Sticker time: Kitchen organizing for toddler allergy management 

If you have a hungry toddler with food allergies, you know managing allergens in the kitchen is important. Here’s how we tackled it: Stickers! Etsy is so helpful in this regard.


Safe and Not Safe stickers can be applied to food products themselves or to containers where you put snacks in easy reach. 

My little one’s school also suggested a picture that our son could recognize as “his” when he was at school. This helped a ton – he knew the Moon sticker was his spot at the lunch table, where his nap mat was kept, etc. I adopted the Moon sticker, added his name and we were off to the races. This container in my fridge is full of his safe snack favorites: Pumpkin muffins and cookie bars. 

Over time, the simplicity of the sticker system really became part of my routine. I now use it for my spices, so at a glance I know which ones are Not Safe, without having to read labels each and every time. 

Also – if you’re judging me by the contents of my spice rack – it’s OK. I tend to purchase McCormick’s as they’re less subject to recalls. The company is  vertically integrated – they own the fields where their spices are grown. So the cumin/peanut recall of a few years ago never affected their products. Wildtree sources their brand organically, and they guarantee gluten free production. So I feel good about their practices too. 

That said – recalls can and do happen; your child’s reactions can be based on items not yet subject to a recall. So it pays to pay attention. 

Allergy testing is no fun

My father, now in his upper 60s, remembers scratch testing from when he was a kid in the 1950s. He was allergic to most environmental and many food allergies, some of which he later outgrew. Some he didn’t – bee venom – and he still has an Epi pen. The tests really haven’t changed much in 50+ years. But the world around us has.

We do skin prick tests annually. They’ve gotten a bit easier to handle as the kids get older, but it’s still a long time to wait for a reaction without scratching your back. 

Skin testing results are not a pure predictor of reaction. They’re directional though. The reaction on my son’s back next to M is from milk. We suspected a milk allergy early on in his infancy and it’s just gotten worse, as his immune system has developed. It’s disappointing that the numbers are not going in the other direction, but what are you gonna do? 

Last year, low numbers on the tree nuts led us to a series of food challenges for almonds, walnuts, cashews etc.

My kids are now cleared to eat almonds but the little one won’t. Sigh. One can eat walnuts but the other can’t. I have multi level food prep and storage happening in my kitchen now when we make chocolate chip cookies.

 I make the plain batch first, and add walnuts to the second batch after. The walnut batch is baked on parchment paper (disposable). They’re stored in separate containers labeled with kids’ initials. 

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.

<<sigh>>

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.