A Mom, A Daughter with Food Allergies and a Mission
I am the mother of a wonderful daughter who, like a large and growing number of kids today, developed allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. As an estimated 5.9 million children have food related allergies, it seems everyone I meet knows a child at risk, be it their child, a relative, family friend or schoolmate.
As you may or may not know, even trace amounts of allergens when eaten by a child with food allergies can make them sick or cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Symptoms can come on suddenly and may include hives, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, and in the most extreme cases, death. Food allergies cause an estimated 30,000 cases of anaphylaxis, 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths annually. And allergens don’t need to be consumed to wreak havoc; reactions may also occur with hand to eye, hand to mouth or mouth to mouth contact.
At present, there is no cure for food allergies. The best method for managing them is by way of strict avoidance of any food that may trigger a reaction.
You would think that reading a snack’s ingredient list is enough to safeguard a child with food allergies, but it isn’t. Even though a snack might not intentionally contain a given allergen, it might be prepared on equipment or manufactured in a plant where the ingredient is used and where a trace amount could find its way into the snack in question. Though labeling requirements in the United States are still not perfect or uniform, all companies must list the major allergen ingredients in a snack and some warn about allergens that may be introduced as part of the manufacturing process.
When my daughter started elementary school, I was miserable at the thought of having to keep her away from the fun school activities involving food like parties and holiday celebrations. I took it upon myself to compile a list of the snacks available locally that were safe to bring in to class and distributed it to the moms of the other kids in my daughter’s school. My request was simple: If you plan on buying a snack for a school function, please do so by selecting items from the list – all of which are commonly found in the supermarket. Often this is a matter of substituting one brand of pretzel for another or one type of goody for an equally tasty one and rarely does the choice affect the price.
Eventually, the list caught on and was circulated to other classes in my daughter’s school, other schools in the district, and eventually schools and organizations nationwide. This website was created so that others could benefit as well, allowing everyone access to the most updated version.