Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Is it Safe? Chocolate vs. Food Allergies February 7, 2020

coffee dark candy chocolate

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Chocolate might just be the key to the heart.  But if you have food allergies, proceed with caution – Chocolate can contain a number of common allergens.  Although people can be allergic to the proteins in chocolate itself (often times to cocoa), patients typically react to one of the many other common ingredients in chocolate products.  These are dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and corn among others.

 

Under the U.S. Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, food manufacturers must label for the top 8 allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish).  Sometimes, however, allergens are present in a food but not named on the ingredient list.  Undeclared milk is the most frequently cited reason for FDA product recalls and chocolate is one of the most common products that causes consumer reactions.

 

What about dark chocolate? That’s safe, right?

Dark chocolate can contain milk even when it isn’t listed as an ingredient.  In fact, in 2017 the Food & Drug Administration conducted a study, testing nearly 100 different chocolate bars.  Only 6 listed dairy as an ingredient.  Of the remaining bars, 61% contained milk.  Why is this?  Dark chocolate is often produced on the same equipment as milk chocolate which cross-contaminates it making it unsafe for those with dairy allergies.

 

The FDA also found that milk was present in 3 out of every 4 dark chocolate products with advisory statements, such as “may contain” or “made on equipment with.”  These advisory statements are voluntary, so be sure to call the manufacturer if you don’t see one present.

 

What if I’m not allergic to milk? How do other food allergies fair?

Although dairy is one of the most common causes of allergic reactions when consumers eat chocolate, it’s not the only allergen to be concerned about.  Candy, treats and dessert products are often processed on shared lines with other ingredients and cross-contamination is a problem.

 

If you’re allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, corn, eggs and wheat you should also be careful – as should patients with celiac disease.

 

milk chocolates

White Chocolate?  Please tell me I can have that…!

White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk, sugar and vanilla.  Manufacturers also often add soy.  Just as with milk or dark chocolate, it can contain other common allergens such as wheat, corn, peanut or tree nuts that could cause a reaction.  If you are allergic to one of those allergens, you may wish to steer clear of white chocolate as well.

 

What IS Safe?  A lot actually!

If your mouth is watering just looking at square of chocolate, don’t despair!  Here are some allergy-friendly options to satisfy that sweet tooth:

 

Disclaimer: Manufacturers change their practices often and without warning. Always check the ingredient label and call the manufacturer should you have further questions.

 

[This is not a sponsored post.]

 

Andes Candies

These refreshing chocolate and mint treats are peanut, tree nut, and gluten-free and produced in a peanut, tree nut, gluten and egg-free facility.

 

Dove

SOME of Dove’s product line (Silky Smooth) are made free of peanuts and tree nuts in a peanut/tree nut-free facility (see link).  However, be sure to read labels carefully because Dove makes other products that contain nuts or could be cross-contaminated with them.

 

Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life’s products are always free from peanuts, tree nut, dairy, eggs, soy, wheat/gluten, fish, shellfish, sesame, sulfites, mustard, lupin, and crustaceans.  And you can sometimes find it in your local grocery store!

 

Free2B Sun Cups

For those with peanut, tree nut, and/or dairy allergies, these sunbutter filled chocolate cups are just as good as their peanut butter counterparts but SAFE!  All of their products are free of the top 12 allergens (dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, sesame, corn, mustard, and coconut).

 

Hershey’s

Contact Hershey’s to get the latest allergen information.  They have a fair number of gluten-free products.  Milk-chocolate Hershey’s kisses were processed in a peanut and tree nut-free facility on peanut and tree nut-free lines as of summer 2019.  Plus, Hershey’s utilizes good labeling practices, offering thorough ingredient and advisory labels.

 

No Whey Chocolate

No Whey Chocolate products are always free from peanuts, tree nut, dairy, gluten, egg, soy, and artificial colors and flavors. (Plus, they’re vegan and kosher!)

 

PASCHA chocolates

PASCHA products are free from peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat/gluten, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish.  Check out their website where they clearly label their (lack of – *except soy*) cross-contamination list.

 

Safe Sweets

This family owned company makes treats that are peanut, tree nut, dairy, and gluten-free in a free-from facility. Many of their products are also soy-free – be sure to check their FAQ section to identify which ones.  (They are also kosher pareve and some products are vegan!)

 

Vermont Nut Free Chocolate

It’s in the name: nut-free chocolate that’s delicious and easy to order.  They are very allergy-aware and will label if a product is processed alongside anything in the top 8 allergens.  You can find these in stores or order online.

 

Okay, I Give… What is Aquafaba? October 24, 2016

Filed under: Grocery and Supermarkets — malawer @ 10:43 am
Tags: , ,

chickpeas-1218368_1920

I keep hearing about this wünder-ingredient called aquafaba.  Aquafaba is showing up everywhere these days from cooking shows to fitness magazines.  People are obsessing over it.  It’s clearly the hot new thing, the ingredient du moment … which admittedly made me want to ignore it for a little while.

 

But after all of this exposure, I’ve been worn down!  I give… What is aquafaba?

 

Aquafaba is the thick liquid that forms as a result of soaking or cooking legumes (such as beans) for a while.  You know the viscous liquid you find in canned chickpeas?  That’s aquafaba!  And to think most of us have probably just poured it right down the drain.

 

As it turns out, aquafaba is one of the best egg substitutes, swapping for eggs in everything from meringues and mayonnaise to waffles, cappuccinos and cocktails.

meringue

 

How do you use it?

If the aquafaba is already fairly thick, you can begin using it right from the can.  Otherwise, you may wish to reduce the water to thicken the liquid on the stove (by no more than 25%).

Substitute Amounts:

1 Tablespoon aquafaba = 1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp aquafaba = 1 egg white
3 Tbsp aquafaba = 1 whole egg

 

I finally understand why aquafaba is blowing up in vegan circles.  It will be fabulous as a substitute for those allergic to eggs.  Start playing with it and send me your best concoctions!  I can’t wait to hear how it’s being used!

 

Now, I’m off to make chocolate chip cookies – egg-free!  (And, I may or may not be eating the dough with a spoon…it IS worry-free, afterall!)

cookie-dough-1449454_1920

 

 

Allergy-Friendly Bakeries in the Metro DC Area May 31, 2016

Read below for our continually updated list of allergy-friendly bakeries in the DC metro area.

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With all the end-of-school, summer birthday, last sports game, graduation parties to be had, there’s no time to bake your own free-from desserts.  Let’s support these fabulous businesses who are trying to make life a little easier for families living with food allergies.

 

When you’re looking to buy baked goods for someone with food allergies, it’s feels almost impossible to find a safe option.  Here’s a list of some Nut-free, Gluten-free, and/or Vegan (read: Dairy and Egg-free) bakeries in the DC metro area to satisfy your sweet tooth.  (I’m salivating as I research these great places and now dying to go to each and every one!)

 

Cole’s Moveable Feast Picture
http://www.colesmoveablefeast.com/
Led by a former attorney turned home baker, Cole’s Moveable Feast serves the Northern Virginia area.  They offer custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies, seasonal breads, pastries, and pies baked to order without dairy, egg, nuts, gluten and/or any other allergens you specify.  Using custom gluten-free flour lends and egg substitutes, their biggest sellers are cakes and cupcakes made without gluten, nuts, dairy or egg, but they can accommodate nearly any allergen (including soy and corn).   NOTE:  they even have a weekly snack delivery option!
Free from:  Nuts, gluten, dairy, egg; can customize to exclude other allergens.
Phone/online orders only.

 

Baked by Yael
https://bakedbyyael.com/
A tree nut-free and peanut-free bakery in D.C.  Among their many products, they offer gluten-free chocolate cakepops as well as dairy-free gingersnaps and egg-free raspberry bars.  A great stop after a day at the National Zoo.
Free from: Tree nuts, Peanuts.  Some goods: Dairy, Egg, Gluten.

 
Dog Tag Bakery
dogtagbakery.com
A nut-free bakery and cafe with a mission to support veterans.  They serve everything from egg and cheese sandwiches to muffins, croissants, quick breads and desserts.
Located in Georgetown.
Free from: Nuts
 
 
 
Happy Tart BakeryÉclair
happytartbakery.com
We are a 100% gluten free French patisserie!  We do bread, cupcakes, tarts and other wondrous goodies! 
Located in Del Ray, Alexandria.
Free from: Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Soy, Nuts
 
 

Out of the Bubble Bakery
www.obubblebakery.com
Based in VA
We specialize in cakes, cupcakes, and cookies for those with food restrictions.
Phone/online orders only.
Free from: Dairy, Nuts, Eggs, Soy, Dye, Gluten and made without GMOs.  Vegan and organic.

Sweet Serenity Bakery
www.sweetserenitybakery.com
Based in VA
Every ingredient is meticulously checked and manufacturers are contacted for anything questionable.  We also do not use any artificial flavorings, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup.
Phone/online orders only.
Free from:  Eggs, Peanuts, and Tree Nuts

 
 
 

Cookies/Scooby.jpgThe Lemonade Bakery
A dedicated Egg-free, Peanut-free, and Tree Nut-free bakery.
Delivery of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, scones, and breads to the metro-DC area.
Phone/online orders only. Delivery optional.

 
 
 
Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, and Nut-free bakery  and can also make Gluten-free, Vegan, or Custom Allergy-free cupcakes.
See Allergy Shmallergy’s Happy Birthday post from December 2010.
Phone/online orders only.
 
 
   
  
 
  
 
 
 
 

Hello Cupcake in Dupont and Capital Hill, although not a nut-free facility, offers Gluten-Free and Vegan options.

1361 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Just south of Dupont Circle, across from the Metro

705 8th Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
3 blocks south of Eastern Market Metro

 
  
 
 
 
 

Fancy Cakes by Leslie, in Bethesda, offers some Gluten-free selections including cupcakes, cookies, and marzipan.

4939 Elm Street
Bethesda, MD  20814

  
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 

 Sweetz Bakery, located in a kiosk at the Dulles Town Center mall (near the food court), is a custom bakery that makes Gluten and Dairy-free cakes as well as Vegan flavors.

Dulles Town Center Mall

21100 Dulles Town Center Circle

Sterling, VA 20165

 
 
  
 
   
  
   
 
 
  
 
 

Sticky Fingers

An award-winning Vegan Bakery, also available at many retail locations including select Whole Foods in the mid-Atlantic and DC-metro area.  Everything they make is Dairy and Egg-free, and they also offer a few Nut-free and Gluten-free desserts (but are not a nut and wheat-free facility).

1370 Park Rd NW

Washington, DC  20010

   
  
 
 
 
 
 

 Sweet and Natural

An all-Vegan restaurant, also offers a selection of Vegan desserts – some of which are also available in local health food stores.

4009 34th St
Mt Rainier, MD 20712

 
 
  
 
 

Cake Love

Offers Vegan and Gluten-Free products.

Locations throughout the metro DC area including:

DC; Arlington, Tysons Corner, & Fairfax, VA;

Silver Spring, National Harbor, MD

  
 
 
 
  
 
  
 

Dama Bakery

Serves Ethiopian and French pastries in Vegan and Gluten-free varieties.

1505 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA

  
 
 
 
  
 
 

 

Whole Foods sells “Safe For School” Nut-free cookies in their bakery section.

  
 
  
 
 
 
  

The Westbard Giant in Bethesda sells Nut-free cupcakes. According to one shopper, you can usually find them in the freezer located in the bakery (not the regular freezer section), but they are sometimes displayed in the bakery section. They carry a label stating that they were made in a nut free facility.  Convenient!

  
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 

 For even more Vegan bakeries located in and around DC, check out the list at VegDC.com and Urbanspoon.com.

 

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

 

 

How Allergy-Friendly is Your College or University? August 12, 2013

As many college kids prepare to head back to school in the next couple of weeks, it’s also a good time to know how food allergy-friendly your campus is.

Udi’s, the makers of gluten-free breads, compiled a list of the Top 10 Gluten-Free Accomodating Universities. You can read about what each school is doing to offer their students the best and safest selection of on-campus food here, but in the meantime, these ten universities deserve some praise:

1. University of Notre Dame

2. Georgetown University

3. Iowa State University

4. University of Arizona

5. Emory University

6. University of Connecticut

7. Ithaca College

8. Carleton College

9. University of New Hampshire

10. Clark University

It appears that many other colleges and universities are also beginning to tune into the needs of their food allergic students. And, while there’s no single method that appears to be used as a “best practices” model, there are a number of different variations of making dining food allergy friendly that schools are adapting. Be sure to check your school’s Dining Services information page for their specific guidance and policies regarding food allergies.

Schools have begun food labeling, placing “free from” icons at each meal station. The University of New Hampshire has set aside gluten-free pans for students to use at food preparation stations. Some universities (such as Franklin and Marshall), but not many, are making their dining halls nut-free. Colleges are stocking their shelves with gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free, and vegan groceries (as an example, see Cal Poly’s list here), a few offer pre-ordered allergy-free meals and others post dining hall ingredient lists online. In addition to the accommodations made by dining services, many universities offer access to staff dieticians who will work one-on-one with students to evaluate a student’s dietary needs, set up meeting with school chefs, and help navigate menu options.

Many schools are taking necessary and thoughtful steps towards protecting their food allergic populations and some have a ways to go. The best way to stay safe at school is to:

  • always keep your emergency meds with you and teach your friends how to use them and when;
  • learn about your school’s policy towards on-campus dining with food allergies;
  • put yourself in contact with the dining hall director, head chef and/or school’s dietician; and
  • ask lots of questions to ensure your food’s safety.

Here’s a great Washington Post article by Sloane Miller, who went through college with food allergies herself. In it, she offers a few more excellent suggestions to keep you on the right track at school: Managing Your Food Allergies in Dining Halls and Dorm Rooms.

There’s no reason you’ll need to miss a meal with friends in the dining hall if you’re informed and prepared!

 

Follow-Up Review: Gordon Biersch and Food Allergies November 15, 2012

Even though I already wrote a review on Gordon Biersch’s express restaurant at National Airport in Washington DC, I wanted to follow-up with a more general write-up having just eaten at one of their full restaurants.

 

Again, Gordon Biersch’s waitstaff was incredibly helpful and clearly trained to handle allergy questions.  They were more than willing to take all questions back to the chefs and return with workable suggestions.  For example, GB’s fries have dairy in them.  Big bummer for a 7 year old.  But the waiter came back with several possible safe side substitutions from which my son could choose.

 

GB also has both a Vegan (which, of course, means dairy and egg-free) as well as Gluten-Free Menu from which to order.  Although the vegan selections are limited, it’s nice to have them singled out.  And, if you’re a meat eater, there is certainly a lot you can have on the menu with a little tweaking.

 

Finally, when the rest of the kids were planning to order dessert, the managers at our particular GB didn’t mind us running out to grab my FA son something he could enjoy.  We really appreciated the accommodation – and so did my son!

While we wished for french fries, we all had a great experience at GB.  With their attention to food allergies in both staff training and menu, we’d certainly go back.

 

 

Intrigued by The Commissary December 4, 2011

My sister-in-law, who has a variety of food allergies herself, was visiting DC recently.  While here, she met a friend for breakfast at The Commissary, located on P St between 14th and 15 Streets in the District.

 

She noted that The Commissary’s menu was allergy-friendly for her particular food allergies and ordered with ease.  But what struck her most was that the waitress would not leave the table without taking note of everyone’s food allergies, making sure each diner understood their meal would be prepared on separate equipment.

 

With all the press lately about how restaurant staff have little to no understanding of food allergies, this sounds like a standout place who deserves some kudos on their food allergy education. They note right on their website that they will accommodate most common food allergies and note the menu items that are vegan and vegetarian.  I’m looking for any excuse to try The Commissary!

 

EatWell Group also owns Logan Tavern, Grillfish DC and the Heights restaurants.  Have any of you had any food allergy experiences with these restaurants?  I’m relying on your recommendations.  Comment below!

 

 
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