Note to self: Don’t get lazy when reading food labels….

Like most of you, I’ve¬† been checking food packaging for hidden allergens for so long that I think I got it down pat. Lately I have relied more on the FDA allergen labeling on food, the ones that say Contains: Milk, Peanuts, Tree Nuts. I am usually further comforted by the additional label of “Produced in a dedicated gluten free, wheat free, peanut free and tree nut free facility.” After an allergic reaction this morning, however, I won’t ever take those words to heart again. In fact, I know better. Read EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT.

99 percent of the time, I still take the time to read every single ingredient. But for some reason I let my guard down when I bought a new donut in the frozen section at Whole Foods by Kinnikinnick Foods. The package says these chocolate dipped donuts are “Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Dairy Free and Soy Free” in addition to the above disclaimer that it was made in a dedicated facility. I remember thinking at the store before I bought them that I hit the gold mine…finally I can make donuts for all the kids quickly without having to make my own.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I heated the donuts in the microwave, served them to my kids (including John), patted myself on the back for finding an allergen free donut, and called it a day. After eating it, John said his throat itched. I panicked. I checked the package and saw nothing that would alarm me. I gave him a Benydryl just to be safe, and he felt better.

Then this morning, the kids asked for another one of those yummy donuts and in a weak moment, I obliged. Once again, John complained of an itchy throat. This time I read the entire package line item by line item, and finally saw that it contained pea protein and pea starch. Bingo – John WAS having an allergic reaction to the donut because he is allergic to peas and legumes too (5 percent of those with peanut allergies also are allergic to peas and legumes because they are all part of the legume family). I started to panic, but John said it wasn’t that bad, just scratchy. I game him Benydryl and watched him like a hawk for the next several minutes, epi pen in one hand and phone in the other. The reaction subsided, thankfully, without further intervention. We dodged a bullet. And I felt like a failure.

How could I be so naive? I know better, and usually am very diligent about ingredient checking. I don’t know, perhaps it is the craziness of my full household that causes me to be more distracted than usual lately. Never again, I learned my lesson, and feel so darn lucky that nothing more serious happened.

Here’s something else I learned; if your child has a peanut allergy, and is among those 5 percent of people who also have a legume/pea allergy, be wary of labels that say “gluten free or wheat free”. Oftentimes pea or fava bean flour is substituted for wheat flour in recipes (like those new cookies at Starbucks…John can’t have because they are made with fava bean flour).

I apologized to John, and we talked about how “moms make mistakes too”. And that we should never, ever let our guard down when it comes to food allergies. I must admit though, it’s days like today that I wish more than anything, that a cure can be found for our children’s life threatening food allergies. Because that feeling of panic and terror I felt this morning is something I would never wish on any parent.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Who doesn’t love a great cookie bar? They are easy to make, easy to bake, and especially easy to take…bbq’s, parties, school bake sales, you name it. My Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Chocolate Chip Oat Bar is the perfect cookie bar; it’s delicious AND healthy. I love that it is full of whole grain oats. You could even add 1/2 c. chopped cranberries to make it more of a granola bar. Whatever way you like, it will be your next favorite snack to make on a hot summer afternoon with your kids.

Happy Baking!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP BARS

1/3 c. dairy free shortening ( I use plain Crisco)

2/3 c. light brown sugar

1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. good quality vanilla

1 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 c. quick cooking oats (not instant)

1 c. dairy free chocolate chips ( I use Divvies or Enjoy Life)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 inch glass Pyrex pan with foil and spray with dairy free baking spray.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening, brown sugar, vanilla and applesauce. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture. Stir in oats and chips. Spread mixture into prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Cool slightly and cut into bars.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Cinnamon Sour Cream Cookies

The Cinnamon Sour Cream Cookie screams nostalgia. It is a classic cookie that was quite popular in during our grandmothers’ era. I love its buttery flavor that is perfectly complimented by a classic cinnamon sugar topping. As with most of my cookie recipes, this one is easy to make with your kiddos on a lazy summer morning. Have them help count and measure the ingredients, watch the mixer whir and then scoop batter onto the baking sheets. I love to sample the dough too, because honestly, it is just as good as the final baked product. I always know when I have a winner of a cookie when my kids keep clamoring for more scoops of dough to taste!

After the batter is dropped onto the sheets, have your littlest kiddos sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar mixture. You can’t “over” sprinkle so let them go crazy with it. If you happen to have any of the mixture left over, it’s perfect sprinkled onto “buttered” toast.

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer and happy baking!!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE CINNAMON SOUR CREAM COOKIES

1 c. dairy free margarine (I use Fleischman’s Unsalted)

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 c. dairy free sour cream (Tofutti)

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla

3 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

CINNAMON SUGAR TOPPING

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the dairy free margarine, sugar, applesauce and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Slowly add in dairy free sour cream and mix until smooth.

In a seperate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Gradually add flour mixture to margarine mixture until combined. Chill in fridge for at least one hour.

Preheat ovento 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove batter from fridge and use a mini cookie scooper to divide batter evenly onto baking sheets. Combine the ingredients for the cinnamon sugar and sprinkle generously over the tops of the unbaked cookies.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Cool completely.

Should we ban peanuts on airplanes?

I’m sure most of you food allergic parents are¬† aware of the news story circulating that federal regulators are considering restrictions or even¬†an outright¬†ban of¬†peanut products on U.S. commercial flights. The U.S. Transportation Department announced this week they are taking a second look at arguments presented by food allergy advocates, sufferers, and the food industry. You may recall 12 years ago Congress shot down a proposed peanut food ban on U.S. flights.

While I am not a fan of the media’s play on words with these food-ban type stories (“It’s not nutty to allergics”) I do appreciate that this issue is getting some serious attention from the USDOT and mainstream media. It’s always amazing to me that food ban stories get¬†non FA people so riled up. They think their rights are violated, and respond accordingly with verbal fights for the right to eat nutty trail mix and peanut snacks.¬†People are so afraid of banning peanuts because they think other food bans will follow suit, and soon everything and anything will be banned.

I don’t advocate food bans in general environments (exception is my son’s classroom, which isn’t a lunchroom and shouldn’t be. It’s a learning environment, but that’s another story). Food bans provide a false sense of security that there are no allergens present. One cannot know if someone just wolfed down a PB and J and failed to wash their hands before stepping into the “banned room”. Also there are so many types of allergies (milk, soy, legumes, eggs, etc. ) that if you start eliminating one food, there will be arguments wanting to eliminate others. I understand this and have always made sure my FA son knows how to keep himself safe when eating at school, camp, play dates and even restaurants.

But I feel very differently about peanuts on planes. Peanuts and peanut products should be eliminated from the snack choices on commercial flights. Peanut particles in reciruculated cabin air can cause reactions, and a severe reaction 30,000 feet is a much different story than a severe reaction at a baseball park. Seriously, there is no comparison.¬†Martin Kanan, CEO of King Nut Companies (a major supplier of peanut products on U.S. airlines) commented “What’s next? Is it banning peanuts in ballparks?”. It’s an ignorant comment that has no relevance to banning peanuts on airplanes. It’s clear he’s worried about his company’s profitability, and I completely understand that. But if he happened to have¬† a child with a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and nuts, I’m sure he’d think differently.

All the major airlines have cut  back on food service in general, and if they do offer an in-flight snack, why not just swap it for a less hazardous one, like fresh fruit, or carrot sticks, etc.? Is it really that big of a deal to make this simple change, that could potentially keep millions of food allergic people safe, and possibly bring more families back on planes who have been avoiding them?

It seems so simple, yet it is so controversial. What are your thoughts?