Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Does It Mean to Be Allergy Free?

Before we participate in any event, I usually spend my time calling ahead and asking about food at the event.  Goodness knows there won't be any event involving kids without some type of food being served!

Recently, I contacted a local church about a children's program.  I asked about snacks and of course, snacks were served.  I asked what snacks were provided and no one seemed really sure.  Not a good sign.  Then I explained about the allergies and told them why I was calling.  The lady was quick to assure me that the snacks were safe for everyoneThose snacks were allergy free.  She just knew the crackers were ok for anyone with allergies.  She just insisted.  I had yet to tell her what all of our allergies were.  It didn't matter, she just knew those snacks were allergy free though.

So, it got me thinking.  What is allergy free?  When I think of allergy free, I think of foods that are free of the top 8 allergens-dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, peanut, and tree nuts.  Those are the most common allergens.  So, when I post an "allergy free" recipe, my recipes are free of the top 8 allergens.  Others consider anything that is free of peanuts to be "allergy free."  The definition varies widely!

But anyone can be allergic to anything.  Take Bee for example.  She's allergic to pineapple and banana and watermelon and sunflower seeds.  Those are not listed in most allergy resources.  Those are not common allergens.  So, while those yummy sunbutter cookies are "allergy free," they are not for everyone.

Curly has a little friend who has many allergies; however, her allergies are almost opposite of Bee's.  While Bee can't have wheat or any flour or grain containing gluten, this little friend avoids all foods with corn.  If you've ever read gluten free labels, you know many of them contain corn flour or corn starch.  Also, Bee can't have soy or dairy.  Therefore, Earth Balance with its soy free margarine product containing pea protein is safe for us.  On the other hand, this little girl cannot have peas or any pea protein.  That makes our dairy and soy free cookies very unsafe for her.

Allergies are as individualized as the people who live with them.  There is no "one size fits all" allergy free food.  We can compare allergy lists all day long, but in the end, most people's lists will not be exactly the same.  It's such a pain!  And it's even more difficult to explain. 

So, do yourself and the rest of us allergy sufferers a favor.  Never assume that just because a food is free of a few allergens that it's safe for everyone.  Never assume that everyone has the same allergy list.  Be on the safe side and always ask!


Clarissa said...

Yes, when I do "allergy-free" recipes or think/speak about allergy-free food, I am only talking about foods free of dairy and peanuts, since that is the allergies we deal with... so yes, I understand what you mean. And it has been a difficult time (and 8 years) trying to make others (family) understand that my kids CAN NOT have anything with those ingredients in them... not a cracker, etc. It's funny, cuz then they think they can't have mayo or eggs..?? How come they can not comprehend what a food allergy is and what foods have WHAT ingredient in them?? lol. I feel for you... we only have dairy and peanuts to worry about here!

Lexi said...

It's funny how allergy free means "allergy free for us." It means something different to each person.
It is hard to explain that kids can't have even a little of their allergen. Some people just do not understand. But until you've seen the severity yourself, it can be difficult to grasp. Slowly, more people are aware of food allergies so I'm hoping that explaining them will be easier and easier.

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