Monday, June 16, 2008

Hidden Allergens in Unexpected Places

Last week, our Davis County Chapter of UFAN had our monthly meeting. As usually happens, our discussion bounced from topic to topic like a 6-year-old on a Skittles overdose. We tossed around ideas for dealing with nursery and preschool teachers who just can’t seem to grasp the concept of keeping unsafe snacks out of the reach of toddlers. We talked about how some parents of classmates will always forget and send in peanut butter no matter how many times they’re reminded. Then we talked about the unexpected places we’ve found food allergens.

I’ve been dealing with my son’s peanut and tree nut allergies for eight years now, but I still learn new things to worry about. The new danger I learned about at last week’s meeting? Top soil. Apparently, nut manufacturers have to do something with all those nut shells, so they grind them and mix them into top soil, potting soil, or even some fertilizers. I guess I never thought about what happens to all those shells. I’m all for recycling and conservation, but the thought of ground-up nut shells under my son’s feet makes me more than a little worried.

Here are some other unexpected places where our support group’s members have found food allergens, especially nuts, milk, and eggs:

• Body lotions, creams, and moisturizers
• Exfoliants
• Shampoos and conditioners
• Soap
• Shaving creams
• Makeup
• Nail polish fast-dry
• Household cleaners
• Toothpaste
• Dentist office toothpaste and polishes
• Vaccinations and shots (many are egg-based)
• Bird seed
• The sand in sand & water tables (often uses crushed nut shells)
• Livestock bedding
• Beanbags (including some beanbag chairs, hacky sacks, etc.)
• Ant traps and mousetraps
• Potpourris
• Scented candles

I found a similar, but even more comprehensive list, on the website for F.A.I.T.H., an Alabama-based food allergy group.

After you’ve lived with food allergies for a while, reading ingredients labels on grocery items becomes second nature. But Wednesday’s meeting reminded me that I have to remember to read labels on everything my son comes into contact with, not just the things he eats.

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