We've all been there. You go to the grocery store and are frustrated by the lack of "safe" packaged treats you can serve your allergic child. Or you wonder about the packaging label--is a food really safe or is the label accurate? Plus, with all of the class parties and school celebrations many of us have to look forward to, we find ourselves unsure of food to recommend to our class, or to send with our child as an alternative.
Jennifer B of the blog Food Allergy Buzz faces all the same problems and so she took action! She decided to start FAB Snacks, a source of allergy-free foods for many different types of food allergies.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Jennifer about this new resource for food-allergic families:
Q. Why did you start FAB Snacks?
A. I started FAB Snacks for several reasons:
1. I grew weary of going to the supermarket and finding a limited choice of truly peanut free snacks.
2. In my work for Food Allergy Buzz, I was finding that there was a near-monopoly on retailing peanut-free snacks. In addition, I was really disturbed by the markup on the products. While I do make almost everything for my children from scratch, I feel we should be able to buy some snacks that are safe and won't "break the bank". I believe competition is good and will help control the prices on these specialty items.
3. I really want to make these products more easily available to a greater number of people. I know what it's like to go to the store, have my child point out appealing looking snacks, and repeatedly check the package and say "No. This is not safe for you. It's made in a facility that uses peanuts and tree nuts." When you add a dairy allergy, an egg allergy, or another allergy or food intolerance, that problem is magnified even further. It means so much to be able to give your child a safe and tasty snack.
Q. How do you determine if foods sold through FAB Snacks are "safe" for a particular allergy? What are your criteria?
A. Every item I carry currently is from a facility where peanuts and tree nuts are not present. Also, I am very strict on my definition of "free". The standards I employ with FAB Snacks are the same ones I use with my own children. At FAB Snacks, for example, when I list a food as dairy-free, I mean it does not contain dairy as an ingredient and no dairy products are used in the manufacturing facility. This is based on information I obtain from the manufacturer.
As we all know, manufacturers don't necessarily publicize manufacturing changes, so I am confirming the allergen information quarterly, and I strongly recommend customers check it as well. I include a photo of the label showing the ingredient list and other pertinent information for each product on http://www.fabsnacks.com/ so customers can see it for themselves. I am happy to provide whatever information I have received from the manufacturer. Fortunately, allergen information for the snacks I carry can usually be found on the package or on the manufacturer's website.
Q. What kinds of foods do you offer? Any favorites?
A. At FAB Snacks, we have trail mixes, granola, dried fruits, baking mixes and several other sorts of snack foods. We have snacks that are peanut-free, tree nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free, so we are covering the major allergens and will be adding more for each of these groups over the coming weeks and months.
It's difficult to pick a favorite snack--they're all tasty! I won't carry a food if I don't like it. My sons' favorites are the granola bars. My favorites are the crunchy dried fruit and sweet corn which has a phenomenal taste and texture--better than any other dried fruit or veggie I've ever had--and the baking mixes. The soycrunch is quite good too; it reminds me of Cracker Jacks!
Q. How do you order foods from FAB Snacks?
A. I receive most orders online. The url is http://www.fabsnacks.com/. Customers are also welcome to phone directly at 339.788.1059 between 9 am - 7 pm eastern standard time. Many people send an email and tell me which allergies they are dealing with and ask for some tips. The email address is http://firstname.lastname@example.org. I've gotten very positive feedback. For most people, it's the first time they've tried any of these snacks, so it's new and kind of exciting.