Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flower Seeds Sold at Target Have Peanut/Tree Nut Warning

Some of you may have heard this one already, but it's worth repeating. Apparently some Target stores are selling Buzzy brand flower seeds in their "dollar section" -- this item has a very, very tiny peanut/tree nut shell allergy warning on the label. The seeds come in a small burlap sack with a label on the front identifying them as Buzzy brand. With nut allergies on the rise and in the news almost constantly, why any company would use nut shells as filler in gardening gear is beyond me. Unfortunately, they're not alone. Scotch Brite scouring brands even have an item that contains walnut shells as a mild abrasive. And likely many more products use nut shells--not just cosmetic facial scrubs. We've got to be on the lookout for all products we bring into the house and near our allergic kids.

Reactions to the Buzzy product have been reported, none fatal, thank goodness but imagine the possibilities. Nut shells are highly allergenic so please, as you go about buying your gardening items this season, check the labels and ask questions. Currently, non-food items do NOT require allergy labels, so you may have to call companies and ask questions depending on what products you plan to use.

One of the complaints about the Buzzy seeds is that the allergy warning was in such fine print that it was hard to read. If you ever find that situation, it's worth a call, e-mail to the manufacturer. And of course, if you or your child reacts to a product like this, please report it!

Sorry to rain on your gardening parade, but we've got to read every label, every time. No wonder my eye doctor says I'll soon need "bi-focal" glasses and contacts!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Restaurant Roundup--Part 1

Thanks to everybody who shared their restaurant experiences with regards to nut allergies. In my very unscientific survey, I was heartened to discover that many of us are finding safe dining experiences and a heightened understanding of what nut allergies are. That's progress!

And while it seems to be the case that many national chains appear to keep to more consistent menu items and standards, thus making them "safer," a lot of you found restaurants in your own neighborhoods that have become family standbys. For example, one reader found a safe Japanese restaurant in the college town of Champagne, Illinois; another a safe "hole in the wall" Mexican place in New York. So always ask questions and go with your common sense and gut instincts. You might just find a new family favorite for dining out.

Just so you know: the responses I got were for nut allergies only. I know that some of the readers of this blog have other food allergies besides nuts, so these restaurants may not work for you. Please feel free to share your own dining out tales--it would be helpful to so many of us.

And on a side note: for the restaurants listed, always ask about ingredients. This post is meant to steer you in an allergy-friendly direction, but unfortunately, there are no guarantees with dining out. Always ask questions and make sure you are comfortable before taking an allergic child to dine out anywhere. Be ready to leave if necessary and never leave home without the Epi Pen.

OK, with that said, here are some of my findings. Many of you cited Chipotle Grill as safe for nut allergies. In fact, this was the number 1 restaurant mentioned by respondents. Chipotle does have a clear "allergy" menu available online and in the store, so that's helpful to start. But let's face it--they use a lot of fresh ingredients, make up the food as you watch and have a limited menu. This is all helpful if you've got a nut allergy. Also, since Mexican food can be risky (nuts show up in sauces and chili, for example) it's refreshing to find a safe spot for this type of food. And how 'bout that guacamole!

Then, in the Chicago area, Wishbone and Palmer Place in La Grange got positive mentions. I can also recommend Athena in Greek Town--they told us that they even took almond garnish off all plates due to the increase in nut allergies. And then there's Bistro 110 just off of Michigan Avenue in Chicago--the French chef has kids with nut allergies and other food allergies. This is a beautiful eatery and in the nice weather you can sit outside--a nice option for those of us with little ones. If you're visiting Chicago with food allergies, it's a must-see.

On to the national chains: one dad mentioned Potbelly Sandwich Works. I do take my daughter there and have had a good experience. The PB sandwiches are prepared in a separate area with plastic utensils, etc. I ask the staff/management each time I go in about their peanut allergy awareness and each time the staff has a thorough explanation ready for me. I've eaten there with my daughter many times but some parents may not wish to be anywhere with peanut butter--that's your call entirely and I understand.

Another national chain restaurant that got frequent mention was Red Robin. They have a food allergy menu, a children's menu with simple foods and also they will identify your ticket with "nut allergy" written on it. At least one reader has had their child experience a mild reaction (hives) after eating at RR, so nothing is fool-proof. However, the majority of respondents had a good experience there, especially if they talked to the manager before ordering for their child.

This is just the beginning and in the coming weeks I will keep sharing restaurant recommendations, so please keep your comments coming! For the next Restaurant Roundup, I'd like to talk about "safe" pizza places. I've got several nut-free recommendations already, but please contact me if you'd like to share gluten-free or dairy-safe menu items as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Illinois Senate to Vote on Food Allergy Bill This Tuesday!!!

I am pushing my "Restaurant Roundup" back by a day in order to alert Illinois residents about an important bill being voted on tomorrow. SB152 will be voted on in the Illinois State Senate tomorrow afternoon. The bill provides schools with food allergy protocols and standards for the entire state. This is so helpful because many of us have had to create these ourselves or have had to be the trailblazers at our schools and districts. This bill will help all food allergic kids to be protected.

It's not too late to contact your state senator. Click this link to find them if you don't know who they are.

I know it's kind of short notice, but I encourage all of you in Illinois to e-mail or call your state senator today! Let them know that we care.

Thanks! Restaurant Roundup tomorrow!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Field Trips and Food Allergies--What's the Story?

I have often thought that parents of food-allergic kids shouldn't necessarily always be expected to attend field trips. Sometimes work, life, illness, childcare--you name it--get in the way of parents attending. And let's face it--just because our child has a severe food allergy doesn't mean we're clamoring to get on the school bus and chaperone kids.

But since I've started chaperoning, I've learned a lot about how to keep my daughter safe, even if I'm not there. And I've also learned that it pays to be there if you can. Let me explain.

When my daughter, now 9 and finishing 3rd grade, was in the younger grades, I sent her on field trips without me. The trips never involved lunch and they were always within 15 minutes from home, so I felt reasonably secure. My daughter also had wonderful teachers/health workers at school who had the thing down pat (after a lot of communication with me.) I had her younger sister to care for and not a lot of childcare available to me at the time, so I did what I could.

Now that my daughter is older she is being sent on field trips into Chicago, which is great for her from an educational standpoint, but further away by car than I feel comfortable with (we live in a suburb very close to Chicago, but with traffic, etc. I couldn't get to her quickly). Also, a "sack lunch" is always involved now. And we know what that usually means: Peanut Butter City.

So I've attended the last 2 3rd grade field trips and I'm getting a feel for the pitfalls for her to avoid. Also, it's just been good to be nearby--as the kids get older, they are not watched as closely, so even though I'm not as worried about accidental ingestion with my very FA savvy daughter, there is peanut matter and residue all over the place. Yesterday, for example, my daughter's school was the 4th group to eat lunch in a small museum cafeteria. No such thing as a peanut-free table there and of course, I had no way of knowing what people had been eating before. There was even a vending machine that offered peanuts, Reese's, etc. right in the cafeteria. My daughter's teacher offered me Clorox Wipes for the table and I also brought my daughter a placemat (hey, this could be a good use of the Litter Free Lunch napkins--field trip table covers!) and she was just fine. In fact, most of her group had not even brought PB (a surprise to me, since it's never been prohibited at school).

But here was the tricky part: the noise level and general chaos as the kids shoveled in their lunches before moving on to the next activity made it nearly impossible for anyone to notice if my daughter was in distress. Now, her teacher was nearby but teacher's can't have their eyes everywhere at once. And of course I was there--I'm pretty certain she would have been more attentive had I not been able to attend. Still, general chaos does not make it easy to spot a kid having an allergy attack.

Also, the museum we attended had several "touch" exhibits. While relatively rare, kids can rub their eyes and have an allergic reaction if someone with food on their hands touched it before them.

I would suggest to any of you with FA kids heading off on a field trip that includes lunch to remind their teacher to bring the EpiPen and Benadryl, of course, but also, include some type of placemat for them to cover the table with. Ask the teacher if she wouldn't mind bringing some wipes for the table (most will be happy to).

Here's what to tell your child: sit where the teacher can see you at lunch. A drag for some kids, I know, but if your child has food allergies, they are probably used to this by now. If they have trouble, emphasize that they should tell someone immediately to get the teacher if they can't do it by themselves. Don't get lost in the crowd--stick near the teachers if they can, even on the school bus.

I really have enjoyed attending these field trips--the kids are fun and the destinations have been wonderful. Yesterday we even got to stop at Buckingham Fountain and let the kids run around on a nice spring day in Chicago! But I've also seen some of the pitfalls with my own eyes and being able to give my daughter some specific direction here has been invaluable. That way, if I can't make it, I'll be able to help everyone better prepare.

Note: Tomorrow (or Monday at the latest!--it's been a busy week) I'll have my first Restaurant Roundup. Thanks for participating and keep it coming!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A "Green" Approach to Your Food-Allergic Child's School Lunch

At the FAAN conference last Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting Felice Farran, a mom of 2 school-aged boys with nut allergies. She also happens to be the co-owner of a company called Litter Free Lunch.

As moms of kids with food allergies, we are all very familiar with packing school lunches! Felice is concerned about the environment as well as her child's food allergies and she couldn't find a decent, earth-friendly alternative to paper napkins for her kids' lunches. So she came up with the idea of offering washable cloth napkins that are perfect for taking to school. The company also has an organic line. Check out their growing product selection at

Many of us will appreciate the "green" aspect of offering washable napkins, and if your child has food allergies, these have a dual purpose. You can ask your child to spread them out on the cafeteria or picnic table to offer an extra layer of protection from allergenic foods that may have been there before. Plus, you'll save $$. Besides being wasteful, paper napkins are expensive!

In honor of Earth Day, Litter Free Lunch is offering a special discount. From now until midnight on Friday, April 24th, all of their napkins, including organics, will be 15% off. Just use the coupon code EARTHWEEK when checking out.

It was great to meet Felice and learn about her company. I wish her the best and hope you'll stop by her site!

Disclaimer: My comments are based on personal opinion; I received no compensation for my endorsement.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FAAN Chicago Conference--Update

I attended the FAAN conference in Chicago this past Saturday and I thought I'd share a few of the key points I learned.

First of all, I know that many of you could not attend and I want you to know that if you keep up with the FAAN newsletter and web sites, you already have a lot of the knowledge they shared at conference. FAAN is generous with their info online and in print, so don't feel bad if you couldn't be there personally.

That said, I found the most valuable part of the conference to be the parent/speakers who had firsthand knowledge of raising a child with food allergies. A former NY firefighter who now works with the government in Emergency Preparedness spoke about his 17-year-old son and how they coped with his food allergies. This was an interesting discussion--he recommended having a "Go Bag" filled with things your child needs, both food and medical, at all times in case of a natural disaster or emergency. This may be something we don't think about often, but we should--in Fargo, for example, there were recent flood evacuations. You never know--it helps to be ready.

A dad of a 19-year-old got up and talked about how his family dealt with this son's multiple food allergies. He was very entertaining and funny, but his message was comforting and clear: raising an FA child is just one more speed bump in the road of parenting. Parenting, he said, is always challenging, and this just happens to be the cards we were all dealt. Many of us wonder "why us?" when we get diagnosed, so this helped put it into perspective. Interestingly, he also said the most of the early resistance they received about FA was from their families and relatives. Many of you have written to me about that, so guess what: you're not alone there!

A mom of a grown, college-age son got up (I love that these were parents of "grown" kids--shows you that you and your child will make it through school) and she talked about dining out. Her advice: skip fried foods, sauces and desserts. Always communicate with managers and chefs at restaurants and for special occasions, plan ahead by talking to the restaurant in advance. One more thing: don't hesitate to leave if you are unsure of a restaurant. As she said, the food at the second restaurant will be a lot better than the food in the hospital vending machines if you get an accidental ingestion.

The best thing about the conference for me was lunchtime. Everyone I spoke with knew exactly where I was coming from and could share their own FA stories regarding school, relatives, friends and traveling.

It was an eye-opening experience and I appreciate FAAN for all that they do.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Reader's Restaurant Story

In my response to my call for reader restaurant tales, here is an essay from fellow allergy blogger and writer Susan Weissman of the blog Peanuts in Eden: I think we all have those "standby" favorites that we feel are safe for our child's allergies and even if the place isn't special or upscale, it's like the VISA ad: "Safe restaurant meal for your severely food-allergic child: Priceless."

Thanks for sharing your story, Susan! Next week as part of my blog's new monthly feature, I'll share your restaurant anecdotes and recommendations. Thank you to all who contributed and please keep your comments coming!

And now here is Susan's experience, in her own words:

"Eating in restaurants can evoke wonderful childhood memories. I'll never forgot the shimmering night my mother and brother were away, so I met my father at his office on Madison Avenue. He took down in the double door elevator to Giambelli's, an Italian restaurant famous for serving some of New York's Mayors and Cardinals. I settled into a deep bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, Parmesan cheese scattered powdery and pink across the velveteen sauce. Every mouthful tasted like love.

When my second child, Eden, was diagnosed with multiple anaphylactic food allergies after his first birthday, restaurants weren't my primary concern. Food that came from a box, let alone from another kitchen felt so dangerous. But eventually, Eden's older sister asked me, "When are we going back to eat those Chinese dumplings we had that time at the restaurant?"

My brain replied silently, "Uhh. Soy sauce, shellfish and peanuts? We will do that in infinity multiplied by never?"

So we stayed home and I cooked a for a really long time.

When Eden turned three, we forced ourselves to try a few restaurants so that neither of our children would accuse us of denying them normal socialization later in life. But none of our early choices stuck: One diner was fine until the kitchen "forgot" and covered Eden's hamburger in fries that we carefully hadn't ordered. He cried as the tantalizing plate was whisked away. Other Manhattan restaurants had too few "safe" options or they were too expensive.

Then one day, I spotted a newly opened "hole in the wall" type of taco joint with maybe four tables and a guitar hanging from the wall. Hmm. Mexican? Except for dairy there wasn't much in simple Mexican cuisine that Eden couldn't eat. And he practically lived for corn chips.

The door jingled as I went into this restaurant, optimistically bannered Cinco De Mayo! It was empty except for a woman behind the counter. She smiled and kept smiling during my fifteen minute interrogation of their cooking practices and recipes. At one point she proudly opened the refrigerator (about five feet away) and assured me, "We buy everything fresh and make it when you order. You ask and we do it how you ask."

Okay then! The first time we went to Cinco De Mayo, that's what she did. Eden ate grilled chicken tacos (no cheese or sour cream) and I practically watched the cook make the entire dish. So we kept coming back. Was the food amazing? No. It was pretty good. Fresh. Limited menu. In fact, some times I got bored of the "You know, that tamale " and the redundant iceberg lettuce salads. Occasionally, my husband and I talked about branching out to another place. But we didn't.

Now that we have been regular customers at Cinco De Mayo for almost two years, I don't even have to remind the server of Eden's allergies, he's never had a reaction and the kids still enjoy it. Check, check, check. Ultimately I want our children to remember "that same old hole in the wall" where the tables toppled with happiness."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

British Reality Show Addresses Food Intolerance

Apparently it's going to be "restaurant week" this week on The Nut-Free Mom Blog! Any other BBC America geeks out there addicted to Last Restaurant Standing? I didn't get a chance to watch the latest episode of this British series about aspiring restaurateurs on BBC America until yesterday (it airs Tuesdays at 9 pm central) but I'm so glad I caught up with it!

For those who've never heard of the show, the premise is that couples and business partners team up to open a restaurant where they are given different weekly challenges and then judged by French chef extraordinaire Raymond Blanc. Then, based on the findings, one restaurant per week is closed. The goal is to run a restaurant and be the business partner of Mr. Blanc, so it's very similar to "Hell's Kitchen" or even a bit like "Top Chef."

Last night, the chefs were told that they had to A) come up with something to "delight" their diners (such as a free appetizer, drink, etc.) and that B) they had to serve people with special food needs. Among those needs were celiac disease and was it instructive to watch the chefs and their waitstaff attempt to deal with this food intolerance!

One 7-year-old girl with celiac disease was given gluten-free chocolate mousse--alas, served with a gluten-filled cookie, despite her mother's careful explanation to the waiter. How I related to that scenario! Another celiac woman was given crostini as her free appetizer--except of course that she can't eat bread!

In the first case the diner had only communicated with the waiter; in the other, the woman had told the manager/co-owner and she checked everything out in the kitchen, only to have a well-meaning waitress offer her the forbidden food.

Mr. Blanc's assessment of these mishaps was interesting--he warned the aspiring restaurant owners about getting sued, for one thing. Important, yes, but so is health. Although he appeared to "get it" when he said "Imagine you are a celiac and you only want to go into a restaurant and trust it. And then you are served bread." Or for many of us, nuts, eggs or milk would all be items we want to trust we won't be given in our food.

The episode proved to me that chefs want to help you if you have food allergies or intolerances, but we must be very clear and make sure the manager and the chef know of our needs--not just the waitstaff. I have nothing against waitstaff, but they are not always briefed to know what to do. In some cases, they are, but always use your judgement. When you are clear and consistent with your requests and make sure someone in charge knows about them, you are helping the restaurant be successful as well as yourself. Think of it that way if you worry about being "high-maintenance."

Watch the show if you can--it airs again on BBC America on Sunday and again next Tuesday at 8 pm central time.

On another note: Tomorrow I will post a restaurant story from one of my readers--please keep your restaurant tales coming! I'll have a roundup of anecdotes on the blog next week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grocery Shopping Woes for the Food Allergic

Here's an article about the difficulties in grocery shopping when your child has food allergies. I think that many of us can relate!

I recently blogged about my Trader Joe's experience with allergy warnings on a bag of chopped romaine lettuce. It's getting trickier than ever before to grocery shop for our kids, especially if you want to buy packaged or prepared foods.

Obviously, time constraints and convenience are always factors, so we will want to buy packaged foods occasionally. Much as I love the thought of processing all of my own vegetables and fruits (!) it isn't always practical.

While buying fresh, whole foods are our best bet, and better for our health, my advice is to look carefully at everything you buy. What other foods is the brand offering--do they contain nuts or other allergens you need to avoid? Common sense is key, but sometimes you're going to have to pick up the phone or e-mail the company. Food labels make less sense than they ever did, so I think it's helpful to let companies know you've got questions.
Does no mention of an allergen mean it's not present, for example? Or has the company just not listed it? Is the product run on the same lines as nuts, even if the label makes the claim that the food doesn't contain nuts or other allergens? You know the drill. We need answers to these questions before we can make a purchase with any confidence. And it isn't just helpful for us. Family members, friends, babysitters and teachers need to know what's safe also.
I've contacted many a company and will keep doing it. Whenever I do, I'll post my results as I get them. What about some of you? Any tips for certain products? Have some of you found out startling info when you've called a company? Please let us know.

On a side note, the restaurant anecdotes are pouring in and I'll be sharing them very soon. Please keep them coming! It's really helpful for all of us. Thanks.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Let's Talk About Restaurants

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is "Where can I find an allergy-safe restaurant in Chicago?" Most recently I was asked where to find allergy-friendly restaurants in a portion of the Chicago suburbs.

Since safe dining out is one of the biggest obstacles for food-allergy families, these are understandable questions. I wish I had definitive answers to give out, but here's why I don't: no restaurant is safe for all allergies all the time. Unless the establishment understands your particular food allergy inside and out, you run a risk.

The reasons for this are many: a "reliable" restaurant may have changed chefs. Or ingredients. Or ownership. I'll never forget the example Dr. Robert Wood gives in his book "Food Allergies for Dummies." He had a terrible reaction to peanut at a restaurant. You know where the peanut was? In marinara sauce! Yes, some creative chef decided to add peanut butter to tomato sauce for protein and "body." It put Dr. Wood in the hospital.

So while it is extremely helpful to become a regular at restaurants who are familiar with you and your food allergy needs, you must never assume anything. Just ask--it's so worth it.

Here's another story. I recently ate at Red Robin with my daughter and her friends. I told the waitress of her food allergy and she said "no problem, I'll tell the chef and then we'll write "nut allergy" on the ticket." OK, great. We've eaten there before and my daughter ordered a "low-risk" food. Red Robin has an "allergy alert" menu online. I was reasonably secure and the meal did, in fact, go off without a hitch.

But, I know that at least one of my blog readers visited Red Robin (in another state) and found her nut-allergic son to have hives after eating there. You just never know who's cooking and how much they understand--unless you ask.

There are a few red flags to look out for: does the waitstaff or manager give you a blank look when you mention food allergies or worse, look sheepish or shifty-eyed? Do they act defensive when you question their cooking practices? How's the overall hygiene at the establishment? Is it a very busy time of day for the restaurant? Do they have a menu that's heavy with your particular food allergen? I go with my gut instinct at these times and skip these restaurants. Why take the chance?

All that said, safe dining out can happen. But it takes a lot of input from you, the allergic diner. For example: always ask the cooking staff what the heck is going into the food. If you're in doubt, a phone call to the restaurant's manager (during non-busy hours) is another great strategy. You can gauge a lot from their responses. Once you're in a restaurant, if you'd like even more protection hand the manager a note, available from FAAN that alerts the chef to your allergy. You can download these printable cards at

I know that many of us have restaurant tales to share, so I would like to start a new feature on my blog. Please send me your restaurant experiences, good and bad and I'll post detailed results each month. Name the establishment and the location as well as what you ordered and how you found the whole experience. This is a big help to us all and I hope you'll participate.

I'd love to hear from any part of the country, and Chicagoans in particular, don't be shy! You can send me your info using the "contact me" link to the right of the blog. Thanks in advance--I can't wait to hear.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Trader Joe's: New Romaine Salad Allergy Warning

I already knew that many Trader Joe's packaged foods are not safe for the nut-allergic, but now here's a new one to add to the list: chopped romaine lettuce.

Just goes to show you always need to read the label. I picked up the bag in the photo to your left and blithely threw it into my shopping cart without giving it a glance, because after all, it's just lettuce, right? It wasn't until I got home I happened to see the allergy warning on the package. I'm very cautious with label reading ordinarily ,but lettuce did not strike me as a potentially cross-contaminated food.

As you may be able to make out from the photo, TJ's is claiming that their chopped romaine lettuce is processed on the same lines as wheat, milk, eggs, tree nuts and soy. And that it's processed in the same facility as peanuts.

At first I thought this was an overly inclusive label (and it may be--I just don't know.) We've talked about those a lot here and many of you have brought this up on your blogs or in comments. Hopefully, the FDA is working right now to make "real" allergy labels. Remember the comments they asked for in January? That's what they want to know. What makes an allergy label useful--what makes it overly inclusive or an unnecessary hindrance to allergic consumers?

I suppose that processed lettuce could have been exposed to all of the above allergens--croutons, dressings and sometimes tree nuts are included in bags of salad. I have no choice but to go with what the label says and so I can't even serve chopped romaine from TJ's to my daughter anymore. It's kind of a blow--I like the produce there and it's usually cheap!

As the salmonella outbreaks have shown us, many companies care more about liability and bottom line than they do about consumers' health, so if TJ truly wants to protect the food allergic, that's great. I'm not sure what this label is doing there or if it's overly inclusive (and if it is, I'm irritated), but for now I'll have to take their word for it.

For any packaged vegetables or fruits, we have to be wary. For example, today I was going to buy Green Giant branded frozen spinach. As I reached for the box, I saw Green Giant green beans with almonds right next to it. I put the box down. The label did not have an allergy warning, but I don't know how they're processing their foods until I ask them. Looks like I'll be contacting the company--I'll let you know what I discover.

It looks like even chopped salad is now in the realm of foods that nut-allergic families have to look out for. And my guess is, as food allergy labels evolve, some of our old standbys will get even more new labels. Now is the time to take another look at the foods we buy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Silver Lining for Allergy Sufferers?

Here's some rather good news for a Monday: A recent Cornell University study allows that allergies may have a silver lining after all.

According to the research outlined in the article, food and environmental allergies may help prevent certain cancers because of the fact that allergy sufferers are already avoiding chemicals and certain foods that have been proven to increase cancer risk.

We're always on the lookout for silver linings, so I thought I'd share this story!

Also, please let us know your favorite spring holiday food allergy solutions: do you have allergy-friendly activities or recipes that work for your family? Feel free to share them here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Allergy-Free Easter Tips from FAAN

I recently received the FAAN spring newsletter and I want to share a few of their allergy free Easter tips. Despite the chocolate and eggs, your kids can have a safe, fun Easter. Here are a few of my favorite tips that FAAN offers:

1. Instead of decorating real eggs, paint, decoupage or bead wooden eggs available at craft stores or online. Plastic eggs can also be decorated using stickers, ribbons and permanent markers.

2. Fill baskets with small toys, cars, dolls, crayons or mini stuffed animals, instead of putting the focus on food.

3. Organize an Easter egg hunt using plastic eggs. Fill them with coins or stickers or even coupons for activities such as roller skating or movies, instead of candy.

These are all great tips! If you can have eggs or dairy but not nuts, please also visit Vermont Nut-Free Chocolate for a beautiful selection of nut-free Easter-themed chocolates and nut-free jelly beans.

Where do some of you go for dairy and egg-free Easter or Passover-themed treats? If you've got some good recommendations, we'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Peanut Allergy News Roundup: The Onion, The Tribune and a PB Study

First of all, check out this satirical Onion article on salmonella! It's hilarious and right on the money. Kidding aside, though, the recent pistachio salmonella outbreak is already having an effect on the FDA. According the story I read in the Chicago Tribune today, they started trying to find/eliminate the problem without waiting for a bunch of sickness reports. The story even discussed how cross-contact (my least favorite aspect of FA to explain to people) is responsible for the outbreak. If cross-contact could become part of our everyday vocabulary, think how much easier that would make life for all of us.

Next, more research on finding a "non-allergenic" peanut has been completed. This article discusses how scientists are trying to remove allergenic proteins from peanuts, making them less harmful in small amounts to the severely allergic.

This is great news, but I'm sure they have a lot more to learn. They are concerned that taste may be lost when removing some of the allergens and of course no one will eat non-allergenic PB if it doesn't taste good.

Doesn't it seem as if food allergy research has really increased in the past year? I'm very hopeful--more research is the first step to a cure.