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What It’s Like to Be An Allergy-Mom

January 30, 2014 •  14 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/

The Top Food Awakening Stories of 2013

January 4, 2014 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

2013 was the year of the Food Awakening.

Consumers and Wall Street got in on the food movement like never before.

Thanks to social media and online networks, eaters around the country used their voices to create change.  The courage was contagious and inspired countless acts.  The list below highlights just how much we can do when we leverage our collective talents.

Some of these changes happened with lightning speed, others were years in the making with many out in front, that finally came to a head in 2013.

The message is clear: The bottom line is that we impact the bottom line of companies, and companies that are moving with the consumer, bringing transparency to their products, are being rewarded in the marketplace.

As the food awakening continues, the food industry has a choice: to step forward, respond to consumer demand and be rewarded in the marketplace or to entrench, using  obsolete technologies and artificial ingredients, and ignore the growing concern of Americans around the country over the health of their loved ones.  There really is only one answer.

Here’s a list of just some of the incredible accomplishments of 2013 as shared across social media. It reinforces that while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something, and together, we can create incredible change.

  1. The Chipotle Scarecrow film getting 11.6 million views in just a few months.
  2. Kashi admitting GMO and producing a FB reply…then they created some Organic cereals with Non GMO verification project.
  3. A teen’s online petition gets Gatorade to kick a nasty additive out of their sports’ drinks.
  4. Whole Foods March announcement that all products in their stores that contain GMOs must be labeled by 2018 (or reformulated to not contain them).
  5. Kroger, which launched its Simple Truth line of organic and natural foods in August, now says it will double the brand’s lineup early next year, the Dayton Business Journal said. The original lineup included 200 foods
  6. Connecticut passing a GMO labeling law
  7. Chipotle’s commitment to going non GMO in 2014, and the market’s response sending the stock soaring
  8. Hawaii’s legislation, a win to get GMOs off Kauai and a win to require pesticide disclosure and buffer zones of the 4 of the 5 top biotech companies there.
  9. Elimination of trans fats and looming FDA deadline
  10. The rise in Annie’s stock & products
  11. Chick-fil-A changing the ingredients in their food
  12. Chipotle labeling its menu of GMOs
  13. Whole Foods no longer selling Chobani yogurt due to GMO concerns.
  14. Helping Houston ISD to get msg out of their food items!
  15. Lawsuit against “Naked” juice for being loaded with GMOs and claiming to be “natural.”
  16. Trader Joe’s certifies that all of the products in its stores that carry the TRADER JOE label are NON-GMO (buyer beware, though, as these products are not third party verified by the Non GMO Project.)
  17. Explosion in Non GMO Project verified products
  18. Twinkie maker hostess filed for bankruptcy then reemerged talking about a gluten free Twinkie!
  19. Canadian Superstore brought in an entire large isle of organic foods last month. Did our emails make a difference?
  20. Target is planning a new line of “natural food” products and it will be non gmo. (Walmart is also planning a line of “natural food’ PRODUCTS, but Walmart’s line will be all genetically modified ingredients.)
  21. Raising awareness in Washington State and beyond with I-522
  22. Starbucks dropping the beetles from their menu!
  23. Ben and Jerry’s commitment to going non-GMO by mid-’14 and already having a dozen flavors sourced and labeled non-GMO
  24. Kraft finally ditching artificial dyes from a handful of their mac and cheese products
  25. A mom starting a movement called “March Against Monsanto” that led to 2 million people in 56 countries peacefully standing up for food freedom
  26. A lot more brands coming out with gluten free/dairy free and non GMO products!
  27. UNREAL candy taking on the big guys by making America’s favorite candy without the junk
  28. Unilever for deciding, after supporting the No on GMO Labeling side and receiving criticism from consumers, to actively advocate for Yes on 522 in Washington State.
  29. Kellogg’s having to downsize because consumers quit purchasing their products. “Would prefer Kellog’s be a better business model and remove the GMO’s so that we can purchase more instead of boycott.”
  30. Monsanto having to run commercials lying because we are impacting their bottom line.

And while there were countless others, some were personal:

“My daughter realizing she’s been eating organic ketchup poured into a non-organic bottle…and when the charade was revealed, saying she wondered why the ketchup tasted better lately.”

“I’ve lost 42lbs…dont drink energy drinks anymore..dropped all my bad blood levels …went from 40 inch to 32 inch waist…just cutting out processed food with HFCS and GMOs.”

And from a Navy Seal: “Nothing spectacular, had heart operation, found tumors same time, got sick, went whole, got better, kicked the cancer end of tumors, and watch with shear amazement at what we had been brainwashed into eating, have gotten a few of my seal budddys now on organic diets and transformation is amazing, keep at it, you have people like me watching…”

Keep at it.  2014 is going to be a great year.  Companies and investors are paying attention.  The food companies that do not adapt will find their 20th century products, loaded with artificial dyes, growth hormones and GMOs soaked in pesticides, becoming an obsolete technology in the 21st century.

Keep an eye on legislation and labeling laws, as well as things like the Trans Pacific Partnership which protects patented products (like the chemical industry’s GMOs in our food),  send an email to a Congressman’s office or share a YouTube video with a friend.

Hedge funds are paying attention, Wall Street is paying attention and parents are on the front lines sending messages every day, as they navigate the grocery store aisles differently.

A quick look at how UNREAL candy is revolutionizing the candy aisles in Target shows just how quickly it can be done.

Just because we have inherited a food system that no longer works for us today does not mean that we have to embrace it going forward.  Together, leveraging our collective talents, we can build a smarter food system, so that clean food, free from genetically engineered ingredients regulated by the EPA as pesticides, becomes a freedom afforded all Americans.

Follow Robyn on Twitter @unhealthytruth and on Facebook.  She is a former financial analyst and author.




How Real Families on Real Budgets Can Afford Organic

December 27, 2013 •  19 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien , AllergyKids Foundation

In a world in which we are constantly worried about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, paying the mortgage, and all of life’s responsibilities, the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge.

Not to mention that if your family is anything like mine, then you’ve most likely got some picky eaters, limited time and a limited budget with which to pull all of this off in a world of soaring food prices.

So here are a few tips for those who want to start buying organic food but don’t want to pay the high price:

  • Go Orgo-Generic: Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods. And all foods labeled “USDA organic” are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.
  • Buy Frozen: Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.
  • Eat with the Season: Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did. She didn’t eat strawberries in the middle of winter. Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere so if you eat with the season, you’ll be eating more affordably.
  • Skip the Box, Embrace the Bulk: Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures! When you buy in bulk, you’re not paying for all of the packaging, you’re paying for the food which is what you want anyway. So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, rice and beans in your local grocery store.
  • Support the US economy and Buy Local: You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!). How do you find a local farm, you ask? Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you, so click here to log onto the USDA site.
  • Comparison Shop: You wouldn’t buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door, you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer at www.eatwellguide.org
  • Coupons, coupons, coupons: Organic bargains are everywhere so click on About.com’s Frugal Living page where you will find All Organic Links.
  • Grow One Thing: If you’re as busy as we are, there’s not a chance in creation that you are going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest, but you will find that growing a tomato plant can be incredibly inspiring. And it’s not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow – you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?).
  • Find a Friend: It is way more fun when you share this adventure with someone else, so be sure to find a friend, share this link and get back to us with your success stories (and if you have a tip that you want to add, please post it in the comment section below!).

Good luck!

Swimming Upstream: Goldfish Makers Ditch Artificial Dyes. Next Up, GMOs?

December 7, 2013 •  2 comments.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

Food dyes have gotten a bad rap in the United States and have been linked to health concerns as far reaching as cancer.  A “Rainbow of Risks” cites one report, putting parents on alert.

But the food industry has been slow to respond. As CBS Market Watch reported, “any clampdown would be fiercely opposed by the major food manufacturers who use a boatload — 15 million pounds — of food dyes in the U.S. every year. ”

Fifteen million pounds of artificial food dyes per year.

It’s hard to hear for parents trying to feed kids on a budget, especially when you consider that our very own American companies have pulled these artificial dyes, derived from petroleum based products, from the kids’ foods that they are serving in other countries.  That double standard just doesn’t sit right for most American parents, and people have been making some noise.

I am one of them.  I first took on the issue back in 2008 on Good Morning America when I was writing my book.  Studies linking these artificial ingredients to hyperactivity led American companies to reformulate their products in the United Kingdom.  Despite this response to consumer demand and parental concern overseas, our own companies did nothing here while the FDA said that more studies are needed.

But since then, despite the fact that the FDA sat still, companies began to take notice.  They are listening and responding to consumer demand, even while the FDA says nothing.  In no way is this more obvious than in an email I received last week from the makers of Goldfish.  I had hammered on their product in my book, The Unhealthy Truth, for being a kid-favorite and absolutely jacked up on these artificial ingredients that can send some kids sky high.  As a mom of four, it had been my go-to snack for years, but upon learning that, I ditched the colors and opted for something else.

So when I emailed them, following up on some research being done on artificial colors, to ask about their recent announcement to ditch these  artificial dyes, I got the following response.

Ms Robyn, we received your message and appreciate the time you took to contact Pepperidge Farm regarding the coloring used in our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors.

Our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors use the following natural ingredients for coloring:

  • Red Beet
  • Paprika
  • Watermelon
  • Huito
  • Tumeric
  • Annatto

Huito fruit is a native Latin American exotic fruit much like Acai, Passionfruit or Guava.  Its flavor is reminiscent of an apricot or raisin.

We appreciate your interest in our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors.  Please contact our Consumer Response Center at 1.888.737.7374 if you need further assistance.

If you don’t think these companies are listening, you have not yet tried talking to them.  They are making these changes, but they need us.  They need consumers to share their concerns, to write, call and email so that they can show their shareholders and show their boards of directors that this food awakening is happening.

Together, we can get this junk out of our food the way parents have overseas.  We can clean up our food system and restore the health of our families.

Pepperidge Farm closed their email saying, “Thank you for visiting the Pepperidge Farm website.”

Thanks for listening, Pepperidge Farm.  Next up, let’s figure out a way to help your farmers grow their corn and soy with fewer chemicals, without those genetically engineered ingredients and chemically-intensive operating system that the biotech industry says we need.

Our combined talent, intellect and creativity are so powerful.  And it is our collective talents that will create the changes we want to see in the health of our food system and the health of our country.

Sometimes the first step just might be as tiny as a goldfish.

To ask Pepperidge Farm to remove the chemical industry’s genetically engineered ingredients from our children’s goldfish or to thank them for ditching the artificial dyes, please contact Consumer Response Center at 1.888.737.7374 or send them an email here: http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/ContactUs.aspx 

Follow Robyn on Twitter @unhealthytruth and on Facebook.  She is a former financial analyst and author.

Navigating Halloween With Food Allergies

October 29, 2013 •  3 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Emily Matthews


Food allergies don’t have to put a damper on a child’s enjoyment of traditional holidays. Research from science think tanks and mastersdegreesonline come to the same conclusions: with a little planning, a child with severe food allergies can have just as much fun on Halloween as any child who is not suffering from this problem. By focusing on a great costume and other aspects of the holiday that don’t affect your child’s food allergies, your child will not worry about missing out at all.

One of the best ways to celebrate Halloween when your child has food allergies is to host a party at your house and serve only treats that are safe for them to eat. You can even have trick or treating in your home by having candy that is safe for your child to eat passed out in different rooms. The children who attend as guests will very likely not even notice anything different about the treats being served. If you take the initiative to provide activities and candytreats for your child to do during Halloween that are fun and exciting, your child may even feel that they got to do something extra special during the holiday and not worry about not being able to do what any other children are doing that day.

For school parties, helping plan the party, offering to bring safe treats, and explaining to your child’s teacher can help keep your child safe from getting any candy that could trigger their allergies. Using fun games as an alternative to candy is a great option to ensure that everyone has a good time on Halloween. If you are not able to attend your child’s school Halloween party, make sure that you inform the teachers and personnel ahead of time, just in case something happens and your child accidentally ingests candy that could provoke a reaction. Teachers should be informed of any signs of a reaction and any ingredients that could trigger your child’s food allergies.

It’s an unfair reality that most of the food passed out on Halloween won’t be safe for your child to eat. However, making sure that you know whattheycaneat will make things much easier. Do your research, but know that many sugar candies are free of the top eight allergens. At the end of the night, have your kids do a swap with their friends – they get all the Nerds, Smarties, and Dots, and don’t have to deal with the M&Ms and Snickers bars.

If some of the candy may be safe to eat, you can sort through it after your child brings it home and before they are allowed to eat anything, to make sure that all of it is safe to eat. Some children’s dentists offer children money in exchange for candy to promote healthy teeth, and cashing in on this type of promotion can help your child feel better about losing part of their stash.

It may take a little bit of advance planning, but your children’s Halloween can be just as great as yours were as a kid!

Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.