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 everyone. Those 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!