Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Are Voluntary Guidelines Useful?

by Kelley Lindberg

On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Act (FAAMA), which directs the federal government to create national, voluntary food allergy management guidelines for schools. It also provides for school-based food allergy management incentive grants to help public schools implement those management guideliens.

This is great news. Right now, every school, every school district, and every state is on their own when it comes to forging food allergy guidelines for teachers and administrators to use in those schools. That means a whole lot of wheels being reinvented from scratch every year – and, more likely, a whole lot of wheels that will never even get built because schools are just too busy and financially strapped to take the time to start something that sounds that complicated.

By tapping a coalition of groups including the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to create these national guidelines, this new law will make it so much easier for all of those thousands of different school districts to use or adapt the guidelines, instead of starting from scratch. The easier something is to create, the more likely it will be to 1) be created, and 2) be supported and followed.

But many people in the food allergy community are upset to hear that the guidelines will be voluntary instead of mandatory.

For now, voluntary is a huge step forward, and will likely garner much more support than mandatory would have.

Chris Weiss addressed this issue in his FAAN blog. Read his take on the situation in his posting, “Reflecting on FAAMA.”

In addition, Michelle Fogg, the president and founder of the Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN), wrote a response to a concerned parent, explaining why voluntary guidelines are a vital, useful, and necessary step, even though they aren’t mandatory. Here is what Michelle says:
Mandates are nearly impossible to pass in government and receive huge opposition no matter what the subject is. I can't speak directly for FAAN as to their motives for 'voluntary' BUT I do know that no 'one size fits all' approach would be applicable for every state and every school. The States don't want big government coming in and telling them what and how to do things. In my opinion, having a national set of guidelines for states to use when creating their own would give more uniformity generally and would save many states from having to create guidelines out of thin air. At least now there will be credible uniform information available to any state or school district wanting better management of food allergic children. It is up to us as citizens to make sure the powers that be know we want statewide guidelines in place...again these will be voluntary as no one approach is innately best for all. I have already spoken with the UT State School Board and Office of Education and the moment I said "voluntary guidelines" NOT a mandate, they began to listen and show interest. I understand your frustration because as a mother we think this should be a no brainer - a must have!! I think it will be standard in the future but unfortunately there is political red tape and it is going to take us as parents and a community speaking up and demanding it from our individual schools, districts, and representatives. Watch for info to come soon on how you can help support UFANs efforts to get statewide guidelines created and the information disseminated.

...I am currently engaged in the battle to get the State to mandate insurance coverage for medical formulas for EGIDs and it is crazy trying to get a mandate to go through (this is our second attempt)! The FAAMA took almost eight years to pass and had to be rolled into the larger Food and Safety Bill to even make it through. I'm happy because I think it's a victory to have any guidance out there and hopefully many will take advantage of it. If they don't then we'll have to demand it, right?!

Thanks for sharing your feelings with me,

Michelle Fogg
President & Founder
Utah Food Allergy Network

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ten Things My Son Would Rather Be Allergic To…

by Kelley Lindberg

Being allergic to foods isn’t fun. But it’s something my son has lived with all his life, so he’s had to learn to cope with it. But today, just for fun, I asked him if he could be allergic to something he could choose, what would it be? Here’s his top ten list. What would be on your top ten list?
  1. School.
  2. Homework.
  3. Politicians who make bad decisions.
  4. Horrible comic strip writers.
  5. Insanely boring books that don’t have much adventure in them.
  6. Peas.
  7. Justin Bieber.
  8. Really dumb TV shows.
  9. Scrubbing toilets.
  10. Nagging mothers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Food Allergy Product Recalls – How to Get Them

by Kelley Lindberg

This week, I have received a couple of automated phone calls letting me know that Kroger’s Value Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips have been recalled due to undeclared milk. These are the chocolate chips I buy at Smith’s grocery stores here in Utah, but the recall is nationwide at all Kroger grocery stores. (If you have any of these chocolate chips with “Best By” dates in 2012, take them back to your grocery store for a refund.)

I got this recall phone call because I use Smith’s Fresh Values loyalty card when I shop, so I guess their database showed I’d purchased this product, and they added me to their auto-call list. I appreciate being notified this way.

This got me thinking about recall notices. It’s not always easy to find out about recalled food products, and for people with food allergies, it is critical to know about mislabeled products, contaminated manufacturing runs, and the like.

So how can you make sure you’re getting the news you need about recalls? I know of three ways that can help:

1. Use your grocery store’s loyalty card when you shop. Not only do you get discounts, you might get notified when something you bought is recalled.

2. Sign up for FAAN’s alerts. FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) is a leading organization for food allergy awareness, education, and advocacy, and many food manufacturers will let FAAN know when they’re recalling a food product. FAAN then sends alerts out to anyone who’s signed up for those alerts. You don’t have to be a member to get the free alerts. Go to FAAN’s main web page at, and under the red section called “Alerts & News,” click on either “Subscribe to Alerts Feed” or “Receive Alerts by e-mail” depending on whether you want to get the notices via RSS feed or by email. It’s quick and easy, and you’ll get notices promptly. Many of the notices might not affect you, but the ones that do are worth the occasional extra email.

3. Finally, join an email listserv like UFAN (Utah Food Allergy Network), where members keep each other up-to-date on any news they’ve heard. To join UFAN’s email forum, go to their main website ( and go to the section called “Join the Utah Food Allergy Network Forum,” click the link, and follow the instructions.

If anyone knows of any additional ways to keep up-to-date with food recalls, I’d love for you to share your suggestions in the Comments.

Let’s make sure 2011 is a safe and healthy year!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Can Allergy-Friendly Restaurants Increase Profits?

by Kelley Lindberg

Paul Antico, a former stock fund manager and father of a food-allergic child, has written an article called “How Much Are Food-Allergic Diners Worth?”  In this article, Antico uses his background in finances to estimate how much a restaurant can lose or gain, depending on whether that restaurant is willing to accommodate food allergies.

His results are eye-opening for anyone who’s never really thought about the issue, and happily confirming for those of us whose “gut feelings” have been telling us that restaurants that aren’t willing to accommodate food allergies are losing a significant number of potential customers. And those willing to accommodate food allergies not only retain those customers, but they gain new ones who get turned off by the not-so-friendly ones. In fact, his estimates show a “9% or greater potential increase in business for an allergy-friendly restaurant.”

Antico founded the restaurant rating website, where customers can rate restaurants based on their food allergy experience there. The site lists over 600,000 restaurants, including many in Utah, although many of them have not been rated yet. In cities where a significant number of people have rated their local restaurants, it’s a great resource for finding places to take your family. In places like Utah, it can become a great resource – it just needs people like us to take a couple of minutes to rate the restaurants we’re familiar with, so that we can spread the word about those places that have gone out of their way to make our families feel safe.

Hopefully Antico’s article will get picked up and published by newspapers around the country. It clearly lays out the issue in terms most business owners understand – profit numbers. As more business owners comprehend numbers like this, more restaurants will begin to open their doors to families like ours. In the meantime, we can use to start sharing which restaurants welcome our business.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, Same Goals

by Kelley Lindberg

See all those clean, white, blank squares on that shiny new calendar? Such a feeling of possibility, of promise, of optimism!

Half of mine are already scribbled in.

I spent the first day of the New Year filling in all the things I know will happen this year – birthdays, regular meetings, doctor and dentist appointments, sports practices, music lessons, and so on. It didn’t take long for 2011 to look exactly like 2010.

Then I sat down to think about some New Year’s goals. Funny, they look an awful lot like last year’s, too.

For a few minutes, I was kind of depressed. Gee, I thought. Didn’t I make any progress at all? But then I remembered… it’s not the destination, but the journey that’s important.

So what if my New Year’s resolutions look the same from year to year? I think that just means I’m consistent. My priorities haven’t changed. The things I enjoy doing haven’t changed. The people I love haven’t changed. Their needs haven’t changed.

So why should my goals?

And thinking about my year in GREAT BIG IMPORTANT HEADLINES can be misleading. We all know that sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. The new allergy-friendly recipes I found that make life a little tastier. The time I’ve spent with family and friends. The things I’ve watched my son learn and the new ideas I’ve watched him consider. The people I’ve connected with. The beautiful aspects of life on this earth that I’ve tried to appreciate.

So I’m embracing my goals from last year once again. (I like to call it “recycling.”) I’ll continue to find ways to simplify, spend less, and share more. I’ll keep writing because that’s what I love, and cleaning house because it’s a necessary evil. I’ll let the set-backs roll off my shoulders, and the successes buoy me up. I’ll notice the beautiful things around me, and I’ll try to make the world cleaner, safer, and more positive as I move through it. I’ll exercise because my body needs it, and I’ll keep writing and talking about food allergies because it might help someone out there whom I haven’t even met yet.

So here’s to a New Year filled with all the promise, optimism, and possibility that those scribbled-in squares represent. Let’s just think of each of those little squares as another postcard to ourselves from along the journey.

Happy New Year!