Tag Archives: food allergies

Inside the nutty world of food allergies

I was planning to write something a bit more uplifting today after having a serious post just the other day, but I wanted to share a little bit in light of the latest food allergy fatality.  I read about it first on The Nut-Free Mom, one of my favorite allergy blogs.

Food allergies are not a joke.  They are not a game, or an excuse people use because they don’t like a food.  They’re not a ploy for attention.  People die from food allergies.  Amarria Johnson was only 7 years old.  This is why we need a cure– and a ton more awareness.

I’m fairly certain that most fatalities occur because a person has eaten the food they’re allergic to.  But here’s a dirty little food allergy secret: Food allergies are not just about eating.

I have topical food allergies– so I’ll react to touching a food (or the table, the computer keyboard, or your hand– that’s just touched an allergenic food).  A few Christmases ago, a topical reaction to peanuts almost sent me to the ER; the itching was over my entire body and cleaning off where it may have touched did not help.  It was about a full hour until Benadryl took effect, at which point we were praying and getting ready to leave for the hospital.

Some people can react to airborne particles of a food.

The top 8 get a lot of attention (peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, soy, eggs, shellfish, fish).  But these aren’t the only dangerous food allergies out there! These are just the most common. Mustard, sesame, corn, and sulfites are also topping the charts.  My mother and I both get itchy throats from strawberries.  My little niece’s eczema (an itchy, dry skin condition) acts up when she eats beef or certain meats because she’s allergic.

In addition to reading food ingredient labels, I read labels on makeup, lotions, soaps, and shampoos.  There’s often fruit and nut extracts hiding here.  If you have a liquid soap in your bathroom, I’m probably reading the label before I use it.  And if I’m allergic, I’m probably sneaking off for the wet wipes I keep in my pocketbook before returning to the party.

According to recent research, hand sanitizer is not believed to be sufficient to clean off a surface (or your hands) of allergens.  Howerver, most wet wipes are.

Cross-contamination is a huge issue.  That means if you put your knife in the peanut butter and then in the jelly (even if you wiped it off on a napkin), I can’t use your jelly.  That means if a peanut candy is produced on the same line as a non-nut-containing candy, I can’t eat either.

Companies in the U.S. are now required by law to state if a food contains one of the top 8 food allergens.  There’s less of a standard on how potential cross-contamination is listed.  Most companies have their own policies.  Some list, some don’t, some will list for some items, but not others (ie, for peanuts, but not peanut oil– which contains less of the protein and is considered “less allergic”).  And those lotions and cosmetics– they don’t have to list anything.  They’re not regulated as food and therefore are not governed by the same law.

The food allergy law states that an ingredient label state if top 8 allergens are contained in a food.  These ingredients must not only be listed, but must be listed in plain language, for instance, “peanut” or “milk.”  These ingredients must not be listed using a scientific name or hidden under labels like “natural flavoring.”

I make a lot of phone calls and visit a lot of websites to clarify how different companies label their food and what their policies are.

I always carry an EpiPen and Benadryl.  As a girl, this also means my purse must be large enough to hold the EpiPen, or I need to have a pocket to put it in– so it affects what I wear and how I accessorize at times.

Allergies affect where I go and who I let in my life.  Asian restaurants are prime cross-contamination spots.  Although I must bring my own food to all restaurants (my allergies are severe– and I have quite a few of them), I still avoid Asian restaurants for this reason.

If you can’t understand or respect my allergies, I probably won’t spend time with you.  If you’re a guy and we’re out on a date, you need to be careful of what you order if you want to kiss me later.

If you know someone with food allergies, be supportive.  And if you can do that much, you’ll be making the world a better, safer place.  For 25-year-olds in NY, 7-year-olds in VA, and everyone, all ages, everywhere.


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Filed under Food Ramblings, Life

Growing, Cooking, Eating.

I’m not the type of person who would normally call herself a “foodie.”  Lately, I think that’s changed.  I seem– for lack of a better word– obsessed with food.  I’ve been finding some amazing recipes that I can’t wait to try out.  My latest desire (besides the Fried Green Tomatoes)?  Homemade Italian Bread.  I’m digging on the idea of warm, crusty Italian bread, sliced the long way with some slices of mozzerella and fresh Compari tomatoes.  Also– homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate ice cream banana split style!  And by the time you read this, I will have just completed my second “Food Challenge Test.”  My love affair with food is tempered by severe food allergies– but all good things are worth fighting for, so I’m trying to get back what I can.  Today’s challenge?  Creative Caterpillar Vs. Cantaloupe.

I enjoy my food.  I enjoy the flavors, the textures.  I enjoy both preparing and eating.  And, as anyone who’s been reading a bit knows, I’ve found out this summer that I enjoy growing my food.

So here is my most recent set of pictures, from this week.  These are probably close to my last set of update pictures this season.  That’s because the tomatoes are starting to turn color! (This by the way, I find especially rewarding as they are such a beautiful shade of orange-red.  I feel inspired).

And the peppers are getting nice and big.

And the corn is super tall!

And most of it is just about ready!

And one ear of corn was all ready when I went out the other day!  So I picked it and husked it (outside– in case there were bugs).  There were some earwigs guarding it on the stalk, but I (wo)manned up and picked the corn!  It looks so perfect and beautiful.  Another ear or two looks ready– I’ll be picking it later tonight or tomorrow.  And then I’m going to cook it up and enjoy! (And share a bit depending on how much I have!)

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Filed under Food Ramblings, Life, The Garden

Gardening and Cheese

I have not updated on my gardening in some time it seems… So I’m moving to correct that now!

The corn continues to grow (and grow!).  It’s almost chest-level now!

The tomatoes are flourishing (and are now staked, at least the full-size one as the cherry toms do not seem to need support yet).

And my pepper plants have finally flowered!! Here’s a pic of the first flower, taken Tuesday.  Although as of the following morning, there was a second bloom right beside it! So exciting!!


Here’s a couple pictures of the whole little garden right now too:


I also promised some sort of talk about macaroni and cheese.  Now, first of all, I love cheese.  I thought I should just state that.  Macaroni and cheese, then, is just even more heavenly.  Focused on creativity, I really try not (and usually have no inclination) to support any particular products unless the brand is particularly inspirational or doing some kind of good for humankind.  Then again, maybe Kraft is doing both with this:

That’s right– it’s the Kraft Mac N’ Cheese powder– sold separately!! This comes up because I seem to (without entirely trying), be cooking something at least once a week.  While my cheddar broccoli corn bake was a bit more elaborate, I found myself last week with the rare occurrence of having the apartment to myself.  Now, being somewhat lazy in the cooking department (mostly due to poor planning and not thinking about cooking until I am actually hungry), I’ll usually eat whatever’s available– or ingredients.  A roll.  A can of corn.  A slice of cheese.  But I was industrious this particular night and made a box of pasta for myself (which had the nice perk of leftovers for Mom and I for a few more days) and made macaroni and cheese.  I’d been having a semi-bad week (what with the car accident and all) and mac and cheese really is comfort food at its finest.

Let's face it- edible things should probably not be this color. It's a little psychedelic. But it's so good!!

Have I mentioned I’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately?  Now, my food allergies have deprived me of many things over the years.  As of this past winter, I got corn back into my diet for the first time in approximately 20 years.  Upon the successful food challenge test being complete, Mom and I went to the store and I literally bought every corn product I could find that I could have:  corn muffin mix, pop corn, canned corn, corn tortilla shells, corn cereal (I must’ve had at least 4 different varieties of these in the cart), grits… and the list goes on.  I have since fallen in love with corn on the cob and well, now I’m growing it.  We affectionately called this time my “festival of Maize,” as I’d gained something big and was now “making up for lost time” so to say.  Well, as I’ve had to put off my next food challenge for ballet (which sadly ends this week), I decided to branch out on things I know are safe:  ie, cheese.  Most cheeses use all the same ingredients.  So really, there is no reason not to try every kind one can.  It’s become a mission of sorts.  And it’s made the grocery store a fun and exciting place, which it isn’t always for me… in fact it is often just the opposite, reminding me of foods I cannot have, and my limitations.

My diet already consisted of your basic Cheddar and Swiss.  But now?  We’ve added Munster.  And Provolone.  And Colby and Monterey Jack (which I still need to taste separately, as I don’t think the blend did them justice).  It’s the Summer of Cheese! Last night: Feta.  I had actually never had Feta before.  My mouth was so happy.  My hips might not be.  Right now, my mouth is winning.  In the fridge sits a block of Gouda [Update: Gouda is GOOD-A!] and a pack of American cheese.  I can’t remember the last *real* grilled cheese sandwich I had.  Most American cheeses use oils and other additives I can’t have.  I’m more than a little excited.  If only I could grow cheese… I mean, I always have thought cows were cute anyway…


Filed under Life, The Garden