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July 30, 2006

Mama Mia! What is up with this pizza place?

I cannot believe the conversation I just had with this pizza guy!!! We are on vacation and wanted to order pizza for dinner. I knew I needed to call to verify ingredients. No big deal. As you all know, this is a routine part of having a kid with food allergies. We’ve visited this area many times, so I called a pizza place that we’ve ordered from before (the same franchise, not the same location). I just wanted to make sure ingredients hadn’t changed.

After asking to speak with someone familiar with the food’s ingredients, I was basically told that it was easier not to make food for us because of the allergies. “Just to keep everyone safe,” he said. He’d hate to give “wrong information,” then we’d both “have problems.” The tone he used was very much a “I need to cover myself because I’m afraid of a law suit. I am pretty certain that he wasn’t truly the manger, or even a person with much tact. I wish I could quote this guy word for word, so you could all feel my shock. Huh? You’ve got to be kidding! In this day and age, in a big food franchise, uncertain about ingredients? So I questioned further, “You’ve got to be kidding. You don’t have an ingredient list or containers of food with ingredients written on them?” Well, yes, they did, he just didn’t feel comfortable serving food to us. “Why?” he asked, “Is this unusual for you?” “Actually, yes, you are the first person to basically refuse to serve me based on a food allergy. Thank you very much; I’ll take my business elsewhere.” Click.

Yes, I should probably call the owner, I’m sure the pizza would be safe (remember, we’ve ordered from there several other times), and the clueless gentleman (I’m being nice) I talked with on the phone would be reprimanded. At this moment, I don’t have it in me to make that phone call.

It was almost as if the labels on so many foods that read “may contain traces of (insert allergen here)…” came alive and started talking to me! I still hate the fact that so many safe products that my children used to eat now carry this allergy statement. Do you ever feel that there is so much CYA out there that you don’t know what REALLY contains allergens? But who’s willing to risk their child’s health, or life? Not me. I’d rather finish my vacation as a happy, healthy family!

p.s. I called another place unfamiliar to us. This guy was very polite and helpful; even though it turned out we couldn’t order food from them. We did end up finding an acceptable pizza to eat for dinner. All is well.

Posted by Ann Marie at 8:05 PM

July 25, 2006

Even God Wants Us to Eat Safe - Gluten Free Mass?

Here's an interesting story that, to the non-food allergic many, may seem a bit on the humorous side. However, if you are a Christian suffering from Celiac Disease, there is nothing funny about it. It highlights the need for food allergic persons to take their entire environment into account.

* * * * * * *
Source: sundaymirror.co.uk

Churchgoers want gluten-free wafers for communion service
By Niall Donald

Irish mass-goers suffering from a dangerous food allergy are going spiritually hungry... because they are allergic to communion wafers.

More than 40,000 people in Ireland have coeliac disease, and are allergic to cereal-based foods.

But Irish coeliac groups said their members cannot stomach communion wafers because they include gluten. They want gluten-free communion wafers to be avail able at all Irish churches.

Coeliac sufferer Catherine King people said people with the condition are often too embarrassed to ask the priest for wine before mass starts. She said coeliacs cannot drink the sacred wine because the priest breaks a piece of host into it during the service.

She said: "Priests say to go around to the sacristy before mass and ask for permission to receive the wine.

"But most coeliacs don't bother because of embarrassment and they don't want to disturb the priest."

Ms King said she sent a letter to All-Ireland Primate Dr Sean Brady asking for special hosts to be made available for coeliacs.

She said the Carmelites Order are the only Catholic order who cater for coeliacs.

She claimed Church bosses could buy the gluten-free hosts for just 3 cents each.


Posted by David at 5:07 AM

July 23, 2006

A Healthier Cafeteria for Everybody

Many school districts are taking concerns about food allergies and poor eating habits together and developing healthier menus in the school cafeteria and in the classroom.

Many a district's primary concern is food allergies, with peanuts being at the top of the list due to its well-known serious reactions.

And what's a party without a few of mom's homemade cupcakes? If parents want to bring in a plate of brownies or cupcakes for Harvest Day (aka Thanksgiving where we are still able to give thanks), then at least include a list of the ingredients. And here's a hint: peanuts shouldn't be on the list. From a parent's standpoint, I still wouldn't want my child to eat the homemade treat. Mistakes happen and that's just life.

I would rather see parents provide packaged goodies instead, so that teachers can check for food-allergens on the ingredient list.

High-fat snack foods such as chips and processed baked goods are being replaced by baked chips, granola bars and fruit snacks.
And what about soda? In our over-sugared, over-caffinated culture, its no wonder kids in the U.S. are so heavy. Why not just bottled water in the classroom, and water and fruit juices in vending machines at lunch? We should do this because it would benefit the students - both allergic and non-allergic.

Some districts have a wellness committee that includes school board members or administrators, a district food service representative, parents, students and community members. Many districts have gotten a head start. Food service managers and dietitians have been adding healthier foods in cafeterias and vending machines. Students, teachers and parents are being encouraged to change the kind of treats offered at classroom parties and sold in fund-raising events.

We should all be committed to developing healthier food choices and school officials can work alongside teachers and parents to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Posted by David at 3:20 PM

July 20, 2006

A Night on the Town with Child Food Allergies

Tips to ensure restaurant food is safe.

1) Contact the restaurant in advance, and make sure it's a food allergy-friendly establishment.

Listen to the person on the phone - usually the manager - have they had this conversation about food allergies before? You can tell if they are well educated on their menu and are able to reference resources to answer your questions. If they stumble and someone else there cannot get you comfortable, go somewhere else.

2) Be clear that this a life-threatening issue and that you don't want an ambulance ride from the restaurant.

This is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously. The visualization of sirons and flashing lights in front of his/her restaurant paints the seriousness of the situation.

3) When you arrive, talk to the manager and/or chef.

Put a face with the voice and name. Make it personal. Ask about how the ingredients are kept separate and safe. Ask about shared prep surfaces and cooking oils. And, finally, make sure to include your server - they can make or break a safe meal out.

FAAN has many tips on eating out. Read them all. We've also talked about this before. Develop your own going out plan and start your own list of food allergy friendly restaurants... and by all means, share it with us!

Posted by David at 3:05 PM

July 19, 2006

Food Allergies - One More Thing to Blame on Mom and Dad

We know that food allergies have a genetic component. How big a role does genetics play in child food allergies? Pretty big. In fact, you can blame both mom and dear ol' dad.

Research has shown that having one parent with allergies of ANY kind gives the child a risk of 33 percent; both parents having allergies gives the child a 66 percent risk. Now this is not just specific to food allergies. Specific allergies (for example nuts, wheat, pollen, cat) are generally not inherited, just the capacity to be allergic to these things.

Posted by David at 3:01 PM

July 16, 2006

Hooray for Cherrybrook Kitchen's Brownies!

Cherrybrook Kitchen did it again!!! You see, I have a daughter with food allergies and her absolutely favorite dessert is brownies. My home-made brownies are the standby that she takes to every birthday party, school party, potluck, neighborhood get-together, campout, friend’s house, etc. as her safe alternative. It seems to ease the jealousy she feels when everybody else is eating the “dessert of the hour.” I have become pretty good at whipping off a batch of brownies on very short notice. This makes my daughter happy and helps with the whole living-with-food-allergies thing. The problem is that I have another daughter who is allergic to eggs and cannot eat my “absolutely wonderful, you should enter them in a contest” brownies. She sees me bake them often and hears people comment on how good they are. (Trust me, though, I am not a great chef. I just happened to stumble across a good recipe that I tweaked a bit.)

So, I have been trying for years to make an edible, egg-free brownie for my other daughter. I’ve tried many recipes, including FAAN’s recipes, and I just can’t seem to make them work. Cherrybrook Kitchen now has a fudge brownie mix that is egg, dairy, tree nut and peanut free! I made them yesterday and everybody loved them, including my children without allergies and my husband. The look on my daughter’s face almost brought tears to my eyes when she said, “I get to eat brownies now too, just like you guys.” She spends so much of her life hearing, “No, I’m sorry honey, it has (insert allergy here), we’ll get you something else.” I feel happy to say, “Yes, of course you can have a brownie!”

The brownies were easy to make; just add water, margarine and vegetable oil to the mix. It suggested baking the mix for 16 minutes for fudge-like brownies and 18 minutes for cake-like brownies. The brownies seemed too wet after 16 minutes, so I baked them a bit longer. They did resemble cake a bit more than chewy brownies, but tasted good nonetheless. Next time I will try the shorter cook time, let them cool and see if they come out more like a true brownie texture.

For now, my daughter is thrilled that she gets to eat brownies “like everybody else.” I will continue to order from Cherrybrook Kitchen and recommend them to everybody living with food allergies. They are very professional and friendly on the phone and ordering off their website was easy. They continue to add new products all the time. Check them out on the web or call them at 1-866-I-LUV-CBK. I know you’ll find something you like!

Posted by Ann Marie at 8:02 AM

July 11, 2006

Dealing with the Spam

I wanted to put a quick note on our Child Food Allergy blog to apologize to our users. In the past couple of weeks we have received hundreds (if not thousands) of spam track backs and comments. Cleaning this out has turned out to be a major time consuming activity and, in the process, some "real" comments and pings may have been deleted. For that, we apologize.

So, if you know a spammer, smack them on the back of head and ask them to add some value to this world.

Sincerely frustrated with spam,


Posted by David at 3:58 PM

July 7, 2006

Why We Love Mickey Mouse

source: MSNBC.com

For millions of families who visit Central Florida each year, dining on foods such as pizza, hot dogs and milkshakes is all part of the fun.

However, imagine a vacation with a child for whom that list of all-American treats could be a death sentence.

An estimated 150 Americans die each year from severe allergic reactions to food, says Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

"People with a food allergy typically walk around with a little bit of fear all the time," says Editor Ray Formanek Jr. in an essay in FDA Consumer magazine.
Allergy-free fries

But at least one local theme park has taken steps to alleviate those fears for folks who suffer even the most severe food allergies.

Take, for instance, 6-year-old Daniel Clowes, who lives in Pennsylvania.

At 2 days old, he began experiencing hives, eczema and vomiting. His New York specialist says the young boy has more than a dozen food allergies -- some life-threatening -- including milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, peas and mustard. He's unable to eat ice cream, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, hamburger and hot dog buns or pizza.

His mother, Gina Clowes, says it's frightening to think of traveling, staying in a room she hasn't cleaned and sanitized herself and allowing him to eat food someone else had prepared. That's because one night in a hotel room ended in a trip to the emergency room. A previous tenant had left some pistachio shells in the room, and Daniel went into anaphylactic shock.

Gina Clowes says one Orlando-area hotel with a kid-friendly reputation flat-out told her it couldn't help with any of her son's food concerns.

Walt Disney World, however, takes extra care so even those with severe food allergies can visit its properties.

For example, the Clowes family, including husband John and their older son, Steven, just returned from a two-week trip to Disney without a single incident.

They shipped their own food ahead and carried a cooler on the airplane -- "We only fly peanut-free airlines, regardless of the cost," says Gina Clowes -- and stayed in one of Disney's Saratoga Springs villas with a full kitchen.

The family dined at Artist Point, an upscale restaurant at Disney's Wilderness Lodge -- a dining experience which included special food for Daniel and several visits from the restaurant's chef.

Clowes says the chef even asked her a couple of pointed questions she hadn't thought to mention, which convinced her that he understood the seriousness of the issue. "He even made both boys' French fries the same way, so when Daniel snuck some of his brother's fries, it was OK for him to eat them," she says.
'Simply a guest service'

Clowes says many people have a hard time believing food allergies are such a problem. "It's a hidden disability," she says. "They don't know -- but I've seen him react."

Clowes knows of no other company that goes to the length Disney does for families with allergy issues.

In 1993, Walt Disney World began its special diets program as part of its food and beverage department. It all started when Chef Ralph Gosswiler got a call from a guest who suffered from Celiac disease, a gluten intolerance, wondering if Disney had anything on the menu he could eat. Chef Gosswiler prepared the meals in box lunches for the guest.

Today that program has grown -- about 100 percent each year -- to the point that it serves 7,000 to 8,000 meals a month for a wide variety of needs, says Joel Schaefer, manager of the special diets department.

Guests making meal reservations are asked if they have any special dietary needs, and that information is passed on the restaurant staff, who can accommodate up to 15 types of food allergies, as well as requests for low-sodium and kosher diets.

Schaefer works with chefs at each of the hundreds of Disney food locations to provide alternative ingredients that can be used to create allergy-free meals, ranging from soy ice cream to a specially blended batter for the Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles that are a signature breakfast dish.

Disney adds no service fee, even working with families who want to enjoy a buffet by individually preparing the food items the guest selects.

"It's simply a guest service," says Ed Wronski, executive chef for product development in Disney's food and beverage department.


Posted by David at 2:08 PM | Comments (1)

July 6, 2006

The Twinkie Denial Incident

According to this article, food will again be allowed in classrooms in Milford public schools.

Originally the Board told teachers there was to be no food at all in the classroom lesson plans. Simple enough. Now they are tweaking the rules a bit.

Teachers were looking for a simpler way of handing exceptions to the rule. The ideas were recommended by teachers and the school medical staff, once again allowing food in classroom activities (although still no birthday party foods allowed). The kids' parents must sign-off on the policy at the beginning of the school year. The new rules apply only through grade 7.

Then the article goes off on a tagent, just like the politicians...

A controversial change, to allow teachers to provide students with a snack if the child forgets to bring one, was also approved by a 4-2 vote. Committee members Jonathan Bruce, Jose Costa, Patrick Kennelly and William Kingkade Jr., voted to allow teachers to provide the snacks....

"Looking around this table, none of us is starving," Kingkade said on Thursday night. "For a 6-year-old, not to have something to eat, not to be able to share a classmate's Twinkie, it is heartbreaking and something they remember."

Go ahead, you can read that part again. And we wonder why children in the U.S. are so obese?

It reminds me of my own childhood Twinkie denial incident... I knew that there was so much nutrition in that delicious creamy center and with a shelf-life of seven years, how could I be so cruely denied? The scars run deep I tell you.

So, go grab your political representative by the love handles and tell 'em you really care.

Posted by David at 3:33 PM