Eleni’s New York specializes in beautiful hand-made, hand-iced sugar cookies baked from scratch in a dedicated peanut and tree nut-free facility. No conveyor belts, no automated decorating, no mass production, all done the old fashioned way, one cookie at a time.
The company also markets a line of Crisp cookies in a variety of flavors and Color Me! cookies that come complete with edible markers. (Click to learn more about Eleni’s and their products.)
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One question we often field generally reads something like this:
This product has a statement that says “Contains: Wheat” but doesn’t mention anything about the peanut oil listed as an ingredient! If I wasn’t such a careful label reader I would have missed it entirely! Should I report them?
Irate in Indiana
To answer questions like Irate’s, we need to take a close look at a clause in Section 203 of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 – often referred to as FALCPA, the law that mandates how food products must be labeled with regard to allergens.
Here’s the clause in question (with the emphasis ours):
The term `major food allergen’ means any of the following:
(1) Milk, egg, fish (e.g., bass, flounder, or cod), Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, or shrimp), tree nuts (e.g., almonds, pecans, or walnuts), wheat, peanuts, and soybeans.
(2) A food ingredient that contains protein derived from a food specified in paragraph (1), except the following:
(A) Any highly refined oil derived from a food specified in paragraph (1) and any ingredient derived from such highly refined oil.
(B) A food ingredient that is exempt under paragraph (6) or (7) of section 403(w).”.
So highly refined oils are exempt from the allergen labeling regulations mandated by FALCPA.
Well, we know the Dowager Countess of Grantham (our favorite character from Downton Abbey) is highly refined, but what exactly are highly refined oils and why are they treated differently from the foods from which they are derived?
In a nutshell, highly refined oils are edible oils “resulting from a process that involves de-gumming, neutralizing, bleaching, and deodorizing the oils extracted from plant-based starting materials such as soybeans and peanuts.”
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- popchips – The innovative popped snack company offers an extensive line of potato and veggie chips that are certified gluten-free, trans and saturated fat-free and free of preservatives and artificial ingredients. Several of the company’s products also recently received non-GMO verification and are manufactured in a facility free of seven of the top eight allergens.
- Winona Pure – Winona Foods® of Green Bay markets a line of cooking oils under the Winona Pure® brand, all manufactured in a peanut, tree nut and sesame-free facility. Their specialized packaging allows them to offer Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Canola, Sunflower and Popcorn Butter flavored oils in a convenient spray without the need for chemical propellants or additives.
In positive news, DBV Technologies, a French firm developing skin patch therapies for various allergens, issued a press release announcing their Viaskin® Peanut patch has received “Breakthrough Therapy” (BT) designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
DBV describes Viaskin as “an electrostatic patch, based on Epicutaneous Immunotherapy, or EPIT®, which administers an allergen directly onto the superficial layers of the skin to activate the immune system by specifically targeting antigen-presenting cells without allowing passage of the antigen into the bloodstream.”
Food challenge: where the patient consumes a food they may be allergic to while the medical staff hovers nearby, ready to inject epinephrine if the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction appear. Low-tech, dangerous, and the only reliable way to test how severely someone may react to an allergen. Until now.
A blood test resulting from a study led by researchers from The Mindich Child Health and Development Institute and the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute promises to predict which people will have severe allergic reactions to specific foods. The study was published yesterday in The Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology accompanied by a press release by Mount Sinai.
Current testing relies on skin pricks and blood tests that detect proteins called allergen-specific IgE produced by the immune system, though these cannot accurately predict the severity of reactions. The study reports that measuring another immune system component, the basophil, can accurately predict how a person will react to specific allergens. The basophil activation test (BAT) requires only a small amount of blood and provides quick results.
“While providing crucial information about their potential for a severe allergic reaction to a food, having blood drawn for BAT testing is a much more comfortable procedure than food challenges.” says first author Ying Song, MD. “Although food challenges are widely practiced, they carry the risk of severe allergic reactions, and we believe BAT testing will provide accurate information in a safer manner.”
Note that BAT testing is currently only approved for research study.
It’s spring time and that means it’s time for the Easter Edition of the Safe Snack Guide!
We’ve added a full page of Easter-themed goodies free of peanuts, tree nuts, and (in many cases) eggs. Some can be purchased at the corner market, others can be ordered on-line.
Once again, apologies to our readers who celebrate Passover. We are still searching for safe products that are nut-free and certified kosher for the holiday. If you know of any such products, please let us know.
Please note that we have removed two products from the Safe Snack Guide due to a disclosure from the manufacturer.
After a discussion with Lisa Guzzo, Consumer Relations Manager of Just Born Quality Confections, we have decided to delist MIKE AND IKE® and HOT TAMALES® from the Guide.
While these iconic products are manufactured in a facility that does not process peanuts or tree nuts, a small portion of their products are packaged by third-parties that may use equipment that is also used for products containing these allergens. Although the firm’s labeling policy includes voluntarily labeling for potential cross contamination of the “Top 8″ allergens, we have decided to remove their products from the Guide in keeping with our policies. Consumers should address questions or concerns regarding Just Born brands by calling them toll free at 1-888-645-3453 or visiting them online at www.justborn.com.
The label… although it provides important nutritional data, it’s wholly unreliable as a source of potential allergen information due to lax, ineffectual FALCPA labeling guidelines.
Complete disclosure of the potential for allergen cross-contact is a necessity for the millions of Americans suffering with food allergies and celiac disease. But in light of FALCPA’s shortcomings, assembling that kind of information means ignoring the label, rolling up our sleeves, and working directly with responsible manufacturers who are as concerned for the food allergy community as we are.
That’s why we established the SnackSafely.com Manufacturer Partnership. We’ve assembled more than 40 manufacturers that provide us with detailed information regarding the processing of 11 allergens and 4 industry recognized certifications, and we provide that information to you in turn via Allergence, a free service.
Here’s an example listing of a peanut butter alternative from Don’t Go Nuts, one of our featured partners:
In a blockbuster press release, Mondelēz – the former Kraft Foods spinoff and manufacturer of such iconic brands as Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Ritz, Cadbury and Trident – announced yesterday that it had acquired Enjoy Life Foods, the leading brand in the Free From category and a member of the SnackSafely.com Manufacturer Partnership.
“As we focus on continuing to drive growth in snacking, the acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods is a great strategic fit for us,” said Mark Clouse, Chief Growth Officer at Mondelēz International. “The Enjoy Life brand expands our portfolio into faster growing, on-trend, ‘better- for-you’ areas and provides an excellent platform to make these delicious offerings available to consumers with ‘free-from’ needs or simply looking for healthy-lifestyle options, both in the United States and beyond.”
All well and good for Mondelēz, but acquisitions of this magnitude have the potential to change a brand for good or bad, and Enjoy Life is especially important to the allergic community. To sort out the implications behind the acquisition, we contacted Joel Warady, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Enjoy Life.
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We’re happy to announce that we’ve added a conversation heart product to the Valentine’s Day 2015 Edition of the Safe Snack Guide.
Smarties Love Hearts are marketed free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, and soy by their manufacturer, providing a readily available option to families coping with these food allergies. [NOTE: We earlier made the assertion that these were corn-free which was NOT correct. Our sincere apologies.]
Special thanks to our readers Sarah Albert and Elizabeth Arras for taking the time to suggest this product!
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