Thursday, January 29, 2009

Allergy-Free Conversation Hearts for Valentine's Day

When we first found out about my daughter's nut allergy, it was really hard to find "safe" candies for each holiday, especially the really iconic ones like candy corn for Halloween (still trying to find that one!) and of course, conversation hearts for Valentine's Day. It seemed like every candy heart package had a nut allergy warning on it, so she couldn't eat them at class parties or at home. Bummer.

Luckily, Sweet Tarts Hearts are the allergy-free answer to our "conversation heart conundrum." The candies are the Willy Wonka brand, made by Nestle, so I did a little digging to ensure these candies are safe for most food allergies.

The Wonka web site states that "all the Wonka brand sugar candies are peanut/tree nut free." Just to be sure, I called Nestle and asked about the Sweet Tarts Hearts. They assured me that if there were any cross-contact risk for the "Top 8" allergens, this info would be reflected on the label with warnings such as "Processed on equipment that also processed nuts (or the other top 8) or "Made in a facility that also processes peanuts (or egg, etc.) The Nestle rep also said that these candies did not have this risk. The packaging for these candies doesn't list any allergy warnings for any foods--so according to what I was told, these candies can be safely eaten by most.

Of course, if you ever are unsure about a candy, just call the company as I did. The side benefit of calling is that they usually send you free stuff or coupons.

I'm sending these to my daughter's class party--they also sell small boxes of these perfect for taking to school.

Personally, I like the taste of Sweet Tarts better than the "traditional" candy hearts. I bought these at Super Target, but I've seen them for sale everywhere. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Starbucks Again...This Time They Really Blew It

I never thought I'd be forced to write about Starbucks so much in one week, but here I go again! I keep wanting to offer my Valentine's Day candy, baked goods posts and stuff keeps happening! Well, stay tuned for the V-Day stuff.

My friend Wendy of the excellent blog Celiacs in the House just sent me this link and I'm sure the Starbucks story is all over the allergy blogs today.

According to the news reports, a Canadian woman experienced a near fatal reaction after consuming a yogurt parfait in one of the Starbucks cafes. The item was not labeled as containing nuts, but it cut off oxygen to her brain, nearly killed her and ruined her eyesight in one eye. Read the full story here.

Well, there are a lot of things to be freaked out about here. The first one is, the allergic woman did "everything right" in terms of reading a label and asking the staff what's in the food item.

The problem is--who can you trust? The workers at Starbucks, if the parfaits are delivered to the store each a.m. as I assume they are, do they really know what's in it? Are they trained to know what ingredients go into their foods, even? How does Starbucks go about addressing food allergies? Like many of you, I've read labels that say nothing about potential allergens and others that say they may contain some of the "top 8" like nuts or dairy.

The other thing that freaks me out is this: though this certainly wasn't the woman's fault, I was given a list of potential nut-containing foods to avoid after my daughter was diagnosed. Granola--an ingredient of the allergenic Starbucks parfait--was one of those foods. I avoid granola like the plague. It's just too dicey--nuts are usually an ingredient. Why did this woman not do this? Well, she was in a hurry, she was busy, she was hungry. Unfortunately, when you're nut-allergic you can't just grab food like any other person without threat of a reaction. Carry food with you for those times when hunger strikes. That's another lesson we can learn from this.

Another thing: perhaps this woman hadn't had a reaction in awhile and had gotten a little complacent. So easy to do--I know I've been guilty of it myself. Unfortunately, you can't let your guard down. Ever. It's the only way to avoid a reaction. The story also doesn't say that she was carrying an EpiPen, either. I hope she was, but if she wasn't--another lesson learned. Don't leave home without it and teach your kids to do the same as they grow.

Starbucks is saying that the parfait was a "dessert item." For goodness' sake everybody, please avoid desserts if you have a nut allergy!!!! That's number one. In fact, Dr. Wood, author of Food Allergies for Dummies and a peanut-allergic individual himself, says that only once did he have a reaction from a "non-dessert" item. Every other time it was from cookies, a brownie or some other dessert. Unless you've made them yourself, please -- don't go near them!!

Vermont Nut Free now makes nut-free granola products and I think Enjoy Life Foods does as well. Maybe Starbucks should start stocking Enjoy Life items--maybe some already do.

Starbucks will no doubt receive a boatload of response about this and I hope they do the right thing. Giving someone a free "coffee card" isn't really going to cut it.

Just goes to show you that the food industry has a long way to go. So speak up everybody and remember--skip the desserts!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Starbucks and the PB Salmonella Scare

Starbucks just pulled all of its peanut products due to the salmonella scare. Read about it here.

I wonder how the customers will like it? I can't serve my daughter the baked goods there (much to her chagrin--some of them are pretty good) but I don't remember a lot of peanut baked stuff. Mostly it's the granola bars, energy bars, etc. that are getting pulled.

Still, anything that limits peanut residue in a restaurant or cafe gets my stamp of approval.

This peanut butter/salmonella thing is really getting a lot of press this time around, more so than the scare that occured with PB and salmonella a few years ago. Could it be that food allergy/sensitivity sufferers have had an overall effect on how we look at general food safety? That would be a nice side effect to our daily challenges.

Having to give up peanut butter due to the threat of disease may force more people than ever before to try sunbutter, soybutter and other peanut butter substitutes. Wonder if these new habits will stick? (No pun intended. :))

Monday, January 26, 2009

Food Recall Article Only Adds to the Confusion

Don't get me wrong--I'm really glad that the Chicago Tribune is following up on their food allergy investigation with stories like this one that talked about how stores are pulling more supposedly "allergen-free" items that are actually filled with an allergen. The latest story that ran Saturday (check the link) talked about gluten-free items that had to be pulled.

Apparently, a customer with celiac disease became nauseated from a contaminated food and it was discovered that the "gluten-free" Hy-Vee brand chicken bites she ate were actually filled with gluten. The brand pulled the item from store shelves, which helped prevent further illness.

From my perspective, there was just one problem with this story. The woman in question was pregnant and her only reported symptom was that she became nauseated after eating. I don't know about you mothers out there, but when I was pregnant, I became nauseated after eating all the time--and not just during those first 3 months.

The "example consumer" given in this article was troubling to me, because even though it is certainly not good that a pregnant woman and her child were exposed to an allergen harmful to the mother, does this story inspire sympathy in the non-allergic? Or does it make us seem, well, a little over the top?

I'm not picking on people with wheat allergies or celiac disease--I know they are no fun and present several challenges. And I know that true wheat allergies are just as severe as nut allergies. But in the case of this Tribune article is some nausea comparable to anaphylaxis, such as can occur with a severe allergic reaction?

Of course anyone with a food allergy or sensitivity should report it and let others -- including companies -- know about it. No one should have to suffer any symptoms at all if they can avoid it. But there is a big difference between life-threatening reactions (or severe G.I. distress, as can occur with celiac disease) and some minor physical discomfort.

Because of the "nature of the beast" the line between the two often gets blurred. And I'm not sure how it can be resolved so that everyone affected gets a fair shake.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More on the Salmonella Peanut Butter Probe

Here's an interesting excerpt from a recent article on about the salmonella outbreak affecting peanut butter products...even dog treats! (I just discovered the dog treats angle last week...I'm a little behind on that one.) My brother sent me this link. Thanks, buddy!

"Anne Muñoz-Furlong, founder of Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, said people might "walk away with a feeling of knowing what it's like to have a food allergy" because of the salmonella outbreak.

Because of the pervasiveness of peanuts in the food supply, people with peanut allergies read labels "very carefully, so there's not even traces of peanuts in certain foods," Gidus said. They have to inquire about sauce in restaurant dishes and read ingredients for every snack.

"This shows that it sounds very easy to avoid peanuts, but it's not so easy," Muñoz-Furlong said. "It's in so many different places you wouldn't expect it. That's what makes it so challenging."

Peanut butter lover Adam Leidhecker checked online to make sure his food is safe. He combed through his cupboard and found a few peanut butter cookies and crackers and threw them away if those companies hadn't released a statement stating their products were safe.

"The companies not affected need to take an extra step to say that they're on top of it," said Leidhecker, a Williamsport, Pennsylvania, resident.

He said he'll continue to eat his daily creamy peanut butter sandwich and slather peanut butter on a treat for his 2-year-old dog, Lola, after checking the products online.

"I'm not going to go without peanut butter," he said.

Check out this last line, everybody. That's pretty much what we all would have expected, right? :) Even with the threat of severe diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting (and possible hospitalization)--the public is clinging to its peanut butter!

What do you all think is behind the sometimes irrationally strong emotional tie to peanut butter? Childhood memories? Easy to swallow? No need to chew if you have no teeth? Any ideas--I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Calling all Grandparents of Nut-Free Kids!

The other day, I was reading a magazine story about the increase in grandparents caring for grandchildren. Really, I don't need to read about this--I just need to look around me. While I wait for my kids every day after school, I'm joined by a good number of grandparents waiting to pick up the kids and take them home, where, I assume, they'll also be caring for them.

As the daughter of a single mom, my own grandparents had a big hand in raising me and my siblings. I have so many great memories of my childhood with them and I know they helped shape me in a positive way. I had the best grandmother in the world and I wish she were still with us. Plus, as parents, we truly appreciate your help with our kids.

I've gotten several e-mails and responses to my blog posts from grandparents, grandmothers especially, and I'd love to hear from you. It must be hard to cope with nut allergies or any other food allergies, after having raised your own children in a mostly non-allergic world. What's the hardest part for you? What's the easiest? What do you want to know about most?

If you prefer to e-mail me, just scroll down and click on the Contact Me link to the right of the blog. I'm looking forward to your stories!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vote for Me on!

If you enjoy this blog or find it helpful, I'd humbly like to ask you to vote for me in the "People's Health Bloggers" contest currently running until Jan. 31st at Scroll down and you can click on the "Vote for Me" buttons to the right of my blog to get direct access to voting.

They do ask you to register but it takes about 20 seconds and doesn't require anything of you. It's a great, comprehensive site and I'm privileged to be a part of it. I just joined last month!
A special thanks to those of you who voted for me already!! I truly appreciate your support!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Welcome to My World...Peanut Butter Declared Unsafe to Consume by The FDA

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read the latest newspaper reports these last few days stating the FDA's warnings to consumers regarding peanut butter. Apparently a salmonella outbreak has made it unsafe to consume--for everyone. All of a sudden the safety of peanut butter is a big crisis for a whole lot of folks who've never given it a thought (or had to.)

For example, on Friday, my youngest daughter's Girl Scout leader was emailing parents and warning them about not eating peanut butter. (It was kind of her to do this...don't get me wrong.)

For days now, the FDA is strongly urging people not to eat peanut butter. They are more than willing to admit that peanut butter can make you very sick...and in some cases it can kill. (Salmonella can be fatal in some people.)

Sound familiar? Welcome to our world.

It's interesting to me that the FDA will spread this peanut butter story (no pun intended) all over the news when salmonella is involved, but they won't take a hand in recalling foods that are mislabeled for potentially deadly food allergens...such as...wait for it... PEANUT BUTTER.

Why the double standard? Clearly, the food allergy community needs to keep the pressure on.

Also, all these folks that say they oppose a peanut ban because their kids won't eat anything for lunch but peanut butter? Will they try something new now? My guess is yes. Avoiding peanut butter is a novel concept that many people will be forced to try due to this salmonella outbreak. Think they'll survive without it for a few days or weeks? I think we all know the answer to that one.

I also wonder if it will generate any more compassion for those of us who deal with this every day and know that we will never get an "all clear" on the safety of peanut butter.

In any case, it looks like a lot of people will get an involuntary dose of the "peanut-free" way of life. I'll be watching with interest.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Obamas Go Nut-Free! First Family Cookies from Little Rae's Bakery

Now, I'm usually not political on this site, but in this case I had to make an exception. Just in time for the inauguration...Obama First Family Nut-Free Shortbread Cookies from Little Rae's Bakery in Seattle! I first found out about Little Rae's Bakery, gone nut-free as of last July, from the blog Food Allergy Buzz.

The owner of Little Rae's, James Morse, is himself severely allergic to peanuts. He decided to go nut-free when he realized he didn't want to expose himself to the allergens at work--and when he realized there was strong demand for nut-free baked goods. The cookies are baked in a nut-free facility. When I spoke to a bakery worker on the phone, I was told that they are getting calls from all over the country after going nut-free. In other words, it's been successful for them. Yay!
As a Chicagoan and supporter of Mr. Obama, I had to order these. They're so kitschy--and based on the chocolate chip cookies I ordered as well, they're going to be delicious. As you see from the photo, the "First Family" cookie bag includes Barack, Michelle, the two girls and the "mystery dog." Apparently the Obama's oldest daughter has several allergies, so maybe the new First Family will be more aware of allergies in general. I hope so.
Little Rae's is currently only nut-free. They do use wheat, dairy and eggs. So they're not a good choice for multiple food allergies, but still. Nut-free is a start and personally, I'm thrilled to have found out about them.
It's my hope that many more allergen-free (egg-free, nut-free, gluten-free, etc.) bakeries are on the horizon. To paraphrase our new President, "That's a "change we can believe in."
You can order from Little Rae's online or by phone: 206-762-5750.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

L.A. Times Prints Response to Stein's OpEd

Read this essay from Dr. Robert Wood--an FAAN medical board member and lifelong peanut allergy sufferer printed in today's L.A. Times. FAAN also has a link to this story--check their "In the News" section.

Now I promise I'll stop talking about this--Mr. Stein doesn't deserve any more discussion. I'm so over this person!!!!

I will ask all of you one thing, though. FAAN needs to come out strongly when these stories occur. They still haven't addressed Dr. Nicolas Christakis (not an allergist) who is running around saying that nut allergies are largely an invention of "hysterical" parents and that we need to stop taking them seriously because it creates "fear."

One of the biggest things that bothers me about this "hysteria" thing is that it is mainly mothers that are being called into question and called hysterical. This is blatantly sexist and needs to stop, pronto. Fathers care about this too--not just mothers.

I've contacted FAAN about Dr. Christakis, and I hope you will consider doing so, too. We need FAAN to speak out loud and proud--it really does help.

Also, I only post these negative stories to make us aware of what's going on. I'm actually really pleased with the progress that food allergies have made. The negative stories are not nearly as numerous as the positive ones. And no matter what anyone says, we know we'll keep advocating for our kids. If you're an adult with a food allergy (like Dr. Wood) you have a really important voice to share, too.

Rock on, everybody! Don't let the "@!*#" get you down.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Not So Nutty--A Wonderful Rebuttal to the L.A. Times OpEd

Allergic Girl's blog had this link posted yesterday, an elegant, well-written and straightforward rebuttal of the Joel Stein OpEd piece in the L.A. Times last week. The author of the article is an Allergic Girl personal friend.

The author's description of dining out with Mr. Stein and other writer colleagues while she was in college just makes me cringe. She states that then she felt inhibited to discuss her nut allergies with the waitstaff because she hates to broadcast her allergy to anyone she doesn't know and was especially intimidated by his "famous writer" status. Little did she know he wasn't worth the self-consciousness.

Bravo to her for a great piece!

Incidentally, I contacted FAAN and they told me that they are collaborating with their medical board on a rebuttal to the L.A. Times OpEd that will run later this week. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 14th FDA Deadline...and a Short Peanut Butter Story

You only have until tomorrow to submit your comments about the current "May contains" FDA food labeling, so if you haven't commented yet, now's your chance! Click here for the form.

Please consider doing this! Your voice is so important and it's rare that our government actually asks the public for their opinions on this issue.

Also, from my "You Can't Be Too Careful" files, check this one out: My daughter went sledding with a new friend last weekend and then she was supposed to go "meet" her friend's new dog at the girl's house.

As they drove away from the sledding hill and started discussing the new puppy, both the little girl and her mom realized that the dog (at the vet's suggestion) had its toys covered in peanut butter in order to lure it into its cage. They all agreed it would be better for my daughter not to visit the dog until it and the house were not so "peanutty." Thank goodness for daughter didn't really even mind. She was happy they thought of it.

Never in my life would I have thought that a dog would be eating peanut butter!!! Have any of you ever heard of this one???

It just goes to show--you've got to bring this up with every parent no matter what the activity! My solution for this is to host the majority of play dates at our house...but of course we don't have the allure of a new dog (though we're being lobbied for one as I write this.) I think it's important to let your (older) children go out on their own--just be ready for anything.

Another disaster averted! Just another day in the life for us nut-free parents, right?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shedding Some Light on the Nut Allergy Backlash

"Dr." (not) Joel Stein of the L.A. Times wrote a thoroughly ridiculous piece that applauded the equally ridiculous efforts of the nut-loving "Dr."Christakis who also has been all over the news lately, most recently in Time magazine. (Unlike journalist Stein, Christakis is an actual M.D. but not an allergist and a guy clearly ticked because he or his kids were denied peanuts once upon a time).

Oh, boy. You know I hate these stories, but I think it's good to lift the rock and let the slimy things receive some air once in awhile. We need to know what we're dealing with and how to combat the arguments of those wonderful folks who tell us this is all in our heads.

After the anger and disbelief wears off, I actually think these stories are good to get out into the open. For one thing, all the backlash tells me that food allergy advocates are having an effect on policies, whether to serve peanuts on airlines or to have peanut-free tables at school. For another, we're getting our message out there.

You'll also be happy to know that the L.A. Times message board delivered a pretty much 90-% negative response to the essay. The danger of course, is that people won't take nut allergies seriously and that presents a greater risk to our kids.

You can read the stories for yourself, but I would offer the following analogy to folks who feel "inconvenienced" by the fact that a growing number of people have life-threatening nut allergies: Handicapped parking spaces.

Have any of you ever felt "inconvenienced" by an empty one of these when you're faced with a packed parking lot and no spots in sight? Have you ever wondered if the people with the "handicapped" parking symbol hanging from their rearview mirror truly needed it or had gotten it for an injury they no longer have?

If any of us have ever wondered these things, we would not want to admit it and would inwardly tell ourselves (most of us, anyway, not sure about Joel Stein) that this was not a nice way to think.

Society has agreed that offering easy parking for people with physical disabilities (and even for pregnant women--I've seen this one lately, too) is a good thing, even if many times those spots go unused. We want to offer people with disabilities a measure of convenience, right?

The same goes for peanut-free tables and peanut-free airlines. But just think--way back in the day, society believed that people with physical disabilities had them because they were being punished by God or that their parents were. This was in medieval times. That's where Mr. Stein is coming from, in my opinion.

Don't worry--eventually people will accept accomodations for nut-allergic folks. If we keep up our good work, it won't take centuries for this to occur.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sweet Alexis Nut-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Bakery!

Sweet Alexis is a new nut-free, dairy-free and egg-free bakery that is absolutely delicious and available by mail order. According to their web site, they will also be offering gluten-free items soon. The company was started because the owners' daughter suffers from several severe food allergies and as we know all too well, that certainly limits your bakery options.

I was recently contacted by Michele, the founder of Sweet Alexis and my family was lucky enough to try some of the bakery's wonderful treats. Every item they sell is not only nut-free, but egg- and dairy-free, so it's a good option for people with that cluster of allergies.

My family loved this stuff! We tried oatmeal cookies (without raisins--which incidentally my kids and I prefer), chocolate chip cookies, banana bread and zucchini bread.

I'll admit I'm picky when it comes to baked goods--and since we can eat eggs and dairy, I wondered how this would be. Let me tell you--it's wonderful! The breads, especially, were so moist, flavorful and fragrant. My oldest daughter pretty much demolished the banana bread mini loaf in one sitting (as you'll see from the photo above).

My husband went gaga for the zucchini bread and my youngest daughter loved that also. "I think this is my new favorite thing," she said after taking a bite.

Cookie monster that I am, I especially loved the cookies. Both kinds were very fresh, chewy and full of good flavor. Even though they were non-dairy they had that good, "buttery" taste that's so enjoyable in bakery items. The best part? My daughter was so happy that she could partake of bakery items that are safe for her. What a great thing!
Check out the Sweet Alexis web site for a full range of their products and ordering info. I've also added a link to their site on the right side of this blog.

I absolutely LOVE nut-free bakeries and plan to review more, so if you'd like, send me your company info.

Also, check out my new blog video! It's my brother's Christmas present to me (he's in communications and media). Thanks, Don!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Nut-Free Air Travel...What's a Celiac to Do?

Air travel has come up a few times on this blog, specifically the dangers of flying when folks around you may be consuming peanuts or tree nuts.

Some airlines have banned these items; most have not. Those of us with nut allergies have had to find different ways to cope. But what do you do when you're a celiac who turns to nuts as a "safe snack" -- but who doesn't want to cause a reaction in nut-allergic passengers??

My friend Wendy from Celiacs in the House is familiar with the ups and downs of trying to live nut-free and she wanted to know any advice I might have for airplane passengers who want to respect the nut-allergic around them.

Click here to see my response. This is a tough question so feedback or ideas are welcome!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Girl's Got It Goin' On!

Since I know that a lot of you have very young children with nut allergies, you've probably wondered how and if your kids can cope without you. I remember thinking after I received my daughter's diagnosis--"OK, Doctor. Can you now follow us around and tell me how to do this thing?" I felt so helpless and truly wondered how I could ever let my daughter out of my sight.

It's easy to feel that way when your food-allergic kids are young and dependent on you for so many things. I'm sure many of you have had the same emotions.

I always like to share the little victories that we experience as a nut-free family in the hopes that they'll reassure the other nut-free parents out there. Let me tell you what happened recently.

My daughter was at her BFF's house (across the street, conveniently) for hours last Sunday afternoon. This family is well-versed in her allergies, but of course my daughter knows to take precautions.

When she got home, she told me 2 things: she ate candy and made/used lotions from her friend's new "nature spa" kit--a holiday gift. I hadn't known in advance that she would be doing either!

Before the words "Did you check the labels???" were even out of my mouth, she said: "Don't worry, Mom. I read the labels on the candy--they were Tootsie Rolls. (This candy manufacturer has a nut-free facility--she knows this from my research.) And the lotions--I read those labels too. They were safe."

I was so proud and happy! I know she's almost 9 and she should be assuming more responsibility for her allergies, but to see her put that into practice is so great. It eases a little of the pressure off of me to know she's taking care of herself so well.

So for all of you with really little ones--they'll get there, too. Not that I don't have to be cautious with her still. But she's growing up and taking ownership of her own health--and she seems glad to do it.

Moms don't get a report card, but she made me feel like I got an A that day!

Nut-Free New Year's Checklist

Since the kids are back in school for many of us (Yes!) and the holiday rush is over, now is a good time to take stock of how things are going with our kids and their allergies. It is the beginning of a brand new year, so new activities may be on the horizon. It is also mid year for those of us with school-aged kids and so some adjustments may have to be made.

(Also, since I feel the rush of organization coming over me as we embark upon a brand new year, I thought I would share this over-caffeinated sense of goodwill with all of you. :))

Here are some things to review as we begin 2009:

-Prescriptions. Are they up to date? Do you need any new Epi Pens or updated medical forms for sports, school, or clubs? (We do--for all of the above.) Make a plan to get this taken care of in the next couple of weeks. Epi Pen allows you to register your pens in an "expiration alert" system, so they don't expire before you can renew. I highly recommend this--saves lots of stress!

- Allergy appointments. My daughter is going to be given a new RAST this year and she also has a seasonal allergy appointment. For those of you who deal with seasonal or annual allergy appointments, it pays to make those appointments now, because in the spring most doctors are chock-full of people coping with seasonal allergies. You don't want to have to wait!

- Review emergency procedures/food restrictions. Most public schools have all staff trained to handle Epi Pens and food allergy reactions, but it doesn't hurt to review this with your child's teacher as the second half of the school year begins. Also, if your child is in daycare, don't forget to review with your child's caregivers. Staff changes at centers may have occurred, too, or maybe your school-aged child is enrolled in a new activity. Now is a good time to go over Epi Pen usage and restricted foods.

- Check your calendar for any upcoming events that may present food risk. Travel, school parties and field trips are all things that can present food allergy challenges. Review your family's schedule and your child's school calendar so you can tackle these issues in advance. Then you can be ready with treats, doctor's notes or "safe" restaurant choices when the time comes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!/Nut-Free Mom 1 Year Anniversary

A belated Happy New Year to you all! My whole family has been very "bronchial" for days, so you'll have to forgive me! :)

Last January when I launched this blog, I had no idea that I would reach so many of you or that I'd "meet" so many people with food allergy concerns.

The solidarity has been wonderful. Also, I've seen so much progress in 2008 with food allergy concerns, everything from more positive media coverage, to celebrity spokespeople (Trace Adkins, for one) and so much discussion about food labels and food allergy awareness.

To cap it off: before 2008 ended, I even read an additional follow-up to the Tribune food allergy investigation that showed that Whole Food continues to pull food off it's shelves--in this case, gluten-containing foods that are marked as "gluten-free." The Whole Foods source was quoted as saying that in addition to the investigative report, 20 local customers had called to complain about their food allergy practices. Yep--that's it. Just 20!

While food labels continue to be disturbingly innacurate, I'm so happy to see that consumer voices are being heard and having an impact.

I wish us a wonderful, progressive new year that continues to see light shed on food allergies, increased tolerance, better labels (!), and more confidence as we take our kids and ourselves through the "nutty" food allergy maze.

Best to all of you and thanks for reading! I appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts, concerns and comments. Keep 'em coming!