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.