Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Food Allergies and Frozen Treats!

With that exciting music of the ice cream truck comes the yearly dilemma for those of us who have food-allergic kids.

I know that some of us avoid commercial ice cream/frozen treats altogether, but for those of us who don't (yet!) you know how tough it is to find a safe treat. Whether your kids are nut-free or dairy-free, I've found most popsicle products to be safe. However, with the new labeling requirements, I'm concerned that's going to change soon.

Just last weekend, my daughter tried to purchase a "Lemon Chill" (basically nut-free, dairy-free Italian Ice" from the ice cream truck that slowly rolls down my block a couple of times a day (it seems!). She ended up with "Lemon Blast"-- basically the same product, but with a warning saying that the product was made in a facility that processed nuts.

Well, that pretty much goes for all ice cream/frozen products if you do some digging. My daughter didn't want to eat it after viewing the label and I compensated her with the allowance she'd used to buy the treat. Lesson learned--check the labels even if you think you've eaten it before and are in the throes of ice cream truck bliss (especially then).

I consulted the excellent book "Food Allergies for Dummies" and here's what Dr. Robert Wood had to say about ice cream and peanut allergies: "Although ice cream produced in North America is rarely manufactured on dedicated peanut-free lines, I believe that ice cream from major manufacturers is generally safe. However, be careful of the small manufacturers - one study a few years ago of small ice cream manufacturers found that peanut contamination was quite common. Allergic reactions to peanut are rarely traced back to cross-contaminated ice cream from major companies." Hmm, interesting. I've often wondered about Snicker's ice cream and vanilla cross-contaminating. He then suggests you call the company. Of course, I've done this but I'll do it again. They may have changed their tune and/or policies.

Frozen "Slurpies" from 7-11 have become another issue in our home. 7-11 is walkable from our house and so all the neighborhood kids clamor to get a Slurpie on a hot day.

We were OK with those--until the day we saw a frozen hazelnut Slurpie-type drink right next to the cherry and orange. (I know--what the heck is with that? Guess they're competing with Starbucks.)

My daughter was pretty bummed and who could blame her? We try to stay upbeat about this stuff but this time my husband and I looked at each other and said in unison "That stinks."

But as she always does, my daughter rallied and invented her own Slurpie recipe. Basically, a handful of frozen strawberries, some ice cubes and sugar to taste all thrown in a blender and blended on high. It tasted very good--and let's face it, it was better for her!

Try it. And also, here's a safe "lemon chill" Italian ice recipe I found in one of those encyclopedia cookbooks--I think Good Housekeeping. It's really easy and does not require an ice cream machine. Your kids can make it with you.

Dairy-Free, Nut-Free Lemon Italian Ice (Granita)
1 cup sugar (use superfine if possible)
2 cups water
4 large lemons

1. In 2-quart saucepan combine sugar and water; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes. Set saucepan in bowl of ice water to cool.

2. Meanwhile, from lemons grate 2 teaspoons peel and squeeze 3/4 cup juice.

2. Stir lemon peel and juice into sugar syrup; pour into 9-inch square metal baking pan. Cover, freeze for 2 hours and then scrape to break up the ice crystals. Freeze again at least 3 hours or overnight. To serve, let soften slightly and use a metal spoon to scoop up the ice shards. Transfer scoops of "ice" to dessert dishes and enjoy!


Kelsey said...

This is one I asked our allergist about because you're right, it's nearly impossible to find ice cream or popsicles that are truly "safe" if you do any digging.

I wasn't able to find any problem with the FlavorIce fruit things that you buy in liquid form and then freeze. And we do very plain Bryers ice cream from time to time.

I was in a Baskin-Robbins the other night, getting a treat for my husband and I after the kids were in bed. I made a comment about how we don't even bring peanut butter treats home, even if they're for us. She tried to tell me they were very allergy aware (knowing to use different scoops and such) but there is still no way I would take my peanut allergic daughter into one of those places!

kelly said...

ah we've seen the same musical truck cruise our neighborhood here in wilmette. i've pretty much shunned most ice products except those Flavor Ices and some popsicles (did you hear about the tofutti recall??) with a dairy allergy...i've thought i should just start making my own. i have a yummy granita recipe from my book too, maybe i'll post this week. yours sounds delish too.

Linda Coss said...

My son 5 years old before he found out that the "music man" that came through our neighborhood numerous times each summer day also sold treats. "Oh boy -- the music man is coming -- let's go inside and listen!"
It's amazing that this worked for so long! Back then they didn't even have ingredient labels on most treats, so buying something was just as hopeless then as it is now, although for different reasons.

Anonymous said...

Chapman's is an ice cream company from Canada that offers ice cream made on dedicated peanut free lines, so since we live a few hours from the border, we make several trips a year to stock up. We have found that Canada is so much more proactive in their labeling-they have the peanut w/ the no symbol on their peanut free products, that I can only wonder why the US can't follow our neighbors to the North?

Also, you can get peanut free Quaker granola bars, Kit Kats, etc. The first time we went, I felt I had one the lottery!!

Unknown said...

Don't forget there was some incident not too long ago with a child having an anaphylactic reaction to peanut traces in Good Humor (same company as Breyer's, I think) rainbow sherbet! I am terrified of ice cream, since my son had his big reaction to ice cream and the PA diagnosis followed swiftly.

Mary G. said...

Check out Philly Swirl- we have only seen the fudge swirl stixs in the store but they are tasty and hit the spot.

We make all of our own ice cream. It can be cumbersome to transport and prepare for family gatherings and such but that is what we do. I do like the fact I know exactly what goes into our ice cream and that it is only 3 or 4 ingredients.

The toughest time we've had yet was at the state fair last year. There's a local vendor that only comes out during special events and every single person around us was eating the ice cream. I think that was harder for me and my husband though since *we* knew what we were missing. However, you get over that feeling pretty quick when you stop and think about the possible alternative.