April 14, 2009
Eating Out with Food Allergies - a close call
A recent news article caught my attention, and I'm sure those parents dealing with their child's food allergies will agree with me: eating out can be a scary thing. We teach our kids that their food allergies do not need to keep them from doing things they really want to do, yes, like eating out with friends. So many times we've all talked with chefs, wait staff, looked up ingredients on line, etc. etc. For our family, we tend to eat out only at a handful of restaurants, so we can be as confident as possible with trusting another person in preparing our child's food.
The news article referred to a close call that happened at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.
"Earlier this summer, Sharon Brigner's son Brandon was one of many children who had an extremely close call. On June 11 at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in northern Virginia, Brigner told ABCNews.com that her son had a severe allergic reaction to egg after eating several mozzarella sticks that unknowingly contained the food he was allergic to.
Brigner said this week that the reaction happened despite her son's nanny asking the manager of the kid-friendly restaurant twice whether the food contained egg, and being reassured by the manager that it did not."
It's true, as FAAN says, "We're all in this together." We can check and double check, and in the end, it's all about educating those around us.
January 11, 2008
Thoughts on our children with food allergies
As we parents of children with food allergies know, it’s easy to get in a rut of feeling sorry for ourselves. Thoughts of “Why me?” and “Why my child?” occasionally linger in the back of our minds. We all agree that it definitely takes extra effort to keep our children with food allergies safe. For example, going to the movies and out for lunch is easy enough, but it still takes some planning ahead. With the recent holidays and all of the activities, I guess I was beginning to feel overloaded with food allergy issues. What will be at the party? Should I try to bring similar foods for my daughters, something that makes them feel special instead of left out? Do I bake just one cake and say, “Sorry, you can’t have it” or bake an extra cake so she can eat what everyone else is eating? Do we just skip the party completely because it feels easier than figuring out the food?
I had kind of an eye opener today. I took my children and one of their friends to the movies and then out for lunch. I made sure I had the Epi-Pens in tow. We didn’t have anything to eat at the movies, which isn’t entirely out of the norm. (although we occasionally bring in our own snacks hidden in my backpack - which is another whole discussion!!). When the movie finished, we headed over to a nearby restaurant. Here’s the catch, my daughter’s friend, Elisa, has Juvenile Diabetes (the insulin dependent kind). We’ve known her for years and I am familiar with her eating/insulin regimen. So, as the rest of the families at the restaurant were thinking about what sounded good to eat, I was thinking about how many carbs Elisa needed and how quickly our food would be served. Yes, I still asked about the ingredients and possible nut and egg contamination, but somehow food allergies didn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. A possible hypoglycemic event seemed a bit more urgent.
It’s true, you can always find someone else whose life seems easier. But can’t you also find those who have more difficult crosses to bear? I’m glad my perspective changed a bit. It’s refreshing! And it reminds me to be thankful for the life I have, even if it does mean I that I need to plan ahead a bit.
July 30, 2007
Taking a Peanut Allergy to a Ballgame
I went to a ballgame with my food allergic 11 year old daughter last week and before the game we enjoyed a fun dinner for two. It made me think about how things with her peanut allergy have changed for us over the years.
My oldest daughter likes baseball and steak. When I offered to take her downtown for a Padres game and wonderful steak dinner, she lit up like a Christmas tree. Of course going to a ballgame means peanuts; lots and lots of peanuts (did I mention she is allergic?). Add to that dining out a high end restaurant (forget a menu with a full list of ingredients) and you've got a possible sticky situation.
Now, if you've been reading ChildFoodAllergy.com for awhile, you know that we tend to err on the safe and reasonable side of things. We don't compare peanuts to rat poison and we don't think the whole world should change its way of living just for our daughters. This outing pushed the boundaries of my regular standards.
I made a reservation and let them know about the nut allergy then. We arrived at The Palm and our hostess, Sarah, treated us well. She told both our server and the chef about the nut allergy. Kim, our server, brought the sourdough bread because she knew there were no nuts in it. We asked about the steak, salad and fries and were assured all were safe - we were off to a great start. The beer (and soda) were cold and the food was excellent. **** (four stars)
Then came the ballgame. Look, baseball and nuts just go together and my buddy's seats are unbelievable - no nosebleed section for us today. We approached the whole experience with a sense of excitement and in a relaxed fashion. If I stressed over the allergy, my daughter would have picked up on that right away.
So, here's what we did. We strapped the epi-pens on and found our seats. When we got there, I struck up a friendly conversation with the couple behind us. They were having a great time and were happy to see a youngster there to enjoy the game - they were pulling for her to catch a ball tossed into the stands by a player on his way to the dugout. We talked for awhile and then I mentioned my daughter's severe peanut allergy. I said, "Can I ask a favor of you?" The usual polite response is "Sure" and that is exactly what they said. "My daughter has a severe peanut allergy. If she comes in contact with one, we'll likely end up at the hospital tonight. I'm sure you are planning on having some at the game tonight, could I just ask that you be really careful with the shells and maybe put them in a bag instead of tossing them on the floor?" The woman said, "Oh, I'm not having any nuts tonight." The gentleman responded, "So, I can have them, just don't toss them down?" That's right. "Okay, no problem."
Now, I know not all baseball fans would be that receptive. Had the people behind us been callous toward the food allergy, we would have simply found other seats. It would not be worth the risk of someone experimenting with my daughters peanut allergy. This night went perfectly (well, except she didn't walk away with a game ball). I am so thankful for these times with my daughters. Soon enough, they won't want to spend all this time with dear ol' dad.
Any restaurant that treats the child food allergy community well deserves a plug. A bit about The Palm... many locations across the US. Been in biz for over 80 years and renowned for its aged USDA prime steaks, jumbo lobsters, and warm smiles.
July 24, 2007
Divvies Gets Some Good Press
Our friends over at Divvies got some good press earlier this month. Read the story here.
Its great to see these allergen free food companies making such progress. Its true that these snacks cost more. For our family, they are a blessing when it comes to being able to take a quick, allergen-free snack on the go.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 3, 2006
Special Events Require Special Menus
by Jana Skarnulis
Jana Skarnulis was diagnosed with celiac disease — a digestive disorder triggered by the protein gluten — in 2005 and has had to give up one of the benefits of her job as an event planner — the tastings. She now helps chefs design menus when a food allergy or special diet is a concern. Here, she offers tips on adapting event menus for guests with food issues who are still eager to join the party.
As professionals in the special event industry, it is our job to transform the clients' visions into perfection. Often, special events means tackling special needs. With the increasing incidence of food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities, special needs mean special diets. Even so, creating menus that “wow” the clients and cater to their guests can be achieved easily.
Preparation is the key to success. There is nothing worse than a guest showing up to a dinner and having to wait while a special meal is prepared. The table of attendees sits and waits for the missing plate, while the guest with the special diet anxiously shifts in his or her seat, and the wait staff apologizes for the delay. At last the plate of food arrives, and it usually arouses either envy or pity.
We can avert this by doing one simple thing: A response card should accompany all invitations. Adding a sentence of inquiry on all response cards asking for information on “special dietary needs” would be a great problem-solver. Being properly prepared is half the battle! Using such a card means we know before the event that there are special dietary needs, and we know who has them.
Printed menus are exquisite. They add an element of elegance to any event. But take them a step further — not only list the courses but also the ingredients within the courses. Let the guests who may not have expressed their nutritional concerns on their RSVP have the opportunity to make individual choices in keeping with their dietary concerns.
Posted by David at 1:41 PM
September 21, 2006
Food Safety Symposium Includes Food Allergies
Food Safety Symposium by Ecolab and Nation's Restaurant News Brings Leaders Together During Food Safety Month
source: Business Wire
ST. PAUL, Minn.--Avian flu, foodborne illness, terrorism threats and food allergy awareness were among the significant issues on tap at the Ecolab-sponsored Nation's Restaurant News Food Safety Symposium on September 15-17 at the Charlotte, N.C., campus of Johnson & Wales University. This first annual two-day event was held as part of National Food Safety Education Month in September and attracted foodservice operators interested in food safety, security and quality assurance.
"Food safety is one of the most significant challenges faced by our industry today. Ecolab believes it is important to partner with Nation's Restaurant News in bringing together top companies and leaders to share our combined knowledge and experiences, and collaborate on solutions that benefit everyone," said Katherine M.J. Swanson, vice president of food safety for Ecolab. "Ecolab is committed to helping customers recognize potential food safety threats before they become major problems. Our 360(degrees) of Protection(TM) program applies a comprehensive approach to help protect the most critical aspects of foodservice operations, and the Food Safety Symposium complements the work we do every day with the goal of using our collective intellect to discover new food safety innovations."
The keynote speaker at the Symposium on Sept. 16 was Steven F. Grover, vice president of food safety, quality assurance and regulatory compliance with Burger King Brands. In his address, "Food Safety and Risk Management: What You Need to Know," Grover provided a big picture presentation covering current food safety issues affecting the foodservice industry such as Avian flu, foodborne illness (E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, norovirus), terrorism, BSE (mad cow disease), foot-and-mouth disease and food allergy awareness and alert strategies.
Other topics at the Symposium included a panel discussion on "Best Practices in Supply Chain Management," moderated by Peter Romeo, executive editor of NRN Online, featuring Ecolab's Swanson; a panel discussion on "Best Practices in Food Safety at the Unit Level," moderated by Al Liddle, managing editor of conference and technology at NRN; "Crisis Management" and "Solutions Oriented Roundtable Discussions." In addition, the attendees participated in an interactive hands-on workshop on the Johnson & Wales campus in Charlotte, where they cooked their own dinner with an emphasis on implementing best practices in food safety.
With 2005 sales of $4.5 billion, Ecolab is the leading global developer and marketer of premium cleaning, sanitizing, pest elimination, maintenance and repair products and services for the hospitality, foodservice, healthcare and industrial markets.
Ecolab shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ECL. Ecolab news releases and other investor information are available on the Internet at ecolab.com.
Posted by David at 10:02 AM
September 12, 2006
More than Just Common Sense is Required When Eating Out
"Takeaway dish nearly killed me." That's a quote from an article about a woman who ate take out Chinese food after being told it should be safe.
Rebecca Dale, 24, who lives in Broxbourne, suffered a severe allergic reaction when she ate food contaminated with peanuts from Taste Of China in High Street, Hoddesdon.
Miss Dale says she stressed her potentially fatal condition to the takeaway when she placed her order over the phone. She ordered one of the set meals, but asked for the single dish containing nuts - satay chicken - to be swapped for something else or left out altogether. The member of staff reassured her that everything would be OK.
But Miss Dale ended up eating a spare rib that had been separated and hidden from a nut-containing satay chicken meal by just a lettuce leaf.
Her mouth, throat, tongue and lips all swelled up and her boyfriend, Stuart Bates, 26, called an ambulance, but an adrenaline injection and ice reduced the swelling and she did not need to go to hospital.
Miss Dale, who has had her allergy since birth, said: "I could have died. It really did frighten me.
"If they couldn't guarantee that it was going to be nut-free then they shouldn't have taken my order."
I'm sure Miss Dale is an intelligent woman who has successfully managed her severe food allergies for years. When I read stories like this, I can't help but think, "It's Chinese food! What did you expect?"
I would consider taking my daughters with peanut allergy to an Asian restaurant if that particular establishment advertised a 100% peanut free menu. That is - they catered to the food allergy public. But a regular Chinese menu is going to be filled with peanut and other nut products. So, why take the risk?
Add this to the list of things in life I just don't understand.
Posted by David at 11:26 AM
August 29, 2006
Chef serves up special menu for allergy sufferers
Chef serves up special menu for allergy sufferers
by HEATHER GREENWOOD DAVIS
Chicago—When Dominique Tougne slides into the seat across from me at Bistro 110, he is wearing his trademark chef's jacket and a grin from ear to ear.
Before I even open my notebook, the executive chef of the saucy neighbourhood restaurant located just off the famous Magnificent Mile reaches into his pocket and pulls out his latest gift from a happy patron: a pair of Popsicle sticks bound together with lilac string.
It's from a child who enjoyed his meal and while Tougne is clearly pleased with the gift, it's not his favourite.
The gift he loves most comes from families who trust him with the lives of their children and lately it has happened quite often.
Just about a week ago, a 7-year-old girl with a peanut allergy ate dinner in his restaurant.
"It was the first time in her life that they went to eat outside (their home)," he stresses, leaning across the table. "The first time. In seven years!"
The fact that they chose Bistro 110 no longer surprises Tougne, who works tirelessly to ensure that the restaurant caters to people who suffer from food allergies of all kinds.
It's an area of the population that has been largely ignored by the restaurant community despite statistics that show 1.5 per cent of adults and up to 6 per cent of children under the age of 3 in America — about four million people — have food allergies of some sort.
In Canada, an estimated 5 per cent of children are afflicted.
The parents of these children often struggle with feeding them at home, never mind at a restaurant, explains Tougne.
He should know.
Posted by David at 10:21 AM
August 14, 2006
MA Senate approves food allergy bill
The Massachusetts Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill sponsored by Senator Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, to require food allergy training for restaurant managers and to increase awareness of the safety issues surrounding complications from food allergies for all restaurant personnel. The bill, entitled An Act Promoting Food Allergy Awareness in Restaurants, was adopted by a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Senator Creem was inspired to file this legislation by a young constituent who suffers from food allergies. Julia Stern, who was still in high school when she first sought the assistance of Senator Creem, is a Newton resident who found it difficult to dine at restaurants.
"This is very significant step in the process of food allergy awareness - an issue affecting more and more Americans each year," said Stern. "I believe it will bring great peace of mind to the thousands of Massachusetts residents who would simply like to eat in a restaurant without the fear of hidden ingredients or misunderstandings. I urge the House to pass this potentially life-saving bill."
In addition to Stern, Ming Tsai, celebrity chef/owner of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley also took up the cause.
Senator Creem's bill would require that food allergy training be included as part of the food safety manager certification course. Additionally, it mandates the posting in restaurant staff areas of a poster providing general information on food allergies as they relate to food preparation, and it would require menus to include a statement that the customer should inform the wait staff of any food allergy issues.
Posted by David at 10:13 AM
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 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 7, 2006
Why We Love Mickey Mouse
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.
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.
June 8, 2006
Restaurant Provides a Gluten-Free Menu
People who have a hard time finding something to eat in a restaurant can breathe easy at Beyond the Grain.
The West Des Moines eatery, which has six employees and seats 42, specializes in foods that can be tolerated by people with gluten allergies, vegetarians and diabetics. The restaurant has a full menu, including pastries, pizza, sandwiches, pasta and seafood.
Customers can order breakfast, lunch and dinner, or pick up baked goods to go.
Una Morgan opened Beyond the Grain in December with business partner Natalie Kepford.
Morgan, 50, has a food allergy. Kepford, 42, does not, although she and Morgan have been friends a long time. Morgan said Kepford understands what it's like to have what Morgan calls "the affliction."
Posted by David at 1:36 PM
March 7, 2006
Flying peanut safe
In recent years, some airlines have replaced peanut snacks with less-controversial pretzels. For updates to the list of peanut free airlines, visit the The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network's website www.foodallergy.org.
For example, American, United, Northwest, JetBlue, Spirit and ATA are peanut-free. We usually fly US Airways-America West who serve both peanuts or pretzels. What? We actually fly an airlines that serves peanuts? Are we crazy? Well, hold on a minute. Let's discuss our decision.
First, we have become comfortable that our kids will not react from airborne peanut allergen. So, if there is "peanut dust" in the ventilation system of a plane, it hasn't affect our children. Second, we clean our seats when we board. Families with kids usuallly board early, so that gives a chance to wipe down the seats, arm rests and tray tables with antibacterial wipes. We also bring our own food every time. I know, its tough to pass up that fine airline cuisine but we do it.
Finally, we pack injectable epinephrine (Epi Pen) just in case. We "don't leave home without it." Our kids have racked up some frequent flier miles, so we've gained some good experience in flying with child food allergies. It can be done safely, so take heart.
February 21, 2006
What should McDonalds do now?
So now at least 3 families are going after fast food giant McDonalds over its announcement last week that its french fries contain wheat and milk.
One suffers from celiac disease and is seeking unspecified damages for gastrointestinal symptoms. Another is a vegan and is suing claiming that she would not have eaten the fries had she known they contained milk. And another family has a wheat-intolerant young daughter, who got pretty sick after eating the fries.
All of this came about due to McDonalds updating the ingredients likst on its website. The changes on the web were made following the new law regarding labelling that came into effect in January thanks to the US Food and Drug Administration. The new law requires companies to label common food allergens in their products.
So, what should McDonalds do now? How does this affect a pretty good relationship between the fast food companies and food allergy sufferers? Does this resemble the spilled coffee incident? McDonalds is a pretty big target with deep pockets.
Posted by David at 2:52 PM
December 30, 2005
Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea Possible Peanut Contamination
Starbucks Coffee Company is issuing a food allergy alert regarding two lot codes of its Tazo Chai Full Leaf tins due to a possible contamination with peanut protein.
The affected Tazo Chai Full Leaf tins were distributed into a limited number of grocery stores in Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii. At this time, there are no more than 50 tins that have not yet been retrieved by the Company.
The Tazo Chai Full Leaf tins were distributed in 3.0 ounce size tins. The two impacted lot codes are L06OCT2005 and L08NOV2005. The lot code can be found on a white sticker with black lettering on the bottom of the tin.
You can contact Starbucks customer relations at 800-235-2883 for more information.
Posted by David at 2:29 PM
December 22, 2005
New food allergen labeling law takes effect Jan 1st
Starting January 1st, food labels will have to disclose in plain language, whether products contain food allergens. The welcome law will take some of the interpretation and uncertainty in understanding the ingredients list. In other words, off the beaten path ingredients, such as casenite, will be clearly labeled (in this case, milk).
The new federal law will require labels to list ingredients from proteins, from any of the eight major food allergens. They include milk, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat and soybeans.
Although this new law helps with buying groceries, it will have an ancillary benefit in that if you ask restaurant workers to check ingredients, it will make it easier for them to report back what they found (or for you to read the label yourself, when there is a question).
Posted by David at 10:51 AM
December 2, 2005
More on Food Buddy Card - some issues
I went out to FoodAllergyBuddy.com and tried the service. It works but not without flaws.
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Finally, the output is cute but hardly ground breaking. Here's an example output.
In fact, I would go as far as to say the card may complicate things at the restaurant. In my opinion, the picture, the disclamer and National Restaurant Association logo takes away attention from the vital information. Finally, when you go to print, the page with the 8 cards gets cut off on the bottom and starts another page. It's not formatted correctly.
So, go ahead and play with the tool if you want. You may find it useful; just expect a few glitches in the process.
Posted by David at 12:17 PM
October 5, 2005
Eating out with child food allergies
With two kids that have severe food allergies, eating out (as you might guess) is a bit of a challenge. When we decide to go out (very rarely on whim), we have a handful of restaurants that have earned our trust over the years. Those that have answered our many questions with confidence after going back in the kitchen and reading ingredient labels. Some of the better ones have even brought the labels up front to double check with us.
For the most part, we find restaurant staff pretty helpful with child food allergies. It’s not always easy. Sometimes a waiter just won't get it and you can usually tell. Then we talk to the manager and explain that a kitchen mix-up could lead to the ambulance at the restaurant front door and our child in anaphylactic shock. That usually gets their attention. We ask a lot of questions as our kids have peanut allergies among others. Sure peanuts are not listed as an ingredient, but do you fry anything in peanut oil? What about the fries, are they fried in the same vat as the egg-based batter used on the chicken strips?
One piece of good news is because we don’t eat out much, we eat healthier and probably save a bunch of money (although we’ve never calculated the “savings” from having a child food allergy). ;-)
Posted by David at 9:27 AM