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.