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September 25, 2008

Allergy Free Food Storage for Everyday Living

I suppose this tip is really only useful for those of us with children who have food allergies, or for anybody with food allergies for that matter. As most of you can probably attest to, I find myself buying different varieties of the same food. For example, bread...for my children and myself without food allergies, I buy 100% whole grain bread, which is usually 100% wheat. But for my daughter who is allergic to wheat, we buy a gluten free loaf. And throw in there a child who doesn't need the extra fiber of the wheat bread, I end up buying a less-than-whole-grain variety of wheat bread as well. In the end, I either end up throwing away a lot of bread or I freeze it.

Here's my trick. I put the bread I want to freeze in a gallon size freezer bag. I cut out the label of the bread, including the ingredient listing and include it in the bag as well. Then when I need to retrieve the bread from the freezer, I know exactly what it is. And Heaven forbid that my daughter ever has an allergic reaction, I will know the details of the food that caused it. Another trick that I read somewhere for thawing bread is to put a piece of paper towel in the bag as the bread defrosts, and the bread never gets soggy. It really works!

Posted by Ann Marie at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2008

Confused about Food Allergy Labels?

WebMD has a good article about the confusion of advisory food labeling. Since 2004, the law states that manufacturers must list the eight major foods or food groups--milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. This is of course totally helpful for those of us avoiding certain foods. Around the same time this law was passed, warning statements started popping up on labels everywhere. Statements like "may contain (allergen)" or "produced on shared equipment that processes (allergen)" are common. To date, there is no labeling requirement for products that might come into contact with allergens during manufacturing.

The WebMD article quotes Scott Mandell, CEO and president of Enjoy Life Natural Brands (which offers gluten-free and allergy-friendly foods), "Advisory warnings are confusing, inconsistent, and do not provide adequate information to make smart and safe decisions."

According to the article, the FDA wants to develop a long-term strategy to help manufacturers "use more truthful, clear, and uniform advisory labels. The agency has addressed the inconsistent use of advisory labeling in the past, and different groups have developed some of their own guidelines, but the public hearing represents a push toward a more unified approach."

Sometimes I believe the "may contain" label, and if it lists an allergen I'm not avoiding, then I figure the food is safe. But other times I'm skeptical and avoid the food entirely. I err on the side of safety (for obvious reasons), but I wonder if I'm limiting my childrens' food selection based on inaccurate information. And so the wonders of food allergies continue...

Posted by Ann Marie at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

September 5, 2008

An unexpected way to carry Epi-Pens

For those of us looking for better ways to carry Epi-Pens, I came across a great idea. My 7th grader began carrying her own Epi-Pens to school this year and so she keeps them in her backpack. We have a fanny pack at home that we've used for over 10 years. It was too bulky to fit in a backpack. We also have a much smaller case which fits 2 Epi-Pens and some Benadryl (tablets, Rapidmelts or perfect pour capsules) perfectly and it's what I use to put in my purse/bag when I take the girls places. My daughter started keeping it in her backpack, which was fine except that I then lost my preferred carrying case.

My daughter's friend gave her a pencil case that came with a backpack that she wasn't going to use. It was the perfect size to fit two Epi-Pens and some Benadryl. The problem was that it looked like a pencil case, not an emergency medication pouch. Preparing for the worst, I imagine my daughter having an allergic reaction and a rescuer going through her backpack looking for clues of what might be happening. A big pouch with the Red Cross or Medic Alert symbol emblazoned across the front seems like it would quickly capture attention.

So, I used bright red fabric paint and painted a large red cross on the outside of the pencil bag. Inside, along with the 2 Epi-Pens and Benadryl, I included an index card with emergency information on it: my daughter's name, allergies, my cell phone number, and a note to call 911. Now my daughter keeps her Epi-Pens in the "pencil case" in her backpack all the time. We have other Epi-Pens that we use after school; you know, to go to friends' houses, sports practices, etc. This way I know that she will always have Epi-Pens with her at school, and not forget them at home on the counter!

Out of curiosity, during my shopping trips for school supplies this year, I kept my eyes open for suitable pencil cases. Surprisingly I found all different pencil cases and even calculator cases that fit 2 Epi-Pens perfectly. Just add a red cross on the side and it's good to go! This of course doesn't work well for those who need to also carry inhalers, which is my other daughter. So now I'm on the look out for that as well!

Posted by Ann Marie at 3:07 PM | Comments (0)