27 March 2015

11 year old boy dies due to food allergic reaction because of mislableing

USAToday.com full article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/03/24/family-sues-publix-wrongful-death/70381282/

An Alabama family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Publix Super Markets Inc. because of their 11-year-old son's death after eating a cookie they say was mislabeled from a store in Clarksville.
Derek "Landon" Wood, 11, of Sterrett, Ala., died of anaphylactic shock on June 3, 2014, after eating a cookie from the local Publix, which the family says had not been marked as containing a food allergen.
At a bakery counter that displayed ready-to-eat desserts such as cookies, brownies, pastries and muffins, there were no signs at or behind-the-counter warning of allergens or cross-contamination with allergens, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, before purchasing the cookie, Cline was told by a supermarket associate that a chocolate cookie, called a "Chocolate Chew," did not contain any tree nut allergens.
No label on the cookie disclosed the presence of allergens or a list of ingredients, the lawsuit said.
When the family returned home, Cline took a bite of the cookie, saw there were no nuts, and gave the rest to her son. Landon had three bites of the cookie and was sure there was something in it because his mouth was burning, the lawsuit said.
The cookie did contain walnuts.

-------------------------------Our take at Food Allergy Gal----------------------------------------

While Food Allergy Gal is not in favor of starting lawsuits for the sake of starting one, this is an area where I feel like we should be doing more in our community. Proper labeling is not only required by the FDA on packaged foods for 8 major allergens, but should just be good common sense practice. 
People aren't taking food allergies seriously and there is no mandated requirement for food service professionals to be properly trained on the consequences of mislabeling or not taking proper precautions in food service. We (the food service industry) all need to be trained from the grower to the restaurant. 
There are over 170 different foods known to cause allergic reactions. Allergic reactions can be deadly within seconds. While epinephrine is a medication that may stop anaphylaxis from finishing it's cycle (which is death), there is not a 100% guarantee. The medication cost over $350 for each dose usually, but is absolutely required for those with food allergies. 
Today in the United States over 15 million people have been diagnosed and reported as having food allergies that can be life threatening. Globally the number soars above 220 million people. 
The biggest trend we are seeing today is adult onset food allergies <---- (yes that is plural). Multiple food allergies are being diagnosed in adults for the very first time in their life. These allergies go way off just what the US deems as the major 8. 
There is a support group with over 300 members (www.FAadults.org) devoted to late onset food allergic adults. These adults ate normally for most of their lives until one day their immune systems decided to go haywire. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Anaphylaxis does not discriminate. All ages, ethnicities and genders can face anaphylaxis to any one or multiple foods found in the 170 reported. 
This is where clean labeling of all products becomes essential.  Any product found anywhere that contains any food ingredient should be labeled in plain language. For example, if a soap contains citric acid and avocado, it should clearly state, "Contains citrus and avocado." If a restaurant has a Meatball Sandwich on the menu it should have a separate menu, book or e-menu that defines every ingredient (ex. tomato, beef, veal, parmesan cheese (milk), corn meal, wheat, egg, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, sugar). The reason why: because someone may have a garlic and dairy allergy and the staff may not be thinking of those "minor" ingredients so they recite something simple and seemingly harmless like, "so you should be fine." 
Customers with food allergies also need to take responsibility and ensure everyone in the process knows they have a food allergy, even if it might not seem like banana would be in that salad, but you just never know what might hiding in the dressing. It's important to triple check though. To save time, just do clean labeling upfront. It can get annoying after the 80th person has walked thru the door and said, "what's in that?" or "does the main dish have ____,_____,____ in it?" So be prepared up front whenever possible.
Trust me it pays off royally in the end. Food Allergic guests, their friends, family members, and co-workers will become loyal patrons if they know they can safely be accommodated in your facility or with your product that's on the shelf that has simple, plain language ingredients listed on them.  -Avoid the lawsuit and especially avoid having death on your hands, where a mistake could have been prevented-. 

07 March 2015

Life of a Food Allergic: A Break from the norm

by Lauren Pechack, Certified Allercoach

In the world of special dietary requirements there is much talk of how clean is clean, endless label reading, grilling manufacturers about how they maintain their facilities. Delving into the minutia, constantly can make one feel a bit cross-eyed and can wear very quickly.

Then there our interpersonal relationship discussions. What soaps do they use? Did they hand wash or use the dishwasher? Is this a home I feel safe in or wary? Please don't put your lips close to my face if you've eaten something I'm allergic to.

And then there are the blessed weekends when we find a place where we feel like we belong. The last weekend was spent in Austin, TX at Living Without's, Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest.

What a joy this conference was from the every day "Norm" of allergic living. It was a bit of a break from treading through the weeds to have the opportunity to pop up and say, "hello." Hearing people's stories, was so refreshing, so varied! Some shared stories with the long batter to diagnosis, to being diagnosed years before there was much information or help, and others, just recently diagnosed desperately looking for help with their new normal. 

Most of the vendors were really fantastic. Not only were their products amazing, but they were extremely open about their manufacturing processing- which as so refreshing. I love the small companies who are driven by all the right things: openness, quality, and genuine care for their customers. Amazing stuff.

The best part was seeing the support shared. How sweet it was to my heart to see someone walk in with their friend or relative tagging along for support! Yes, please! Life has its ups and downs. Not everything is going to go my way or be perfectly suited to me, but if I have the support and care of a friend, it makes all the difference.

Much of what I saw this weekend was a direct result of that very thing. People lost in the minutia, reading labels, going cross-eyed and one day deciding to take a leap and do it for others. The micro and macro are tied and intertwined together, each individual thread embodying its color coming together in a tangled mess to create a beautiful masterpiece.

05 March 2015

What type of Food Allergy test is most reliable?

From Allergy Asthma Network's Ask an Allergist 

It's very important to see the right doctor for Food Allergy Testing, which is a board certified Allergist. They will ask about your medical history to see if it is consistent with a possible food allergy. The allergist can then determine the specific allergens to test.

Allergy testing for foods can be done either by skin prick testing, or by testing the blood for specific IgE directed against the potential food allergen. Both tests provide reliable results, although there’s not always complete agreement in the results between the two tests. Some allergist choose to use both  tests in their practice.

The skin test provides almost immediate results with a small, localized reaction that you can actually see. Follow up can be done with a blood test that gives an actual IgE level for the food (or other allergen). The blood test can then be tracked every 6-12 months to determine whether or not the person is outgrowing the allergy (typically more common in children)

Interpretation of blood test results for food allergy can be tricky. A very low positive result is not always clinically relevant, and an allergist’s input can be helpful in determining which foods should be eliminated from the diet.

If the reactions are restricted to eczema (40% of eczema patients have food allergies) then elimination of those foods that tested positive can be helpful. If the clinical relevance of the positive test is unclear, gradual reintroduction (per your doctor’s instructions) of one food at a time can help determine which foods are contributing to eczema.

However, if the person has experienced an allergic reaction not related to an eczema flare, then reintroduction of a food allergen at home without medical supervision could be dangerous.

People with food allergies are prescribed two epinephrine auto-injectors and urged to avoid the food allergen in their diet. Allergist should follow the blood test results to determine whether the person's IGe level is decreasing. If the doctor thinks that it may be safe to reintroduce a food, usually they do an in-office food challenge under medical supervision before clearing the person to eat the food at home.

25 February 2015

Don't avoid any food until...

As a mother of two children and a food allergic adult,  I never had a single doctor tell me that avoiding peanuts would be a good way to go, because of the risk of allergies. There are years and years of studies showing that eating a well balanced diet and introducing children to a variety of foods is the best way to go early on.

People  have started making the assumption that foods that caused allergic reactions were "bad for everyone" and that just simply is NOT the case! Just because a headline says, "Gluten is the leading cause in autoimmune disease!" does not mean we should all avoid eating gluten, for example. The 1% of Americans diagnosed with Celiac Disease should 100% avoid eating gluten. And in the off chance you have a Gluten INTOLERANCE, then yes you should also avoid, but it's not an ALLERGY. The point is this DON'T stop eating foods unless you are having a reaction, as it won't help you or your child in the long run. 

Of course there are exceptions. When our child is having an allergic reaction to foods- then it is important to pull them off the food and it's easier said than done and requires a lot of work to narrow down the results.

4% of the United States population has been diagnosed with food allergies. That's 15 million people. It's important not to go overboard here. There is way too much generalization happening about health in general. Every person has a different body and many have different things that work for them. Food Allergies are not a FAD diet. It's not something that you start and then go off of. It's also not something that you should choose to do, unless it is actually harming you because of allergic reactions.

The Akins diet suggested that "eating protein rich diet" was good for you and helped you lose weight. So a lot of people went to extreme protein portions and many people got very sick or became unhealthy.

We MUST read the fine print on these diets and not just read headlines. I am very supportive of every person without a food allergy, eating all the fabulous foods they can. For example, I support the peanut industry. I loved peanuts (real food) for a long time and they were a great snack that was much better than eating Cheetos or a snickers bar (not real food).

Even at 22 when I was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, I still encouraged other people to eat peanuts. I still made my kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, until my reactions got much worse and I started reacting to touching peanut butter. It was not until I became airborne allergic to peanut butter that I banned it from my house, but that doesn't mean I encourage people to stop eating them. Peanuts can be very good for you. They are part of the legume family and a great source of protein.

The AAAAI recently held their national conference in Houston where they announced studies about this and now the media is a feeding frenzy about it. This is all coming out wrong from start to finish and really dragging the food allergy community down.

We have now WASTED a lot of research dollars on a study that should never have been in the first place. What idiot person didn't do their research to begin with. Kids are not the only people who have or develop food allergies.

If medical researchers and doctors had worked together to compile information they would have seen that adults who had eaten all these foods before (i.e. peanuts) were suddenly developing severe allergic reactions. It is NOT because they weren't introduced to them.

This is a fabulous example of the fact that no one knows what food allergies and you can't prevent them. Eat all the foods possible until you can no longer. Most people will never react and some people will and that's it. Let's focus on why adults/teens suddenly develop food allergies and then we may be able to help everyone much more. We are doing it backward though because we are far more prone to wanting to help kids than adults. (I get it but at the same time I don't like it anymore, because I see it differently).

My children have eaten as many things as I can put in front of their face. My rule is, "You just have to eat 1 bite." My son was never diagnosed with food allergies and then at 15 years old he went into anaphylaxis shock, 4 times. It just happens. There is nothing that I did wrong as a parent. I have no tools to prevent true IGe reactions from developing. It was the same thing with me, I ate everything until one day I could not due to allergic reactions.

This is EXACTLY why I DO NOT recommend "going Gluten Free," especially for kids, unless there is a true gluten intolerance or celiac disease. If you have an IgE wheat allergy- then please 100% avoid wheat- but eat spelt, rye, oats (contain gluten) all day long, if you can because it's not gluten bothering your system.

I don't recommend having a snickers bar, a bag of Cheetos and a coke for snack under any circumstance, by the way. But if you have a snickers bar and you don't have food allergies, it will not kill you, I promise. No one is going to shoot you either, especially not me. I will actually be jealous because I haven't been able to eat one in 13 years.  It's about moderation. It's about knowing what works for your body.  It's also mostly all about moderation and finding the right balance.

Here is the actual report received about the study with a shIT headline: (because people without food allergies don't understand and are taking it wrong) 

Exposing kids at risk for peanut allergy to peanuts may actually help prevent an allergy.
A study suggesting that exposing kids at risk for peanut allergy to peanuts may actually help prevent an allergy was covered by all three of last night’s national news broadcasts for a total of more than four minutes. The study also received extensive coverage online and in print. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which provided funding for the trial, is quoted in nearly every article. Most sources tout the study, with some calling the findings a “landmark” or “ground-breaking.”
        The CBS Evening News (2/23, story 5, 1:56, Pelley) reported, “A new medical study...could transform the way doctors prevent peanut allergies. Turns out keeping kids away from peanuts may be the wrong thing to do.” ABC World News (2/23, story 6, 1:42, Muir) and NBC Nightly News (2/23, story 4, 0:31, Holt) also discussed the study during their respective broadcasts.
        The AP (2/24, Marchione) reports that the research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “involved more than 600 children ages 4 months to 11 months old,” all of whom “were thought to be at risk for peanut allergy because they were allergic to eggs or had eczema.”
        The New York Times (2/24, Pollack) “Well” blog reports that these children “were randomly assigned either to be regularly fed food that contained peanuts or to be denied such food.” Those “feeding patterns CONTINUED until the children were 5 years old.”
        USA Today (2/24, Szabo) reports that “babies regularly given peanuts for at least four years cut their risk of peanut allergy by an average of 81%, compared with children who avoided peanuts.” These “results are ‘without precedent,’ said” Dr. Fauci, who added that “the results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention.”

        The Washington Post (2/24, Bernstein) “To Your Health” blog reports, “An accompanying editorial described the research as a ‘landmark study,’ called for quick issuance of new guidelines on peanut consumption by children and recommended that some infants between the ages of four and eight months who are at risk for the allergy be started on small amounts of peanut protein.”

28 January 2015

Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest

In a world where we often feel isolated or alone in our disease, it's important to find opportunities to connect with others, find some additional resources and tools and have some fun. This year, 2015 there are a few ways to do that, thanks to these organizations. Click on each picture to get more details.

This year GFFA Fest will be in:
Austin, TX (Feb 28) (Certified AllerCoach, Flourish with Food Allergies will attend)
Tampa, FL (March 14)
Columbus, OH (April 25)
Portland, OR (September 26)

The National FARE convention will be in Long Beach, CA May 16-May 17, 2015. Food Allergy Gal will be attending. 

22 January 2015

Waiving the magic wand

Every week for almost a year we've been connecting a very unique group of people from coast to coast in the United States via phone. We've developed a sub-culture in our disease. The online forum now has about 280 members. Each week 4-9 of us hop on a call to discuss various topics related to adult onset food allergy disease. 

The last couple of weeks we've discussed two great topics. 
The first was: 
"In a perfect world, if anything was possible, what tools would you like to see to better help navigate food allergies." 

Of course finding a cure is the first one for all us, but apart from that here is what the group asked for:

1. Better labeling: Because the majority of adults with food allergies have things that are not on the 8 required to b
in the US, we would just like all labeling on all products to be listed in plain language. So if there is orange in shampoo, can the ingredients just say, "Orange" please?!

2. Better educated food staff: Everyone thinks they know about food allergies but when the person with food allergies asks for help and boldly WRONG statements are being made it can turn into an ugly illness for the food allergic that lasts for weeks. All we are asking for is that every person in the food industry have proper, certified training on food allergies with some type of regular update required. It's knowing what questions to ask, knowing what to look for and how to assess safe or unsafe with confidence that is key. Some states mandate food allergy training. The federal government even mandates it but if the state doesn't agree to it or isn't checking to make sure there is at least one certified food allergy manager onsite at all times, it's worthless. 

In a perfect world, if you could waive a magic wand; what solutions would you put in place to help better manage allergic living? 

Here is the reality about finding a cure for Food Allergy Disease:  Health related non-profit organizations for things like Brain Tumor cures, Cancer, Heart Disease and Kidney disease get 10 times the amount of funding that organizations that support Food Allergies do. 
I hate to be a pessimistic person but I don't see us finding a cure in my lifetime. 
If they can't figure out cancer, heart disease and kidney disease with all that money, then I kind of don't think they are going to figure out Food Allergy disease anytime soon. It's far more mysterious than people think it is, actually. Especially because kids can outgrow it whereas adults can grow into it. I just ask that we create better tools to help navigate so we can stay positive, productive citizens of the world who don't continue to get sick and have reactions that can take us out for weeks at a time. 

Our second topic was: 
"What tools do you use in your daily life to better help you manage food allergies." 
Stay tuned for the next blog post to hear what tools may help you. You can also sign up to receive email alerts. 

If you know of a restaurant group that you'd like to see get trained, please refer them to one of our resources in Food Allergy Training & Management, there are now a handful of companies offering this service. Contact info@foodallergygal.com for more details.

15 December 2014

Overcoming Fear in Food Allergic Living

To a multiple food allergic person, finding safe foods or places to eat is like going on a scavenger hunt for a California license plate in Georgia. They are out there but it's not a frequent, easy find.

I try to never give up the hunt. I alway find new places and most of the time I am willing to ask, "Do you have any special menus?" or "What's in your product? How is it made?" "Can you cater to someone with 15 allergens?" "What's new and unique about your place? Have you thought about becoming a food allergy certified restaurant?" The questions provoke thought and let owners and managers know people are looking. Don't give up.

I walked over to a new local market to meet a neighborhood friend for lunch. The market is in a great spot, nestled just off the Atlanta Beltline between O4W and Inman Park. It's taken awhile to get up and running but there were all sorts of fabulous speciality shops inside with a very upscale "food court." But not the kind of food court you would find inside of a mall. The kind where every shop is different, unique and a little bit higher end. No 'Hot Dog on a Stick' kind of places. There are mostly local business owners, many of whom are getting their start now.

The clean, modern lines of the building represent a certain level of much needed hygiene that is important to me in my shopping/eating experience.

The food adventurer in me wants to go try everything. The food allergic side of me proceeds with great caution and is only mildly hopeful I will find something good to eat.

I walk thru this beautifully eclectic building that was once a warehouse and then converted to a movie studio that now resembles a 1920's old factory complete with conveyor belts and stumble across a butcher, a florist, a chocolatier, a soap maker, a pastry shop and a handful of restaurants. "This is how I like to shop," says the gal who hates to shop. 

I can actually go to a place like this, ask the questions I need to and get answers without them having to phone into corporate or them coming back to me saying, "sorry we can't." I can actually make a soap, a lotion and a conditioner that is safe for me, right here in my own backyard without setting up a chemistry shop at home.

A few doors down I see chocolate. I am willing to take the risk because a few times before in my life I've actually found smaller chocolatiers making simply good chocolate that is safe. And BINGO, there it was XOColATL. Finally a safe chocolate bar with just two ingredients but with hints of apricot and cherry on the back end. Life was getting better by the second.

As I round the corner, my friend points out the owner of the Spotted Trotter, the butcher shop located at the front and I run into the owner of the Luminary as well. They are all very engaged in running their businesses, but everyone is greeted with a smile.

Popping up on the backside was a BBQ spot, a mediterranean shop and then:
"Fred's Meat and Bread," caught my attention. 

I loved the simplicity of the name. I watched as the food came out of the large open window that was counter height so I could still see them preparing. (This also helps bring a level of comfort to me. I like to see what's happening in the kitchen).

The meals were simple and fresh and looked super delicious. I would not call this "health food" even for a second, as it was American burgers with a global influence, from a vietnamese to italian twist. But I certainly needed a healthy dose of food that day- so to me it was "healthful."

I asked, as I took a seat at the counter, "Do you think you can create something for me with these food allergies?," as I pulled out the long list. My main concern was where was the bread from and did it have dairy, soy or sesame in it?  Of course it's only responsible to go thru the entire list of allergens with them, just in case, but honestly the chances were slim that other allergens would be present.

My dining partner was actually more concerned than I was, which was somewhat refreshing, as he took care to ask about everything from the Ketchup to the pickles (which usually I have no issue with). "Fred" reported back that the buns were made onsite and did contain dairy and sesame, which made me not want a burger as badly but he convinced me to go bunless and order the fries because the burger was delicious made of 3 kinds of meat.

He had me at 3 kinds of meat and french fries, so I ordered. Despite not being able to have a bun and really go for the "Fred's Meat and Bread specials-" it was the best burger I'd had in ATL...

I left perfectly satisfied and eager to further explore the Krog Street Market further in future, knowing I may have stumbled on a place where I could actually enjoy the goods being produced.

As multiple food allergics we often fear and dread going outside of our homes on food adventures. In fact many of us have let fear itself consume us therefore we deny ourselves these social experiences.

I'm not insensitive to this at all. I have personally experienced anaphylaxis shock more than once in my life. I know it can be scary. I have also been sick for weeks because I was fed or consumed something that ended up being unsafe. It's a yucky, angry feeling of betrayal sometimes.

I also know I have an Epi Pen and prescription antihistamines and lotions in case an allergic reaction should start.

I refuse to live a bubble, because that's just not living at all.

I want to live my life and go explore still, even if that means I have to take a food break and run home to feed myself or pack safe snacks from home, it's worth trying because you never know what good you may stumble upon.

We must find it in ourselves to not allow the fear to consume us but instead use that same "OCD" paranoid skill and apply it to being prepared. It's okay to be ready when you need to be, I recommend it in fact, but don't let this disease control you. You be in control of your thoughts, choices and decisions and reactions but go explore. Live your life. It's totally worth it, in the end. I would rather say that I did something than I thought of something.

25 November 2014

"Sticks & Stones"

by Lauren Pechacek

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.  - Oh really?!

The words we speak to ourselves can often be the words that hurt us the most.

I remember coming home from the doctor with my list of “can’t have” foods.

I stood in front of pantry with bitter determination, thinking, “how bad could this possibly be?”

Several grocery bags later, an empty pantry, refrigerator, and icebox...I realized that this was bad.
Reading labels opened up a whole new world...my pesky allergens were in EVERYTHING!

What was I going to eat? What was I supposed to do when I craved the things I was allergic too? I had to literally change my mind about good, “healthy food.” These things I could no longer have were not inherently bad or evil, but my body's response to them was. How was I going to change my entire diet...overnight?

I confess, like many adults struggling with food allergies, I did not handle it well.

My “adjustment” was radical. I ate very little in the first few weeks. All of my go-to recipes were no longer safe.
Eating out was definitely not an option. In all of this, I struggled not to just have a little of (the offensive food).

I began telling myself, “I can’t have that, it will kill me.”
Was this a true statement?
Well, yes it was. But in my effort to keep myself safe from my own desires and cravings, cross-contact, and a host of other terrifying scenarios, I began building an unscalable wall around me, in my own mind.

Years ago I made the decision to stop watching CSI, Criminal Minds, and NCIS. I found my mind overwhelmed with fear. I would always drive around a bit before parking my car, envisioning one of the many episodes where a serial killer was hiding behind a bush. Although the possibility of someone attacking me is not impossible, it was certainly not something I needed occupying my thoughts all the time.

So, several years after receiving my “list” a few trips to the hospital and the “list” growing, I had to make another decision. Is having a reaction a possibility? Absolutely. Do I need to be constantly telling myself “That will kill me.” No. The goal is to stay safe and healthy.

While I was staying safe, I was making myself unhealthy. So from freedom to the snares of bondage, I think I have found a balance in my words.

I now say, “I can’t have that, but I can have this.” Now, it is less fear based, and more about my choice, “This makes me sick but this does not.”

I know it is popular to refer to our food allergies as “life-threatening” and there are times and places that is needed. But, not in our heads and our hearts.

I know the reality of my food allergies. I know what it means to use an Epi-Pen, several times over. I also know what it is to live in a self-made hell of fear. Dwelling on all the possibilities of what could go wrong, dealing with the aftermath of reaction when you have been so careful.

I get it. But, instead of surrounding our minds with forty-foot walls fifteen feet deep, topped with barbed-wired and broken glass bottles, maybe we could change it out for a little white picket fence? One you can see over and through. ? One that allows us the you freedom to think creatively about living and flourishing with your food allergies?

What words are you speaking to yourself? Are they helpful or hurtful? Do you feel walled-in? Would you like to stay safe and also be healthy? Maybe consider writing down the words you speak to yourself. What could you change them to?

We can’t change the reality of food allergies, but we can certainly change how we view and interact with them. 

Lauren is owner of Flourish with Food Allergies, a certified AllerCoach firm based out of Houston, Texas. You can personally connect with Lauren at facoachtx@gmail.com

12 November 2014

We Are what We Eat

As a food allergic we are focused as much on what we can eat as we are on what we can't eat.

Our lives often are consumed by staying alive and staying well. It's all about what we put in our bodies.  After all, one particle per million could send us into a deadly disaster and/or make us ridiculously sick for a very long time. (Not fun!) This is good reason to feel a little obsessed about food.

I've read 1000's of  stories now on the "hell" of being newly diagnosed with over 8 different allergies- many related to just foods. Some people have been diagnosed with over 32 food allergies.

Where we eat, where we travel, who we date, who we socialize with, how we socialize, where we work, how we work, when we cook, where we cook, where we shop... have all become a focused part of this giant picture we now call life as a food allergic.

The saying, "We are what we eat," hits me today as I think about what I am NOT due to food allergies. In my case I am not a salmon, a ginger, a peanut, a nut at all, a vanilla, a coffee, a banana, a cranberry, a soybean, an orange, lemon or lime or latex or milk.

So what am I?

If you could describe yourself as a food or beverage what would you be?

One of my favorite jobs ever is being a chef/cook.  I love to put together new foods and appeal to appetites. I love finding myself in the food itself. I love putting together new challenging menus. While I was always a food lover, the cooking but didn't hit me until I was much older. In my younger years it was baking, because baking was a family affair. Then something changed within me.

I had been exposed to some of the greatest chefs growing up. My food life was expansive by the time I was 18. I had eaten more foods than most people will ever eat in a lifetime.  I was spoiled but didn't know it. My family owned a produce business and restaurants were some of our best clients. My first fine dining experiences were often in the back of the kitchen after delivering produce and a long hard, dirty day of work. Some chefs were kind enough to give me a full tasting menus. I never knew how good I had it until I find out that wasn't the "norm."

When food allergies struck me in my early 20's for the first time, I had to step up in my own kitchen. The more food allergies I developed and the more severe they became, the better my chef skills became. I was not going to sacrifice good food and great flavors just because of this new disease. I would overcome.

If I am what I eat.

Today I am beef, mushroom, potato with fresh chopped basil and a few red beets. Tomorrow I may be a tomato, basil eggplant. Sometimes I am just a pork chop- but a good pork chop with a side of fresh applesauce and a little salt and pepper.

If I am what I eat.
Then I am fresh, rich, colorful, packed with flavor individual.

We talk about not letting our disease be us in our support groups. We talk about focusing on what we can eat. We talk about positive affirmations but as I write down how I eat and what I eat, I find a lot of truth to how it mimics my life.

I don't think for longer than even a week, I've lived a vanilla life.

The moral of the story is to love your food. Celebrate what you are putting in your body. Value it because food is the stuff that fuels our body but generally the experience around food (cooking, socializing, serving) is what fuels our soul.

If all you have is a box of Kraft Mac N cheese... spice it up with a little pepper and add a little green garnish. Serve it a beautiful non-plastic bowl and use real silverware. Sit down at the table. Turn on some music. Light a candle. Pick a flower from a garden and place it on the table. Then with every bite savor that moment in your food. It changes your perspective entirely.

Love yourself enough to feed yourself well. You deserve it.

29 October 2014

What's all this teal pumpkin stuff about?

Holiday season is officially in full swing. For 220 million people worldwide, this can be one of the most challenging times in our lives. Especially for those diagnosed with multiple food allergies (kids and adults alike).

While Halloween technically celebrates the day of the dead, food (candy) is the most important prize. This is a holiday we somehow made into our own based on Mexico's Dia de los Muertos. We dress up in costumes, knock on strangers doors and encourage our children to beg for candy. A proper American Tradition now though.

We also celebrate the fall (autumn) season with pumpkins, fall leaves, hot cider and apple harvest in preparation of Thanksgiving by "harvesting" them and bringing them at home to further ripen on our front porch before we carve them or make pie out of them.

But things are changing in our society now. The rise of food allergies as well as the larger transparent food movement, has people thinking twice about giving our little "beggars" food (candy). We surely wouldn't want them sick because of something we dished out.
Cooper (FA Kid) in California shows off her Teal Pumpkin. 

A woman (Ms. Becky Basalone) in Tennessee came up with an iconic symbol this Halloween called the "Teal Pumpkin Project." Every cause has a color. Somehow Food Allergies got teal. (Although in food service the color to signify an allergen free meal is purple).

Becky decided to send a signal to all the Food Allergic kids and parents by painting a teal pumpkin and placing it on the front porch. This signals to families of food allergics that this house will give away non-food treats (pencils, pens, bracelets, erasers, spider rings, etc).

The movement has spread across the United States and has been reported being seen in UK and Canada. I was recently on a few calls where people knew nothing about food allergies and this subject came up, "I was wondering what all these blue pumpkins were all about."

If you'd like to participate in the 'blue' or Teal pumpkin project and let people know, click here.
How to participate:
1. Paint a pumpkin Teal
2. Grab some non-food items a (trick vs. treat)
3. List your house as a Safe for F.A. kids house, here. 

At Food Allergy Gal, we recommend baking/making special treats at home.
That means having a super fabulous, awesome meal at home that is made Free of Allergens (for that person) first. Perhaps make it ghost and goblin themed. Then have special treats ready that can be packed for trick or treating. (Rice Crispy Treats made with safe alternatives, Muffins, Dried Fruit, Pie Bites) 

Everyone is going to be reaching in and grabbing a little treat from time to time, so carry some "safe treats" with you as you go from door to door.

Enjoy those spider rings and pens and pencils and if candy is collected- donate it to the soldiers if you don't feel safe. 

Until you walk the day in the life of a multiple food allergic person, you may not know the pain we face with this season. Social functions include food everywhere that can make us extremely ill for weeks and/or kill us if aren't treated with epi right away. It's great to have people who actually care about us (food allergics) too.

Learn more about #tealpumpkinproject 

A Halloween Meal Plan Idea:

1.Beef back ribs (to resemble human ribs) Braise them in a balsamic vinegar and brown sugar rub and brushes them with homemade barbecue sauce before grilling them

2. Fried Cabbage Salad (to resemble fried worms) Add shredded cabbage, onions, carrots with rice vinegar, olive oil, teaspoon of sugar to sauté pan and heat it up until just a bit on the crispy side and then top off with some dried seaweed. 

3. Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (to resemble fingers) Wash potatoes and place on baking sheet. Drizzle salt, pepper and olive oil. Heat over to 425 degrees F. Roast for 20 minutes. Sprinkle Rosemary or Chives for color on top

4. Pumpkin Flan for dessert (this can be made with Rice Milk and dairy, soy free butter)  (Add 3/4 cup of whole pumpkin blend) Click here, for unmodified recipe. 

5. Tasty Drink (Adult version here): 1/4 cup water, 3 cups of pear or apple juice, 4 tablespoons of cinnamon, (optional 1 cup of whiskey) (Mix in a martini shaker and pour over ice) or warm over low heat in a sauce pan or crock pot and serve warm.