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, October 30, 2014

Recipe: Sandwich Cookies, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free

Finished sandwich cookie of goodness

So I got it into my head that I wanted to make an Allergic Girl friendly Whoopie Pie for my birthday. I don’t think I’ve ever had a whoopie pie growing up (my mom’s confirms, we didn’t have them in the house); moon pies at camp yes, with marshmallow filling and graham cracker, enrobed in chocolate, but whoopie pie, nope. 

The last few years I (or Brooklyn Allergy Mom) made safe for me birthday cake that was chocolate cake with white icing, which is my favorite flavor combo. I use King Arthur Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Mix and this dairy-free buttercream recipe.

This year I thought, let me try a whoopie pie. I looked up on Google who was making them gluten-free and nut-free and I also wanted to use a mix that was safe for me like  King Arthur Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Mix or Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Devil's Food Cake Mix.

I found this GF Whoopie Pie recipe online. It’s based on Cake Mix Doctor Bake Gluten-Free's recipe, whose book I really liked and I reviewed here. When I looked at the original recipe  in Anne Byrn’s book, it had way more ingredients and steps. As this GF Whoopie Pie recipe looked simpler, I thought I’d try.

The upshot: the finished product was delicious. Several fellow musical improvisers, none with food allergies or dietary needs, all loved and were licking their fingers looking for more.

The cookie is fudgey and cakey, with a dark cocoa taste. It's not overly sickly sweet, which I like, a lot. Even with the filling, it's a great balance of texture and sweetness.

Cooling cookies

The inside the cakey part and the edges have a little crusty texture. A nice mix of textures overall.

Inside view of the cookie

The filling is very soft when made, which is why the top cookie looks like it's sliding off; because it is.

I don't know that cooling the filling once made would help but the filling sets-up and gets firmer once chilled. So there's that.

And I don’t know that I would call it a whoopie pie. Having said this, one of my testers, upon having a bite, said, “What a great whoopie pie!” 

I prefer to think of it a super yummy sandwich cookie. I would make them again. But for my birthday, I'm sticking with cake.

The recipe as written bellow is gluten-free, tree nut free, peanut-free and can easily be made dairy-free. Here is the recipe with my substitutions. 



Recipe, Sandwich Cookies, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free
By Lori Karavolis and Anne Byrn, further adapted by me

1 -15 ounce box GF Betty Crocker Devil’s Food Cake Mix
2 medium size organic eggs 
5 T melted organic butter (or diary-free substitute)

1 C confectioners’ sugar
1/2 C vegetable shortening (I used palm shortening)
1 C marshmallow fluff
1 t vanilla extract
2 T hot water
Pinch of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all cookie ingredients in heavy duty mixing bowl; mix well. It will be dry looking. That's correct, don’t worry. Using a scoop or a teaspoon, shape batter into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Allow cookies to cool 5 minutes on baking sheets before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

As cookies are cooling, make the filling. Place the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. 

To make sandwich cookies, spread a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the flat side of one cookie. Top with a second cookie to make a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Chill to set as they will be sloopy.

Yield: 15 Sandwich Cookies

Friday, October 17, 2014

Food Allergy Counseling: Interview with Tarah Jakubiak, Allergic Traveler

I first met Tarah at a FARE walk years ago when I was promoting my lifestyle guide  Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies (Wiley, 2011) (available online or at your local bookstore). Tarah is another adult with food allergies who has create a business that support people with food allergies living their best fullest lives- yay!

Tarah created Allergic Traveler, food allergy chef cards in multiple languages that can be used for dining out as well for your child’s backpacks for when they are away from you or home. From the Allergic Traveler website:

“…what happens when you are traveling, for pleasure or business, and you need to communicate with the waiter that you are allergic to nuts in French? That is the premise behind this Allergic Traveler, LLC… All translations are done by native speakers in order to ensure the accuracy of such an important translation.”

As Tarah says:  “My ‘Allergic Traveler’ card has given me the freedom to see the world and I hope it can do the same for you.”
Recently, I had a chance to ask Tarah a few questions about being an adult with food allergies and how she got the idea for her business, Allergic Traveler. Want to read what I said to Tarah? Read more on her blog. 


Sloane Miller: What’s your personal connection to the food allergy community?

Tarah Jakubiak: I have lived with food allergies my whole life. As a child I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies after being rushed to the hospital for the umpteenth time; I stopped breathing. Eventually I was blood tested and my parents discovered the root of my hospital visits was due to my allergy to eggs, tree nuts, mushrooms, and shellfish.Today my whole list of allergens comprises of eggs, nuts, mushrooms, celery, peanuts, soy, garlic, chicken, pork, corn, shellfish, sesame and I have oral allergy syndrome (OAS) to most fruits.

Miller:  Tarah, tell us about your professional background:

Jakubiak: My background lies in marketing, advertising and sales management. I have spent more than 20 years working for companies to help their business grow. Having an extensive business background and multiple food allergies, I saw a need for our product, and I was completely aware of how to bring it to the market place.

Miller: What does Allergic Traveler do and what was the reason why you created it?

Jakubiak: I have traveled my entire life whether it is for business or pleasure. Around 2010, I went on a Mediterranean cruise. We would be stopping in multiple countries and I needed to be able to communicate my allergies in many languages. I started sketching out some cards. I realized there was a need for this so I created Allergic Traveler to use on my trip.

The reaction I received from testing out my product personally was overwhelming. Waiters actually thanked me for being so prepared. Shopkeepers were able to help me with my groceries. This reaction solidified the need to found Allergic Traveler and in 2011, we launched our online business.

Allergic Traveler produces dietary allergen cards for those in need of communicating their restrictions. Cards are available in English and 17 other languages. Each one is customized. They are available in wallet and luggage format. The luggage format is popular with young kids as they attach them to their back packs while on field trips or sleep overs.

Today people use our cards while eating out, while traveling, while away at college and in many other settings. 

Miller: What is the best piece of advice you have for people newly diagnosed with food allergies?

Jakubiak: To the parent of the food allergic child, I would say, “It will be OK. Trust yourself and your child will be well prepared. There are many obstacles that will be put in your way but take comfort in the fact that there are many more resources, including support, out there today.”

To the child or adult with food allergies, I would say, “Make the best of your situation. Become a great cook and spend some time learning new cuisines. Do not forget to give back to the food allergy community as only you can understand what we really need.”

Miller: What are your interests outside of work? What gives you joy?

Jakubiak:  I love to travel when I am not working. I like to experience a new culture, to get lost in new neighborhoods, to meet people with different customs, to learn about their cuisine, to absorb whatever they are prepared to teach me. And of course my loved ones bring me great happiness. No matter the situation to spend time with a loved one is always a gift and it never lasts long enough.


Thank you,Tarah, and Allergic Traveler for all that you do to support us getting out there safely!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Speaking Event: Kids With Food Allergies, Sephora, Brooklyn, October 18, 2014

I'm thrilled to be speaking this SATURDAY, October 18 at 2pm EST Sephora Brooklyn at 210 Joralemon Street for Kids With Food Allergies about their new ACCESS KFA program.

ACCESS KFA is one of our most important initiatives,” said Heidi Bayer, an AAFA Board Member and long-time supporter of KFA. “ACCESS KFA aims to create new educational resources to reach vulnerable populations who are at risk for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Through printed materials and local outreach, ACCESS KFA seeks educate families raising children with food allergies. The goal is to increase understanding of the serious nature of food allergies, how to avoid reactions, and the importance of treating anaphylaxis immediately treated with an injection of the life-saving medication, epinephrine.”

Other special guests and prizes and swag, all day long!

Saturday, October 18

12pm - 6pm

Help us supply local food banks with allergy-friendly options by bringing shelf stable allergy-friendly foods. (I’m bringing some Enjoy Life Foods cookies.)

Sephora Brooklyn has special gifts for donors who give to the ACCESS KFA campaign.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Philly Cream Cheese, Pecans: Food Allergens

Philadelphia Cream Cheese, I’ve been eating it since, well, as long as I can recall. Spread on bagels, on toast with jam or making a New York Style cheesecake. At some point, I switched to the Whipped, a lighter calorie version, which is also so much more spreadable. I love Whipped Philly!

Recently, I saw this in stores.

I’m severely allergic, anaphylactic, to tree nuts, including pecans. So how would this new flavor affect me? Are they making these two cream cheeses in the same facility? Are the pecan real pecans or synthetic pecan flavoring? So many questions. 

I called Kraft and upshot, their call center is not on-site at Kraft; it was a third party who had very little information other than the facility uses good manufacturing practices when making all of their products, especially in relation to the top eight allergens. Good to know but that information wasn’t specific enough to wouldn’t help me to make a decision about whether to continue buying and using Whipped Philly Cream Cheese. I did ask the call center to email me with the information they did have and that is the email below:


Thank You for Contacting Us!

Hi Ms. Miller

Thank you for visiting 877-535-5666 and for your interest in our Philadelphia cream cheese. 
We appreciate you reaching out to us at Kraft Foods regarding food allergens.

First and foremost, I want to assure you that as part of Kraft's ongoing commitment to its consumers and food safety, we take the issue of food allergens very seriously. This extends throughout our manufacturing process, from procurement of ingredients to production and labeling of our products, and includes the establishment of clear procedures to control and communicate the presence of potential life-threatening allergens in our products.

I welcome the opportunity to explain our allergen labeling policy so that you will consider Kraft products with confidence in the future. When labeling products we always identify the major allergens as outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (milk; eggs; fish; crustacean shellfish; tree nuts; peanuts; wheat; and soybeans), and we are in full compliance with FALCPA labeling requirements. Kraft also labels for additional allergens or substances of interest including celery, mustard, lupin, mollusks, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppyseeds, cottonseed, all sources of gluten and sulfites in levels over 10 ppm. We have added consumer-friendly language to complex ingredient names on our labels to help consumers, especially children, easily identify the key ingredients that could cause major allergic reactions.

We know that some people may be very sensitive to even minor traces of an allergen and understand concern about potential carryover between products that are manufactured on shared equipment. If the presence of one of these allergens, like peanuts, may be unavoidable despite all the precautions we take, we label the product as follows:


Our labeling informs consumers clearly about the potential carryover and the exact allergen that may be present. However, we believe that this type of "may contain" labeling should be used judiciously -- only when an allergen could be present despite all precautions to prevent it. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that "may contain" labeling should not be used in place of good manufacturing practices that include cleaning of equipment.

In addition to providing allergen information on our labels, Kraft continues to work towards improving the clarity of that information. To that end, we are in the process of developing plans to enhance allergen labeling on a global basis. This may take the form of a "contains" statement (e.g., "contains wheat and milk") or bolding allergens within the ingredient statement, depending on available label space and government requirements in the country in which the product will be sold. During the course of the next year, we will be focused on this effort, which will include introducing new products to the marketplace bearing the enhanced allergen labeling and adding the enhanced allergen labeling to existing product labels on an ongoing basis.

As always, we encourage consumers to carefully read the product labels and ingredient facts panels, consult the website and/or contact Consumer Relations with any questions related to allergens. To assist with your personal dietary needs, we suggest you contact a physician, registered dietitian or allergist.
To locate a registered dietitian in your area, please contact the Consumer Nutrition Hot Line at: The American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Another organization that you may want to contact for more information on food allergies is:
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network 10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107 Fairfax, VA 22030-2208 800-929-4040 FAX 703-691-2713

We welcome input from consumers like you with suggestions on how to better communicate the presence of allergens in our products. We use this input to evaluate our practices and to consider additional options.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Kim McMiller
Associate Director, Consumer Relations


So, since that answer didn’t actually answer my direct question, I took to Twitter. I sent @Kraft a message publicly that I had some more in depth questions. They DM’d me so we could get the conversation started. Below is a copy of the back and forth we had. 


Sloane Miller @allergicgirlHi Kraft, My question is about x contamination between whipped philly & honey pecan? same facility? are the pecans real or synthetic flavor?

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsThanks, Sloane. We are looking into this, and will get back to you ASAP. Thanks!

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsHi Sloane -- We have strict measures at the plant including segregated ingredient storage, handing systems and sanitation processes that ensure no cross contamination. We hope this helps! Thanks for being a fan.

Sloane Miller @allergicgirlThank you but that doesn't answer this Qs: r whipped philly & honey pecan made in same facility? are the pecans real or synthetic flavor?
Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsThose two particular items are made in the same manufacturing facility, but are produced on different production lines. The pecans are real, not synthetic.
Sloane Miller @allergicgirlso helpful thank you. so same building but different lines. what else is made on the whipped line?

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsHi Sloane - All of our Philadelphia Whipped Cream Cheese products are produced on the same line, including Original, Chive, and Mixed Berry.

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsNo products with nuts are made on the Whipped line. And we have strict measures in place at our manufacturing facilities to ensure that there is no cross-contamination when we produce products with allergens. Thank you again for reaching out!

Sloane Miller @allergicgirlso helpful - thank you!


Upshot: I finally got the direct answers to my questions from Kraft via Twitter and the answer was: "Those two particular items are made in the same manufacturing facility, but are produced on different production lines. No products with nuts are made on the Whipped line. And we have strict measures in place at our manufacturing facilities to ensure that there is no cross-contamination when we produce products with allergens."