Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Food Safety Bill Passes Congress!

by Kelley Lindberg

Great news! On Dec. 21, the food safety bill called the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA) was passed by Congress. This act will create voluntary but badly needed national guidelines for managing food allergies in schools.

Timed to coincide with FAAMA’s passage, USA Today printed a special supplement last week devoted entirely to food allergy. The USA Today Food Allergy supplement includes short, concise, and informative articles on the difference between intolerance and allergy, the latest treatment studies, how to recognize a reaction, tips for celebrating the New Year safely, a personal experience from chef and FAAN spokesperson Ming Tsai. It also includes ads and coupons for food-allergy-friendly manufacturers.

Chris Weiss, VP of Advocacy and Government Relations at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), sent out a letter to FAAN members explaining why FAAMA is so important, and why this is such good news for us. Here is what Chris says:

Members of the food allergy community:

This is Chris Weiss, FAAN's VP of Advocacy and Government Relations, and I'd like to share some GREAT NEWS!

Five years after the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA) was introduced in the U.S. Congress, FAAMA has finally passed as part of the food safety bill and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

FAAMA was originally introduced into Congress back in 2005 as part of FAAN's inaugural Kids' Congress on Capitol Hill.

Five years later, and after overcoming some last-minute procedural hurdles during the lame duck session, the food safety bill was approved by the Senate on Dec. 19, and then by the House on Dec. 21.

FAAMA will lead to the much-needed creation of national food allergy management guidelines for schools. While these guidelines are voluntary, they will provide schools without existing food allergy management policies with a valuable resource.

These policies are critical to help educate school officials about food allergy, a potentially life-threatening medical condition, and help them implement emergency plans in case a severe reaction occurs on school grounds. Studies have shown that up to 25% percent of reactions in school occur in children with previously undiagnosed food allergy.

Earlier this month, a fatal reaction occurred at a school in Chicago, allegedly due to food that was consumed at school.

The guidelines will also benefit parents of children with food allergies, who are looking for a vetted resource to help them safely manage their child’s food allergies in the school setting.

Written in collaboration with FAAN, the national guidelines will not supersede existing or pending state laws or guidelines concerning schools and food allergies. The FAAMA guidelines should be seen as a complement to existing guidelines created as a result of other legislation.

This tremendous accomplishment was made possible by the thousands of individuals who advocated for this legislation and many elected representatives who co-sponsored FAAMA over the years, most notably Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), whose daughter has a food allergy, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has a grandchild with a food allergy.

We celebrate the passage of FAAMA today, but our work is not done. FAAN will continue to work diligently to raise awareness, educate others, and advocate on behalf of the millions of Americans with food allergy and anaphylaxis.

I'd personally like to thank all of you who took the time to contact your Senator(s) and Representative in support of FAAMA, along with the hundreds of families who attended the FAAN Kids' Congress on Capitol Hill in 2005, 2007, and 2009. We couldn't have done it without you.

Thank you!
And many thanks to the folks at FAAN who pushed for 5 years to make this happen. What a great way to ring in a new year…

Monday, December 20, 2010

Survive Those Holiday Gatherings with Food Allergies!

by Kelley Lindberg

The winner of my Allergy-Friendly Soup Recipe Contest is… drum roll, please… “K” and her recipe for “Tortilla and Lime Soup” on Epicurean.com. So K, please contact me at kjplindberg@earthlink.net and we’ll work out the details of getting your prize to you.

(The winner was chosen in a random drawing from everyone who posted a soup recipe on my blog. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the recipes in the comments for the last 2 weeks. They all look super-delicious!)

Christmas is less than a week away now. If your holiday celebrations include visits with family and friends, you may be worried about the kind of food you’ll be surrounded by, and whether those celebrations will be safe for the food-allergic members of your family. Here are some tips I’ve found that might help.

1. If you’re going to a pot-luck, volunteer to bring a dessert. Those are usually the most likely to contain all the things you’re allergic to (nuts, dairy, etc.), so if you bring the dessert, you can control it.

2. Call the hostess and mention your food allergy. It’s not rude – trust me, most hostesses would rather serve something everyone can eat than spend a lot of time making something and THEN discovering that you can’t eat it. That’s more rude, if you think about it.

3. If it’s your child that’s allergic, take a lunch sack of safe food for him or her. No one wants to have a child suddenly get sick at a family event – or worse, have to be rushed to the ER. So don’t be embarrassed. Pack and take a simple meal for your child to eat, so you and your hostess don’t have to worry. I used to make up a package of sliced turkey, safe crackers, grapes, and other cold finger foods for my son, and I called them “Mom’s Lunchables,” like those prepackaged things at the store (but safer!). My son liked it just fine, and hostesses completely understood.

4. Of course, keep your EpiPens and Benadryl or Claratin handy, just in case.

5. Remind other parents to make sure their kids wash their hands after eating unsafe foods “to keep Johnny safe.” Most kids are much better than adults at understanding and wanting to keep a food-allergic buddy safe, so if you remind them to wash their hands, they usually will willingly. Don’t be shy. Shy never helped anyone.

6. Make a deal with your kid. Before going to a party, I would promise my son that if he couldn’t eat some of the treats there, that we’d have a special treat when we got home instead. He’s not big on delayed gratification, but he was still able to process in his mind that Mommy would make up for it later, and he has always been okay with skipping foods at a party.

7. Make a big show of thanking people who bring safe food to the party. It will make them happy and more determined to bring safe things again to the next party, and it might make those who didn’t bring safe foods think twice the next time. You never want to shame anyone, but positive reinforcement really does work!

8. Understand that people forget, they get spacey, they make mistakes. They don't usually do things to be mean on purpose. So don't be nasty if someone brings something unsafe. But you don't have to stay in an unsafe environment, either. You can always say, "We didn't want to miss the opportunity to stop in and say hi, but we can't stay." Then leave. It's okay. You've made an appearance, you've fulfilled your obligation. It's your holiday. You have the right to spend it in ways that make you happy, not in ways that make you nervous or upset. Then go drive around and look at Christmas lights. Spend time with your children. Watch a movie together. Remember what Christmas is all about. Relax.

Got any other tips for surviving holiday gatherings? Be sure you share them with us!

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, and a Wonderful Everything! (Hanukkah is already over, but I hope you had a great one of those, too!)


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Allergy-Free Soup Recipe Contest Continuing

by Kelley Lindberg

There’s about an inch of snow outside this morning, which is making my son really happy. Just yesterday he was asking if I thought we’d have a white Christmas this year. Today’s snow may not last until Christmas, but it does make the world lovely, soft, and more beautiful – at least for a while.

So, while I’m looking at the frosty world outside, I’m still hankering for some new soup recipes. Many thanks to Julie for posting her delicious-looking recipe for White Chili – if you haven’t seen it yet, go to the Comments from last week’s post.

Now, for the rest of you… come on! Let’s see those yummy soup recipes that are free from peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, seafood, and shellfish. There are plenty out there – and if you post a recipe, you’ll be entered in my random drawing for a free food-allergy cookbook!

Let’s get soupy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Allergy-Free Soup Recipe Contest!

By Kelley Lindberg

Brrr. January has come early this year. Most of November was unusually cold, with temps in the single digits and piles of snow in the parking lots. December hasn’t warmed up much. It looks a lot more like Minnesota than Utah, if you ask me.

All this cold weather has put me in the mood for a nice, hot bowl of soup. Doesn’t that sound yummy… a pot gently simmering on the stove, filling the house with delicious smells…

The only problem is, I’m tired of most of my soup recipes. So let’s share some soup recipes! Pull out your favorite soup recipe that doesn’t have any of the Big 8 allergens (or which can use easy substitutions, like gluten-free noodles instead of egg noodles). Just post your recipe in the comments section, and remember to say where you found the recipe (or if you made it up!).

And here’s the best part. After a week or two, I’ll have a random drawing from everyone who posted a recipe, and the winner will win a food allergy cookbook. (I haven’t decided which one yet, but I’ll pick a good one, I promise!)

To get us started, here is a recipe I really like.

Rustic White Bean Soup
from Mr. Food Diabetic Dinners in a Dash, printed in an American Diabetes Association’s publication

1/2 lb. hot Italian-style turkey sausage, casing removed (or any safe sausage)
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) white navy beans, undrained, divided
2 cans (14 oz. each) reduced-sodium chicken broth (or home-made safe broth)
1 package (10 oz.) fresh spinach
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. Coat a soup pot with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium heat.

2. Add the sausage, onions, and garlic, and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions are tender and the sausage is no longer pink, stirring to break up the sausage.

3. Mash 1 can of navy beans until smooth. Add to the soup pot along with the chicken broth and the remaining can of whole beans; bring to a boil.

4. Add the spinach and pepper, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

5. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Allergy-Free Holiday Treats Online

by Kelley Lindberg

Chanukah starts this week (wow, how did that creep up on me so fast?), and Christmas is less than four weeks away, so it’s a good time to think about finding safe holiday treats for bright-eyed little tykes (and neighbors, and teachers, and co-workers, and…).

Because holidays and treats go hand-in-hand whether we want them to or not, I like to hunt through online sources to find the latest in allergy-friendly treats that can help make your food-allergic family members or friends feel a little more special and a little less excluded at this time of year.

So here is a list of ideas for this holiday season. It may be too late to order for Chanukah unless you’re willing to pay for express shipping, but there’s still time for Christmas. So check out these online grocers and manufacturers who are dedicated to making our lives a little… um… sweeter, and help them have a happier holiday, too.
  • Yummy Earth.  Yummy Earth candies (lollipops, drops and gummy bears) are corn-free, as well as being free from the big 8, and they use natural colorings and flavorings. They’re sometimes available in health food stores, Toys R Us and Babies R Us, but I don’t know if they’re here in Utah. However, you can buy them online at http://www.yummyearth.com/ and on Amazon.
  • Allergies and Me:  This is a great online grocer who sells gluten-free and allergy-friendly products, including candy. My latest find there: ice cream cones that are free from the Big 8! This is also the place for gluten-free licorice twists in several flavors, lollipops, gum, etc.
  • Amanda’s Own Confections:  Looking for safe Chanukah gelt bags? Amanda’s own offers gelt bags with 10 gold and sliver foil-wrapped chocolate gelt, and they’re free from dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and gluten, plus they’re Kosher certified! For Christmas, they have chocolate Santas, snowmen, snowflakes, and other fun shapes. Order by Dec. 16 for Christmas. (Chocolate contains soy lecithin, but they say “the soy protein has been removed.”)
  • Divvies:  Nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate bars and jelly beans for both Christmas and Chanukah (contain soy).
  • AllerNeeds:  This online grocer sells allergy-friendly foods from several vendors, including Enjoy Life! Foods’ Boom Choco Boom chocolate bars. They also sell some familiar candy manufactured in Canada’s nut-free and peanut-free factories, so it’s worth checking out.
  • Vermont Nut Free:  Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. Their huge selection of nut-free chocolates for both Christmas and Chanukah (non-Kosher) includes lots of fun shapes and a nice selection of gift baskets. You’ll also find treats like chocolate-covered pretzels, peppermint crunch bark, and ornaments filled with candy-coated Skippers chocolates.
  • Chocolate Emporium:  Read the ingredients carefully on this website, but they do offer a lot of allergen-friendly goodies. Call before you order to ensure you get what you need.
  • Peanut Free Planet:  This site sells candy from lots of different manufacturers. They have an Iced Gingerbread Cookie that’s free from peanuts, tree nuts, diary, egg, and gluten! The also have Kosher, nut-free, and dairy-free chocolate gelt, and Sun Cups (like Reese’s) that are peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, and Kosher Dairy. You’ll find chocolate, jelly beans, and all sorts of allergen-friendly groceries. I found some nut-free Kit-Kats there (from Canada), so I bought some for my son’s stocking!
  • Indie Candy:  One of my blog readers introduced me to this site – and it looks like a real find, although I haven’t ordered from them yet. They have a large selection of confections and let you search by your specific allergy needs. The Gummi Christmas Trees look wonderful (and you can order them corn-free), as do the Big-8-free Christmas Lights Lollipops and the gorgeous Giant Snowflake Lollipops.
Got another source you love for holiday candy or treats? Share it with us!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Food-Allergy-Related Things I’m Thankful For

by Kelley Lindberg

As Thanksgiving approaches, it seemed like a good time to recall all the things I’m especially grateful for. And while having food allergies may make a traditional Thanksgiving feast a little problematic, it shouldn’t keep us from remembering that in many ways, we still have so much to be thankful for. Here’s my Top Ten List for this year.
  1. Rice milk and egg replacers.
  2. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which became effective January 1, 2006, and required manufacturers in the United States to label all foods containing the top 8 food allergens, and to declare the allergen in plain language. This single act has made living with food allergies so much easier.
  3. The Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN), the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), Kids with Food Allergies, the Food Allergy Initiative, and other organizations that provide the information, resources, recipes, and support that make our lives a little bit easier.
  4. Manufacturers who are beginning to recognize that food-allergic customers are a sizeable force and are making an effort to produce allergy-friendly products.
  5. My son’s best friends, who have stuck by him all these years and make sure he always has someone safe to sit by at lunch.
  6. Restaurants and wait staff who actually care and make an effort to keep unsafe allergens out of our food.
  7. Teachers who are willing to modify their curricula to eliminate food projects or replace them with safe substitutions, who call me when they need food items for classroom projects, and who welcome me on field trips and at parties to “keep an eye on things.”
  8. SelectWisely.com, who makes those great translation cards for food allergens, which make it possible for me to travel with my son more confidently.
  9. That we live now, when awareness is blossoming and making it more manageable to live with food allergies than it was even a decade ago.
  10. Good friends who go out of their way to make their homes and parties safe, who have helped me develop recipes over the years, who keep their eyes open for new allergy-friendly products, and who offer a shoulder to lean on whenever I need it.
And a bonus thank you to all of you who read my blog each week, share your experiences, and reach out to make this a better world for people with food allergies everywhere. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Allergy-Free Cupcakes, Cupcakes, Cupcakes!

by Kelley Lindberg

My son, the human whirlwind, just celebrated his birthday again. How he keeps getting so big while I stay so young is beyond me (although watching 17 kids race around Classic Fun Center skating, going wild on the bouncies, and shooting each other with laser tag aged me a few decades, I think). Anyway, he had a blast with all his best buddies.

Because my son and his best friend have food allergies, we’ve always had to make their birthday cakes and cupcakes. No adorable store-bought cakes for us, unfortunately. So over the years, some other moms and I have found some safe cake recipes, and I’ve often used Cherrybrook Kitchen’s yummy safe cake mixes. So out of necessity, I’ve learned how to make birthday cakes shaped like a skateboard, a jet plane, a space shuttle, a swimming pool, Pikachu, a Power Ranger, and Lego bricks. (Thank goodness for the internet and creative people – I can usually find simple instructions for making fun cakes online!) This year, he wanted cupcakes decorated to look like Pokéballs. (For those of you without pre-teen boys, those are balls that contain Pokémon critters when they aren’t battling each other or having adventures.)

A couple of months ago, a friend discovered that Duncan Hines now makes a few cake mixes without milk or eggs in them – just wheat. So I decided to give them a try. My son wanted the lemon cake and the red velvet cake flavors, so that’s what we bought.

Each mix calls for 3 eggs, so instead of the eggs, I substituted Ener-G egg replacer, and I had to add 1/4 cup flour to each because of the high altitude here, but they turned out great! The red velvet cake was a bit crumbly, but both cakes mixes turned out well, and I was able to frost them with Pillsbury Creamy Supreme frosting (contains soy) without any trouble. I used colored sprinkles for the colored half of the Pokéballs, Wilton’s Black Decorator Icing for the black lines (contains soy and wheat), and Smarties for the buttons. Voila! Mucho “cool mom” points.

So if you’re looking for an easy way to make your next birthday cake or cupcake, you might give those Duncan Hines cake mixes a try. These are the Duncan Hines cake flavors {http://www.duncanhines.com/products/cakes} that their web site says contain only wheat (but check labels carefully – ingredients can change at any time):
  • Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix
  • Classic Yellow Cake Mix
  • Spice Premium Cake Mix
  • Butter Recipe Fudge Cake Mix
  • Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
  • Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • German Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • Swiss Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Lemon Supreme Cake Mix
  • Pineapple Supreme Cake Mix (contains soy and wheat)
Happy baking!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Time to Change Your Dishwasher Soap?

by Kelley Lindberg

Today’s blog column isn’t just for food allergy folks – it’s for anyone who uses a dishwasher!

For several weeks, my husband had been tearing our dishwasher apart numerous times because suddenly our dishes (especially plastics) were coming out covered in a white, filmy, chalky sort of residue. Naturally, we assumed our dishwasher was to blame.

But after replacing a few parts (he found a broken impeller) and thoroughly cleaning out the nasty stuff blocking its filters and that sort of thing, we stumbled upon the real culprit. It turns out that the dishwasher soap we’ve been using (Cascade) is probably causing the white chalky residue we’ve been fighting.

As of July 1 of this year, dishwashing soap can no longer contain phosphates, which are responsible for significant damage to sealife – phosphates in water set up a vicious cycle that makes huge algae blooms that eventually deplete the water of oxygen, killing off the fish we need for the survival of the ecosystem.

So eliminating phosphates is a good thing. But it turns out that some detergent manufacturers made better choices than others when it came to reformulating their dishwasher soaps. And because there wasn’t a lot of public hoopla about the change, thousands of people have been calling repairmen or replacing their dishwashers, thinking (like I did) that there was something wrong with their machine. It never occurred to me that the soap I’d been using for years would suddenly change with no notice on the packaging.

So, if you’re struggling with your dishes coming out of your dishwasher with a white chalky residue on them, try changing your soap before you spring for a new machine.

First, you can go to Utah TV station KSL’s website to read about the change in soaps in their article “Dishes Not Getting Clean?

Consumer Reports magazine’s website has an article, “Low-Phosphate Dishwasher Detergents That Work,” about the new soaps and which ones they recommend. I’ve switched to Finish Powerball Tabs, and my dishes have been coming out much cleaner for the last month or so. It’s made a huge difference.

One more tip: if your dishes are covered in the chalky white substance right now, try soaking them in white vinegar for a while before you wash them. The vinegar takes the substance off nicely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Aluminum Is in Baking Powder?

by Kelley Lindberg

Just when I think I’ve got a handle on things… life pops up a little “gotcha” sign, just to remind me not to get complacent.

I’ve been allergic to aluminum and possibly a few other metals for about eight years now. I can’t wear antiperspirant because the element that makes antiperspirants work is an aluminum salt, and it started making me break out in an uncomfortable, itchy rash. I can’t wear a watch that has metal buckles or straps – same itchy rash. I also have to be really careful about the makeup I wear (mascara, eye shadow, eye liner, nail polish, etc.), since most brands use aluminum to add color, shine, and sparkle. In my case, aluminum-laden nail polish eats away my nails, and aluminum-tainted mascara makes my eyes burn and turn red. Not usually the look I’m going for.

I’ve eliminated aluminum in my food preparation, too. I avoid aluminum foil, I threw out all my aluminum pans years ago, and I read medicines to make sure they don’t contain aluminum.

So when my friend brought over some flour tortillas this week, she stumped me by saying, “I got this brand for you because it contains aluminum-free baking powder.”

“Aluminum-free what?” I asked. The look on my face must have been interesting. “There’s aluminum in baking powder? Why on earth would they put aluminum in baking powder?”

So I opened up my cabinet, took out my can of Clabber Girl Baking Powder, and sure enough, there it was: sodium aluminum sulfate.

It just goes to show… Sometimes you’re in such a habit of buying a particular brand, you never think to check the label. And here I thought I was on top of the whole label-reading thing. Humbling, isn’t it?

I probably bake something using baking powder about once a month – more so around the holidays. I don’t know if it’s been affecting me, but I do have my share of health issues, so it’s possible. But between my allergy and the studies that show a link between Alzheimer’s patients and increased levels of aluminum in their brains, I don’t want to ingest any more of that metal than absolutely necessary.

So I went to the grocery store yesterday and found Rumford brand aluminum-free baking powder – interestingly, it’s also made by Clabber Girl. And as a bonus, Clabber Girl uses a peanut-free facility to manufacture all of their baking powders, and they’re all kosher, too. You can read Clabber Girl’s peanut-free policy on their website (http://www.clabbergirl.com/).

My old can of baking powder is in the trash now, and my new can of Rumford aluminum-free baking powder is sitting on my shelf.

Whew. Just in time for those Thanksgiving pies…

Monday, October 25, 2010

Trick-or-Treating Safely with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

That ghouly, ghostly holiday every kid loves is just around the corner. So it's time for my annual posting of Halloween tips...

For us parents of food allergic kids, Halloween can be stressful. Should we let them go trick-or-treating? Should we have a party instead? Should we stay home, lock the doors, and turn out the lights? What about that giant bag of unsafe candy?!!

In our family, we’ve discovered that the candy is really the least important part of the holiday. The adventure is the best part. Candy seems like the goal (“I’m going to fill this WHOLE bucket!”), but it’s really just the excuse for dressing up, running around the neighborhood in the dark squealing with flashlights, and getting together with friends.

Focus on the adventure, and create your Halloween traditions around the parts of the holiday your kids love best. If they like to trick-or-treat, don’t be afraid of that. There are plenty of things you can do with unsafe candy afterwards, and if the kids know about the rules ahead of time, it will be surprisingly easy to keep them safe while doing it.

Here are some tips for safe trick-or-treating:

Tip #1: No one eats anything until everyone gets home and the parent reads the label on every piece of candy. That way, no one is eating unidentified foods and having a reaction while you’re out in the dark a block away from home. Make sure the kids agree, understand, and agree again. No one sneaks anything (not even Dad).

Tip #2: If you child is super-sensitive to an ingredient, you might have them wear gloves with their costume, so that any allergenic candy that touches their hand on the way into the bag doesn’t cause a skin reaction. Toss the glove in the wash or in the trash when you get home.

Tip #3: Unlabeled candy is assumed to be unsafe. Period. The only exceptions are brand-name candies that you are already familiar with and know are safe. (For example, I know Starbursts and Skittles are okay for my son, so I’ll let him keep those.) If there is a type of candy that he’s particularly interested in, I might promise to look for it at the store the next day, and read the ingredients there. But it goes into a separate container until we’ve seen it at the store and verified its safety.

Tip #4: Before you head out on your adventure, talk about what you’re going to do with any candy when the night is over. Here are some ideas:

1) Go trick-or-treating with a friend, and at the end of the night, dump both kids’ candy together, then make two piles – a “safe” pile for the allergic kid, and the other pile for the non-allergic kid. If they both know about this plan beforehand, they are usually more than willing to do this.

2) Buy a bag of safe candy ahead of time, and at the end of the night, let your child “trade” you for all the unsafe candy he brought home.

3) “Buy” the unsafe candy from your child – but establish a price ahead of time, such as a nickel a piece, a dollar a pound, or the whole kit and caboodle for a new DVD, a small toy, a trip to the movies, a night out with Dad, a visit to the dollar store, or other such treat.

4) Look for a dentist or other business in your area that buys candy from kids on the day after Halloween. There’s at least one dentist in Layton that does. The kids get money, and the dentist donates the candy to a children’s hospital, I think.

5) Let the child “donate” the unsafe candy to Mom or Dad, so they can take it to work and share it with their coworkers.

6) Let the child donate the unsafe candy to a local women’s shelter, food bank, homeless shelter, or family of a soldier – the soldiers always seem to appreciate candy that they can share with friends or give to children in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Don’t let Halloween spook you. There are plenty of ways to celebrate safely – have a party at your house, go trick-or-treating with a plan for replacing the unsafe candy, visit a haunted house or Lagoon’s Frightmares, plan some “safe” houses ahead of time for your little ones to visit where you’ve prearranged for safe candy to be available for them, or rent The Nightmare Before Christmas and snuggle up together in the dark.

And don’t forget UFAN’s annual FOOD-FREE Halloween party this Friday, Oct. 29, 2010, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Carmen B. Pingree School (780 S. Guardsman Way, SLC). See the Utah Food Allergy Network’s website, http://www.foodallergy.org/, for directions.

Whatever your family Halloween tradition becomes, I hope it’s spooktacular!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up

by Kelley Lindberg

Last week I talked about some online resources for buying allergy-friendly candy or non-candy novelties for handing out to all those cute little Halloween trick-or-treaters. This week, I’ll list some of the candy I found here in local Utah stores (most of which are national brands, so they’ll probably be found just about anywhere).

The first thing I want to remind you of is this: READ EVERY LABEL, EVERY TIME. Many manufacturers use multiple factories, and the processes and foods they use in each factory can be different, so the same candy made in two different factories might have different allergen warnings. And manufacturers can change their recipes from year to year, too. So the candy you bought last year might be unsafe this year. Double-check everything.

For example, last year I was able to find some Wonka candy mixes that were milk- and egg-free. This year, the “mix” bags all contained an egg and soy warning. (Some of the single-variety Wonka candy was safe, however, such as the Pixie Stix or Fun Dip.) Last year, a Wonka representative told me they perform thorough cleaning and use strict preparation guidelines when they’re using an allergen. But they still put the warning label on the candy that is made in factories where allergens are present. Wonka is good about labeling their individual candies, so you can look at each piece in your little goblin’s bag and know whether you’re getting a contaminated piece or not. I’m disappointed that there are more contamination warnings on Wonka candy this year than last, however.

Now the good news: I found lots of candy that’s free from the Top 8 Allergens (soy, peanut, tree nut, wheat, egg, milk, seafood, shellfish), and several that are free from at least 6. I shopped at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Smith’s, and Shopko. Most stores will carry pretty much the same assortments as those stores, so you should be able to find them somewhere near you. Sam’s Club had the biggest selection and greatest variety. All of the candy I saw contains artificial food colorings, and almost all contains corn syrup, however, so if those are your issues, I recommend lollipops and gummy bears from YummyEarth. They’re free from the big 8, and use natural colorings and flavorings. Or buy non-food novelties from someplace like Oriental Trading Company.

So here is what I found. Remember, don’t take my word for it – check the labels yourself before you buy (I may have missed something while I was standing in the aisle scribbling notes), or you may pick up a bag made in a different factory than the one I looked at. But hopefully this list will help point you in the right direction and keep you from getting discouraged when you look at those giant aisles of unsafe candy. And it might help you when you go through your kid’s trick-or-treat bag, too. Happy treating!

  • Play-Doh mini cups, package of 66, $9.98 at Sam’s Club (contains wheat)
Corn-free as well as free from Top 8 (These candies don’t list corn syrup in their ingredients, so they may be safe for corn-allergic kids):
  • Smarties (Walmart, 60 per bag, 2 bags for $4)
  • Wonka Pixie Stix (Walmart, 120 per bag, 2 bags for $4)
  • Wonka Fun Dip (Walmart, 40 per bag, $4.75)
  • Bob’s Sweet Stripes Soft Mint Candies (red & white peppermints) (Sam’s Club (290 per bag, $5.98)
Free from Top 8:
  • Dum-Dums (Sam’s Club, 360 per bag, $6.98)
  • Dum-Dum Chewy Pops (Walmart, 180 per bag, $4.75)
  • Member’s Mark Zoo Animal Fruit Snacks (contains coconut oil) (Sam’s Club, 72 per bag, $8.98)
  • Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups (Sam’s Club, 48 per box, $7.48)
  • Betty Crocker Halloween Fruit Snacks (Sam’s Club, 46 per box, $6.98
  • Otter Pops (Sam’s Club, 200 for $7.80)
  • Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks (contains coconut oil) (Sam’s Club, 50 per box, $6.98)
  • Skittles and Starbursts Assortment (Sam’s Club, 172 per bag, $9.88, or Shopko has a bag of 90 for $9.99
  • Life Savers Gummies (Smiths, 30 per bag, $2.49)
  • Dots (Smiths, 17 mini-boxes per bag, $2.49)
  • Hot Tamales & Mike & Ike assortment (Smiths, 63 per bag, $6.99, or Shopko has a bag of 35 for $4.89
  • Swedish Fish & Sour Patch Kids assortment (Smiths, 115 per bag, $9.99)
  • Smiths also had bags of Skittles and bags of Starbursts, but I forgot to write down the price
  • Jet-Puff Boo Mallows (bags of Halloween-shaped marshmallows) (Walmart, 14 bags for $2.00)
  • Ring Pops (Walmart, 22 for $4.75)
  • Marvel Candy Sticks (Walmart, 2 bags of 60 for $4)
Contains Soy Lecithin or Soy warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Wrigley’s Gum (Sam’s Club, 40 packs for $7.14)
  • Jolly Rancher Lollipops (Sam’s Club, 100 per bag, $9.22)
  • Laffy Taffy (Sam’s Club: 165 per container, $5.72; Smiths: 2 bags of 40 for $4; Walmart: 80 for $4.75)
  • Laffy Taffy Ropes (Sam’s Club, 48 ropes, $8.78)
  • Double Bubble bubble gum (Walmart, 160 for $4.75)
  • Act II Popcorn Balls (Walmart, 20 for $5)
Contains Soy and Wheat (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Twizzlers (Sam’s Club, 180 for $6.98)
  • Airheads (Sam’s Club: 90 for $8.34, Walmart: 2 bags of 30 for $4)
  • Utz Pretzel Treats (Sam’s Club, 70 bags of Halloween-shaped pretzels, contains wheat and barley, made on equipment that processes soy and sesame seeds, $6.98)
  • Twizzler & Jolly Rancher Assortment (Sam’s Club, 225 for $9.98)
Contains Wheat and Egg (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Wonka Mixups (Sam’s Club, 300 for $9.88)
  • Wonka Sweetarts Variety Mix (Walmart, I forgot to write down price)
  • Wonka Monster Treat Mix (Walmart, I forgot to write down price)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Allergy-Free Candy Corn Hunt 2010

by Kelley Lindberg

It’s time again for the annual candy corn hunt. But first…

Sometimes the best ideas come from kids. I have a dear friend who lives in the Washington D.C. area. Her family keeps Kosher (which brings its own set of food issues to the table each day), and during the Jewish holiday Sukkot (which just finished), her community holds an annual “sukkah hop” where the kids visit a set of predetermined families. At each house, they sit down in a “sukkah” (a structure covered in branches) to have a snack, hear a story or learn about the holiday, then move on to the next one.

This wonderful tradition prompted my friend’s youngest daughter to think of kids with food allergies and trick-or-treating at Halloween. She asked her mom to ask me if I’d write about her suggestion – telling food-allergic families that they could pre-arrange “safe houses” where allergic kids could go trick-or-treating and be certain to get “safe” candy or treats. I think it’s a great idea, and easily accomplished. Thank you, Miriam! It’s people like you that help kids with food allergies feel “normal” and welcomed in this world. We really appreciate you!

Now, for the candy corn news…

Every year, one of the most common questions I hear is: “Where can I find nut-free candy corn?” I have found two sources for nut-free candy corn this year, but they both contain egg, soy, and corn syrup.
  • Kroger brand – sold in Smith’s here in Utah, and possibly in other Kroger stores elsewhere. They sell nut-free candy corn, mellowcreme pumpkins, and Autumn Mix. Yummy!
  • Sunrise Confections, labeled with either the Blueberry Hill or Sunrise brand. You can order the Sunrise candy corn from Peanut Free Planet.
  • Dots candy -- Okay, they're not really candy corn, but they're colored like candy corn, and they're milk-free, egg-free, and nut-free, soy-free, and I think gluten-free, so hey, they're worth a shot! I found them at Shopko yesterday!
I’ve been shopping locally for candy to see what types of allergen-free candy we can find in stores. Next week, I’ll post a list of what I found and where I found it. Most of it contains corn syrup and food colorings, of course. So if those are your issues, you’ll probably want to order candy online, and you’ll want to do it this week so it arrives in time for Halloween. There are also some good online resources for Halloween chocolates and gluten-free candy, so this week I’ll focus on online candy sources.
  • Yummy Earth. Yummy Earth candies (lollipops, drops and gummy bears) are corn-free, as well as being free from the big 8, and they use natural colorings and flavorings. They’re sometimes available in health food stores, Toys R Us and Babies R Us, but I don’t know if they’re here in Utah. However, you can buy them online at YummyEarth.com and on Amazon.
  • Allergies and Me:  This is a great online grocer who sells gluten-free and allergy-friendly products, including candy, including gluten-free licorice twists in several flavors (for those of you who miss Twizzlers!).
  • Amanda’s Own Confections: They offer chocolate in some fun Halloween shapes, as well as jelly beans and other candies, all dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free!
  • Divvies: Nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate ghosts, jelly beans, gummy stars, and chocolate chips! Oh my!
  • AllerNeeds.com:  This online grocer sells allergy-friendly foods from several vendors, including Enjoy Life! Foods’ Boom Choco Boom chocolate bars in a variety pack of six bars. (Enjoy Life! Foods are free from the top 8 allergens.) They also sell some candy manufactured in Canada’s nut-free and peanut-free factories, so it’s worth checking out.
  • Vermont Nut Free: Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. Their huge selection of nut-free chocolates includes caramel and chocolate pumpkins, chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick, and foil-wrapped chocolate shapes (like bats, witches, and ghosts).
  • Chocolate Emporium:  Read the ingredients carefully on this website, but they do offer a lot of allergen-friendly goodies. Call before you order to ensure you get what you need.
  • Peanut Free Planet: This site sells candy from lots of different manufacturers, including Vermont Nut Free and Amanda’s Own. You’ll find chocolate, jelly beans, and all sorts of allergen-friendly groceries. And most importantly, THEY HAVE NUT-FREE CANDY CORN!
  • Oriental Trading Co.: Remember, trick-or-treats bags don’t have to be filled with candy. Oriental Trading Company offers a bazillion (I counted them) novelty toys, many that you can buy in quantities of 50, 144, or more.

Happy shopping!

Monday, October 4, 2010

FAAN Walk for Food Allergy - Guest Blogger!

by Kelley Lindberg

Hi! This week, I asked Lynn, a member of the Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN), to write about her family's experience at the second annual FAAN Walk for Food Allergy. Thank you, Lynn, for sharing your day with us!

On Saturday, we attended the 2010 FAAN Walk for Food Allergy at Wheeler Farm.

The weather was lovely, and the crowd seemed strong and spirited.  We were walking in support of our son, who is allergic to wheat, milk, tree nuts, egg, oat, and sesame.  At nearly 3 years old, he may not have understood the full significance of the walk:

Why We Walk
  • We walk to find a cure for food allergies.
  • We walk to increase awareness of food allergy and the effect it has on a community.
  • We walk to provide understanding, hope, and an opportunity for a child with food allergy to simply be a child.
  • We walk to save a life!
- www.foodallergywalk.org

Nonetheless, he had a blast (and was delighted to delay naptime for such a special occasion).  Before the race, kids were kept entertained by fun activities like a bouncy house, face painting, and race cars to climb in and out of.  Representatives of organizations and companies such as UFAN, Enjoy Life, and EpiPen were on hand to answer questions and hand out goodies.  All walkers had the opportunity to enter their tickets into a number of raffle drawings. 

The walk itself was an easy stroll (gentle enough for this pregnant mama) around Wheeler Farm's dirt paths.  I would like to have had chatted with more families of kids with food allergies -- we really just stuck with our own family, as it seemed others may have done as well -- but overall, we had a fun day in support of a great cause.  Our little guy seemed to understand that he was surrounded by others who also could not eat certain foods, like wheat or egg ("...or cow's milk," he added in his adorable toddler voice, when we explained it to him).  This was our first FAAN walk, but something tells me that it won't be our last.

Lynn normally blogs at Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile, where she writes about her son's love of books and their recent entry into the world of pre-K homeschooling.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Relearning to Cook with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

One of the first questions everyone asks when first told they or their children have food allergies is:

“What on earth are we going to eat now?”

We look in our pantries and our fridges and we panic. Half the stuff we bought on our last grocery trip turns out to contain the ingredients that have been making us or our kids sick. We toss out boxes of crackers and cookies, seasoned rice and pasta pouches, pre-cooked skillet meals, frozen Italian and Chinese meals, and cake mixes. We stand there in our now nearly empty kitchen and try to think what to make for dinner. We’re thinking raw carrots and a jar of applesauce.

Our next trip to the grocery store is agonizing. It takes 4 hours. We read every label on every package, and we despair. There it is – that warning label we’ve just been taught to look for, and it’s on everything: “Contains milk (or soy, or nuts, or wheat, or egg, or…)” We fight back tears in the grocery aisle because our routine is suddenly all shot to ragged bits, lying on the floor at our feet. Everything we relied on is now considered “dangerous.” Everything we used to throw on the stove at the last minute when the kids are fighting, we’re exhausted, and everyone is hungry is now off-limits.

It’s scary. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening. It’s overwhelming.

“What on earth are we going to eat now?”

Over the next week or two, we try to pull ourselves together. We search the internet. We ask friends. We go back to the store and try again. And finally, we begin to piece together new routines. New recipes. New foods to prepare.

And we relearn how to cook.

That’s the tricky part. Let’s be honest. We live in a society where cooking has become optional. Before you found out about your family’s food allergies, when was the last time you made a cake from scratch? The last time you made stir-fry that didn’t pour out of a frozen bag? The last time you cracked open that great cookbook you were so excited to get that one birthday? The last time you made a sack lunch for your kids?

The thing is, prepackaged food has gotten surprisingly good over the last decade or so. The frozen lasagna ain’t bad. The frozen Chicken Cordon Blue is downright tasty. Meats come pre-marinaded and ready for the grill. Frozen veggies come with their own cream sauce. Those frozen lunches are fast and easy.

And we love to eat out. Depending on the poll you read, Americans eat out an average of 2 to 5 times a week. And according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, about half of Americans’ food budget every month is spent on food away from home (up from a third in the 1970s).

So it’s not surprising that most of us have sort of forgotten how to cook. I mean sure, we can throw hamburger meat in a pan and toss in some taco seasoning – I call that cooking, don’t you? But you can only make tacos so many times a week before someone starts to whine.

What we discover when we develop food allergies is that we can, indeed, cook again. We relearn how to grill, roast, and stir-fry meat with seasonings out of our spice cabinet instead of out of an envelope. We steam veggies and discover that a little balsamic vinegar is just as tasty as all those cream sauces. We drag our crock-pot out of the cabinet and it becomes our new best friend when we toss in some meat, some veggies, and some apple juice or water or safe chicken broth.

And eventually, we have new routines. We can go to the grocery store without melting down. We hang out in the fresh produce aisle and at the meat counter instead of in the frozen food section. We crush potato chips or safe crackers to coat our chicken breasts instead of buying chicken nuggets. And we realize that cooking isn’t as hard as we remembered it, in most cases. And, as a bonus, it’s often healthier, tastier, and cheaper. It’s a pain to relearn at first, sometimes, and it often takes a little longer, but after a while, it finally becomes second nature to us. Even the pies I made last week that took so long tasted better than the frozen ones, and it’s not like I make them all the time, so an occasional big-effort cooking day isn’t so bad. Most dinners I make are fast and easy, in comparison.

So when we’re looking for silver linings to the black clouds that life scoots across our skies, maybe this is ours. In a world of fast-food, super-sized, mega-calorie excess, those of us with food allergies in our families have an edge.

We’ve relearned how to cook.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Easy as Pie

by Kelley Lindberg

I spent all day yesterday in the kitchen. It’s harvest time, so that means my counters are overflowing with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and raspberries from my own garden, and peaches from a neighbor’s. So I spent the day making salsa, making spaghetti sauce to freeze for low-effort dinners this winter, and grating zucchini to freeze for making zucchini bread and throwing into soups and casseroles.

Then I tackled a couple of Peach Melba pies. I made my pie crust from scratch, and once again puzzled over the expression “easy as pie.”

Who made that up? A sadistic cook wishing to lure people into expensive cooking classes?

Okay, so I admit that there are only 4 ingredients in a pie crust, and one of them is water. It doesn’t look that hard on paper. (Much of life can be summed up that way, can’t it?) But since I only make pies from scratch about once a year, I always manage to forget that the execution takes a lot more effort and finesse than you’d think.

It’s not complicated – cut 3/4 cup of shortening into 2 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt, make a well in the center of the crumbly mixture, add 4 T of ice water, and mix.

See? Deceptively easy. But this is my grandmother’s recipe, and there’s always a catch. “Don’t over-handle it” she says. I know that if you handle the crust too much, it will stop being flaky and start being chewy. So I try to minimize my handling, whatever that means. Then I roll it out on a floured piece of wax paper. Again, not so easy. The dough has an annoying tendency to stick to my non-stick rolling pin. Then it wants to either stick to the wax paper or not stick to the wax paper, depending on what I want it to do at that particular moment. And it’s just the right texture to tear instead of stretch as I lay it into the pan.


Oh well. Eventually I got it into the pan and trimmed the edges. Then came the peaches. I peeled and cut up about 3 cups of peaches for each pie, which seemed to take forever, then added a cup of raspberries to each batch. Added in some sugar, a touch of salt, and a touch of flour to thicken it. Then I made more pie crust for the top layers – it didn’t get easier with practice, but finally I had the two pies intact and in the oven.

I used a cookbook to tell me how long to cook the pies. But since we’re at high altitude, it always takes longer to bake things, so it becomes a guessing game, rather than a science. I guessed wrong. Not bad, but enough so that the bottom crust wasn’t quite done when I cut into it after dinner.

Oh well. The good news is that it actually tasted pretty good. And spending the day in the kitchen gives me a kind of strange, domestic sense of accomplishment, putting me in tune with generations of female ancestors who spent every day there, instead of just a few days in the fall.

I spend most of my time making baked goods from scratch these days because it’s the easiest way to avoid food allergens. But I do appreciate when I can use commercial short-cuts, like Pillsbury’s pie crusts. But I have to admit, it just doesn’t taste quite as good as Grandmother’s pie crust. Even if it was more work.

My grandmother knew what she was doing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Is Your Cookware Food-Allergy Safe?

by Kelley Lindberg

Okay, so you’ve cleared your pantry of the foods your newly diagnosed family member is allergic to. You’ve found some new recipes and discovered your new favorite brands of safe cookies.

Now it’s time to look in your pots and pans cabinet.


Yep, it’s true. Some of your cookware may not be safe to use for your food-allergic loved one.

For the most part, your regular pots and pans and baking dishes – the stainless steel or non-stick ones and the glass dishes – are probably safe. As long as the surface is non-porous and can be thoroughly cleaned, it should be okay.

Stoneware, however, needs a closer look. If your stoneware is fully glazed (and the glaze isn’t cracked), then the food probably washes off just fine and it’s probably okay to use. But if your stoneware’s cooking surface is rough and unpainted (that pizza stone or that Pampered Chef casserole dish), then that rough surface absorbs the oils from any food cooked in it. That’s what gives the stoneware that nice non-stick finish the more you use it, but it also means the stoneware has probably absorbed unsafe food allergen proteins. So you shouldn’t use it for preparing food that will be eaten by a food-allergic person.

The same goes for that Dutch oven you take camping. If you’ve made Aunt Rita’s cheesy biscuits in it in the past, don’t make dinner in it this weekend for your milk-allergic son.

A cast iron skillet is in the same boat. If it’s a true cast iron skillet with that beautifully seasoned surface that you’ve spent years building up (the kind where you just wipe it clean or maybe use a quick rinse, but you’d divorce your hubby if he scrubbed it with a Brillo pad), then that great black surface is made of hardened food oils, some of which may still contain allergens.

Be aware of cookware when you go to parties, too. Check with the cook to see if they used a stoneware pan for those yummy-looking pumpkin bars before you indulge in them.

If you do find unsafe cookware in your cupboards, and you’ve wondered why your child keeps getting sick even though you’ve eliminated the allergens from his or her diet, you may have just discovered the culprit.

While you’re at it, check your non-stick pans and skillets. If the non-stick surface is peeling off and you can see the metal beneath it, toss it out. That has nothing to do with allergies, and everything to do with toxic materials leaching into your food. Ick. And think twice about any aluminum pans, too. Aluminum is allegedly being tentatively linked to Alzheimer’s and other illnesses, so you might want to consider avoiding aluminum cooking surfaces and go with stainless steel instead. Just something to think about.

So… sad but true, it’s time to ditch the old stoneware. The good news is: the holidays are coming up! Maybe it’s a good time to ask Santa for some new stoneware or a new Dutch oven – and this time, you can be sure it’s only used to prepare safe foods, and you’ll embark on a long, new, safer life together!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Signs of a Food Allergy Reaction

by Kelley Lindberg

How do you know if someone is having an allergic reaction to a food?

Knowing the most common signs of a reaction can help you identify it correctly. Here are the most common symptoms to look for in a food allergy reaction, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN):
  • A tingling sensation in the mouth
  • Swelling of the tongue and the throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
Typically, symptoms appear within minutes of eating the food, but sometimes it can take up to two hours for symptoms to appear.

Don’t expect to see all of those reactions at the same time. Many reactions may only display one or two of those symptoms. If you spend a lot of time with someone who has food allergies (such as a student in your class, a co-worker, or a scout in your troop), ask what their most common symptoms are and watch for those. But beware – allergic symptoms can vary from episode to episode, so try to be familiar with all the symptoms and watch for them.

Parents are usually the best at reading the early signs of a reaction, of course. For example, my son’s friend often gets itchy spots on the back of his neck as the first sign of an allergic reaction. That’s the kind of thing a stranger probably wouldn’t notice, but his mother can see that little tell-tale before anyone else can. But her son’s reaction can rapidly progress to include cramping, a rash near his mouth, welts if there was skin contact, or vomiting. All of these are signs I know to watch for if he’s staying at our house. They’re also signs I watch for in any child, now that I know they are common food allergy symptoms. Even if you don’t know someone well, being familiar with all the signs of an allergic reaction can help you identify what might be happening.

Now that you know what to look for, what do you do if you suspect someone is having a reaction? It’s pretty simple:
  1. Administer the person’s medication immediately. Usually you give them an antihistamine first (Benadryl, Allegra, Zyrtec, Claratin, etc.). If the symptoms get worse, administer the person’s epinephrine injection (EpiPen, Twinject, or Adrenaclick). Don’t worry, The instructions are usually printed right on the injector.
  2. Call 911 or a doctor and tell them you believe the victim is having an allergic reaction to food. Tell them what medicine you gave them.
  3. Get the person to medical help, and stay with them and watch them for 24 hours (even if they’re sent home). As the medication wears off, the reaction can come back, so it’s important to watch them for recurrences.
With some extremely sensitive people, it’s critical to immediately administer epinephrine without waiting to see if an antihistamine works. If the victim tells you to use the epinephrine right away, don’t hesitate.

Remember, I’m not a medical professional, so don’t take this information as medical advice – I’m just giving you some tips. Talk to your own allergist or medical provider for information specific to your own condition. And for more information about food allergies, their symptoms, their treatment, and other aspects, see FAAN’s website, http://www.foodallergy.org/. For information on epinephrine injectors, see http://www.epipen.com/http://www.twinject.com/, or http://www.adrenaclick.com/.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Smooth Sailing with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

August was a good month for me, as far as spreading the word about food allergies. First, I wrote an article for this month’s issue of Cruising World magazine about how we provisioned our sailboat charter the last time we went sailing – in the lovely waters of St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines. My article gives tips on how to get your charter company to provision your boat (stock it with food) that accommodates your food allergies. (And it includes my recipe for Easy Salsa-Baked Chicken.) (“Allergy-Free in Paradise,” Cruising World, August 2010 )

I was pleased to see that another article in the issue also dealt with provisioning with food allergies – that one talked a little about the captain’s gluten allergy, and a sidebar discussed charter companies’ suggestions for provisioning. (“Provisioning for Gourmands and Glutenphobes,” Cruising World, Aug. 2010). Knowing that the subject of food allergies has become important enough to merit a prominent theme in a respected sailing magazine says a lot.

The last article I’m linking to today is one I didn’t write. Instead, my son and I were interviewed for an article about food allergies in the Ogden, Utah, newspaper. (“‘I’m Allergic’ The Battle Cry Becoming More Common Among Adults and Children,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, Aug 30, 2010.)


Monday, August 23, 2010

I Wouldn’t Wish Allergies on Anyone

by Kelley Lindberg

Back in January of 2009, Joel Stein wrote an essay for the LA Times proclaiming that food allergies are made up by hysterical parents who crave attention. It caused a lot of controversy, obviously. (“Nut Allergies – A Yuppie Invention,” LA Times, Jan. 9, 2009. )

Understandably bothered by his misinformation, I responded by writing my own article on my blog. My article began with “Dear Joel, I’m glad no one you love has a severe food allergy. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” ("Countering Hysteria," Food Allergy Feast blog, Jan. 19, 2009)

You’ll never guess what happened. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Stein wrote an essay for Time magazine. Turns out, his one-year-old son has developed nut allergies. Read his new essay here: “A Nut Allergy Skeptic Learns the Hard Way,” Time, Aug. 14, 2010.

In this latest essay, he describes how many people wrote to him after his earlier column, saying they wished he would have a child with food allergies someday. What a hateful thing to wish. Why is it human nature to lash out violently, rather than try to educate and reach a mutual understanding? After all these thousands of years, we’ve got a pretty impressive track record showing that throwing bigger and bigger rocks doesn’t really have the effect we were looking for.

So Joel was throwing rocks, parents of allergic kids were throwing rocks right back at him, and no one made any progress, unless you count progress towards more reactionary and poisonous backlashes on both sides. Gee, I’m underwhelmed with surprise.

I didn’t wish for Mr. Stein to become intimately familiar with a parent’s fear. I DID wish for him to become more informed, more aware, and less inclined to propagate dangerous misinformation. Of course, his career is based on writing amusing, barbed commentary skewering anything he feels like. Being a big fan of the First Amendment, I don’t have a problem with that. My only problem is when writing those opinions might cause a child to be put in a life-threatening situation. We writers sometimes walk a blurry line between informing and harming, and it's important to approach that blurry line with a deep sense of responsibility.

Now, Mr. Stein has written this new essay admitting that his son has developed nut allergies, and that he’s having to eat some crow. That takes a big man to do that. It takes an even bigger man to do that in a national spotlight, like in Time magazine, for example. I’m sure there are plenty of small-minded people out there who are taking some sort of sick satisfaction out of this unfortunate turn of events in the Stein family’s lives. But the fact remains there’s a small child who’s affected here, and that child’s safety – like all of our food-allergic children’s safety – is all that truly matters.

So here’s my response to Mr. Stein’s latest essay:

Dear Joel,

I’m so sorry to hear that your son has developed food allergies. This will add a layer of worry to the already worry-filled job that we call parenting. But fortunately, there are many resources, both online and in your own community, that offer education, nut-free products, school action plans, recipes, and tips for making your child’s experiences with everything from playdates to school to birthday parties to dating (yes, that will be here before you know it!) safe and “normal.”

I’m sorry you’ve had to join the ranks of parents of allergic kids, Joel. But we welcome you to our ranks, too, because here is where you’ll find the information and strength to absorb this new aspect of life into your routines of daily living. We’re all in this together, and we are happy to help.

Kelley Lindberg
Mom of a peanut-allergic kid

Monday, August 16, 2010

Teachers Who Care

by Kelley Lindberg

Did you hear it? The ominous music building up? You know the kind – the discordant, scary instrumental music when the movie hero finds himself thrust into peril?

Sixth grade started today for my son. He’s pretty sure that doomsday music was playing for him.

A lot of kids like school, I tell him. Some even look forward to going back at the end of summer. He shakes his head in dismay. He can’t comprehend anything of the sort. School represents everything he hates – routine, confinement, quiet, uniforms, reasonable bedtimes… What’s to like? He’s a summer boy through and through. Give him lazy days, swimming pools, buddies to hang with, popsicles to indulge in, and a seemingly endless rotation of skateboard t-shirts, and he’s a happy kid. Take them all away and… well, you get the picture.

We met his new teachers last week – he has two, each for a half-day. They had asked to meet with us before school started so that we could talk to them about his (and his friend’s) food allergies, and how to keep the two boys safe in class. The teachers were wonderful. They were very supportive, concerned, and interested, and asked a lot of questions. They seem ready to make any sort of adjustments to their curriculum necessary to prevent the boys from feeling excluded or unsafe this year.

Let me tell you, nothing is more reassuring to a parent than knowing your child’s teachers really and truly care about your kid. The other boy’s mom and I both breathed huge sighs of relief when we walked out of that meeting last week, feeling confident that we could work with these teachers this year and make it a great year.

The week before, I had gone to a different elementary school to help another friend of mine talk to her child’s teachers. That meeting went really well, too. Again, the teachers seemed so willing to learn and accommodate that child’s needs.

From time to time, I hear other parents talk about teachers and principals who are resistant, unpleasant, or even downright hostile when it comes to accommodating a student’s food allergies. That simply astounds me. Often, it doesn’t take much to make an allergic child safe – a table set aside in the lunchroom, a “Peanut-Free Classroom” sign on the door, or some easy substitutions in a class food project. How can an adult whose entire career is based on nurturing and educating children take such a negative stand on protecting a child from a life-threatening food allergy reaction? How can an experienced educator think Tootsie Rolls are more important than a child’s life? I just don’t get it.

Every year, I thank my lucky stars that my son goes to a school where food allergy awareness starts with the principal and permeates the entire school culture. They’ve been so willing to work with us, learn from us, and make adjustments when necessary, and they’re even more than willing to learn from the occasional mistake or oversight.

So while my son may feel like he’s been sent to prison for the crime of enjoying summer too much, I’m happy to know that his “wardens” are keeping his health and safety high on their priority list, and that they’re looking out for him during those hours of the day when I can’t.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blogging Troubles

Hi everyone,

As you may have been able to tell, my blog has been having strange things happen to it over the last week. While I'm chasing those gremlins down, I am going to skip posting this week. But I promise I'll be back next week! (Hopefully I'll have a link to an article I have published in this month's Cruising World magazine by then, too.) See you next Monday!

Monday, August 2, 2010

More Back to School Tips for Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

Now that school is only 2 or 3 weeks away (at least here in Utah), many parents are getting ready to send their little ones off to a scary place – not that school itself is scary, but the food in the classroom and cafeteria can make it seem that way.

About this time every year I post my back-to-school tips. So I’ll repeat them here, in the hopes that they help smooth the way for other parents over the next few weeks. Good luck, and enjoy these remaining few days of summer!

(Remember, there are links to several school-related resources on the Utah Food Allergy Network's website, so be sure to check those out. And two weeks ago I posted my Back-To-School Shopping List, so you might want to look at that, as well.)

1. Volunteer a lot, so the staff knows you and counts on you (not just for allergy issues). If the only time they see you is when there's a food allergy, then you may start feeling like they're whispering "Oh no, here she comes again." But if they see you as a "Gosh, what would we do without her" kind of volunteer, then the occasional food issue will be coming from a great mom who's making a reasonable request.

2. If someone else is already the class mom, or you can't volunteer for that position, tell the teacher you really need to attend all parties and field trips because of the food allergy. The teacher may want to let the other parents know that you'll be selected for all the special events because of the food allergy, so that they don't think the teacher is playing favorites or something.

3. Ask the principal if there are other food allergic kids in the same grade, and if they can be assigned to the same teacher. That makes it easier for the allergic parents to trade off field-trip and party chaperone duties, it puts all the kids in the same class so that the classroom can be more allergen-free, and gives you some backup in food issues. (It's nice to NOT be the only one.) Statistically, about one in twenty kids has a food allergy, so chances are good there will be more kids than just your child.

4. Volunteer to shop for all the snacks or food materials for classroom parties or food educational units (like making noodle necklaces or gingerbread houses, etc.). Tell the teacher if she'll collect money donations, you'll go buy all the ingredients. They're usually delighted to get out of having to shop.

5. Make several copies of your Food Allergy Action Plan (available on FAAN’s website) and ask to hang one in the office, the cafeteria kitchen, and the classroom, so that your child's photo and "What to do in case of a reaction" instructions are handy no matter where he is.

6. Practice with your child what he should do if he "feels funny." Role-play and pretend you're the teacher, and have him come up and tell you what's wrong. Often our kids are too shy about asking for help, so have him practice with you, and with the teacher if possible. Not only does that give your child words to use if something happens, but it helps impress upon the teacher how important it is.

7. I get on my principal's staff meeting agenda at the first of the year and give a 5-minute talk about allergies and demonstrate the EpiPen. I also give a presentation to my son's class, and all the teachers and aides he comes into contact with. If you're not comfortable doing this, ask if there are other allergic parents that you can contact. Talk to them about ways to teach the teachers -- maybe another mom would be willing to give the presentation if you make the photocopies. It's easier when there are two of you involved!

8. Remember, In Utah, your child can legally carry his EpiPen. But he probably can't administer it to himself in an emergency, so make sure the teachers and everyone else know where it is and how to use it. My son carries his in his backpack so that it's always in the classroom, and I also fill a second prescription and they keep it in the office. So he has two sets at school. (I also attach a luggage tag with his photo on it to his backpack, so the teacher can find his backpack in a hurry.)

9. If he's going to be having lunch at school, talk to the Lunch Lady and cafeteria monitor. Introduce your child, tell her what your child is allergic to, and let your child know that the Lunch Lady is a friend that will help keep him safe. Then remember the Lunch Lady and the cafeteria monitor on holidays with little thank you cards or gifts to show you appreciate them. Few people do that. But it will help keep your child's food issues fresh in their mind, and they'll get to know him well.

10. Ask about setting up a food table just for allergic kids. All that’s required is a table with a sign that says "Food Allergies Only," and the cafeteria monitors clean it with a separate marked bucket and cloth. Don’t let them make your child eat in a separate room or the principal’s office. He shouldn’t be punished just because he’s allergic to some foods! Ask the principal to mention the allergy table in a newsletter or other information that goes home with kids at the beginning of the year. You may find other kids with allergies expressing an interest in sitting at the table if they know it’s available.

11. Ask the parents of your child’s friends to send safe lunches with them every once in a while, so they can eat with your child. Make it a fun place to be!

12. Most peanut-allergic kids don’t react to the smell of peanut butter in the air, but a few do. If you are worried if your child will react to the air in the cafeteria, ask to take him in for a “practice run.” Sit in the cafeteria for half an hour and see if he reacts. If he doesn’t, cross that worry off your list.

13. Eat lunch with him for the first few days. That will reassure both of you that you can both handle this!

14. Talk to the teacher about which cafeteria door your child should use to avoid peanut butter contact (usually the one furthest from the playground), where to put his lunch bag after lunch, and where his EpiPens will be.

15. Remind your child NOT to throw away his lunch trash. Tell him to bring it home in his lunch bag, so that he can avoid using the trash can. If another kid slam-dunks a half-full milk carton in the trash can, you don’t want your milk-allergic child to get splashed.

16. As I mentioned in the Back-to-School Shopping List post, consider ordering medical alert jewelry to alert teachers and other staff about your child’s allergy. Sometimes, it’s a good visual reminder to the teacher to stop and think about food. (But not always – sometimes you see something so often you stop seeing it, you know what I mean?) Try American Medical ID or Sticky J for some great kids' bracelets, necklaces, and charms.

17. Take some safe treats to school to leave in the teacher's classroom, in case there's a birthday celebration and your child can't eat the cupcakes.

18. Be aware and be prepared, but don't panic! School is going to be a lot of fun, and your child will do just fine. And believe it or not, so will you!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Pioneer Day

This past Saturday, July 24, we celebrated Pioneer Day here in Utah. In the rest of the country, Pioneer Day doesn’t exist. Here, however, it is a huge holiday, on a par with the 4th of July. We celebrate with parades, rodeos, fireworks, barbeques, and picnics – and anyone who doesn’t get the day off from work feels really put-upon. We Utahns are really fortunate to get not one, but two spectacular holidays every July!

by Kelley Lindberg

Pioneer Day officially commemorates the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Great Salt Lake Valley back in 1847. But the Mormon pioneers aren’t the only pioneers who we remember on Pioneer Day.

Five native tribes of American Indians made Utah home before the first European explorers ever came here – the Goshutes, Utes, Navajo, Shoshone, and Paiutes pioneered life in this arid region (and before them, the Fremonts and Anasazi were carving civilization from our cliffs and mesas). And those first European-descent explorers weren’t Mormon, but they were Catholic priests, French explorers, Spanish trailblazers, and early American naturalists. Later, after the Mormons began to settle here, there were Chinese railroad builders, Greek miners, and Army soldiers from all over the Union. Over the last 163 years, Utah’s pioneers have included freed slaves, Japanese internees, Pacific Islanders, Scandinavian farmers, and Eastern European laborers. We’ve taken in Mormons, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Buddhists. We’ve welcomed refugees from probably every modern war and conflict, including Vietnam, the former Soviet countries, Bosnia and Serbia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Pioneers, all of them.

And our pioneers haven’t just represented different nationalities, religions, or races. Utah boasts pioneers of science, of art, of culture, of sport, and of technology. Our Utah residents had a hand in inventing television, the internet, the computer graphics industry, the artificial heart, and a million other innovations that make life more entertaining, interesting, safe, and healthy.

Today, there are pioneers all around us. Whether it is doctors studying the effectiveness of desensitization therapies on food allergies, or engineers studying various windmill structures to find a more efficient way to harness energy from the wind that spills through our canyons and across our valleys, Utah pioneers are changing our lives right this very minute.

So happy Pioneer Day, everyone. Support those among us who are continuing to find new ways to improve our lives, our health, our planet, and our relationships with others throughout the world. And keep nurturing that pioneering spirit in our kids. Who knows what innovations they’ll discover tomorrow?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back-to-School Shopping List for Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

It’s official – it’s back-to-school shopping time! My son cringes every time we walk past a back-to-school display or see a back-to-school ad. He nearly went into hysterics when the Land’s End Back-To-School catalog showed up in our mailbox a couple of weeks ago. He’s watching the days on the calendar count down like a condemned man choosing his last dinner from a menu.

Despite his protests and heartfelt denials, school is still coming, and we still have to stock up on those supplies. Of course his back-to-school list includes a few extra items because of his food allergies. So if you are preparing a shopping list for a food-allergic student, don’t forget these essentials:
  • Epinephrine Injectors – I get a pair to leave at the school’s office, and a pair for him to carry in his lunch box. (EpiPens, Twinject, and Adrenaclick are the three brands used in the U.S.) Be sure you check the expiration dates to make sure they’ll last through the school year.
  • Benadryl – Like with the EpiPens, I put some in the office, and some in his lunch box. Again, check the expiration dates.
  • Lunch Box – He always takes a home lunch and sits with his food-allergic buddy.
  • Thermos for hot foods – he lives on noodles, but these are great for safe soups, chili, and casseroles, too.
  • Beverage Thermos or water bottle
  • Handi-Wipes – I always put a couple of individually wrapped Handi-Wipes in his lunch box so he can clean off the table if he needs to.
  • Food Allergy Action Plan – Make an appointment with your child’s allergist or pediatrician now, and have them fill out a Food Allergy Action Plan to give to your school. I attach a current photo of my son, and then I make a few color copies of it. I give one to the school office, one to each of his teachers for them to hang in their classroom, and one to the school cafeteria manager for her to hang in the kitchen, so that the lunch workers will know him and recognize him if he has a reaction. If your doctor doesn’t have their own form, use this Food Allergy Action Plan from FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network). It’s probably the most widely used form in the U.S., and most doctors recognize and use it.
  • Medical ID Bracelet or Necklace – if your child will wear one of these, it’s a great idea. It is a visual reminder for teachers of your child’s allergies, and it’s an instant help for EMTs who might be summoned if your child has a reaction. Try American Medical ID (my son likes their sports band bracelets) or Sticky J Jewelry (some amazingly cute childrens' bracelets, including leather and hemp, beaded, etc.), but there are several online vendors who make these types of medical ID bracelets.
Do you have any other great suggestions for allergy-aware back-to-school supplies? Be sure to share them with us!

Happy shopping!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Watching Him Grow Up with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

My son is growing up.

While there are a lot of things about that statement that scare the heck out of me, there are a few things about it that make me happy. Like the fact that we are finding movies and television shows we can watch together now that don’t involve animation. And he’s old enough to mow the lawn. That sort of thing.

Another thing that’s good about him being 11 is that he’s becoming more and more responsible about taking care of his food allergies. The other day he went to a friend’s house to play. The mom knows about his food allergies, and she promised to take good care of him. Turns out, she took them to a grocery store to get an ice cream cone for a snack. I didn’t know that was part of the plan for the day, or I’d have worried and given him all sorts of instructions, and I probably would have told him to just skip the ice cream cone because it’s too scary to think I wouldn’t be there to check for nut contamination.

But I wasn’t there. So what did he do? He asked the person at the counter about peanuts and nuts, and then asked to read the ingredients on the package of cones. They handed it to him, he read it, discovered that the only common allergens listed were wheat and soy – no nut contamination. Then he verified that the soft-serve vanilla ice cream bin only contained vanilla, and he made sure they didn’t mix it with anything else.

In other words, he did everything I would have done, had I been there. And, of course he had his EpiPens with him.

So he ordered the ice cream cone, ate it with confidence, paid attention for any signs of reaction (he didn’t have any), and was just fine. He was so confident, in fact, that he didn’t even remember to tell me about it until the next day. He’s grown up watching me go through this routine at restaurants, of course, so it didn’t even occur to him that this was momentous at all. (Okay, so maybe it was momentous to only one of us.)

As trial runs go, it went well. I’d have been happier if I’d known about it before-hand, but what would I have done differently? Tell him to do all the things he did? Worry more?

It’s hard watching him grow up. But it’s wonderful to realize that as he does, he’s growing more responsible, too.

After all, that’s what every parent wants for their kids, right?

By the way, we’re going to go see a movie today. The animated kind. I can’t wait.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Helping Kids Be Kids

by Kelley Lindberg

The other day I was sitting at the local skate park watching my son in his skateboard lesson. It’s a fun way for him to spend a summer morning, learning tricks and confidence and respect.

There are about 30 kids in this class, divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced groups, all of them earnest, eager, and a little intimidated, no matter what their experience level, by the concrete hills and valleys, drop-offs and rails. But they’re calling encouragement to each other, listening intently to their teachers, and pushing themselves just enough to try that new trick and hear their little compatriots cheer.

Since about one out of every twenty kids is estimated to have food allergies, there should be at least one kid in this group with food allergies, and maybe two kids. Of course, I know for a fact that there’s at least one – my son. It’s that possibility of a second or even a third that intrigues me. I look around the park at the different faces. Which one could it be? The little guy with the crew cut and plaid shorts? The black kid in the white shirt? The girl in the black helmet?

Of course, there’s no way to know. You can’t tell which child has food allergies by looking at them. They look, act, feel, think, and play like every other kid. They dream and fear and laugh and cry like every other kid. They get hungry and thirsty like every other kid.

As parents of kids with food allergies, it’s easy to think our kids are different. But it’s our job, our challenge, and out joy to make them feel normal. To help them be part of the crowd. To let them experience life in all its varied aspects. To be a kid.

One of the things I like about this skateboard camp is that there’s no food involved, ever. In this two-hour class each week, the entire focus is on learning skills and having fun. No snack break. No candy rewards for mastering a new trick. Just water to keep the young bodies hydrated, and plenty of positive support to keep them physically challenged and motivated.

Of course, every one of these kids is an individual. They all come from unique backgrounds, and each of them faces their own set of challenges, setbacks, successes, and joys. But here at the skate park, they’re all just kids, united by a new adventure, cheered on by their pint-sized companions.

Kids getting to be kids.

That’s what summer’s all about.

Monday, June 28, 2010

4th of July Top Ten

by Kelley Lindberg

Here are the top ten things I love about the 4th of July:
  1. Sunshine and warmth after a long, wet spring.
  2. No school or work.
  3. A day to celebrate our unique freedoms, such as the freedoms of thought and speech, religion, the press, and the right to gather peacefully.
  4. Getting together with friends and family.
  5. The aroma of a barbeque grill, no matter what’s on it.
  6. The sound of kids squealing and laughing and running like crazy.
  7. A rough blanket beneath me and fireworks overhead.
  8. Cheap patriotic t-shirts.
  9. Firecrackers in the street (legal and safe ones, that is, with a water bucket and garden hose close at hand).
  10. Knowing we live in an amazing time in America, when information and communication can make even the most isolated of us feel like part of a community.
Thanks for being part of my community, and have a safe, fun, and meaningful 4th of July!

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 FAAN Walk for Food Allergy in Salt Lake City

by Kelley Lindberg

Here it is, the first day of summer, and it’s finally warmed up here in Utah. That must mean it’s time to start thinking about fall, right?

Okay, maybe not, but it is time to start thinking about the annual FAAN Walk for Food Allergy (Moving Toward a Cure). This will be the second year that the Walk has been held in Salt Lake City, and we’re looking forward to a great turnout!

The SLC Walk will be held on Sat, Oct. 2, at Wheeler Farm (6351 S. 900 E, Salt Lake City). More than four dozen other cities will also be hosting FAAN Walks this year, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, Houston, Minneapolis, Denver, Long Island, and Las Vegas. (See a list of FAAN Walk cities here.)

The FAAN Walks are a significant fundraiser for FAAN (the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network), which provides advocacy and education while advancing research on behalf of those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis. A portion of the money raised by our Walk will stay in our community – by being donated to UFAN (Utah Food Allergy Network) to support local efforts of education, support, and advocacy.

As one of the most important food allergy organizations in the country, FAAN has made a huge difference in the lives of food allergic people over the last two decades by being a reliable source of accurate information, important research, public awareness, and life-saving (or just life-improving) advice.

Last year, Salt Lake City’s first FAAN Walk for Food Allergy drew over 200 walkers and was a ton of fun. This year, we’re hoping to double or even triple that number of walkers!

Oct. 2 seems like a long time away, but the time to register is now. You can register as an individual walker or as a team of walkers, and there are all kinds of prizes, drawings, and incentives for registering early and for raising money.

Here are the details:
  • 2010 FAAN Walk for Food Allergy, Salt Lake City
  • Saturday, Oct. 2
  • Check in at 11:00 am
  • Walk at noon
  • Door prizes, music, face painting, crafts, games, and even race cars to check out!
  • All registered walkers receive one ticket for the door prize drawings, but there will be more ways to get additional tickets.
  • All children who walk will receive a Walk t-shirt. Adults who raise $100 or more will receive a t-shirt.
  • All donations received by Aug. 1 will count towards incentive prizes, which start with donation amounts as low as $250.
  • Want your team name printed on your Walk team t-shirts? Just raise $1000 or have 50 walkers registered in your team by July 31.
The direct site for the SLC Walk is here:
The incentive prizes are listed here:
We can sure use some sponsors to help make the FAAN Walk a success. Sponsors who contribute more than $2500 can have their logo on event posters, but the donation must be received this week (by June 23). Donations of $1000 or more get placement on Walk t-shirts – those donations must be in by mid-August. If your company or business would like to be a sponsor, see the sponsor information here:
So even though today is the first day of summer, Oct 2 will be here before we know it. Whether you’re a corporate sponsor, a walker, or a generous soul who can donate to help someone you know with food allergies, the 2010 FAAN Walk for Food Allergy is a great opportunity to make a real difference for people with food allergies everywhere!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Travel Tips for Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

Summer is a great time for family vacations. Whether it’s a road trip to see natural wonders in our scenic national and state parks, a weekend fishing at the lake, camping, or a flight to see grandparents, vacations are luring many of us away from home for summer fun.

Travel can mean extra complications for those of us with food allergies, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay home! All it takes is a little extra planning and smart packing to make your trip as safe as it is fun.

Here are a few tips that might help if you’re hitting the road this summer.

1. Embrace picnics. If it’s a road trip, pack a cooler with safe food for lunches and breakfasts, and stop at parks or rest areas for picnics. Bread, sandwich fixings, snacks, fruit, veggies (carrots, celery, etc.) all travel well in a cooler and make for a great picnic. It’s safer, healthier, and cheaper than all those fast-food places, too. And picnics are fun – even if the weather isn’t great and you have to hunker under a pavilion in the rain, it still can be an adventure and a fun story to tell later. Those are the memories your kids will still have years later.

2. A UFAN member on the UFAN email forum suggesting taking a crockpot and plugging it into an adapter that runs off the car’s power. Put dinner in the crockpot in the morning, and by the time you reach your destination, dinner’s ready! Sounds good – but it could be dangerous in a crash (boiling grease flying through the car = bad). But taking a crockpot and letting dinner cook in the hotel room while you’re sightseeing sounds like a VERY good idea. Who needs room service?

3. If you’re flying somewhere and can’t carry a big cooler, invest in a collapsible cooler that fits in your suitcase, or buy a super-cheap Styrofoam cooler at a discount store at your destination. I have a small lunch-sized insulated bag that fits in a day-pack, so I can carry my son’s sandwich whenever we go on day-trips. I also have one of those larger collapsible coolers that fits in my suitcase, for carrying picnics and drinks to the beach. Then I pack (or buy) a bunch of Ziploc bags to hold ice as well as food. Here’s a tip: fill a Ziploc bag with water, lay it flat in the freezer, and let it freeze. Presto—an icepack for slipping into that lunch sack.

4. Plan your route and scout out hotels or condos that have microwaves or kitchenettes in them. You can fix easy meals in the room that way. Not only is it safer allergy-wise, it saves money, too.

5. When you arrive at your destination, plan to grocery shop on the first day. The internet is great for finding health-food or gluten-free stores, so do a little research before you leave to find a likely grocery store. If there is a product you love that you don’t know if you’ll find where you’re going, pack it. I always take a jar or two of Sunbutter in my checked luggage, just in case.

6. On an airplane, carry plenty of safe food in your carry-on luggage. I pack granola bars (even if you don’t much like them, they can be a life-saver if you’re stranded in an airport because of a missed connection or mechanical trouble). Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bars are nut-free and egg-free. Cascadian Farm Harvest Berry granola bars are nut-, milk-, and egg-free, and Enjoy Life Foods bars are free from the Top 8 allergens. I also pack fruit snacks (don’t carry fresh fruit if you’re going internationally, however), safe cookies, or other treats, too. We have been stuck in airports for up to 13 hours before – it may not be the most nutritious day of eating, but at least we don’t starve if I’ve got a box of granola bars in my bag.

7. If you’re traveling with other people, let them know before-hand about your family’s allergies and the best way to handle them on the road. Ask them for help in keeping your child safe.

8. Pack your own soap, shampoo, and lotion. Those cute little bottles and soaps in the hotel are appealing, but if they don’t have an ingredients label on them (and most don’t), don’t use them. Too often, they contain nut oils, soy products, milk, or other botanical products that you may be allergic to. It wouldn’t be much fun to slather on that nice-smelling lotion, only to discover that you’re breaking out in hives and have to be rushed to the hospital.

9. Carry a pack of hand-wipes at all times. Great for cleaning all the surfaces in an airplane (armrest, tray-table, seatbelt buckle, and window shade), as well as for cleaning any other surfaces in fast-food places, restaurants, etc.

10. Order a medical ID bracelet or tag for the allergic person. My son wears a cool nylon sports-band ID bracelet from American Medical ID that lists his allergies and my cell phone number. For my own diabetes, I have medical alert tags from Sticky J on my key ring and on my purse (I’m allergic to metal, so I can’t wear them on my body).

11. Traveling internationally? Visit SelectWisely.com to order translation cards – they say things like “I have a life-threatening allergy to…” and you can list all the foods you’re allergic to, and choose from a staggering array of languages. They also offer cards for other illnesses and conditions, in addition to allergies.

These are just a few tips to get you going. If you have more tips to share, be sure to post them in the comments section.

Happy travels!