Home » About Us » Blog » April, 2015

Archive for April, 2015

What Would Our Grandparents Say?

April 23, 2015 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

We receive letters from parents from around the country and around the world.  Some express gratitude, some grief, some share stories of hope, some share stories of heartache.

When we received this letter to our founder, we felt it was a powerful one to share.  What would our grandparents say?

“Dear Robyn,
I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your work. My little Ginny was born the day after Christmas in 2012. At 3 months she developed severe eczema due to a dairy allergy. I stopped nursing because my dairy free diet didn’t seem to help her skin issues. She eventually ended up on Neocate. As we slowly introduced new foods she was doing very well until I decided to try hummus on the New Years Day after her first birthday. She went into anaphylaxis and we rode in the ambulance to the ER while my older daughter stayed with a neighbor until my husband could pick her up. This was by far the scariest day of my life. As we navigated the allergy world and added new allergies (egg, chickpea, lentil, garlic, sesame, peanut) I felt hopeless and powerless. I wanted to know why this was happening and (this seems a bit crazy but) what could we do now to prevent Ginny’s children from having the same issues.

I started to do just a little reading on the subject and I ran across an article about wheat being doused in roundup and felt dizzy. From there I started doing more research until I ran across your work. Your perspective is very much like mine. This journey started with an allergy in my child but I am also a conservative so writing letters to my Republican congressman about the DARK act that he supports feels strange (my guy is Joe Wilson…. The “You Lie!” fella).

My granddaddy was an agriculture teacher in south Georgia. When I was a little girl he planted a row of peanuts for me. His town has a peanut festival each year and he was the grand marshal of the parade one year. He passed away at the same time as the festival and I remember that people were wearing peanut tie pins and earrings. My sister bought peanut Christmas ornaments for my mom and for me after he died and every year when I would hang the ornament, I would think of him. Now, when I pull out the ornament I have conflicting feelings. I remember him and how much he loved the farming community and I wonder what he would think of all this. I also look at this ornament as the enemy and something that could harm my child. I wish granddaddy was still around so I could talk to him about all of this.

I feel sort of silly writing to you but I just had to say thank you. I can’t imagine doing what you do with four children but what you are doing is so very important so thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Be brave. Courage is contagious.

What It’s Like to Be An Allergy-Mom

April 21, 2015 •  18 comments.

 •  Blog, News

mom-with-boyThe food allergy community is a powerful one.  None of us chose to be part of it, it chose us.  And stories, successes, heartaches and strategies are often shared across networks and social media.

Like the piece below.  Dawn Crowe, a mom with a child with food allergies, shared this on her Facebook page this morning.  It was written by Carissa K.  Her words ring so true.  Allergy moms are everywhere, from the beautiful Julie Bowen to the ones on the sidelines at soccer games, and as the mom below writes, we are all “humble and grateful and reminded of just how fortunate we are that we are the parents of a child with only food allergies.”

“What it’s Like to Be an Allergy-Mom”

1. As the parent of a child with food allergies, it makes us crazy when people make any sort of assumption about food allergies other than this one assumption — a food allergy is a life-threatening condition that causes children to stop. breathing. immediately. It’s very real… and it’s very scary.

2. As the parent of a child with food allergies we want you to know that this is not a lifestyle choice. While it’s admirable that some people choose to eat healthy and be aware of the ingredients in their food, we aren’t standing in the grocery store aisle reading the label on everything that goes into our cart as a hobby. We’re studying those ingredients to make sure there’s not an obscure ingredient that could kill our children. (Did you know that caramel coloring is made out of dairy? Are you familiar with the difference between sodium lactate and potassium lactate?)

3. As the parent of a child with food allergies there is not a playdate or school activity that our child will attend without us having a discussion with the hosting parent, event chaperone or teacher first. Every event my child has ever participated in (ever!) from t-ball to school to summer camps has always been preempted with a medical conversation first. We know we’re perceived as high-maintenance parents. And we feel badly about that because the level of diligence we’re forced to have about the subject of food allergies may not be consistent with the level of diligence our personalities would normally reflect.

4. As the parent of a child with food allergies we have laid awake at night, wondering if we’ll be able to spot the signs of our child’s throat closing. We’ve been told that anaphylaxis can happen in less than two minutes, so not only do we wonder if we’ll be able to identify this emergency, we wonder if our child’s teacher, babysitter, grandparent, recess monitor, friend or coach will know when our child can’t breathe.

5. As a parent of a child with food allergies we have laid awake at night, wondering if our child will ever be able to attend a party in college or share a random kiss. And if he does, who will carry his epi-pen?

6. Speaking of which, as the parent of a child with food allergies we leave the house remembering the basics like phone, wallets, keys — and epi-pens. We know not to leave them in a car that is too hot or too cold and we always carry at least two, if not seven. Even with insurance, they are $25 a pop, so we treat them with the utmost respect for the year that we have them before they expire. But that’s all ok, because those little devices carrying a shot of adrenaline could save our child, or at least sustain them, until the ambulance arrives.

7. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we sit outside every birthday party or sports practice while other parents leave.

8. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we balance the emotional impact of being a helicopter parent against the medical threat of having our child go into anaphylaxis when we’re not around. We feel guilty and scared of both.

9. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we have never relaxed, sat back and actually enjoyed or tasted a meal in a restaurant. Never. You see, we spend those meals playing and replaying the emergency plan in our head while quietly observing our child’s breathing as he enjoys his meal.

10. As the parent of a child with food allergies, we regularly attend medical appointments in big time children’s hospitals where we can’t help but see other patients and deeply suffering families. And upon this realization, we are humbled and grateful and reminded of just how fortunate we are that we are the parents of a child with only food allergies. While our child has a life-threatening medical condition, it is manageable. And as long as we have help from you and others in managing it, our child is alive — and that’s really something!

This article first appeared on Huffington Post. To read more of Carissa K.’s work, please visit http://www.carissak.com/

Serving Up Food Dyes, UK Style

April 20, 2015 •  16 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien

Right now there is a lot of discussion around the science of food dyes. Do artificial colors contribute to hyperactivity in kids? Are food dyes responsible for ADHD? Is it the government’s job to take these dyes out of our kids’ foods or is it ours?

The fact of the matter is that you are going to get a different answer depending on who you ask. I learned this the hard way when I went to some of our leading pediatric allergists a few years ago to ask about the link between the introduction of GMOs into our food supply and the sudden epidemic we were seeing in the number of American kids with food allergies. They didn’t like the line of questioning and fired off some pretty aggressive responses. But given my background as a food industry analyst, I quickly learned that financial ties between doctors and agrichemical, food and pharmaceutical corporations can play a pretty important role in what these doctors are willing to say.

So when people get heated up around the science of food dyes, I find myself asking the same questions: Who has funded the research? Is there a financial incentive involved to protect the status quo? And are doctors that are speaking out on this issue in any way affiliated as spokespersons for either the food or pharmaceutical companies that stand to benefit from the continued use of these food dyes in foods?

Since there are usually extensive financial ties between doctors and food and pharmaceutical corporations, it is often helpful to turn to the consumer marketplace and food companies themselves for answers because money talks.

And interestingly, Kraft, Coca Cola and Wal-Mart have already removed these artificial food colors and dyes from the products that they distribute in other countries. They’ve reformulated their product lines in other countries and no longer include these food dyes, and they did it in response to consumer demand and an extraordinary study called the Southampton Study.

The Southampton Study was unusual in that it not only tested an overall number of six dyes (three of them are used in the US (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) and the other three are used in the UK) but also the combination of two ingredients: tartrazine (yellow #5) and sodium benzoate. The study’s designers knew that a child very rarely has occasion to ingest just a synthetic color or just a preservative; rather, a child who is gobbling up multicolored candies is probably taking in several colors and at least one preservative.

What’s amazing is that in the U.K., the federal food safety agency actually funded the Southampton Study that led to even U.S. corporations eliminating synthetic colors and sodium benzoate from their U.K. products.

And in response, a whole host of companies, including the U.K. branches of Wal-Mart, Kraft, Coca Cola and the Mars candy company (who make M&Ms), have voluntarily removed artificial colors, the preservative sodium benzoate, and even aspartame from their products. Particularly those marketed to kids.

When I first learned about this in the spring of 2007, I was stunned. Our American companies had removed these harmful ingredients from their products overseas—but not here?

When I first learned this, I found the information discouraging. But then I realized that we aren’t asking our corporations to reinvent the wheel, we are simply asking for them to place the same products on our grocery store shelves that they are selling overseas.

Because Kraft, Coca Cola and Wal-mart are living proof that is possible for giant corporations to make and sell kid-friendly, family-friendly, and healthy processed foods so that we can give our kids some special treats—like the U.K. versions of Starburst and Skittles, for example —without necessarily exposing them to a chemical cocktail that might also give them brain tumors, or leukemia, or the symptoms of ADHD, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest recently highlighted in their report “Rainbow of Risks”.

And it is inspiring (once you get over the initial shock) to see how far the companies have gone and how quickly they acted to remove these dyes from kids’ foods in other countries.

Asda, for example, the U.K. branch of Wal-Mart acted just one week “after details were leaked to the UK press of a study by researchers at Southampton University. . . ” They didn’t even wait for the study to be published—that’s how concerned they were about public opinion.

In an article published by the Food and Drink Federation, a Web site that monitors food issues in Europe, Jess Halliday reported that “Asda [U.K. Wal-Mart] has pledged to remove any artificial colours or flavours from its 9,000 own label products, as well as aspartame, hydrogenated fat, and flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate.”

Wow. The Southampton study didn’t even mention those last three items. Why was the U.K. Wal-Mart rushing to make such healthy choices, when the U.S. Wal-Mart still offered the same old stuff? Wal-Mart had even been slapped by a lawsuit from the Ajinomoto, the company that now makes aspartame, which claimed that U.K. Wal-Mart’s publicizing of its aspartame-free products was a kind of defamation—all while U.S. Wal-Mart continued to use the sweetener.

Can you imagine how grateful parents in the UK must be when they read this? “[U.K. Wal-Mart] will also meet the Food Standards Agency’s salt-reduction targets–two years ahead of the 2010 deadline,” the article continued.

Isn’t that amazing? Over in the U.K., our American companies rushed to meet government standards two whole years before they even go into effect. It begs the question, why?

According to Asda/U.K. Wal-Mart food trading director Darren Blackhurt, “We know that our customers, particularly those that are mums and dads, are becoming more and more concerned about what’s in the food they buy.” Indeed, the article continues, “consumer awareness of nutrition and food quality in the UK has soared in the last few years. . . ” Accordingly, U.K. Wal-Mart was planning to spend 30 million pounds, or about $50 million, to reformulate its product line, adding that, “in the main, taste will be unaffected.”

Pretty stunning, right? Clearly learning about this remarkable decision is sure to leave a few American parents a little hyperactive. And if you look at the decision a little more closely, you will discover that Asda/Wal-Mart was far from the only British company to respond to the Southampton Study in such a dramatic way. According to the Food and Drink Federation in the U.K., several companies—whether British-based or British division of American corporations—had started offering their customers color- and additive-free processed foods.

“We are aware of the recent publication from the University of Southampton on selected artificial colours, and we will continue to follow the guidance of regulators on this issue.”—Coca- Cola Great Britain. And in fact, on May 27, 2008, the story broke that Coca Cola was removing sodium benzoate from its products—but only in the U.K.

“Kraft Foods UK has no products aimed at children that contain the ingredients highlighted in the FSA [Southampton] study. . . . [W]ith our recent Lunchables reformulation in the UK, we reduced fat and salt, as well as removed artificial colours and flavours. Without compromising quality, taste and food safety, we will continue to see where we can make changes and still meet consumer expectations.”—Kraft Foods UK

“We know that artificial colours are of concern to consumers, which is why, in 2006, Mars began a programme to remove them from our products. . . in November 2007, Starburst Chews became free from all artificial colours. . . . in December 2007, Skittles were made free from all the artificial colours highlighted in a landmark study by Southampton University. . . We have already removed four colours mentioned in the Southampton study from Peanut and Choco M&M’s, and are in the process of removing the final one so they too will be free from these artificials during 2008.”—Mars UK

“Nestlé UK does not manufacture children’s products that contain any of the additives investigated by the FSA [Southampton] research. . . . and from September 2007, the UK’s favourite kids’ chocolate brand—Milky Bar—is to be made with all natural ingredients.”—Nestlé UK

“We are committed to replacing all artificial colours in our sweets. We note the Southampton University findings, but we had begun this process already because we are continually listening to our customers.” —UK Cadbury Chocolate division

Every time I read over those quotes, I find them absolutely stunning. Why are companies that operate in the U.K.—including our very own U.S. companies—so eager to take out the artificial colors there and so completely reluctant to do so here? Why are they willing to spend the money to reformulate their products there while refusing even to consider such a change-over here?

Maybe the answer can be found in a BBC report on Asda/U.K. Wal-Mart, “Explaining its decision to halt the use of artificial colours and flavours, Asda said it was acting because ‘mums and dads are becoming more and more concerned about what’s in the food they buy.’” An Asda/U.K. Wal-Mart press release elaborates: “Reformulation was hard work, but it was a labour of love.” Well, why can’t they perform that same labor of love over here? Is it too much to ask for what they have overseas?

After all, we’re not asking them to reinvent the wheel—they’ve already removed these ingredients from their products elsewhere. So why can’t our children get the same protection? Why can’t they serve up the same products to us?

Today it is estimated that 50% of Hispanic and African-American children will develop diabetes, that 1 in 90 boys has autism, and that 1 in 4 children has asthma. The Journal of Pediatrics reported that from 2002-2005, there was a 103% increase in diabetes medication for children, a 47% increase in asthma medication, a 41% increase in ADHD medication and a 15% increase in high cholesterol medicine.

And while the science may be disputed, depending on who is funding the study, as to whether commonly used food dyes such as Yellow 5, Red 40 and 6 others made from petroleum pose a “rainbow of risks” that include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions, because of the problem of hyperactivity, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of these dyes given that the British government and European Union have taken actions that are virtually ending their use of dyes throughout Europe.

Is it too much to ask for the same value to be placed on the lives of the American kids in their cost-benefit analyses that has been placed on the lives of kids in the UK?

As a proud American, it seems to me that our duty as moms and dads and concerned citizens is pretty clear. We have to get this information out there so that our government and our corporations listen to us, the way that governments and corporations in Europe, Australia, the U.K., Japan, and other developed countries listen to their citizens.

Because while our children may only represent 30% of our population, they are 100% of our future.

Perhaps it’s time that we value them like our country depends on it.

To take action, please join me and the team at Healthy Child Healthy World by signing a letter to the CEO of Kraft Foods (also a mom!) so that together, we can have the same products on grocery store shelves here in the US! Learn more HERE.