The FDA cares about reducing the incidence of misleading labels

Last weekend I attended the FARE 2105 Food Allergy Conference in Long Beach.  It was fantastic!  Being a Food Allergy nerd, it’s not often I learn something new, but this conference was illuminating, even for us old-timers!

One talk that was really interesting was Under the label:  Understanding food labeling laws, manufacturing, and risks by Steve Gendel, PhD.  Steve worked at the FDA as their Food Allergen Co-ordinator until last year, so he is very knowledgeable on this topic.  So what did I learn that was so mind-blowing?  In essence, that the FDA intends for food labels to be “true and not misleading”, even voluntary cross-contact warnings!

Although the FDA does not regulate voluntary cross-contact warnings
(such as may contain), the FDA does care that foods labels
– including cross-contact warnings – not be misleading.

So for example, a food labeled as NUT FREE should contain zero allergen, and should not Steves ice creaminclude any contradictory claims, such as MAY CONTAIN NUTS.  Unfortunately I have picked up a “Nut-free” product only to turn it over and read MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF.  This drives me crazy, because most people who pick up the food will assume it has zero nuts and will be safe for a nut-allergic person!  It’s a great relief to know that “free from” labels are taken very seriously by the FDA.

Another case of a misleading product label, is one that has an incomplete list of allergens in the MAY CONTAIN statement.  For example, a product may have a label that says MAY CONTAIN: SOY, but when you call the manufacturer to check, the manufacturer tells you that the product also may contain Wheat too!

What should I do?

If you find a product you think has a misleading label, Steve ice cream labelrecommends you notify:

  1. The manufacturer.
  2. The supermarket chain you bought it from.
  3. The FDA Consumer Complaint Co-ordinator in the district where you live.    You can look up your local coordinator at the FDA web site.

The more people who contact the FDA to report misleading labels, the more the agency becomes aware of the trends, and so the greater liklihood the labels will be corrected.  I am so very relieved to find out we have a way to impact some misleading may contains labels.

Posted in Allergen Labeling, Conferences, Education, Food Allergy, Food Allergy Advocacy, Food Allergy Management Documents | Leave a comment

2015 food allergy Conferences & Camps!

FARE conference
May 16-17, 2015
Long Beach, CA

Adults & Teens

Register here!

“The FARE National Food Allergy Conference… gathering the country’s leading food allergy experts and members of the food allergy community together for a weekend of world-class programming.  The conference provides a unique opportunity for individuals and families managing food allergies, caregivers, school staff, health care professionals and others interested in the field to gather as a community and learn about advances in food allergy research and advocacy…and much more. “
CA in June,
NJ in July

Day Camp for kids  w/food allergies & siblings
Ages 4-12 years.

Big Bear City, CA
June 15-19

Williamstown, NJ
July 27-31

“Camp TAG provides a safe place for children with food allergies and eosinophilic disorders and their siblings to have fun – with no worries about allergic reactions – and meet other children who share similar experiences. It is a bonding and empowering week for all campers, including parents.  Camp TAG is 95% fun and 5% educational, with age-appropriate activities and games each day on food allergies, anaphylaxis, nutrition, the emotional impact of living with food allergies (for children with food allergies and their families), and how to stay safe at school and at home.”


Camp Blue Spruce August 16 – 22 Portland, OR

Sleep-away camp for kids w/food allergies & siblings
Ages 9-17 years

Register here!

“Get ready for SIX DAYS of camp.. at Camp Tapawingo in Oregon’s beautiful Coast Range!  Camps are an excellent way for children to become independent, develop new friendships, learn about teamwork and grow as individuals.   Kids attending Camp Blue Spruce have a true camp experience without the worry and anxiety they experience daily with their food allergies. Camp Blue Spruce parents can be worry-free, too!”
FAACT Teen Summit
October 9 -11,
Las Vegas, NV

Teens & College students aged 11-23

Check the FAACT web site for registration information!

“The Teen Conference is all about teens and college students, their siblings, and their parents. The weekend offers an informative program full of fun activities. Teens will learn about managing their food allergies and, more importantly, spend time with peers who have food allergies (and siblings who do not). Siblings are also affected when a family member has food allergies. Our Teen Conference is a safe place for them to discuss their concerns with a group who not only understands but can share their own experiences, advice, and solutions.”

FARE Teen Summit,
November 13-15 Washington DC

For people w/food allergies ages 11-22, siblings & parents

Check the FARE web site for registration information!

“This yearly event gives teens living with food allergies a chance to meet with other teens from across the country… we will cover topics that are relevant and important to them.  Teen Summit participants get to spend time with people in their own age group through special breakout sessions for middle school and high school, plus evening social activities that are food allergy friendly and fun! We also will have a sibling and parent track for family members to share their experiences and learn from some of our great speakers.”

FABlogCon, November 13-15, Denver, CO

For Adults

Register here!

The third annual Food Allergy Bloggers Conference is open to ANYONE managing, living, or caring for those with dietary restrictions- be it food allergy, or celiac disease. Our event will have something for bloggers and caregivers alike! We can’t wait to see this November!



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Unsung heroes, and role models!

bigstock-Super-Businessman-52716229---superdadFood Allergy community leaders, Aleasa Word and Caroline Moassessi (Grateful Foodie), have encouraged Cyrus Moassessi – a young man with food allergies – to add to the already recognized International Men’s Day on November 19th.  The addition is to recognize men who are role-models in our food allergy community.  Cyrus is doing this through a Facebook group – The International Men of Food Allergy.

When I heard of this event, I thought about all of the wonderful role models our community has – including Kyle Dine (international musician and all-round good guy), Dave Bloom (from Snack Safely), Mike Spigler (from FARE, who goes above and beyond – he works as hard as a food allergy dad but isn’t one!)  Then I started thinking about who has personally affected me the most.

As a support group leader for the last 7 years, I’ve spent hours preparing for talks, driving to/from talks, giving talks, developing web sites, working online to support my community, helping food allergy legislation pass, and more.  Throughout all of that, one person has unfailingly given his time to help me, so I could help the food allergy community – my husband.

Without his support for the food allergy awareness, education and advocacy work, our local community and the state of California would not have been as educated about allergies, nor as prepared.  Instead, our community is safer.

In closing, I’d like to recognize the unsung hero of food allergies, who is in the background working so very hard –  the dads, granddads, uncles, big brothers and cousins who help every day to keep not only their family safe, but all of our community safer.  To all of you – you know who you are – Thank you. You are amazing, and you are a wonderful role model for the next generation of food allergy families!

Posted in Food Allergy Awareness | Tagged | 3 Comments

Cross-contact or cross-contamination?


Up until a few years ago, people used the term cross-contamination when a “safe” food became “contaminated” with an allergen and so became unsafe to eat. These days FARE and others use the term “cross-contact” for this instead.

It’s important to know when you should use the term cross-contact, and when you should use cross-contamination!  Here’s why!

What is cross-contamination?
is the term used when a food has been exposed to bacteria, making the food unsafe to eat.  For example, when a salad is prepped on the same chopping board as a raw chicken, without the chopping board being properly washed and sanitized in between: the salad then becomes contaminated with bacteria.

What is cross-contact?
Peanut Butter And Jelly SandwichesCross-contact
is the term used when a safe food has come into contact with an allergen, making the food unsafe to eat for someone allergic to that allergen. A great example of cross-contact is when utensils that have been used to make a PB&J sandwich are reused – without being properly washed – to make a plain jelly sandwich for a person allergic to peanut. In the picture, there are a whole bunch of ways cross-contact can happen during sandwich prep – the chopping board, the knife, or the jelly itself may be contaminated if any time after the jar was opened, a knife was dipped into PB, then dipped straight into the jelly without being washed with soap first!

WHY It took me a while to switch too.. and now it drives me nuts (!!) when people use cross-contamination instead of cross-contact.  But there is a good reason to switch!  Chefs are trained to know that you can make a food contaminated with bacteria safe to eat, by cooking it at a high temperature which kills the bacteria.  When you use the term cross-contamination with respect to food allergens, it’s possible untrained kitchen staff will think you can cook an allergen out of a food, just like you can bacteria – and with food allergens, that just isn’t true!

And always fully explain what you mean by cross-contact – many restaurants haven’t had food allergy training, so you need to be specific – be clear about ingredients, may-contains, cross-contact during storage, prep, cooking, serving.

cross-contact-contaminationAnd if that’s not enough of a reason, contamination has 6 more letters to type than contact!

Posted in Dining out with Allergies, Food Allergy | 1 Comment

TGFTFG The Food Allergy Field Guide!

Food-Allergy-Field-GuideFARE have recently released a great resource for people new to food allergies (and for those who want to learn to be safer!)

If you know of anyone newly diagnosed, or not aware of basic food-allergy safety information, please let them know about this resource.

The Field Guide includes information essential for living with food allergies – everyday – including  a getting-started checklist, essential information you need to know,  tips for preparing others to care for children with food allergies, reading labels, avoiding allergens, avoiding cross-contact, eating out, and more!


One little addition to the packet I didn’t mention is a fridge-magnet to remind your family and friends of anaphylaxis symptoms!

And a door hanger for reminding us to always bring Epi everywhere (by Epi, I mean Epinephrine!)

FARE have printed (courtesy of Mylan) more than 65,000 packets of TFG that are being distributed at allergists’ offices nationwide.  If your allergist doesn’t have a physical copy of TFG, you can download a free e-version from FARE

All I have to say is TGFTFG (thank goodness for the field guide!)

P.S.  I also have to disclose that I am honored to be a part of the FARE Ed Work Group that contributed to this project (including my suggestion of the aforementioned fridge magnet!  It’s the important things, right? ;))

Posted in Dining out with Allergies, Education, Food Allergy, Food Allergy Education, The Field Guide | Leave a comment

2014 – A year jam-packed with Food Allergy Conferences!

Wow, there is a lot of choice in food allergy conferences this year.  What a great problem to have – choosing which conferences to attend!

The biggies are from our national organization, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education.)  This year, FARE will hold a single national conference; and from what I hear it’s going to be a powerhouse, including talks from key experts and researchers, and this year for the first time, community experts.   I heard the teen summit last year rocked, and this year my child will be old enough to attend.  The FABulous ladies from FABlogCon are having their second FA Bloggers conference.  Last year’s was amazing, and had a wonderful atmosphere of kindness, empathy and support.  The new kids on the block, FAACT (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team) will host four *local* one-day conferences covering many different topics.  And finally, a food allergy awareness convention for those with food allergies and celiac disease!

Right now, my plans include the FARE conference, the FABlogCon, and hopefully the FARE TEEN summit!  I just wish I had the time and finances to go to all of these great events.  Here is some more information that might help you decide.

FARE National conference June 20th-22nd, Rosemont IL

About:   The conference is a great opportunity for patients, families, caregivers, school staff, and health care professionals to gather as a community to learn the latest in food allergy research, best practices, and to network with one another.  There will be multiple tracks that will appeal to both newly diagnosed families and those who are very experienced with food allergies. The sessions will be include a mix of seminars, interactive sessions, forums, and experiential programs for anyone age 11 and up. Full conference and 1-day registrations will be available.

Location:  Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL  A discounted room tickets can be booked here: FARE has also negotiated a discounted parking rate of $10/night.
Date: Friday June 20th – Sunday June 22nd
More info:

FARE Teen Summit, Washington DC

About:  The Teen Summit is a 3-day event that gives pre-teens & teens (age 11-19) living with food allergies a chance to meet with other teens from across the country. Topics important to teens are covered:

Social experiences and peer pressure / dining out and traveling / knowing how to be your own advocate / friendships and dating / navigating high school / preparing for college and more!

Location:  Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
Date:  November, 2014
More info:

Food Allergy Bloggers Conference September 26th – 28th, Las Vegas NV

About:  A great way to learn about food allergy blogging, and to connect in a meaningful way, with others living with food allergies.  Here are more descriptions from attendees of last year’s conference:

Location: Southpoint Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
Date: Friday, September 26, 2014 at 6:00 PM – Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 9:00 PM
More info:

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team

About:  FAACT’s annual Food Allergy Conferences provide full day of educational sessions led by leading medical professionals and food allergy advocates. The conferences offer education and support for parents, grandparents, school personnel, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and teens.

Locations & Dates:

  • Anaheim, CA, Saturday, September 13, 2014, Disneyland Hotel
  • Atlanta, GA, Saturday, September 20, 2014, Evergreen Marriott at Stone Mountain
  • Denver, CO, Saturday, October 11, 2014, The Denver Marriott City Center
  • Philadelphia, PA, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown

More info:

Food Allergy and Celiac Convention November 22nd

About:  Disney is well-known for being one of the top food allergy and gluten free locations in the world, so we couldn’t think of a better spot to host an event dedicated to awareness of food allergies and celiac disease!  Hosting this event at the Walt Disney World Resort yields the opportunity to collaborate with leaders in the food allergy industry; all of the food is created especially for the event by Disney’s Catered Events, and along with other leaders in the industry, various members of the Disney culinary team will be integrated in our workshops and speakers.

Location: Walt Disney World, Coronado Springs Resort.
Date: Saturday November 22nd
More info:

That’s all, FA Folks!

Posted in Conferences, Education, Emotions, Food Allergy, Food Allergy Awareness | 1 Comment

News: President Obama signs School Access to Epinephrine Act in to Law! .. Wait! What does this mean?

What does the law do?

It encourages States to mandate stock epinephrine, by giving them a financial incentive.

Signing of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act

If a state enacts mandatory stock epinephrine, the state is given preference to receive asthma grant funding (Children’s Asthma Treatment Grants Program and other federal asthma programs.)

All public elementary and high schools in the state must maintain an emergency supply of epinephrine, must permit trained school personnel to administer epinephrine, and must have a plan for ensuring trained personnel are available to administer this medication during all hours of the school day.  The bill text is

The law also requires the State’s attorney general to review applicable civil liability protection law to determine if the law has adequate protection for the trained school personnel.

If it’s not mandatory, why is this important?

The passage of this bill is recognition on a Federal level of food allergy, and of emergency anaphylaxis first aid, as issues of importance.  It gives credence to the need for epinephrine in schools, and so paves the way for States to enact mandatory bills.  In the absence of mandatory state laws, it is encouragement and guidance for local education authorities and schools to understand that stock epinephrine is of value.

we're all in this togetherThe passage of the law also provides more momentum for the food-allergy community.  It gives us inspiration that we can enact change on federal, state and local levels when we all work together.

Share the video!

When signing the law, President Obama explained why it is important “This is something that will save children’s lives.”  Mr. Obama also said that one of his children has a peanut allergy, and that making sure epinephrine is available in case of emergency in schools “is something that every parent can understand”.  Watch the signing:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Attributed to M. Mead

Posted in Anaphylaxis, Food Allergy, Food Allergy Advocacy, Food Allergy Awareness, Food Allergy Legislation | Leave a comment