Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kissing, Food Allergies

This post is about adults for adults. (Gosh, sounds serious doesn't it?) If you’re looking for stories about teenaged-kissing, FAAN has some info as well as fellow blogger Kids with Food Allergies.

As always, dear individually allergic friends, consult your personal allergist or physician about current research, your allergies, their severity and what is the best plan for you.

***

Before a new dude picked me up for our date, he told me he'd eaten a boatload of shellfish, a smorg of Allergic Girl no-nos. When he went in for a “Hello” kiss, I pulled back, gently.

“Didn’t you just eat shellfish?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Dude said. “Lobster, oysters...”

“I can’t kiss you. I’m allergic.”

“OK,” Dude said, recovering quickly, “What do I need to do? Drink water? Gargle? Brush my teeth?”

***

Firstly, nice!

Secondly, this is exactly the response you want from a new date/potential mate.

This is the response of someone who cares about your well being and is motivated to get their kiss on with you.

This is the kind of date who'll do what they need to do to make that kiss happen, safely.

There was no “Are you kidding me?” or “Can’t I just kiss you anyway?” or “I only ate a little shellfish” or “It was 30 minutes ago--c’mon, it can’t hurt.” Nope. None of that. No wheedling or negotiating. There was no teasing or joking or anything close to shaming.

Keep in mind too: a good date will never shame you about a medical need - once they know it's a medical need. It’s part of who you are and hey, they already like you.

A mark of a good date, or at least someone you can kiss and get to know better, is that they will want to know what they can do to be with you.

***

So what to do now that they've eaten something you're allergic to and a smooch is imminent? Here's what one study indicates.

Please note: This should not necessarily be extrapolated for all allergens as the study states: "Importantly, our data applies only to PB...Although one would assume that many food allergens behave similarly, physical characteristics of foods are different and may influence their retention in the oral cavity." However this research is a start. (Peanut allergen exposure through saliva: Assessment and interventions to reduce exposure. Jennifer M. Maloney, MD,a Martin D. Chapman, PhD,b and Scott H. Sicherer, MDa New York, NY, and Charlottesville, Va)

The abstract of the study: "Exposure to food allergens through saliva (kissing, utensils) can cause allergic reactions in food-allergic individuals; therefore, it is important for peanut-allergic individuals to be aware of the time course of peanut allergen persistence in saliva. After ingesting peanut butter and performing various interventions (such as brushing teeth, rinsing the mouth, chewing gum. and brushing the teeth after a wait period of one hour), peanut allergen concentration decreased to low levels but remained detectable in most saliva samples. Avoidance of peanut containing foods by partners of peanut allergic individuals is the most effective way to prevent allergic reactions caused by allergen in saliva. However if peanut avoidance is not possible, waiting several hours after ingestion of peanut butter and eating a peanut-free meal before engaging in kissing or other kinds of saliva exchange was determined to be the most effective method of reducing peanut allergen in saliva to undetectable levels."

Some stats: “Most (87%) subjects with detectable peanut after a meal had undetectable levels by 1 hour with no interventions. None had detectable levels several hours later after a peanut-free lunch. This result indicates (95% confidence) that 90% would have undetectable Ara h 1 in saliva under these circumstances.”

***

I happen to have that study in my head since I was just Twittering with someone about it. So, what did I say to my date after he asked what he needed to do: “We need wait a bit and eat another meal.”

Off we went to grab some food and then did lots of smooching without issue.

What's happened when I didn't really have the convo (I chickened out) and kissed a salmon-eating dude? Major hives everywhere he kissed me which I can tell you is no good on a date.

***

So get in there and have the "I have food allergies" convo *early*. Take your allergies seriously and your date will as well. Don't kiss someone who ignores your medical need. If a date tries to get you to do something you don't want to, that could potentially hurt you (like kiss a shellfish-filled mouth), don't do it! Also, take it as valuable information about who that date is and what it would be like dating them further.

***

Next installment: Show your date how to use the Epi-Pen, fun! (And yes, I'm totally serious).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Food Allergies, Mexico

This question comes from a loyal reader in Mexico. Any assistance would be so appreciated!

My name is Monica, I live in Mexico, I am 31 and 3 years ago I started having severe dermatitis. I have been taking cortisone, and 6 months ago, I took an allergic test and discovered I am allergic to casein, pork, rice, avocado, oatmeal and shrimp...so far.

I wanted to ask you if there is anyone in my country that knows where I can go out to eat!


So, any other Mexican readers out there? Or any allergic girls or guys that have been to Mexico and found great places? Please let us know!

Friday, March 27, 2009

PCRM, Peter Max Studio, 2009

You may have read my Allergic Girl tweets as I strolled through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine fundraiser on Tuesday night.

Here are their photos from that night. I'm in a few shots towards the end of the roll. I would've taken pix but Peter Max has a strict and enforced “No Pix” policy. As you can see, it's a white walled studio with a lot of Peter Max art everywhere including a cool series of portraits of Obama and a lot of those NYC cows. Remember those?

I met Chef Michel Nischan, former chef of Heartbeat and the W Hotel, now Executive Chef at The Dressing Room in Westport, CT and truly ahead of his time in cooking sustainable, organic here in NYC starting over 10 years ago at Heartbeat (yes, I went it was yum).

The Candle Cafe
team was there: Joy, Bart and Benay.

And some "tapioca cheese" people out of Canada: Daiya Foods.

I espied (read: was too shy to say hi to): Morgan Spurlock and Moby.

Colleague Fran Costigan, Diva of Dairy-Free Desserts made some delectable vegan desserts using Theo Chocolates and here they are on the Theo blog. I met Theo Chocolates a few years back at the Fancy Food Show here in NYC. Lovely folks: fairly traded chocolate, organic, vegan and soy-free. (NOT nut-free though.)

Overall, a fun night for a good cause.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gluten-Free, Philadelphia

I was reading Hilary Davidson, of Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Tweets and this got my attention: Philadelphia’s Great Gluten-Free Initiative .

Last year, I asked you all about any allergy-friendly spots in Philadelphia. At that time, the response was thin on the ground. Well, seems Philly has gotten on board with GF dining options! Check out the Philadelphia Tourism Board’s website for more detailed info.

Great news for GF diners!

As for us with food allergies, remember: GF never means allergy-friendly. But certainly, it’s a start.

Call ahead, start the convo
.

And if any of you try any of these spots, let us all know!

Next WFD in April

Kids playing jazz for other kids, all Worry-Free!

Come join us, see the Worry-Free Dinners™ website for more details.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Big Easy?

So things are getting too easy here in NYC.

I say this knowing I’m totally giving myself a kenahora. But I'm putting it out there: manager, chefs, waiters: they're getting it, really.

So why am I thinking such a foolhardy thing?

I took a gamble Saturday for brunch.

During a birthday celebration.

I didn’t call ahead.

I did make a beeline for the manager, Alicia who couldn’t have been sweeter, I mean seriously the nicest person ever. She said a lot of Perilla’s guests are gluten-free and come in with other assorted allergies. We discussed what I’d like from the menu: eggs over easy with some potatoes and some fruit. Basically they made me a special AG special dish. Alicia told me the server’s name, Rob, and said she’d talk to him. Indeed, the server had my order before I needed to utter a peep and Alicia breezed by to check on me, giving my shoulder a squeeze.

All so easy and lovely. I even felt relaxed enough to have a mimosa (you know I don’t drink unless I really feel comfy). And it was yum. (You’d be surprised how eggs and taters can be totally fouled up on so many levels.)

And the convo? It was stress-free (Thank you again, Perilla!). Have you started have the convo yet? Do it. Smile lots, be your sweetest self and more often than not you will be rewarded with sweetness, really.

As for me, New York is getting too darn easy (kenahora).

Definitely, time to get some other cities on the program.

Any suggestions?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Handling a Bad Waiter, Bon Appétit Magazine

Bon Appétit magazine covers how to handle bad restaurant service. And you know what? Sounds a lot like what we’ve talked about when dining out with allergies and special requests. Why? 'Cause it works!

Not to rehash MSM (mainstream media) content (ok, maybe a little rehashing) but I just want to point out that our requests are really no different from patronizing any restaurant with good service (or what to do when bad service happens to good people).

Start thinking of yourself that way: as a “regular” patron with just a few special/important requests. Begin that dialogue. And read these BA Mag tips about service, good reminders all.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Food Challenges, Still The Gold Standard

We’ve talked about this before (food allergy testing and doc supervised food challenges), but I’m glad to see if come up again after the AAAAI.org conference last weekend.

Here’s the NPR story that Victoria covered in Foodallergies.about.com. Very clear. Thanks Victoria and NPR!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NYC Mayor Signs Lappin’s bill

This just in from the NYC Council:

Mayor signs Lappin’s bill to protect food-allergic New Yorkers

Today, Mayor Bloomberg will sign legislation sponsored by Council Member Jessica Lappin to protect food-allergic New Yorkers by increasing awareness among food preparers and handlers.

“For most New Yorkers, a mistake by a waiter – like bringing regular coffee instead of decaf – is an inconvenience,” Council Member Lappin said. “But if you’re one of the 300,000 New Yorkers who suffer from food allergies, a simple mistake like that could be fatal.”

The bill the Mayor will sign today will require restaurants and other food service establishments to display a poster that provides important food allergy information to their staff. The poster, which will be available in multiple languages, will highlight the most common food allergens, as well as provide information about how to avoid cross contamination and what signs to look for to identify an allergic reaction.

Education and awareness are the keys to preventing food allergy attacks. However, a survey conducted by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in 2007 found that of the 100 restaurant managers, chefs, and servers they surveyed, only 42 percent had received any food allergy education. Twenty four percent thought that it is safe to consume small amounts of an allergen; 25 percent thought that removing problem foods—like nuts or shrimp—from a finished dish would make it safe; and 35 percent believed that fryer heat destroys allergens.

“Food allergy deaths are preventable if people are educated,” Council Member Lappin said. “This law will ensure that food preparers and handlers across the city are aware of what can trigger food allergies and how they can prevent an attack. This awareness can help save lives.”

Today, Mayor Bloomberg will sign legislation sponsored by Council Member Jessica Lappin to protect food-allergic New Yorkers by increasing awareness among food preparers and handlers.

“For most New Yorkers, a mistake by a waiter – like bringing regular coffee instead of decaf – is an inconvenience,” Council Member Lappin said. “But if you’re one of the 300,000 New Yorkers who suffer from food allergies, a simple mistake like that could be fatal.”

The bill the Mayor will sign today will require restaurants and other food service establishments to display a poster that provides important food allergy information to their staff. The poster, which will be available in multiple languages, will highlight the most common food allergens, as well as provide information about how to avoid cross contamination and what signs to look for to identify an allergic reaction.

Education and awareness are the keys to preventing food allergy attacks. However, a survey conducted by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in 2007 found that of the 100 restaurant managers, chefs, and servers they surveyed, only 42 percent had received any food allergy education. Twenty four percent thought that it is safe to consume small amounts of an allergen; 25 percent thought that removing problem foods—like nuts or shrimp—from a finished dish would make it safe; and 35 percent believed that fryer heat destroys allergens.

“Food allergy deaths are preventable if people are educated,” Council Member Lappin said. “This law will ensure that food preparers and handlers across the city are aware of what can trigger food allergies and how they can prevent an attack. This awareness can help save lives.”

Zagat Survery Time

It's that time to cast your votes for your fave NYC/LA/SF restaurants for the Zagat Guide. In return, Zagat will send you a free copy. It's a pretty good deal. Here's the link for more info and to start voting!

Clean Plates NYC

Interesting list and new book: Clean Plates NYC. I want a copy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wedding at The Pierre, NYC

It should always be this simple (and it can be with a few simple steps).

The morning of Allison’s wedding I called The Pierre and asked for “Catering”. I spoke with the manager, Herbert Rose and gave him my Allergic Girl spiel. He told me the wedding menu: salmon and caviar to start. Choice of rack of lamb or sea bass for mains. And chocolate for dessert. Not one dish was really AG safe.

However, the smart manager preempted my saying “No, thank you” to that menu by asking: “What would you like us to make for you?” How nice! I gave him my usual menu for a first time restaurant or catering hall: green salad, dry, broiled chicken with steamed mixed veggies and berries for dessert.

He said, “We can do that easily.” (Yes, that is my point. I want it to be easy for them! Therefore it will be easy for moi!) He talked to himself as he made notes in my chart for catering staff: “Make sure chicken is not cooked with fish or near fish grill”.

Exactly, thank you!

When I arrived I introduced myself to my table’s waiter, reiterated my needs and allergies, smiled and said a lot of pleases and thank yous. It was all pretty darn smooth and I could fully concentrate on getting my wedding groove on. AND I didn't have to bug the bride or any of her party.

Hotels are in a unique position to be able to serve you safe food. They have large kitchens, lots of staff cooking, lots of ingredients on hand and are used to dealing with “unusual” requests (although food restrictions are more and more common and less unusual these days). If you can, give them some notice before your event, whether it’s a wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, work conference or other function. A phone call placed early, with lots of pleases and thank you and letting them know what you would like (a filet mignon, plain & grilled “only”) can do wonders!

Thank you Herbert Rose and the catering staff at The Pierre for taking such good care of me!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chef Grant Achatz, Tongue Cancer

Advocacy.
Learn it, trust it, do it.
Listen to this story from Chef Grant Achatz of Aliena in Chicago. Let it sink in. It has to do with listening to your body and what it's telling you. Get quiet and listen. And yes this is about food allergies.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Allergic Girl & Serious Eats

Welcome Serious Eaters! Have a look around, and enjoy!

For regular AG readers, there's probably more than you ever needed to know about where my favorite fro-yo shop is (one hint: the basement of a major NYC department store) and other things Allergic Girl and Worry-Free all on SeriousEats.com.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

National Peanut Board, NYC


(© Photo credit: David Handschuh)

The National Peanut Board was in town last week. They invited me to come meet and greet at the Astor Center. I went with Francine Cohen and we ran into Bret Thorn both pictured above. We were watching a demo of this drink: the Peanut Torito.

Not familiar with the National Peanut Board? They underwrote the Culinary Institute of America food allergen awareness video for one thing. Yay them!

Of course I'm well aware that there's a lot of peanut furor going on right now: tainted PB in hundreds of now recalled products (see FDA recall list here), peanuts on flights and food allergies on the sharp rise. However, I don't see the almond folks or the milk council working on food allergy awareness videos, do you? I appreciate NPB's stated commitment to food allergen awareness and hope they continue with this very important work and community outreach.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Allergic Girl & Danny Meyer


(© Allergic Girl Resources, Inc.)

Yes we heart this restaurateur's philosophy, in a major way.

Read more over at WFD about my latest news and the overall good news for the food allergic community here in NYC.

Washington DC Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Suggestions?

Hey DC folks. I’m coming down for the AAAAI conference March 13th and am looking for somewhere to dine at night.

Any suggestions in the conference zone would be so appreciated!

Conference Locations:
Washington Convention Center
801.Mount.Vernon.Place.NW
Washington,.DC.20001

Renaissance Washington, DC
999.9th.Street.NW
Washington,.DC.20001

Grand Hyatt Washington
1000.H.Street.NW
Washington,.DC.20001

Chain restaurants or high end: what are some of your faves?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Allergic Girl & FAAN, Food Allergy Panel, 2009

So much fun yesterday at the International Foodservice & Restaurant Show at the Javitz!

Here's the schedule at the top of the escalator:

(© Allergic Girl Resources, Inc.)

Here's me and Deb Scherrer, VP of Educational Programs for The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network after our panel.


(© Allergic Girl Resources, Inc.)

Given that NYC just passed legislation requiring posters outlining the top eight allergens and about cross contamination for all NYC’s 25,000 restos, this presentation couldn’t have been more timely IMHO.