Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Food Allergy Counseling: Lessons From a Teen Food Allergy Tragedy by Allergic Living

At the beginning of August, my colleague Elizabeth Landau of reported on this tragic storyFriday was the last day of vacation for Natalie Giorgi. The 13-year-old took a bite of a dessert at the summer camp where her family was staying, but spit it out because something didn't seem right. Later that evening, she was pronounced dead. Natalie died of a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter, CNN affiliate KXTV reported. Her sudden death in California is especially alarming for the food allergy community because, according to a family friend's account to KXTV, Natalie received three epinephrine injections. As Elizabeth Landau mentions, the Natalie’s tragic death was all the more shocking because she was given epinephrine, “…the only treatment known to prevent a serious allergic reaction from turning deadly.” And still it wasn’t enough. 

Allergic Living magazine tackled this question and more from two reknowned allergists and leaders in the field. An excerpt: 

Allergic Living: Parents are also struggling with how to talk with their kids about the potential dangers of their conditions, and cases like Natalie’s. What do you advise?

Dr Robert Wood: My feeling is there’s no benefit to talking about death in the preschool- or school-age years. When the child is literally a year old, the message is that foods can make you sick and you need to be careful. And then it becomes a little more specific: you can’t eat anything that I don’t approve or provide for you, because it can make you sick. As the child becomes late school-age, early adolescence, then talking about fatality is completely appropriate. So depending on the maturity of the child, that’s when they’re 10, 11, 12. All it will do to a 6-year-old is upset them. They can’t conceptualize that to a point that there’s any value to it.

I urge you to read the Allergic Living article in it’s entirety. Being informed arms you and you in turn will arm your food allergic loved ones.

My suggestions:

  • Discuss the article with your board certified medical provider. 
  • Go over your anaphylaxis action plan
  • Have your epinephrine auotinjector and emergency medications on you at all times 
  • Don't hesitate to use them

Thank you Allergic Living  for your incredibly support and advocacy for the food allergic community.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chobani: Chobani Greek Yogurt and Food Allergens

Chobani had a major influx of cash and huge plant expansion last year (see the New York Times: U.S. Hunger for Yogurt Leads to Gigantic Factory). Chobani  built new facilities and have been aggressively expanding their line of offerings in the Greek yogurt category. I wrote about their expansion and my new favorite flavor, banana

With all of this expansion, allergens, specifically tree-nuts, have been added to the Chobani Flip lines. Concerned about a higher possibility of cross contact or contamination with one of my safe go-to snacks (especially running around in between meetings in New York City or when traveling elsewhere for speaking engagements) I contacted Chobani irectly for more information. Here's what they said.

"All of our Flip products and blended Chobani flavors are produced in our new Twin Falls, Idaho plant, but are absolutely kept from one another in production. There is no cross-contamination. Our fruit-on-the-bottom Chobani flavors are primarily produced in our Central New York plant, with some additional production in Twin Falls, Idaho, and we follow the same rigorous standards to avoid cross-contamination." 

In order to protect our customers, we have a comprehensive allergen program that includes segregated storage, clear labeling, and extensive training. Additionally, all products containing tree nuts are produced in a special room, away from other products.

Any consumer with additional specific questions is welcome to contact our customer loyalty team at (877) 847-6181."

Thank you Chobani for clarifying your allergens statement!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dining out in NYC: Blogger Itchy Little World Dines In New York City

"Sloane really helped me understand how thorough I needed to be to get across to the restaurant, servers, managers, and chefs and it really paid off.”

I love hearing about people who travel to New York and dine well with food allergies. I spoke with Jennifer of the blog Itchy Little World on the phone a few months back [she is not a food allergy counseling client] about my general tips for dining out. I love reading how she incorporated that information into her family’s needs and travels. You can read her first post here and then where they dined here.

When people ask me how I dine well in New York City and beyond (I always say I have the Disney World experience everywhere) you can see it’s not necessarily special to me but it’s the steps that I use that work. And they can work for you too!

Great job, Jennifer, advocating for your needs and finding places that accommodated you!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Los Angeles Times: Food Allergic Diners

The Los Angeles Times recently covered dining out with severe, life-threatening food allergies and the new food allergen training available through the National Restaurant Association.  A quote from the article: "Places that are responding should be commended, but I still tell patients that they can never 100% trust the server or even the chef, because accidents happen at restaurants, just like accidents happen at home," Harvard's Savage says. "Patients always need to be prepared for accidental exposures, whether it's a place they have been to a million times or not."

Mainly, the author stresses what I’ve always said: “There is no such thing as an allergy-safe restaurant, only ones that make an effort to be aware.”

You can read the full article here.

Keep in mind my must-haves when dining out with severe, life-threatening food allergies:

  • A thorough understanding of your food allergy diagnosis
  • An ability to clearly communicate that diagnosis to those around you
  • Support from friends and family around your diagnosis.
  • Your emergency medication on hand, as well as your anaphylaxis action plan just in case.

Always consult your personal board certified medical provider about what is safe for you and your food allergic needs.

Thank you The Los Angeles Times  and reporter Emily Dwass for a well-done article about managing food allergies while dining out.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Food Allergy Counseling: Gluten & Allergen Free Expo, Secaucus, NY 2013

I’m thrilled to be at the author’s table this year when Gluten & Allergen Free Expo finally comes to the east coast. 

I’ll be there for two whole days, September 7 & 8, 2013, selling and signing Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies (Wiley, 2011) books, mingling and meeting all of you! 

Here’s more information about the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo and links to get there from the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo website.
The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo is the premier gluten and allergen free event in the US. Whether you are looking for specialty products that taste great or trying to learn how to cook and bake to meet your dietary needs, the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo is the place to be!   We now offer a discounted two-day adult pass!
What do you get with your Gluten & Allergen Free Expo Ticket?
·       Entry into the 150+ booth vendor fair
·       Valuable coupons in your program book and at the vendor booths
·       Samples from the vendors
·       Discounted products available for purchase
·       Informative classes related to the gluten and allergen-free lifestyle
·       Free reusable bag to carry your goodies
·       Meet your favorite vendors, authors and bloggers

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Food Allergy Counseling: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Animation Helps Explain Food Allergy

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has developed a three-minute animation that shows how the immune system responds to a food allergen and what you should do to avoid potential exposures.

Some food allergy facts:

An estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies
Food allergies appear to be on the rise in all industrialized countries
A food allergy reaction sends someone to the hospital emergency department every three minutes

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) created and distributed these free food allergy guidelines. The food allergy guidelines are worth reading through and discussing with your board certified medical heath provider.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Epinephrine Autoinjectors: $0 Co-Pay Programs through 2013

With severe, life threatening IgE mediated food allergies (like the kind I have to fish and tree nuts) you have to have an epinephrine autoinjector on hand at all times. Full stop. However, they are costly. There are two programs by two different manufacturers of epinephrine autoinjecors in place to help defray costs through December 2013. Both EpiPen® and Auvi‑Q™ makers of epinephrine autoinjectors are offering $0 co-pays until the end of 2013. Here's more information. Please contact them directly with your questions.

EpiPen®: "This offer can be used an unlimited number of times until the offer expires on 12/31/2013. Patients with questions should call 1-855-859-2971"

Auvi‑Q™: "For questions regarding your eligibility or benefits, please call 1 855 226 3941."

Friday, August 02, 2013

FDA Defines Gluten-Free: FDA Defines “Gluten-Free” for Food Labeling

In 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued the Food Allergen Labeling And Consumer Protection Act. What it didn’t include at that time was any regulation on what gluten-free meant. The act went into full effect for the top eight allergens in 2006 (this included wheat but not gluten, which is the protein found in wheat, barely and rye). You can read more about FALCPA here and how it applies to allergen labels and how to read and understand them.

Today is a very big day for the gluten-free, celiac disease community as the FDA finally set a standard for what it means to call a food “gluten-free”. The FDA now defines a gluten-free food as containing less than 20 parts per million [ppm] of gluten. This number is similar to standards in Canada and the European Union however not as strict as those in Australia, which, as I understand from a food allergy counseling client who lives there, are five parts per million.

Many companies here have already adopted a 20ppm standard, so there should be little disruption; however, it will put on notice those food manufacturers jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon that the standards set down by the FDA must be met in order to be called gluten-free.


Here ths story from the New York Times today: F.D.A. Sets Standard for Foods Labeled Gluten Free:

The agency set a gluten limit of 20 parts per million in products labeled gluten free, said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the F.D.A. The limit had long been discussed and did not come as a surprise to industry or patient advocate groups. It was similar to the level adopted in recent years by the European Union and Canada, Mr. Taylor said.

And here is a link to the FDA ruling:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today published a new regulation defining the term "gluten-free" for voluntary food labeling.  This will provide a uniform standard definition to help the up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a gluten free diet.