Labor Day weekend: Baking catch up 

 Time to get ready for the school year, which officially kicks off for my oldest on Tuesday. So far: Cookie bars, chocolate donuts and a first for me: Apple cinnamon donuts.

The cookie bars are a family favs, as are the chocolate donuts for my little one, who can’t eat at Dunkin Donuts.

Will update with kids’ reviews of apple cinnamon in a bit! 

Also on the menu this weekend: two types of muffins (pumpkins and berry). And possibly a restock of my freezer meals. We’ll see! 

Incidentally, the kitchen is such a mess from the Apple cinnamon donuts that I had to wet-wipe my feet and am now sporting this look as I clean up. I love having “helpers” but….

Update: We threw out the apple cinnamon donuts. They resembled hockey pucks in consistency. I made them and the chocolate ones with a Mini Donut Maker tool, and the apple cinnamons just didn’t handle the contact heat well. So now  I know – those babies need to be fried!

Incidentally – chocolate allergy free donuts turn out awesome in the Mini Donut Maker! 

Allergic family summer fun: Prescriptions and being prepared

This is the time of year when I renew the kids’ epinephrine auto injectors and line up new allergy action plans for camps and the next school year.  

In my quest to get everything lined up I realized this was the perfect topic for this blog.

I started recently using the CVS Caremark app to keep track of prescription refills. We need to have fresh auto injectors at our kids camps/school, at home and for sports activities. We’re in the process of swapping out all of these for new ones as they expire after a year.

I don’t know what to do with the pile of expired ones, though. Any ideas? We may try out doing injections on an orange just to test it out. But we’ll still have a bunch leftover.  

 Meanwhile, as we travel this summer to a variety of new places, I found an amazing app to help you find care in case of an emergency: FindER app. It gives you a quick readout of all nearby ERs with directions. My only additional wish would be to add the ability to see if they have pediatric treatment specialists. 

Allergists’ perspective on bread contamination risks

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve made sandwiches for my kids for school almost every day, I realized I needed to consult my allergist.

I’ve found out more than I expected about cross contamination risks and the limits of our current FDA Food Allergy Labeling guidelines. See the manufacturer conversations I’ve had (see Part 1: Bimbo Bakeries: Arnold’s – Stroehmann’s – Weight Watchers etc, Part 2:  Pepperidge Farm and Foodhold USA).

I put in a call to the allergist’s nurse line to ask about the cross contamination risk based on what I’d heard, because of the increased risk of sesame in the bread products made by many of these companies.

While only one of my children has a sesame allergy, because it’s in the family, the other child is at risk of developing this as well.

They’re recommending I visit an organic bakery a few towns over to inquire about baking practices and sesame exposure there as well. There’s also a bakery that caters to allergy and gluten free consumers in that area, so I could potentially get our bread there.

From a convenience standpoint, I am not sure this is the right path for us, but it’s worth investigating.

A bread machine still may make more sense.

Part 2: Finding Sesame-free bread: A consumer hotline odyssey

Since my last installment in this series, we’ve gone through several loaves of bread and I haven’t had a chance to update the blog. Here’s what I can report.

Screenshot 2015-03-19 12.43.221.) Finding bread that is manufactured in a way that minimizes potential cross contamination with Sesame is really hard!

2.) Allergen labeling between brands really stinks.

For instance, we have thrown away at least two loaves of Pepperidge Farm bread at this point, despite my hope that they could be our go-to brand. Through my calls so far to consumer hotlines, I was able to identify that Pepperidge Farm bakeries actually cleans their manufacturing equipment between runs of breads containing sesame and other breads. That information led me to believe this would be the safest choice for my family.

However, Pepperidge Farm’s inScreenshot 2015-03-19 12.43.28gredient labels do not include an Allergen Statement, at the bottom of the ingredient list.  And, they do not Bold the names of allergenic ingredients in the bread. So we’ve had at least two loaves where when I re-read the labels I found Milk listed as an ingredient.


Into the trash they go.

I may need to spend 30 minutes in the grocery store reading Pepperidge Farm labels to see if I can find a safe one at this point. This is time I currently don’t have.

I am down to two other suppliers of breads at my usual grocery store at this point: the store generic brand (distributed by Foodhold USA) and Flowers Bakeries of Thomasville Ga., who bake and distribute brands including Nature’s Own, Sunbeam and Wonder breads.

On the Giant Bread – Whole Wheat. I contacted Foodhold USA, who gathered my information and sent it on to the original manufacturer. I got a call within 30 minutes from the manufacturer (who declined to identify the company), as I was writing this blog post. It turns out that they clean and label for Top 8 allergens (including milk, egg, peanut and tree nut) but they do NOT make any claims about following FDA best practices for sesame or other allergens. The rep told me he works at a baking facility and that the employees there expect to find sesame in the bread they get as a perk.

So, Giant’s generic bread is now off our purchase list.

I’ve also emailed Flowers Bakeries in Thomasville Georgia through their web site for further information on how they handle Top 8 and sesame as well. My hopes are not high.

That bread machine is looking better and better.

Kneading up something new

Ever since my post on the problem with bread manufacturing, I’ve bought a few more loaves from different manufacturing plants and I tested the waters making my own.

I am happy to report that making allergen free bread by hand is not particularly difficult, it’s just time consuming. I made a Whole Wheat bread that the family liked a lot. But, I don’t have time to just whip up a batch during the week. It’s just too time consuming when you work full time.

So I am making a few calls to Pepperidge Farms and  Flowers Bakeries of Thomasville GA  to find out how they handle food allergens including sesame. And my investigation of bread machines continues.

I spent my first year out of college working as a newspaper reporter. And it occurred to me that I am trying to report my way out of food allergies here. More on that another day!

Part 1: Bread: The stuff of life – but what’s in it?


The recent recall of my kids’ favorite mini bagels – luckily only in certain areas of the country – got me thinking about bread and commercial manufacturing practices.

I decided to take action, so that led to emails and a phone call to our local bread manufacturing plant (Bimbo) for information on allergy safety and manufacturing practices.

Bread is more than sustenance – in our culture it has lots of meanings. “Give us this day our daily bread,” after all, is one of our most basic prayers. “Best thing since sliced bread,” is one of our most overused cliches.

My oldest son is allergic to sesame, which is often used in Italian breads. After hearing about tree nut contamination of bagels and mini bagels for that manufacturer, Bimbo Bakeries, I gave them a call to find out how they handle allergens. Bimbo manufacturers breads under the brand names Arnold’s, Weight Watchers, Sara Lee,  Stroehman’s, Freihofer’s, Thomas and more.

The good news is, for the labeled Top 8 allergens (including milk, peanut, tree nut, egg) they wash the production lines in between runs. This is known in the business as a safe manufacturing practice.

Here’s the allergy statement on one of their products’ web site:

What is your guidance on allergenic ingredients for highly sensitive consumers?

We adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices as established by the FDA. We take abundant precaution to prevent cross-contact of allergenic ingredients between batches, and our bakeries are inspected to ensure that they meet or exceed all regulatory and baking industry standards. We understand that highly sensitive consumers need to know when there is even the remote possibility of inadvertent cross-contact of allergenic ingredients during processing. To that end, we disclose that the following allergenic ingredients are used in some of our manufacturing facilities and that inadvertent cross-contact is remotely possible: milk, eggs, soy, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, coconuts and hazelnuts (filberts). Wheat is used in all of our facilities and all of our products as an ingredient. Please refer to ingredient labels on our products for full disclosure of the ingredients used in that product.

I read these statements and followed up with an email and a phone call to one of their representatives.

When asked specifically about sesame, I was told they do not clean after breads with sesame and/or they do not claim any type of allergen cross contact prevention there. This is because sesame is not in the top 8. (Please sign the petition to have it added!)

Net result: Continued use of their breads is a risk I have to be willing to take on.

I took 10 minutes in the grocery store yesterday to look at bread labels to see how much product Bimbo actually makes that are on shelves. The answer was close to 90% of the bread in our supermarket is made by them. They carry different “brand names” but the manufacturer is Bimbo.

The exceptions appear to be Pepperidge Farm  and Nature’s Own. Many of these brands use eggs and/or milk in their ingredients, so as always reading labels is key. I have not yet cross examined these other manufacturers yet, but we needed bread!

We’re trying a loaf of one of these this week, and my oldest was nervous, he told the school nurse, “because the crust looked different.” Someday I will write a blog post about how all this food fear affects kids.

I called the allergist and they recommended going to a local organic market in another town for locally sourced bread without allergy contact. This is now on the To Do list. I will need to cross examine the unfortunate soul in the bakery department there too.

In the meantime, I am debating getting a bread maker on sale on I’d signed myself & the oldest up for a kid food allergy cooking class that was cancelled due to “lack of interest” so maybe I’ll apply that money here.

And then I can make bread with my kids, hopefully turning around the risk issue into something empowering?