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A College Kid On the Frontline of Peanut Allergies

October 27, 2011 •  3 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Kevin, a student at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Growing up with a Peanut Allergy was one of the hardest things to deal with.

First off, my parents had no clue what a Peanut Allergy was in the 90’s, because nobody had one, or it was just uncommon. They had to change my diet as they were raising me. They had to read and re-read ingredients on food.

Food, such as bread, surprised them because it was manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts. As I went through school, my Mom became a PTA member just so she knew what kind of treats were going to be served at a school event.

I was the only child in my Elementary School that had a peanut allergy when I was attending there. As a precaution, my Mom would provide my teachers with a spare set of snacks for me during a classmate’s Birthday Party.

Moving into Middle School, I was still the only kid who had a peanut allergy. But, other kids had milk, tree nuts, and gluten allergies. Peanut free tables were there for me to use during lunch at school. I never sat at them because I would be the only one, and I knew I would get made fun of. I really thought it was unnecessary for me because the people I sat with at lunch were old enough to understand that I couldn’t eat peanuts.

Then High School came along, and there out of 3,000 teens, I was the only one with a peanut allergy. I remember going to the nurse on the first day of Freshman year, and being told that I was the only one with a peanut allergy at the school and that I wouldn’t be able to take any cooking classes because the teacher’s wouldn’t supplement what they were cooking for the one guy with a peanut allergy.

Each year went by at the school, and I had to deal with the food at the school that had peanuts, so I just brought a lunch every day. There were plenty of other allergies at the school. There was dairy, gluten, tree nuts, soy, and latex. Those people’s needs were met, but mine weren’t. All of this changed by the time I became a senior. The company that supplied the lunches at school became peanut free and the teachers became more aware of the peanut allergy because of the outbreak of the allergy in the district.

When I graduated High School, I was still the only teen who had a peanut allergy in that large school, but now there quiet a few peanut allergies at that school this year, from what I have heard.

Living with this allergy has been really hard, and my places of going out to eat are limited. I decided to advocate this issue because I wanted more people aware, especially parents, on this issue.

I know there are more and more peanut allergies out there, but I wasn’t in High School too long ago, and I wasn’t treated the way I would like to have been. I don’t want other kids to go through what I did. Now that I’m advocating this, I feel like I have gotten the word out to people in my community. I’ll be adding more blogs to the 3 I already have. I just want to raise awareness of this issue so I can help families deal with this allergy like I have been doing for the past 19 years.

Written by Kevin, a student at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL. Kevin invites you to follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/paaafp.

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy & Peanut Allergies?

October 25, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

Over the last several years, we have had the opportunity to meet extraordinary people doing incredible work to protect the health of the American children. Most have been inspired into it after the health of one of their own children began to fail, but some, like the author of a new children’s book called The Princess and the Peanut, got involved without a call to action that came in the form of a autism, allergy, diabetes or cancer diagnosis. They simply got involved because of their love for children. They are extraordinary and inspiring examples of how together, we can restore the health of our children, one day, one meal, one family at a time.

Written by Sue Ganz-Schmit of www.royalallergic.com

The very first question I get when I speak about my new book The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Tale is: “Are your kids allergic to peanuts? Or is it you?”

The short answer is neither my kids nor I have peanut allergies.

The longer answer is this: neither my kids nor I, nor my husband, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nor any relative that I am aware of have had peanut allergies, nor any food allergies.

Either way, they get a confused look as to why I would have possibly chosen such a subject for my second children’s book.

Writing medically inspired children’s books fulfills, both a dream and a mission: to be a writer and to help people (especially kids).

When my first daughter arrived, I wrote when I could. I lived in an isolated mountain neighborhood, and knew few of my neighbors. Motherhood was lonely until I founded a baby group. We parents connected deeply, clinging to each other during those early and exhausting months and years.

Then one, two, three families in our group had the shock of medical diagnoses for their beautiful and healthy children: Leukemia, Diabetes, Epilepsy.

I fumbled around for what to do to help them. Parenthood was hard enough with all the odds stacked in your favor. These families needed support. I learned how to test blood sugar, ran a marathon for Team In Training to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma, and I searched the Internet for supportive resources.

I discovered a dearth of children’s books for these medical challenges. So, I decided to write my first book: Even Superheroes Get Diabetes. My goal was to educate, inspire, and empower kids with type 1 diabetes and those around them. I knew I’d have to publish it myself, as large publishers see children’s medical issues as ‘niche markets’. They were looking for the next Harry Potter, and this wasn’t going to be it.

A few years later, I met a mom in our community whose daughter had a severe peanut/nut allergy. I watched her operate in a world of hyper-vigilance. I read an article from another mom about the challenges at play dates and birthday parties. Their day-to-day experiences stuck with me, and I knew this would be my second book topic.

When the letter went out in Kindergarten to please bring in peanut-free foods, our small community of parents was largely supportive. But some weren’t. One parent (who happened to be a nurse) spread rumors that the parent was being dramatic about the severity of the allergy. It simply wasn’t life threatening she told others. Undermining a parent’s effort to keep their child safe baffled me.

Before I released my new book, I was discussing a possible radio interview and was told, be prepared, because the host and her celebrity husband don’t believe in peanut allergies. This sent my head spinning. It was as if people have a choice to believe in peanut allergies, like they do with Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy.

Not so. As parents with allergy-free and healthy children (knock wood three times), we are not off the hook. We don’t get to turn and look away, and be inconvenienced by another child’s medical challenge, even if our super-fussy kid’s favorite sandwich happens to be PB&J (like mine was), and we have to read the fine print on labels at our favorite grocer. Everyone’s priority must be to keep kids healthy and alive.

We are all in this together. The greater the awareness and compassion, the faster we can come together to learn why six million kids now have food allergies, a number that has tripled since 1997. And, why diabetes, ADD, autism, and other childhood maladies are on the rise.


The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale

Written by: Sue Ganz-Schmitt Illustrated by: Micah Chambers-Goldberg

$22.95 hardcover/$15.95 softcover

Available now on Amazon.com and other online retailers.

For more information visit: www.royallyallergic.com

Cancer, Peanut Allergies & A Mother’s Love

October 7, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Jody Fariello for AllergyKids Foundation October 7, 2011

When AllergyKids first learned of Jody’s story four years ago from a friend who lost his daughter to an allergic reaction, we shared it in an effort to help support her efforts to “Rescue Roman,” a little boy who had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 18 months. The prognosis was not good. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of fifteen, and researchers now estimate that 90% of all cancers are environmentally triggered (Mt. Sinai School of Medicine).

But four and a half years later, overcoming remarkable odds, Jody is celebrating the 6th birthday of her gorgeous son, Roman, and her story speaks to the remarkable power of love, courage and dedication. Jody is a beautiful friend who gently reminds us:

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can as long as you ever can.” ~John Wesley

So, today, on her son’s 6th birthday, we invited Jody to share her story. Happy Birthday, Sweet Roman. Please hug your mom for us.

Written by Jody Fariello for AllergyKids Foundation October 7, 2011

Roman Michael Fariello was born a healthy baby boy on October 7th, 2005. He topped the scales at 9 pounds 6 ounces! He was the perfect picture of health until he ate some peanut butter ice cream bites at the age of 13 months old. It was then that a blood test proved that he had a peanut allergy. We were totally devastated with this news. Little did we know our world was about to be turned upside down on a much larger scale a few months down the road.

At the ripe old age of just 18 months, Roman presented to us a very swollen and black and blue right eye. He had previously fallen on a toy so we thought he was bruised from the fall. His eye was so swollen it was almost shut completely. We took him to our pediatrician and he referred us to an ophthalmologist. He wanted to give it a week to see of the swelling would go down. It didn’t. So, on April 25th 2007, Roman had a CT Scan of his head that revealed a tumor that had broken through his frontal part of his skull bone above his right eye. More scans revealed a tumor on his right adrenal gland and also in his bone marrow. The cancer Roman was diagnosed with is a very deadly and aggressive form of childhood cancer called Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma.

From April ’07 to July ’08, he completed the following: 7 rounds of deadly chemo,( or life- saving chemo depending how you look at it), a stem cell harvest, 3 surgeries, a stem cell transplant, 12 rounds of local radiation, 5 rounds of oral chemo (Accutane) at home and all the while getting multiple life- saving blood and platelet transfusions. During the past 4 years, Roman has endured numerous CT Scans and MIBG Scans, far too many to count. It is safe to say that Roman has endured A TON in the first 6 years of his very young life. Most adults haven’t even gone through what he has gone through in their lifetimes.

Going to “his” hospital is like home to him. He loves his doctor so much! He likes watching the nurses put IV’s into his arm or hand to get blood to make sure they are doing things right and he sits perfectly still for everything and anything that is tossed at him. Roman could teach many adults a thing or two about patience, I am quite sure. As his 6Th Birthday is just about here, I am even more amazed at all the things he can do in school. More amazed that this little guy has had everything bad happen to him from scary and possible deadly peanut allergy to stage 4 deadly cancer. To us being told that he only has a 33% chance to survive his cancer, to him just making Panther of the Month in his class. From him reading and writing so doggone well in kindergarten with no trouble, to a tiny bit of a high frequency hearing loss in the right ear. To look at him, no one would ever know what he has been through. And the best part of all is he does everything with a smile on his sweet little face! He never stops amazing me. I am in awe of my son. I am one blessed mother. I am one blessed cancer mother! I am one very proud mother. I don’t know what the future holds for Roman with his peanut allergy or his stage 4 Neuroblastoma. But, what I do know is that my son is miracle walking. Each day is blessing and each day is a gift.


To learn more about how you can support Jody and the Fariello family in their efforts to “Rescue Roman,” please visit: www.rescueroman.org

To learn more about how you can protect the health of your loved ones, please visit the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine .

Think Different

October 6, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, Uncategorized

This short video has inspired countless individuals, businesses and thought leaders around the world. And today, we are highlighting it once again in memory of Steve Jobs whose passionate work seemed to give others permission to think outside the box and is an incredible reminder that “one man, with vision, courage and unwavering dedication can still change the world“.

So take a minute to watch it and think about what you can do to lend your unique talents and become part of the change. Because, together, we can create a healthy future for our children.

No Idea What a “GMO” Is? You’re Not Alone: A Fact Sheet

October 5, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

If you have no idea what a genetically modified organism (or “GMO”) is, you’re not alone.

Is it some fringe issue reserved for environmentalists or the rich and famous? Not at all. Since these ingredients were introduced into our food supply without labels just over 15 years ago, most of us eat them almost every day.

So what is genetically modified food? Well, the scientists that we work with at the AllergyKids Foundation can tell you. Because once someone knows what a genetically modified organism is, they usually want to stop eating them or have them labeled on their foods. A recent poll showed that 93% of Americans feel that way. Since when have 93% of Americans agreed on anything?

But they do on this issue, especially when they learn that mandatory labeling of these ingredients has been in place in other countries (like in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and China) since their introduction into our food in the 1990s and the rapid growth of their adoption in the United States as seen in this chart from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Want to learn more? Then take a look at the fact sheet below. Have questions? Then send us an email or check out Just Label It for more info and Eight Things You Can Do.

Because if eaters in other countries have been given the right to know what’s in their foods, Americans should have that same freedom, too.


Questions and Health Concerns

What are genetically engineered (GE) foods?

These are foods created from the insertion of a gene, bacteria or virus from one species into a different species to produce a desired effect, usually resistance to herbicides or insects. The terms genetically modified (GM) and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are typically used interchangeably with GE.

Are they the same as foods from traditional breeding?

No. Traditional breeding between the same or similar species, such as crossing two types of corn or apples, has been done for thousands of years. GE foods, only developed in the past few decades, are created in a lab and are between different species.

What kinds of food are genetically engineered?

There are currently six major foods sold in the U.S. that are typically genetically engineered. These are listed below with the percent that are GE:

Sugar beets 95%

Soybeans 93%

Cotton (Cottonseed oil) 78%

Canola 75%

Corn 70%

Papaya 50%

Because most of these are used widely, about two-thirds of processed food contains a GE ingredient. Conversely, the vast majority of raw fruits and vegetables are not GE. Organic foods, by definition, can’t be GE.

Does genetic engineering improve the nutritional quality of foods?

No. There are no GE foods on the market in which nutritional quality is enhanced beyond a non-GE food counterpart.

Is the act of genetic engineering precise?

No. The entire foundation of GE is that the introduction of one foreign gene, bacteria or virus into a plant will activate one protein, producing one desired effect and nothing more. But this ignores basic science – the chances of harmful unintended consequences with GE are substantially increased:[i]

One gene often creates multiple proteins

  • The location of the gene often varies, which can affect whether it produces the desired protein or not
  • The insertion of the gene can disrupt the genetic blueprint of the plant
  • The new gene can either silence other genes that were normally active or activate other genes that were silent
  • A promoter (typically a virus) is usually added that helps the gene activate a desired protein. However, it may also activate other proteins that were silent, which could lead to harmful effects on humans.

What evidence of harmful effects are there?

The deadliest incident occurred in the food supplement l-tryptophan, which had been used safely by millions of people as a sleep aid for decades. However, when a Japanese company produced a GE version in the late 1980’s, thousands of people contracted an extremely painful, serious disease, EMS, that killed at least 37 and left thousands with disabilities, including paralysis.[ii] The FDA subsequently removed virtually all l-tryptophan off the market, although only the GE version was linked to EMS.

It’s more difficult to detect harmful conditions such as cancer, birth defects, toxins or allergies, since they have other causes and/or can take longer to develop than EMS. Moreover, the FDA doesn’t require GE foods to be labeled, so most people don’t know they’re consuming them. This makes it virtually impossible to isolate and track them.

However, numerous credible animal studies all over the world have shown disturbing results. For example:

– In Scotland, GE potatoes fed to rats showed lowered nutritional content and suffered damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers and testicles and enlarged intestines[iii]

– In Australia, a harmless gene in a bean engineered into a pea produced immune reactions in mice, indicating allergic reactions and/or toxins[iv]

– In Austria, a government study showed that mice fed GE corn had fewer litters and fewer total offspring[v]

– In France, a study found that GE corn previously thought harmless revealed hormone-dependent diseases and early signs of toxicity in rats[vi]

Harm to animals doesn’t necessarily prove harm to humans. However, it is a definite indication that more studies should be done. This hasn’t happened.

How is safety testing done in the U.S.? Is it adequate?

The FDA is responsible for food safety. However, it doesn’t do any testing on GE food and doesn’t require any independent tests. The only studies done are by the same companies developing the foods and they’re not required to give all their data to the FDA. They only need to declare their studies are adequate and that the GE food is safe. By and large, GE food safety is self-regulated.

The bottom line

Plants can be genetically engineered to be resistant to pests or herbicides. But in the process, there is evidence they may be causing harm to human health as an unintended consequence.

[i] Commoner, Barry, Unraveling the DNA Myth: The Spurious Foundation of Genetic Engineering, Harper’s, Feb. 2002.

[ii] Crist, William, Toxic L-tryptophan: Shedding Light on a Mysterious Epidemic, 2005, available athttp://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/L-tryptophan/1Introduction/index.cfm.

[iii] Ewen, SW, Pusztai, A, Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine, Lancet, Oct. 16, 1999, 354(9187): 1353-4.

[iv] Prescott, V et al, Transgenic Expression of Bean α-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005, 53:9023-9030.

[v] For the full study in English, seehttp://bmgfj.cms.apa.at/cms/site/attachments/3/2/9/CH0810/CMS1226492832306/forschungsbericht_3-2008_letzfassung.pdf

[vi] Seralini, G-E et al, How Subchronic and Chronic Health Effects can be Neglected for GMO’s, Pesticides or Chemicals; International Journal of Biological Sciences, 2009, 5(5): 438-443.

This Fact Sheet is provided by: Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, www.oregonpsr.org.