Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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.”

 

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.

 

Here is the 2017-18 list of Girl Scout Cookies and known allergens. 

Screenshot 2018-02-01 17.50.33

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

 

Pizza Hut – Again. February 18, 2016

 

I can’t believe I’m writing about Pizza Hut – again.  But here I am.

 

At this point in time/education, at their size, there’s no excuse for not having their act together when it comes to food allergies.  And yet…

 

My son was due to attend a birthday party that involved a trip to a nearby Pizza Hut.   Since we don’t have one very close to us AND they have a strange relationship with food allergies (see “Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean, Pizza Hut” from 2012), I needed to do extra homework in preparation for my son to eat there.

 

I started by reviewing their allergen menu.  But since my son is allergic to food OUTSIDE the top 8 allergens, I also placed a call to double check my findings.  I don’t take unnecessary risks – especially in a birthday party-type situation.

 

It took three phone calls to get a customer service agent on the phone due to high call volume on three different days.   After waiting close to twenty minutes each time, I finally got a live voice.  I presented the facts simply, “My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (so all nuts), sesame seeds and dairy (which means milk, butter and cheese).  I have read your allergen menu online but I still have a few questions.”

 

I went on to explain what my son would order (a regular, personal size pizza with only sauce) and asked my three easy questions:

  1.  Does the sauce have dairy (particularly, cheese) in it?  It’s impossible to tell from the online menu since most pizza is covered in mozzerella, but his won’t be.
  2. Is sesame used anywhere in either the crust or the sauce?  It can be ground up like flour and used as an ingredient you can’t see.
  3. Are there any cross-contamination issues I should be aware of with nuts or sesame seeds?

 

Simple, right?  Should be an easy answer there…

 

Not only could the customer service not answer the question himself, but he put me on hold while he asked a “nutritionist” somewhere in his office.  Sounded promising… until he came back to the phone and told me to go to the online allergen menu.  I reminded him that I had already reviewed it and had questions that this online menu didn’t answer.

 

I already felt that my questions (which I’d like to remind Pizza Hut concern the safety of my child) weren’t being heard and my concerns were being dismissed.

 

He put me on hold again to retrieve information from the nutritionist.  “OKAY!” he returned. “Go to the nutrition menu on our site and the calories for each meal should be listed beside it.”

 

Huh?!  It sounds like neither the representative nor the nutritionist understood what kind of information I was asking for and both were just blindly answering.

 

I repeated my questions and directed him towards an ingredient list.  “Well,” he jumped in, “concerning sesame seeds:  We DO offer a gluten-free crust.  So your son should be okay there.”  Again, WHAT?!  Back to the drawing board.  Time to education yet another person in the food industry about the difference between gluten and sesame seeds…

 

He returned to the nutritionist and came back yet again without any helpful information. But, the customer service representative took my contact info and assured me that the nutritionist would get back to me within 24 hours.

 

“Terrific,” I said – exhausted from the ineptitude. “the party is in three days, so that will be just in the nick of time.”

 

It is now eight (8!) days later and I still haven’t received a reply from Pizza Hut’s customer service OR their nutritionist.

 

Unfortunately, my son injured himself playing sports and couldn’t attend the birthday party.  But there was no way I felt comfortable with him eating at Pizza Hut if customer service AND a nutritionist couldn’t tell me if cheese or sesame seeds were in their sauce and crust.  The already hard decisions about how to accommodate my son’s food allergies so that he feels included in social situations was made that much more difficult by a lack of both understanding and a total lack of response.

 

They may no longer be referred to as “Pizza Nut” in our house (they once listed peanuts and tree nuts in nearly all of their products).  Now, we call them “Pizza Not.”

 

 

 

A Look Ahead: A Summary of Teens and Food Allergies December 3, 2015

I have a food allergic 10 year old.  I’m starting to see all those signs of tweeny-ness that my friends have been talking about.  And, although I could use a lot less eye rolling and smart alecky retorts, but I understand this is a (questionably) necessary right of passage into his more independent teen years.

Do you all remember being a teenager?  How many ill thought out decisions did you make?  My oldest child will be a teen before I know it and he’ll be faced with choices of his own.  The only way he’ll grow is to make mistakes, I know.  But when food allergies are a part of your life, small mistakes could be costly.

So, even if you don’t have a teen YET, please read on so as your kid ages you know what to look out for:

According to an article posted on Radio Canada International [Severe Allergy Risk Worse Among Teens, Young Adults], there are several issues at play during the teenage years that put them at greater risk for a severe food allergy reaction:

  1. They believe they are invincible.  Having had the minutia of their lives cushioned by their parents, teachers, etc up until these years, they feel they are unstoppable.
  2. They typically feel a strong need to conform to their peer group.  Admitting to a food allergy, needing to ask multiple and sometimes persistent questions at meals, not to mention carrying often bulky epinephrine doesn’t make them invisible.  If anything, it highlights their “differentness.”
  3. Teens are independent creatures.  They may balk against whatever makes them feel limited.

According to Dr. Scott Sicherer of Mt. Sinai in practical terms this means:

  • They fail to tell their peers about their condition.
  • They don’t want to/don’t know how to speak up to authority figures (such as teachers, waiters, etc) and alert them of their food allergies and dietary limitations.
  • Teens often leave their emergency medication at home – particularly when active and/or wearing something fashionable that leaves little room for autoinjectors.
  • They taste foods to see if it might contain an allergen, rather than reading labels.  My guess is that it may be harder for teens to reject an invitation to taste something “amazing” or even terrible, particularly if it means that behavior allows them to better fit in with their social circle.

The Radio Canada article goes on to quote Dr. Adella Atkinson, who offers a few helpful suggestions:

  • Start the conversation about food allergies early.  Without scaring them, very young children should be aware that some foods can make them sick.  Empowering young children will enable them to more confidently handle their food allergies as they age.
  • Provide choices.  [I thought this was the best suggestion I’ve heard in a while.  I can’t wait to implement it this weekend!]  Decisions about who and which kind of epinephrine autoinjector to carry, what kind of cuisine they’d like to eat, what their food plan is for outings without you will again empower them and force them to think through their food allergy roadblocks before they hit them.
  • In the WebMD article, Teens With Food Allergies Take Risks, Dr. Sicherer goes on to suggest educating friends as a secondary safety net.  This has already served us well [See That’s What Friends Are For] as my son’s friends help look out for him, are careful to make eating a more INCLUSIVE rather than exclusive experience, avoid eating my son’s allergen around him, and have been taught how to use epinephrine autoinjectors.
  • Teach your child’s friends how to use an autoinjector.  This is a great use of old EpiPens and Auvi-Qs and tweens and teens find it interesting.  By now, they’ve usually seen autoinjectors before and have loads of excellent questions.  Practice using autoinjectors by injecting them into an orange or grapefruit.
  • Buy/create several different accessories to help your tween or teen wear her epinephrine in all circumstances.  A dress with no pockets?  No problem!  Going skiing? We’ve got your covered.  School dance?  Don’t worry: there’s a way to wear it there too!  [See Your Growing Child: How to Carry Epinephrine]

But the most important thing you can do is keep up the conversation.  Not only are food allergies dangerous, they are stressful.  Keep talking to your tween and teen about them.  Make sure they know the door is wide open to discuss anything that comes up surrounding them.  And, present them with the big picture:  that you might want to fit in during your teens but you want to stand out in your twenties.  Encourage them to get a head start by being careful and responsible with their health!

 

No-Brainer: Support a Bill to Place Stock Epinephrine on Airlines November 6, 2015

No Nut Traveler

My food allergy colleague and the brains behind No Nut Traveler, Lianne Mandelbaum, has helped introduce a bill to place stock epinephrine on airlines and train airline personnel on the symptoms on anaphylaxis and how to administer autoinjectors.

This is a safety measure that just makes sense.

An in-flight food allergy reaction is frightening and can be deadly.  It’s a situation that our family has experienced first hand.  My father-in-law DISCOVERED he was anaphylactic to shrimp (at age 40) on a transcontinental flight midway over the Atlantic Ocean.  Amazingly, there WAS an epinephrine auto-injector on the flight but the flight attendants wouldn’t deliver the injection, stating they needed a doctor to administer it.  When he flashed his medical credentials (he’s a surgeon), the attendants told him (as he ballooned and his condition became serious) that they required ANOTHER doctor to administer the life-saving medication.  Luckily, flight attendants and passengers assembled a hefty dose of Benadryl that helped ease the reaction until the plane landed several hours later.  Imagine having your first anaphylactic reaction as an adult to a food that you’ve loved and eaten safely for years? It could happen to anyone…

Lianne has helped inform Sen. Mark Kirk (R – IL) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D – NH) who introduced bill S.1972, the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act of 2015, to Congress.  Current co-sponsors include Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

I encourage you to read more about this bill and the efforts behind it at No Nut Traveler.  And, please reach out to your local representatives and ask them to support S.1972.  What an easy way to make air travel much safer!

 

Gluten-Free, Nut-Free Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia February 27, 2015

Kind of by accident, I created one delicious dinner tonight.  Don’t you LOVE when that happens?!  I was planning to make Cooking Light’s Chip-Crusted Cod Fillets. But a few things went wacky…

First, my husband bought tilapia instead of cod.  Overcomeable.  Second, I realized I didn’t have the kind of chips the recipe called for.  That is sort of the corner stone to their recipe.  And, then I keep reading and decided I didn’t like the idea of dipping the fish into ranch dressing. But I DID like the idea of seasoned fish. So, I took it my own direction…

…And it was amazing!    I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

IMG_3302

Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia

Ingredients

4 tilapia fillets (approximately 6 oz each)

2 tsp of mayonnaise (or if you’re allergic to egg, try soy mayonnaise)

1 tsp of ranch dressing

Approx. 2 oz (or two handfuls) of tortilla chips, crushed

a few pinches of sea salt

medium salsa

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place tilapia fillets on parchment paper on baking sheet.  Sprinkle fillets with sea salt.  Next, spread 1/2 tsp of mayonnaise over the top of each fillet.  Add 1/4 tsp of ranch dressing to the top of each fillet and spread.  Cover each fillet with crushed tortilla chips and lightly press into place.  Bake for 15 minutes or until flaky.  Serve with dollop of salsa and try not to eat someone else’s tilapia once you’re done with your own.

 

 

Food Allergy-Friendly Ideas for Your Class Halloween Party October 24, 2013

Looking for a fun, allergy-friendly way to spook up your class Halloween party?

 

Here are some fantastic suggestions.  I wish I could claim credit for all of them, but instead I stand in awe of people’s creativity just like you.  I’ve tried to link them to their original posts where I could for recipes and instructions.  Check these out!

 
 

My boys will LOVE these from The Outlaw Mom:

Fun & Easy Halloween Food
 
 
And, I’m 100% doing this for our pre-Trick-or-Treating appetizer from My Journey To Health.  Maybe hummus instead of the dairy-based dip?  *Just remember to use tahini-free hummus if you have a sesame seed allergy!*
 
 
This would be so simple – and healthy – for a class party via Decorating By Day:
  
  

Who doesn’t love pigs in a blanket?!  I mean…Hot Dog Mummies.  Great idea via Seakettle:

Mummy dogs!
 
 
 

Everyone loves breadsticks!  To make them allergy-friendly, skip the cheese and use dairy-free butter and you’re good to go!

Breadstick Bones and Marinara

 
 

Are you serious?!  Peeps makes Halloween ghosts!

Creepy Halloween Food & Spooky Halloween Food | Best #Halloween Costumes & Decor
 
 

I’m so inspired by these creations, I’m now planning a Halloween party just for our family!

 

Stock Up on Epinephrine for School: No Co-Pays Until December 2013 August 6, 2013

Yes, we STILL have nearly a month left before school begins.  Don’t worry!  But if you’re even thinking  about preparing for the upcoming school year, be sure to include epinephrine on your To-Do List.

 

First, double check the expiration dates on your epinephrine supply.

 

Second, make sure you have at least two, preferably three sets of epinephrine auto-injectors that are active (one for school, one for home, and a mobile set to bring with you on-the-go).

 

Third, renew your prescriptions now to make sure they are still current (and to give you time to contact your allergist if they’re not) as well as to avoid that last minute panic before the beginning of school.

 

Finally, now is a great time to take advantage of the no co-pay promotions from the makers of both EpiPens and Auvi-Q.   Both companies have issued a $0 co-pay program from now until December 2013.   Now’s a great time to restock your epinephrine for free!  Program details below:

 

EpiPen $0 Co-Pay Program:  https://activatemysavings.com/epipen/

 

Auvi-Q Support and Savings Program:  http://www.auvi-q.com/support-and-savings

**As always, it’s important to discuss the various auto-injector options and which is best for your particular needs with your doctor.**

Savings

 
 
 

As You Head Out For the Beach… July 30, 2013

…or the pool, park or zoo…Don’t forget to bring your epinephrine.

 

But, it’s important to note that epinephrine needs to be stored at room temperature (at around 77 degrees F).  Therefore, consider toting your EpiPens or Auvi-Q around in an insulated lunchbox.  In order to keep the epinephrine from getting too cold I sandwich a couple of juice boxes or a bottle of water in between my EpiPens and a freezer pack.

 

You can use any old insulated lunch bag or tote or you could buy one that’s designed specifically as epinephrine storage.  Look at this adorable insulated, customizable EpiPen pouch that I found on Etsy!   Want one!

Insulated Epipen Case NEW FABRIC SWATCHES
 

**And, try to remember not to leave EpiPens in a hot car!

 

Hope everyone’s having a great summer!

 

 

O’My Goodness! Peanut-free and Tree Nut-free Chanukah Cookies December 9, 2012

We can almost NEVER buy baked goods off-the-shelf.  They always seem to conflict with my son’s food allergies and, thus, he’s relegated enjoying the creations that result from my sometimes limited baking and decorating skills.

 

However, while grabbing some items at our local Balducci’s, we read through the ingredients label of fabulously decorated dreidel, star and present butter cookies.  Amazingly, they are produced in a peanut and tree nut-free facility!  And, if you have a dairy allergy but can eat baked dairy (as our allergist advised we could), the frosting did not contain dairy (the cookie, however, did).

Here’s a link to their Chanukah cookies which you can order online.  But they also sell cookies for other occasions.  *One warning*, their cookies are likely for special occasions only (baby arrival, holidays, etc) as they are not priced to buy in bulk.  But, it was a special treat for us to even find one like it that my son could eat – and he loved every bite!

 

Halloweening With Food Allergies October 28, 2012

  

Halloween tends to make parents of food allergic children fairly tense.  And, with good reason:  allergic reactions tend skyrocket during this candy-filled holiday.  Parents of young children may be especially worried:  So many Halloween treats are peanut-laden and dairy-filled!  So much of it unlabeled in those small snack sizes!

 

Most of us aren’t used to our children being around such an abundant amount of their allergen(s) and we worry how they will feel in the face of so much exposure and temptation in the name of festivity.

 

But there are a few simple ways to keep kids safe and included during trick-or-treat time!

 

1.  Have a talk with your kids about the various candies that are not safe for them.  It’s important to have this discussion before heading out the door on their sugar scavenger hunt so they can make wise decisions when grabbing goodies from plastic pumpkins.

2.  Teach them about the Teal Pumpkin Project.  A teal pumpkin signifies that a house has non-food treats for those with food allergies.

 

3.  Also, remind your child not to eat ANY candy along the way.  All candy consumption should be done under your supervision and ideally, back at a house.

 

4.  If you’ll be trick-or-treating with your child, remember to bring their Emergency On-the-Go-Pack (with epinephrine auto-injectors) and a cellphone in addition to a flashlight. I have often brought a grocery bag to stick any peanutty (or other unsafe) treats in as we go.

 

5.  Stock up on allergy-friendly candy (or fun Halloween toys, like glow rings and plastic spiders) for your child and let them know you have their favorite treats on hand.  You have several options to work with here:

a.  If you know the neighbors well, it’s a great idea to plant some safe candy around the neighborhood so that your child can get the full experience of trick-or-treating and you get the peace of mind that they’re receiving treats they can enjoy.

b.  If you have a young child, you can follow them door to door and just slip one into your child’s bag in lieu of an allergic treat.

c.  In the case of older kids:  they can exchange their UNsafe loot for safe candy at the end of the night.  Knowing that they have a safe option at home will ensure they have a great time trick-or-treating and prevent them from feeling disappointed if house after house is handing out Peanut M&Ms, for example.

 

6.  Finally, make the fun and inevitable candy swap work for your child’s allergy!  A supervised candy swap can serve your food allergic child well!  Make a pile of all the candy he/she is allergic to and/or doesn’t prefer and let him trade away for things that are safe.  They can either trade with friends (again, under your supervision) or swap with the safe candy/treats you purchased!  Everyone wins!

 

PLEASE NOTE:  Miniaturized candy may contain different allergens than their full-sized counterparts. Please read ingredient labels carefully!

Additionally, individually wrapped candy (often in snack sizes) don’t always have ingredient information listed on the package.  Make the internet your friend by making sure candy is safe for your child:

 

Happy Halloween!

 

The Peanut-Free Table October 17, 2012

I’m so proud of our school and so grateful to the head of our Lower School who is conscious of and working towards improving the emotional well-being of our food allergic students.

 

I have mixed feelings about the Peanut-Free Table at elementary schools.  While I appreciate that it helps teachers and administrators keep food allergic kids safe during lunchtime, I am concerned that it may exacerbate social issues that those kids already face.

 

Kids with food allergies already know what it’s like to feel excluded.  They are excluded all the time.  From the food at most in-class parties, from dessert at restaurants, treats at birthday parties, team celebrations, holidays, from the concession stand at the movies… the list could go on and on.

 

In the meantime, I had approached the head of our elementary school last year to discuss an idea I had.  After reading, The Peanut-Free Cafe, it occurred to me that we too could create a fun, desirable environment for our food allergic kids to enjoy.  They shouldn’t feel excluded from their class/friends’ tables.  We needed to create a space where food allergic kids could feel enthusiastic to eat!

 

The head happily agreed this was an idea we could work on!  Our school recently rebuilt its cafeteria and included an area, right near the beautiful wall-to-wall windows, where our school’s new “Peanut-Free Cafe” would go.  It is a space that, by year’s end, will be filled with the kids’ own artwork;  where they can invite their friends to join them.  And, where my son is excited to sit!

 

 
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