Thursday, January 29, 2009

Let's Do Lunch

If you have a school-aged child with food allergies (especially multiple food allergies), then most likely you’re sending your child to school with a lunch box every day. And if your child is anything like mine, then when it’s time to eat he/she tends to take everything out of their lunch box and spread it out all over the table in front of them so they can see what they have. So I’ve been on the lookout for some fun ways to pack a school lunch, preferably with cross contamination safety in mind. I’m always worried that my little guy will take his sandwich out of the plastic baggie and set it right on the table between bites. Even though he sits at a peanut-free table in the lunch room, he does have several other food allergies to think about and who knows what has been touching that lunch table before he sat there.

Here are a few of the nifty ideas I have come across thus far. Click on the product name to view each of the websites.

This is a reusable sandwich wrap and place mat in one!

Laptop Lunches
A cool design features a thermal, zippered carrying case that houses a large snap-shut tray, five reusable microwave safe food containers, a sport bottle, and a stainless steel fork and spoon.

Check out this blog for lots of ideas of what to pack in the Laptop Lunch Box! Vegan Lunch Box

Lock & Lock
I actually just bought this divided container for my son's lunch box. So far I'm quite happy with it as he can remove the top and leave all his food right in the container to eat out of.

As a bonus, if you are a first time buyer from this website, you can use coupon code F7777 at the time you place your order and receive a $2.00 discount!

Lunch Skins
These reusable, colorful cloth pouches are food safe, extremely durable, grease-proof and can even be thrown in the dishwasher.

Whether you send a cupcake in your child's lunch box or take one to a birthday party, this container will keep cupcakes intact while in travel. Comes in a variety of colors.

And don’t forget to tuck into your little one's lunch box an encouraging note if you know your child will be having a spelling test, a joke to brighten their day (Where do you put a loud dog? In a barking lot!), or maybe even a fun lunch box survey. The whole gang at the peanut-free lunch table will get a kick out of it!
Family Fun Lunch Box Jokes
Lunch Box Notes
Lunch Box Survey

Sunday, January 25, 2009

News from Cherrybrook Kitchen!

Cherrybrook Kitchen is thrilled to announce that we are partnering with Arthur & Friends!
Arthur, based on Marc Brown's best-selling books, is the highest rated weekday children's series on PBS among children 6-11. Arthur has won numerous awards, including the George Foster Peabody Award, a BAFTA and six Daytime Emmys-four for Outstanding Children's Animated Program.
Binky, one of Arthur's friends, discovered last year that he is allergic to peanuts in the BINKY GOES NUTS episode. The program addresses many of the challenges that we have all faced with our own dealings with food allergies. When we heard about this at Cherrybrook Kitchen, we immediately said "Binky needs to know about Cherrybrook Kitchen!" and thus our partnership was born.
Stay tuned for the launch of Arthur Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix. The box includes an original Marc Brown story about Arthur's birthday party at school. The cookie mix will be available on our online store FIRST and then available in stores where other Cherrybrook Kitchen products are sold. We'll let you know when you can order them.
We plan to introduce other Arthur products later this year. Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What a find!

At last, just what every allergic child needs! Their very own stuffed dust mite toy!

"This soft toy measures about five inches long, thousands of times larger than an average dust mite, and it's guaranteed not to leave behind any allergenic waste particles or to cause any allergic reactions. Each plush toy comes with a dust mite fact sheet."

But at least they're cuter than the real thing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Food Allergies a Trend?

"Our troubling economy, concerns about the environment and the desire to prevent age-related ailments are behind many of the top 10 food and nutrition trends that will shape supermarket shelves and restaurant menus in 2009."
Top 10 Eating Trends Promise Healthier Products For 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Food Allergies Are Nothing To Laugh About

Dr. Robert Wood responds to the LA Times article, "Nut Allergies - A Yuppie Invention", wherein columnist Joel Stein states that the rise in food allergies is simply due to "a parent who needs to feel special".,0,2215559.story

"Stein says that food allergies kill about as many people a year as lightning strikes, suggesting that we therefore shouldn't take this medical condition seriously. The point he completely misses -- or worse yet chooses to ignore -- is that deaths are so infrequent only because of this high level of vigilance."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Label Reading

Just a reminder to not only read all labels all the time, but also look over the entire package for allergy warnings in odd places! Just before Halloween, I had picked up a package of Jolly Rancher Doubles and was happy to see that they were safe for my son's allergy set. I was thrilled to have found a new treat for him and just in time for Halloween!

When my little boy put the first piece of candy in his mouth, he almost immediately said that it made his tongue feel funny. My mind instantly flashed back to a very severe reaction he had had to milk several years ago where his first symptom was the feeling that his tongue was "burning". But I reassured myself that the ingredients were fine and decided that he probably just didn't like the flavor combination of Grape/Green Apple. Can't say I would either! After a couple of minutes he decided that he really didn't like the Jolly Rancher Doubles and spit out the piece in his mouth. Later that day I decided to try one myself and happened to take a closer look at the individual candy wrapper in my hand. If you can manage to uncrinkle the entire wrapper without totally distorting the words, you will find this interesting tidbit of information...

Allergy Information: Manufactured on the same equipment that processes PEANUTS/MILK.

Based on my son's tongue feeling funny, I would certainly assume there is cross contamination with these candies. Why was this warning not on the outside of the main package? Unfortunately right now cross contamination warnings are not mandatory, but the FDA is accepting written public comments on "May Contain" labeling until January 14, 2009.

Let Your Voice Be Heard!! We need to work together to keep our food allergic children safe!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Have Americans Gone Nuts Over Nut Allergies?
By Tiffany Sharples Sunday, Jan. 04, 2009
Michael Duva / Getty

Five years ago, at a San Francisco elementary school, a nurse stood by to ensure that the children scrubbed their hands as they arrived, while their packed lunches were confiscated and searched for nut products. The measures were a precaution to protect a 5-year-old boy at the school who had a severe nut allergy.

In 2006 a town in Connecticut felled three hickory trees more than 60 feet high after a resident learned that the trees leaning over her property produced nuts and complained that they posed a threat to her grandson, who had nut allergies.

Recently, a Massachusetts school district evacuated a school bus full of 10-year-olds after a stray peanut was found on the floor.

Do these safeguards seem a little, well, nuts? Harvard professor Dr. Nicholas Christakis thinks so. One of Christakis' children attends school in the district that ordered the bus evacuation, and the episode prompted the physician and social scientist — best known for his work on the social "contagiousness" of characteristics such as obesity and happiness — to write a commentary, published in the British Medical Journal, questioning whether these so-called precautions are snowballing into something more like a societal hysteria.

Of the roughly 3.3 million Americans who have nut allergies, about 150 die from allergy-related causes each year, notes Christakis. Compare those figures with the 100 people who are killed yearly by lightning, the 45,000 who die in car crashes and the 1,300 who are killed in gun accidents. As a society, Christakis says, our priorities have become seriously skewed, and it's largely a result of fear. "My interest is in understanding [the reaction to nut allergies] as a spread of anxiety," he says.

Between 1997 and 2007, the number of children under 18 who suffered from food allergies jumped 17%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts don't disagree that the incidence of food allergies has increased, but there isn't much consensus as to why. Some researchers suggest that an overly hygienic lifestyle may hamper the body's ability to build up proper immunities; others believe the statistical rise is a combination of a real increase in allergies and an increase in the number of patients seeking diagnosis (i.e., getting allergy tests that turn up very low levels of reaction that might otherwise have gone undiscovered). "You have to distinguish between an epidemic of diagnoses and an epidemic of allergies," says Christakis.

No one would disagree that children who suffer from life-threatening allergies need to be protected, but the growing trend of demonizing nuts only fuels anxiety, Christakis says. Instilling in the general public the idea that nuts are a "clear and present danger" does little beyond heightening panic. "There are kids with severe allergies, and they need to be taken seriously," he says, "but the problem with a disproportionate response is that it feeds the epidemic."

There's even some evidence to suggest that establishing nut-free zones or nut-free schools may be detrimental to children's health, and increases their risk of developing nut allergies. A study cited by Christakis in his article revealed that, of 86,000 Jewish children living in the U.K. and Israel, those who had more exposure to peanuts earlier in life were less likely to become allergic later on. In the U.K., where peanuts are an infrequent part of the diet, nearly 2% of the children studied developed allergies; in Israel, where peanuts are a common part of the diet, from infancy onward, only 0.17% of children had a nut allergy.

But Dr. Robert Wood, chief of the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology department at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, cautions against putting too much stock in such epidemiological studies. "The reality is that the vast majority of kids — 95% plus — have no potential to get peanut allergies no matter what you do," he says, "and there's ½ % to 1% who are going to get it no matter what you do." Although the findings of the U.K.-Israel study are intriguing, he says, they apply to a very small percentage of children, and more research needs to be done to determine the true impact of early nut exposure. (There is a study currently underway, says Wood, but the results won't be available for another three years.)

Despite the occasional cases of nut over-precaution, Wood thinks the public generally approaches the allergy risk with common sense. "There are definitely situations where we see a fear of the allergy that develops far out of proportion to the true risk, but for the vast majority of schools, things are mostly on balance and in perspective," says Wood, who treats some 2,000 allergy patients. Further, he says, it's important to recognize that the appropriate protective measure depends on the age group in question. "We recommend very different approaches between an early preschooler and a late-elementary schooler," he says. "We view preschool children as being at true risk — sharing food, having messy hands. There are many reactions that occur from those kinds of exposures," he says. "I think that having peanut-free preschools is a totally reasonable, justifiable thing to do." For children in the fourth or fifth grade, however, he says minor precautions like specialized seating arrangements in the cafeteria are probably unnecessary.

Still, on blogs run by moms of children with nut allergies, there is a consistent rallying cry for nut-free zones. The concern is airborne nut dust, which can be inhaled, or oily nut residues that can come into contact with children's skin. Wood, who has been allergic to nuts all his life, says these parents' worries may be exaggerated. The danger may depend on the severity of the allergy, but it has much more to do with the degree of contact, he says. "Nut oils or the kinds of things that might be in a classroom — it's very rare for that exposure to cause anything more than a localized reaction," he says. "On the other hand, if you're a preschooler and your hands are in your mouth a lot, all bets are off."

As for nut dust in the air, Wood says it can cause severe reactions — but only under specific circumstances, with high concentrations of nut dust in a confined space. At a baseball game, for example, where nut dust is quickly dispersed in the air, the risk of an allergic reaction is low. But if you linger in the small waiting room of a restaurant with a dish of nuts and servers who keep passing through with plates of nuts, your risk of an allergic reaction is higher, he says.

But like Christakis, Wood cautions against excessive alarm. "It's an unfortunate situation," says Wood, "if a family with an inaccurate perception of the allergy leads a child to believe that a Snickers bar from 50 feet away is a lethal weapon.",8599,1869095,00.html?imw=Y?iid=perma_share