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February 28, 2007

Child Food Allergy Preliminary School Study Results

There was a preliminary study presented by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) addressing the challenges in administering epinepherine to a food allergic child suffering an anaphylactic reaction. Although the study did show an increase in students with food allergies who carry epinephrine, some of the findings are concerning.

Apparently, despite some laws passed, many school principals in MI are unaware of a law allowing children with food allergies to carry EpiPens in school. In fact, more than 1/3 of principals surveyed did not know about it. To make things worse, most schools keep the epinepherine injectors in the front office. So what happens if a food allergic child has an anaphylactic reaction in the classroom or lunchroom? "RUN, FOREST, RUN!"

All kidding aside, c'mon parents! Step up and investigate your own school situation. Don't be statisfied with "front office" solutions. You hope your child will eat his safe lunch and not get exposed to peanuts, milk, or eggs (pick your poison) at the lunch table but don't take the risk. Your schools lunch staff needs to be trained and know where to find the epeinepherine in case of a food allergy reaction.

We parents need to go out to schools to do the training. If you are a parent of a food allergic child, you know very well that the majority of food allergy fatalities occur outside the home. Most of these could have been avoided by proper use epinephrine.

Maybe its time to visit your school again. Let's call it a mid year check up. ;-)

Posted by David at 3:43 PM

February 25, 2007

Author Upsets the Child Food Allergy Community

You may have heard of the author Todd Wilbur, not exactly a friend of the food allergy crowd. Mr. Wilbur recreates restaurant recipes and reprints them in book form. Apparently he's been pretty successful, including a spot on the Oprah show.

Well, anyway, he upset quite a few folks in the child food allergy community by making this comment in a recent article

"On the 'Oprah' show, I faked a food allergy to get the T.G.I. Friday's Jack Daniel's grill glaze ingredients."

Oh boy, faking a food allergy? You shouldn't have done that, Mr. Wilbur. Here is what some parent said online...

"What's next in you career, feigning CANCER? Do copyright laws mean nothing to you? Why aren't you in jail?"

"...How dare u pretend to be allergic to something and make all this money while many of us have children who are very allergic to foods. ... Wake up and think of other people in this world not just your own."

"...I spend a lot of time contacting manufacturers, trying to find out if there is something in their products that would kill my child. I never understood why many manufacturers would ask for a doctor's note to release information on ingredients. After reading this article about Mr. Wilbur making a mockery of life threatening food allergies, I now know why it is so difficult to gather information to keep my child safe. This man should be ashamed of himself."

"...I have spent hours on the phone with companies making sure that the product won't kill my son. This just makes it harder for me to get the information I need to keep my son alive and healthy."

"Talk about self-serving!!! How could you PRETEND to have food allergies basically to STEAL recipes for profit? You should be ashamed of yourself. Did you ever stop to think that by doing this you might actually make it more difficult for the parents of children who really and truly suffer from food allergies to keep their children safe....and even alive?..."

STRONG reaction from food allergy parents. And I have to agree on this one. First off, the restaurant biz is hard enough but I'll leave the copywrite issues alone... I am much more concerned about using a real, life-threatening condition under false pretenses to gather proprietary information.

Mr. Wilbur, your methods make our lives as food allergy parents more difficult and we ask that you stop using that data collection method. And Oprah? Well, guests like this are likely not adding to your fan base.

Posted by David at 9:42 PM | Comments (2)

February 19, 2007

Restaurant Takes Lead in Food Allergy Friendly Menus

Here's a press release from the casual dining chain Damons. I hit the site and checked out the online menu - pretty slick.

Source: PRNewswire

For the millions of food allergy sufferers, dining out can be a life or death decision. Even the hint of a known allergen in a "secret sauce" can find them among the 30,000 people a year seeking help in hospital emergency rooms.

To better accommodate the evolving needs of today's guests, Damon's Grill is introducing a healthy dining strategy, focusing on potential food allergen disclosures, additional low-calorie menu items and a transition to trans fat- free oils.

Allergen listings now are available through a link. Restaurant servers also can provide allergy information.

Damons.com guests will find an interactive allergy information tool in the lower left corner of the "Our Menu" page. It allows them to select any of the restaurant's items and view potential allergens. Before launching the allergy information page this month, a nutrition consultant analyzed the ingredients in nearly 250 Damon's appetizers, salads, salad dressings, soups, side items, entrees, sandwiches, kids' menu, beverages, condiments and desserts.

"Few casual dining chains offer allergy sufferers and those with other dietary restrictions easy access to the information they need," said Carl Howard, president. "Damon's is taking the lead because our guests asked for the information, and we want to support their efforts to lead healthier lives."

Food allergies trigger a person's immune system to mistakenly attack otherwise harmless proteins, as if they were diseases. The most common foods evoking reactions are: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp), soy, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans). Reactions can range from a tingling sensation to difficulty breathing or death. Symptoms appear anywhere from within minutes after ingesting the substance to two hours later.


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

February 16, 2007

Massachusetts Considering Legislation for Food Allergy Safe Restaurants

A reader sent us a link to an article regarding legislation pending at the MA State House that calls for food allergy training for restaurant workers. It also requires the addition of a tag line on menus asking customers with allergies to alert their servers prior to ordering, and the prominent display in restaurant kitchens of a poster showing the most common food allergens, as well as information on how to avoid cross-contamination.

I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not. Would this give parents a false sense of security? This comes back to the concept of "real restaurants" vs. fast food joints. McDonalds and Burger King have a pretty controlled process to kick out their meals (this is by no means a healthy alternative but at least you know what you are getting). Other restaurants can provide a greater variety and sometime healthier meals. Along with that, though, is the risk of cross contamination.

The debate rages as to what restaurants should be doing for the food allergic community. The article says that New Jersey is the only state other than Massachusetts with food allergy restaurant legislation currently pending.

The article also goes on to talk about the Restaurant Association puting up a fight. I understand the difficulties in running a small business and adding work only makes it harder to make money. On the other hand, if a server or a chef promises a safe meal and the dining experience turns life threatening, a lawsuit is sure to follow. And lawsuits can make or break a small restaurant.

Would some extra training and posting of information really be all that bad? Seems to me like a good way to go for the restaurant owners. That said, I still don't know how much I would trust the culinary creativity of a fine restaurant with my child's food allergies. We've ventured as far as the chain sit-down restaraunts like Outback Steakhouse and The Yard House. Maybe we should keep a running tab of safe restaurant chains where our readers have had good dining experiences with theif food allergic children. If you have a good story, let us know.

Posted by David at 12:06 PM | Comments (2)

February 14, 2007

Eating out - a reader's perspective

Laura sent us a comment regarding dining out with child food allergies. Frankly, her post is just too good to sit in the comments section. So, here are her thoughts in their entirety... thanks, Laura!

We don't really dine out because of my daughter's multiple allergies. I've never had the feeling that any business should be required to accommodate our situation (but who knows how I might have felt if peanut had always been the only allergen we needed to avoid). That being said, we do take a risk by eating at McDonald's occasionally. It's a crappy dining experience, but works well with my daughter's specific allergies and allergen tolerances to order a burger with no bun and fries. She has always tolerated a meal at McDonald's, so to give ourselves a break on occasion we'll eat there. If she had a reaction afterwards, I would feel I only had myself to blame. But that's me. I did yell at the teenaged cook staff there once when I sent back a burger with a bun for a replacement, and watched them just pull the burger off the bun. It was months before I felt up to trying it again. Now I'm very careful to watch them preparing her meal.

I've always felt a bit mystified about why people with deadly allergies would eat out in "real restaurants," but that is because of my own unique perspective. Even if my daughter does outgrow her other allergies, she will most likely always be peanut allergic. I don't know how we'll handle that in the future. Someday, when she has a career, she may even feel like she has no choice but to eat out for business meetings and special events. She'll be her own person and she'll make decisions for herself, just as the woman in this article did. If, after questioning staff, a person felt assured they could dine safely, who is responsible if a reaction occurs? Should all restaurants decline to serve allergic customers? Will all allergy sufferers feel comfortable never eating out? There are no easy answers.

I think a very interesting issue brought up in the article is that of the "pretenders" and the mildly intolerant. My son is gluten-intolerant, not celiac or allergic. Eating it makes him gassy (and that's unpleasant for us all), so we generally avoid it (and since we are wheat free for my daughter, this is very easy to do). I know it can be confusing for people to hear him say one day that he can't have something, and another time hear that we made an exception. For years I wouldn't make exceptions, *ever,* but now I do, for him, and someday he'll be that kind of diner (like the one mentioned who said he couldn't have wheat, but then asked for a second slice of bread!) I imagine my son will make dining decisions that won't overload his body with gluten, but will indulge himself. I agree this is confusing to the general public. One thing we've always done is to be very careful about always referring to his situation as an intolerance. I won't even let people make comparisons to my daughter's IgE-mediated anaphylactic allergy to wheat. They are entirely different. My son corrects people who refer to his situation as an allergy. I might not have been so careful to establish this habit if we hadn't already been dealing with my daughter's serious allergies.

Posted by David at 8:29 AM | Comments (1)

February 8, 2007

What was she thinking? A peanut allergy dining mishap

Once again I've read something that just doesnt make sense. A woman with a peanut allergy went into a Thai restaurant and asked for a peanut free dish...

[she] informed the waiters at a Thai restaurant in Newtown of her allergy, ordered dishes unlikely to have peanut in them and was reassured repeatedly that there were no nuts in her meal. Nonetheless there was peanut in her food and her allergic reaction was so severe she was left with permanent brain damage. Townsend was 32 at the time and a mother of two young children. In 2000, the restaurant paid an undisclosed sum, out of court, for her ongoing medical care.

Does anyone see the root of the problem here? I'm pretty sure the woman is in the wrong for going into an Thai place and asking for assurance there wouldn't be peanut in her meal. Can you spell cross contamination? Sure, it can happen anywhere but the ODDS of it happening in a Thai restaurant must be 100 times greater than in a burger joint.

To top it off, the restaurant paid "an undisclosed sum" to her. I hope that undislosed sum is less than $100. Should the restaurant have promised anything to a person with a food allergy, especially peanut allergy? No, probably not.

Sometimes its simply a case of buyer beware. Let's be more than safe; let's be smart.

Posted by David at 7:00 PM | Comments (2)