy

#foodallergies #peanutallergy medical doctor government law

 

In case you missed it, here are the highlights and some reflections:

 

Prevalence of Food Allergies:

The committee noted that although no formal studies have been able to corroborate the information, doctors across the country have confidently noted the increased prevalence of food allergies.  Studies of this sort are difficult to conduct and expensive, Dr. Hugh Sampson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York noted.  However, the true prevalence of food allergies would help lawmakers and other health-related institutions prioritize food allergies as the “major health problem” it is in this country.  It is currently estimated that between 12 and 15 millions American are living with food allergies.

Recommendation: The CDC or other organization conduct a food allergy prevalence test that will help inform us of current food allergy levels and serve as a baseline for future assessments.

 

Standardized Diagnosis:

 

This is no one, standard way to diagnose food allergies.  Some doctors use skin tests (otherwise known as “scratch tests”) and some use IgE blood tests.  Still others consider the use of IgG testing to detect food intolerances.  Each test varies in conclusiveness and none can accurately predict the reaction a person will have to an allergen.  Only an oral challenge can determine the type and severity of an allergic reaction.

 

[More on this testing in a separate post.]

 

Recommendation: Doctors follow a standardized set of tests and protocols to inform them of a patient’s allergy and future medical action.

 

Prevention:

While there has been much in the news about best strategies to prevent food allergies from developing, advice on the ground from doctors and within parenting circles is lagging.

 

Recommendation: Clear, concise and solid advice about the early introduction of food and its benefits would greatly help parents and patients alike.

 

Education and Training

Misconceptions still abound.  Some dangerous.  Timely, proper management of food allergies saves lives.

 

Recommendation:  The launch of an educational campaign to align doctors, patients and general public regarding the diagnosis, prevention and management of food allergies.  This is especially important in organizations that provide emergency services as well as in medical schools and other healthcare institutions.

 

Policies and Practices

 

The list of major allergens identified in each country has not been updated since they were established in 1999.  And, labeling laws (particularly those known as Precautionary Allergen Labels, PALs – “may contain” and “made on equipment with” are two examples) aren’t currently effective at helping consumers assess risk.

 

Recommendation:  Reassess the priority list of major allergens to better identify regional allergens. Develop a new, risk-based system for labeling – specifically to address issues related to PALs – and outline guidelines for the labeling of prepackaged food such as those distributed at schools, on airlines, and in other public venues. Additionally, the committee recommended that federal agencies re-imagine and standardize food allergy and anaphylaxis response training for employees who work at public venues (schools, airlines, etc).

 


 

I was encouraged to listen to the guidance from the committee in each area.  There is certainly a long way to go in getting federal and state-level attention for the growing epidemic that is food allergies.  But by identifying current gaps and taking action to improve communication of standardized, evidence-based information and advice, I am confident we can help improve the lives of those living with food allergies in the near future.

 

Milk Alternatives -Best of the Best January 8, 2016

Getting the proper amount of calcium is a tough job for those with a dairy allergy.  There are many ways to incorporate dairy into your diet (see How to Get Enough Calcium When You’re Dairy-Free), but a nutritionist recently told me that the best way to get calcium is to drink it.  And, sometimes you just want something cold and delicious to pour on cereal.

I recently stumbled upon an article from Real Simple (April 2015) where their food contributors reviewed a variety of milk alternatives to come up with the best tasting among them.

Here’s the original link to the article:  The Best Milk Alternatives.  And, below are they’re declared winners.

Best Original Soy:  Silk Soymilk Original

Best Vanilla Soy:  Silk Soymilk Vanilla

Best Unsweetened Soy:  365 Everyday Value Organic Soymilk Unsweetened

Best Vanilla Almond: 365 Everyday Value Organic Almondmilk Vanilla

Best Unsweetened Almond: Almond Breeze Almondmilk Unsweetened Original

Best Rice: Pacific Foods Rice Non-Dairy Beverage Original

Best Oat:  Pacific Foods Organic Oat Non-Dairy Beverage Original

 

Now I can’t speak about the almondmilks since my son has a tree nut allergy.  I can, however, vouch for both the Silk soymilks and the Pacific rice milk.  He enjoyed them both.  But if he were to put in a vote for best milk alternative, he’d put two thumbs (and maybe a foot) up for Silk Very Vanilla Soymilk.  Tastes great and works fabulously well as an ingredient in baked good.

We’ve also tried Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic Soymilk Vanilla which came in as his close 2nd favorite.

 

What kinds of milk alternatives do you use?  Any input on creamers, cream cheese, sour cream?  Bring ’em on!  The more votes the better!

 

Enjoy School with Enjoy Life September 11, 2015

This is a sponsored post.

 

It’s as if Enjoy Life read my mind.   I was just toying with trying a gluten-free diet (again) for health reasons – grappling with how to begin – when Enjoy Life contacted me to try out their new product line:  Pancake Mix, Pizza Dough, Muffin Mix, Brownie Mix and All-Purpose Flour Mix.  What better way to start a health kick than with easy to prepare mixes!  My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds and now must avoid dairy for EoE.   Enjoy Life’s new product line makes baking for our two different diets a breeze as all the mixes are not only gluten free, but dairy, nut and soy free as well.

These mixes will also make getting ready for school so much easier in my house.  Brownies can be sent in alongside a sandwich for a school lunch.  Pancakes can be made in one batch and frozen.  Pop them in the oven or microwave in the morning for a quick breakfast before your kids hit the bus.  Ditto for muffins!  Roll out some pizza dough, let your kids help you “decorate” the pizza and you have a safe and healthy weeknight dinner in under 20 minutes.

By chance, my kids and their cousins wanted to host a bake sale during their vacation together this summer.  The little entrepreneurs that they are, agreed on a high traffic time and convinced me to use our new mixes.  We made the Enjoy Life Brownies as well as two batches of Enjoy Life muffins: one with chocolate chips and one with blueberries and strawberries.  The bake sale turned out to be a fabulous idea in several ways!  Not only did we try samples, but so did half the island.  And, we got a chance to connect with families who otherwise can’t spontaneously partake in the fun of a bake sale (or a bakery for that matter).  In face, we learned that four of our neighbors are gluten free!  Plus, the kids decided to donate all their earnings to charity – which made for a very proud mama!

The results were unanimous!  Praises all around.  No one could believe the brownies were GF!  They didn’t taste dry or crumbly the way other GF mixes have tasted.  They were moist and filled with dairy free chocolate chips.  Next time I make them, I’m going to frost the top with dairy free frosting or drizzling it with dairy free caramel (yes, it’s a thing and I’ll blog about that later!).  Mmmm….

The muffins went so quickly, I didn’t even have time to taste the chocolate chip one.  But my neighbor did.  And, she sought me out later on the beach to rave about it!  She said she was craving more and asked if I could pass her the recipe.  Boy, was I pleased to simply pass along Enjoy Life’s name!  I DID manage to snag a slightly mangled berry muffin which was, again, moist and flavorful.

All the adults involved loved that these mixes are dairy free, soy free, nut free and gluten free – making them safe for nearly everyone.  Thank you to Enjoy Life for supplying us with these inclusive and delicious mixes.  My husband and I noticed how proud my son was to offer food that was safe for him to others.  And, even more proud when his customers beamed over how much they liked his products.

All in all, the kids donated over $100 to Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  My boys are already planning their bake sale offerings for next summer – which includes both the brownies and muffins.  And, we’re excited to continue experimenting with Enjoy Life’s mixes throughout the fall.
  
  IMG_9914

 

PhillySwirl: Dessert for Everyone! July 28, 2015

This is a sponsored post.

Who doesn’t like something cold and sweet on a hot summer day (or in my case, everyday)?!  But it can be hard to find desserts that are safe for those with food allergies.  Nuts, dairy and gluten trip us up not only in the bakery aisle, but can be a cross-contamination risk even for simple concoctions like popsicles.

Enter: PhillySwirl.  Almost everything in their product line is dairy and gluten-free making them a safe AND delicious choice at the supermarket.

PhillySwirl recently sent me their gluten and dairy-free products.  My kids and I had a BALL trying and evaluating all the flavors.  They thought their birthdays had come early as I told them, “Kids, we’re going to have to try every flavor of PhillySwirl Italian ices.  Sorry.”  It was no chore for me either!  Here’s what we tried and our impressions:

SwirlStix

The classic popsicle – only tastier.  Arriving in six interesting flavors, we studiously “evaluated” (read: devoured) each one – giving each other tastes only when begged.  The SwirlStix were my personal favorite.  Easy to hold, neat to eat, and delicious.  Orange Dream was a favorite of my husband and Very Berry was mine (although a close tie with the Applelicious).

Swirl Popperz

My younger son and nephew loved the Swirl Popperz.  In fact, when asked for his thoughts, my son said, “These are excellente! [yes, inexplicably in Spanish] Tell PhillySwirl ‘Thank you’!”  Still dairy and gluten-free, these had a creamier texture to them which made them easy to push up.  I also liked them because the wrapper kept my preschooler from dripping popsicle around the house like Hansel and Gretel’s crumb trail.  My nephew was kind enough to let me taste his Rainbow flavored Popper which was fabulous!  I’d get these again – perfect for feeding a group of kids in the summer!

Swirl Cups with CandySpoonz

The Swirl Cups were a hit!  And, why wouldn’t they be when they contain delicious Italian ice swirls that you eat with lollipop spoons?!  A no-brainer!  Everyone had a different favorite.  What was great is that each flavor tasted like it’s name:  Cotton Candy tasted just like….Cotton Candy!  The Sunburst was a delicious mix of cherry, orange and lemon (yum!).  And the other choices were interesting, too: Cherry Melon, Hurricane (a cherry/lemon), Bluesberry Jam and Rainbow.  My kids and my niece and nephews clamored for these.  Buy two packs if you can store them – they go fast!

**My niece cleverly pointed out that the nutrition information was printed on each cup, making it extra fantastic for food allergic parents who need to read ingredients without access to the original box. Smart move!**

Thank you to PhillySwirl for good manufacturing practices that allow kids with food allergies (and sometimes adults without them) to enjoy such a fabulous, sweet treat!

 

Gluten-Free Products Deal on LivingSocial August 11, 2012

Look what I just saw in my inbox:  a LivingSocial deal for Gluten Free Products.   What a way to get your weekend started!

 
GlutenFreely.com
http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/1938/deals/418980-50-to-spend-on-gluten-free-products
 

Found: Nut-Free Seeds! January 23, 2012

I eat pumpkin seeds literally once a year – the week following Halloween when I make them from the innards of my kids’ jack-o-lanterns – and that’s it.  Every other time of year, I look for sunflower or pumpkin seeds to snack on that are not contaminated by nuts and come up with bubkes.

 

Finally after searching for literally years, I stumbled upon Gerbs Pumpkin, Sunflower and Flax Seeds which are processed in a dedicated nut-free facility (everything but their milk and dark chocolate products).  They come in a bunch of different flavors.  So far, I’ve tried the toasted onion and garlic flavor which is excellent and I’m looking forward to finding the sunflower seeds.

 

Wondering if anyone has any good nut-free recipes for pumpkin or sunflower seeds for us to try…..  ????

 

Gerbs Pumpkin Seeds

 

 

St. Patricks Day: Go Buy Your Corned Beef! March 15, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner.  And, if you’re like me, you might see it as another GREAT excuse to make Corned Beef.  Mmmmmmm…..

 

But, before you go:  you should know that sometimes corned beef is made with beer.  And, beer often contains wheat/gluten.  So, if you’re making it from scratch be sure to use a gluten-free beer in your recipe.

 

If you’re buying prepared corned beef, you should know:

  • Read the ingredient list.  Even though it appears to simply be marinated beef, it may contain one or more of your allergens.
  • Whole Foods, Safeway, and other chain supermarkets carry an additive, MSG, nitrate-free variety.
  • Gluten-free, MSG-free varieties also exist – often found in local supermarkets, as was the case in our local Safeway.

 

And, while you’re at it, you might want to stock up on some rye bread (or make some Gluten-free “Ryeless” Bread) to enjoy the leftovers over the weekend!

5583874430_116b6dc0c6_b Flicker Larry Hoffman

photo credit: Larry Hoffman via Flickr (Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0))