Thank you to our #FoodAllergy allies!


I’d like to once again say thank you from the whole family to everyone who took the time to spread the word, and especially those who were able to make a donation to support us in the Pittsburgh FARE Walk for Food Allergy this year!

FARE Walk for Food Allergy 2016 - Pittsburgh, PA

FARE Walk for Food Allergy 2016 – Pittsburgh, PA

We had a great day with so many others affected in some way by a food allergy or multiple food allergies.  It’s really nice to know that we’re not alone, and that we all have the support of family and friends to enable us to get to the walk and work to make a difference in all of our lives.

Upon arrival, we did many things in a special event tent before the opening ceremony.  Several “top-8-free” food samples & small toys were handed out.  The kids colored some food allergy related pictures, decorated some foam teal pumpkins, made a beaded necklace & bracelet (Ian even threaded some beads all by himself!), danced with a DJ, played with masks in a photo booth, and just mingled with people who “get” it.

Molly also had an EMT help her wrap “Miss Daisy” (a stuffed bunny/dog/thing that was Bethany’s when she was little) in some gauze bandages, apply  a regular band-aid, and administer a practice EpiPen auto-injector with the Teddy Bear Clinic.  She did really good!  She may need to help me or any of her friends some day.

We listened to a speech by that very same brave young lady about her struggles she has had as someone with 15 allergies that can all lead to anaphylaxis.  More important than the struggles are the many things she has learned to overcome, the incredible friends she has made, and how well she has learned to adapt while moving away from home and going to school at Pitt.  She has used an EpiPen, and it has saved her life.  She leads a normal active life and is dedicating it to service to others by being an EMT!

Along our walk, there were many food allergy facts on signs throughout the zoo.  We used them to start conversations with the kids about how Molly has outgrown her allergy to eggs, how I will not outgrow mine, and how they will probably have a few friends in school with food allergies and that they need to be good friends to those kids and help them avoid their allergens and get the proper help quickly if needed!

It’s amazing that last year Molly knew at 2 years old to ask if a food item contained things like eggs, mayonnaise, or ranch dressing.  She understands now that daddy can’t eat shellfish.  She even pointed out the (incredibly creepy spiny) lobsters in the aquarium & said “You can’t eat that.”  I know Ian is a bit young to understand, but I don’t think it hurts to throw all the information out there and see what eventually sticks.

In the zoo, we had the incredible opportunity to get a photo with Victoria the elephant, pet (and get liked by) a deer, and pet some goats and sheep.  Ian loved the peacock roaming around, and I think he almost touched him.  Ha ha.  We also talked about how similar yet different Butterscotch is to all the big cats among many other animal facts that we have read  in books & on the signage there in the park.

You can check out more photos on my Facebook or Instagram, or Bethany’s Facebook.

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Qdoba, I ❤ YOU.


This is why Qdoba is awesome. I’m just sayin’.

Instead of annoying the fish and shellfish-allergic masses* by adding deathfish to your menu where it wasn’t previously… they have decided to focus on selling something that they already have on the menu that also will not send you to eternal damnation.

I get the not eating meat thing, and giving things up… and it’s cool that you observe that and don’t cave in the face of rumors that the whole thing was set up by a corrupt pope taking money from fishermen in exchange for boosting their sales.

Let’s make Lent about reflection through sacrifice… not about where you can get a good deal on anaphylaxis-enducing sea bugs.

This was in my inbox today…

From: Qdoba Mexican Grill
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Subject: Ash Wednesday and Friday Lenten Special-$1 Off Vegetarian Entrees

Qdoba Pittsburgh | Ash Wednesday and Friday Lenten Special - $1 Off Vegetarian Entrees

Qdoba Pittsburgh | Ash Wednesday and Friday Lenten Special - $1 Off Vegetarian Entrees

*me, and about 2 other people that I have found on the internet with a fish and/or shellfish allergy.

https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/172322010217717761

https://twitter.com/#!/QdobaMexGrill/status/172347402991308800

Sheetz “gets it” with my aversion to deathfish. ☺


I hate Lent.  So, did you see my email to Sheetz about having Deathfish now?  I hate Lent.  They wrote back.  I still hate Lent.  I do still like Sheetz though.

Lent sucks. 

https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/170619482715340800

But Sheetz is cool:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric <me@my.emailaddress>
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I hope you find this information helpful. Let me start off by saying, we do everything in our power to ensure a pleasant visit for all of our customers. This includes keeping strict guidelines which include, but are not limited to, designating one fryer vat only for shrimp in order to help minimize the possibility of cross-contamination. Employees handling food are instructed to change gloves and wipe down the frying area after seafood orders are fulfilled.

 If your condition is life threatening, it may be in your best interest to avoid our M•T•O® products in the event that residue from the shrimp may come in contact with those food items considered safe. Our M•T•GO!® products are pre-made, individually packaged and manufactured under strict allergen monitoring programs; therefore, they would be a better choice for someone with severe reactions to certain allergens.  All allergens in our M•T•GO!® products are identified directly on the packaging label.

 Please keep in mind that our seafood menu is a limited time offer that we make available to our customers during Lent. Shrimp and fish items will only be served in our stores until the 25th of April. I apologize again for any inconvenience.

 Sincerely,
Ashley Sheetz

At least they “get it”.  I’d love to know if employees are told why they’re to use gloves & separate fryers or they’re just told to.  Not that I doubt the company’s convictions… just that I’ve been trained on things in the past where people have obviously had no idea or understanding of what they’re doing… they just know what they were told to do.

I wrote back…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Ashley,

No problem on the response time.  I really appreciate that you took the time to reply at all, and love the honesty & frankness with which you’ve answered my questions.  The instructions to use gloves & wipe down food prep areas are great to hear for people like me.  There are a bunch of us out here… I just happen to be one of the more vocal & inquisitive ones.  More restaurants are recognizing that food allergies are on the rise.  Peanut & wheat allergies are hitting the news more… but there are more of us out here with special dietary needs.  It’s easy to understand not being able to eat something, but the gravity of eating that thing is sometimes lost… and cross contamination seems to be the thing that’s hardest to convey.  I’m sure you can imagine it’s difficult to place your trust (& potentially your life) into someone else’s hands.

I’m glad that Sheetz has an understanding of allergens!  It’s good to hear that the procedures are in place to minimize cross-contamination.  Hopefully the gravity of the situation is passed along in training.  Do a Google image search for Anaphylactic shock some time.  It’s not a pretty sight.

I hope the meatball sliders are still available after April 25th!  Ha ha.  I haven’t tried them yet, but they look AWESOME.  Perhaps I’ll stick to the M•T•GO!® products for now.  I do really enjoy the pre-made turkey sandwiches.

I see more & more Sheetz popping up…  you guys ought to build in Bridgeville… it’s right off on Rte. 79, and you can put a hurting on the local Get·Go.

Thanks again for your time, & answers!

-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Then I wrote back again…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address.>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Again Ashley,

Sorry for the barrage of emails…  I just had one more suggestion.  Perhaps on the signage promoting any fish/shellfish items next year during Lent (if/when they should happen to return), you could make a note of the separate fryers, and to maybe ask a manager or person in the kitchen about your allergies?  Better yet, a button on the touchpanel alerting the staff to your allergy & having it print on your order/receipt would be stellar.  It would prove you guys to be innovators when it comes to dealing with food allergies!  Acknowledging that there’s an issue goes such a long way with us food allergy folks.

Rock on!
-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Hope I’m not too annoying.  Now I’m hungry for Sheetz.

English: Interior of a Super Sheetz in Altoona...

SHEETZ!

Sheetz – New Shrimp Sub ☹


Oh how I hate Lent and the inevitable accompanying seasonal fish/shellfish/seafood specials.  Sheetz got in on the act early this year.  Please, restaurants that don’t already serve deathfish… Stop adding seabugs to your menu!

https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/169082906206158848
https://twitter.com/#!/sheetz/status/169153004728094720
https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/169154340731367425

Of course, I also had to send off an email or 20.  I sent this to quite a few Sheet-related email addresses that I had in my address book or found on the web, and I think also through their contact form.

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Feedback Sheetz Inc. ; sheetzweb @sheetz.com ;
Cc: Lisa Claar
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: The New Shrimp Sub?


Hello Friends,

I write to you today with a sad face: ☹

“Why,” you ask?  Yesterday I stopped a Sheetz just south of Scottdale on my way down Rte. 119 towards Uniontown, all excited to get some delicious made to order goodness, and was stopped dead in my tracks when I got to the magical touchscreen.  I saw signs advertising a new Shrimp sub.

Why, my friends?  Why?

I understand the importance of having an evolving and diverse menu.  I get that you don’t want to grow stagnant.  Sheetz has been a safe-haven for me in dining for years.  I have written to you in the past many times over different issues, and 99% of the time, it is high-praise my friends.  Years ago when in Altoona, a friend & I even stopped to have our pictures taken in front of the Sheetz HQ sign.  I speak of your genius touch-screen ordering and delicious “gas station” food to anyone who will listen.

My problem today extends from that fact that I am severely allergic to shellfish my friends.  This includes crustaceans and mollusks… things like Shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, geoduck, calamari, scallops, snails, and several other “delicious” sea-bugs and slimy things.

If the disgusting bug-like sea creatures are battered & deep-fried in the same fryer that also cooks my french fries, cheese sticks, or chicken tenders, and I happen to partake of said otherwise non-deadly foods… it sends me quite immediately into something called Anaphylactic shock.  Basically, that involves itching, redness, swelling, and the closing of airways.

Needless to say, I don’t generally like to cap off my dining experiences with Anaphylaxis.  Yes, I have an Epi-Pen, but it’s a last resort & really only buys time until an ambulance can arrive & get me to a hospital.  In order to dodge the excitement of choking while en-route to a hopefully life-saving facility, I generally stay away from any places that serve shellfish.  Sheetz has been a go-to safe place for me for many years.  Now, I have to cross you off of my list?

Cross-contamination issues are huge.  If someone assembles a shrimp sub, then makes me a turkey or meatball sub without washing their hands or changing gloves…  Hello, ambulance ride!  I’m not doubting the training & cleanliness of your employees, but I’m sure you can imagine that I can’t take placing my health & safety in someone else’s hands lightly.

Sadly, Sheetz will have to be off of my safe list for now.  May I ask you to reconsider this deathfish offering in the future?  I believe you had a seafood sub that I wrote to you about a few years ago.  Are deadly seabugs really a necessary item?  Do they sell that well?

Places that have added deathfish to their menu over the years where there was once none include, Quiznos, Taco Bell (it’s gone now), Dairy Queen (it’s gone from most of them now), Texas Roadhouse, Famous Dave’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Bob Evans (it’s gone now), and many more that I can’t remember now.  Pretty soon I’ll only be able to eat at McDonald’s… until they introduce McLobster country-wide.  I don’t want to be the guy that only eats Big Macs and eventually has to have a wall knocked out by Maury Povich or Jerry Springer so I can exit my house.

I write to you on behalf of the shellfish-allergic out there that just want a place to eat with safe food that we know will continue to remain safe.

I beg you to take this off of your menu, and leave it off.  Please?  I walked out of Sheetz yesterday with my head hung low & after not purchasing anything at all.  I also needed gas & drinks but left in shock & had to get them elsewhere.  My wife didn’t even say anything to try and console me.  She could feel my disappointment as we walked silently to the car.  Only after I started the car & pulled out of the parking lot did I let out a string of expletives that only revealed the proverbial tip of the iceberg to my frustration.

Thank you today for your time.  I hope you take my thoughts into consideration, and are eventually able to pull the deathfish from your menu, and drain/clean/refill all of the fryers.  There are more like me out here.  Perhaps they’re less vocal & dramatic, but the shellfish-allergic do exist.  We have feelings too.  Feelings that are crushed when new seafood offerings don menus everywhere.  We slip into a depressed food-related funk when Lent rolls around with all of its horrible seafood specials and limited time offerings.  Are we to live in a social hole & prepare all of our meals at home?  Please, don’t condemn us!

I thank you for your time and apologize for my need to complain.  I hate to come off as a whiner or “poor me”, but something just had to be said.  I look forward to your thoughts on the issue, I know you value all customer input.  You have a great company, I just don’t want to die while eating at Sheetz.  It might be bad press for you guys.
Pleadingly Yours,

-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

And, no one wrote back.  Well, I did get this

From: <customer_focus@sheetz.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Thanks, Your message has been received

Dear Eric,

We just wanted to let you know that we received your message and notify you that it is being directed to the proper individuals for review.

At Sheetz, customer opinions are always appreciated. Our mission is to ‘provide customers with fast and friendly service, quality products in clean and convenient locations’. Your comments help to ensure you receive only the highest possible service expected from Sheetz.

If your comment or question requires special attention, you can expect to get a more specific response back in the near future.

Thank you.

But, after the Tweet above divulging the sheetzlive@sheetz.com email address, I re-sent it with this…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: “sheetzlive@sheetz.com” <sheetzlive@sheetz.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Friends,

Perhaps my email below was sent too soon!  I see via Twitter that you have separate fryers for seafood?  I’m interested to know what other safe-handling practices & training are involved?  Do employees know why there are separate friers?  Are they taught about cross-contamination?

Is the deadly sea-bug sub a limited time only deal?

I’m a blogger, one of the issues I blog about is food allergies…  Would you like me to spread the safe-handling word?

Rock on!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

…And got this as a response:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric Carroll <eric_aixelsyd@yahoo.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 Is the email below something you had sent to this address as well? I am working on getting in touch with our Food Manager to answer all of your questions, so I will be in touch as soon as I have all the necessary information for you.

Sincerely,

Ashley Sheetz

I wrote back again, but haven’t heard anything further so far…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Ashley,

I had sent it this morning to an older Sheetz customer-service address that I had, and submitted it online via the contact form on the website.  Thank you for your ridiculously quick reply, and your Twitter team is awesome.

Thanks!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

SHEETZ

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

So, that’s where it stands until I get further replies from Sheetz.  I’m interested to see what they have to say.  A separate fryer is a great start… but it’s also important that employees understand why there’s a separate fryer, so they don’t mix items up, or only use 1 late at night or while cleaning the other.

I’m still hoping that they remove it form the menu & keep it off.  I’d sure feel a hell of a lot safer if it was nowhere in the kitchen.

This is why we need epi-pens in schools!


Finally, some good food allergy related news from a school surrounding the use of epinephrine auto-injectors…

English: Adult (0.3mg) and pediatric (0.15mg) ...

Epi-Pens to the rescue!

I for one was growing tired of the tragic stories.  Jared Smyth and his school had an action plan, and it saved his life.  This is how all these types of stories should end!  Congratulations to all involved!  The kid himself, the school nurse, the parents, the administration, the hospital, and the media for covering good news.

Sadly, I can only find one source for the article, while there were a plethora for Ammaria Johnson & Katelyn Carlson.  More media outlets need to pick this up & run with it!  Get the word out there that having epi-pens in schools is a great thing!  Of course, it always helps to educate your child on not taking any food from others… but as evidenced, it’s not always that easy, and accidents do happen.

Subway, Quiznos, Taco Bell, W.G. Grinder’s, & Sheetz take note…


https://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/169103504059797506

https://twitter.com/#!/FirehouseSubs/status/169104530632474624

https://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/169104935043088385

Firehouse Subs, you’re awesome.  I’m just sayin’.

Other food places with no shellfish currently on the menu, pay attention here too.  You don’t need shellfish.

Places that have added it over the years, preventing me from going back…

Other places that don’t need to add it to the menu…

Got that?  Good.

Also, what ever happened to Roly Poly & Schlotzsky’s?  They were excellent shellfish-free places to dine.  Come back!  Also, we need McCalister’s Deli and Lion’s Choice to remain shellfish free and move to the ‘Burgh.  Maybe even Jack in the Box too.

To the rest of you, let’s stop these damn seafood lent specials.  Let the business go to Red Lobster, Joe’s Crab Shack, Long John Silver’s‘, VFD fish fry events, and Monterey Bay.  If you don’t normally do shellfish, stay away from it.  Please?  I ask of behalf of the seafood allergic and those who choose to eat kosher.

Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs - my new food heroes.

Zero8


Zero8 | Resto-Bar

Restaurant sans allergène

I’m going to need to get my passport, a long weekend, and maybe even a French/English dictionary so I can drive to Montreal and have several meals at my new ideal vacation destination: Zero8

I just learned of the wonderful existence of Zero8 thanks to the ever informative Allergy Eats Blog.  Paul at Allergy Eats is always on top of current allergy issues with restaurants (like recent fast-food menu changes), and it’s great to see that a restaurant like this even exists in the first place.  What’s their deal?

Well, they are free of the top 8 allergens, plus a few other things… and seem to be extremely sensitive to the needs of those with food allergies, food intolerances, and celiac disease.  This quote alone from their “Learn More” page is really incredibly comforting:

As everyone suffering from food allergies knows, going to the restaurant with family, friends or colleagues is not always enjoyable: limited knowledge of the ingredients used in dishes, fear of cross-contamination, lack of confidence in the staff are some of the worries that can come with ordering a simple meal!

A food allergy cannot be taken lightly. Difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, inflammation and vomiting are some of the extreme reactions that the immune system can have when confronted with a food protein. The consequences can be dramatic. Serious allergies can cause an anaphylactic shock, a violent reaction that can cause loss of consciousness and sometimes death.

At Zero8 we offer a secure environment where you can eat with confidence. We guarantee a worry-free meal!

…And something more restaurants ought to understand, express, & practice.  Or at least this could translate to other restaurants:

Since most food allergies are caused by the 9 priority allergens, you may be allergic to other foods. That is why we identify all of the ingredients in our dishes on our menu and that the list of our kitchen’s authorized ingredients is available upon request at any time. Whenever possible, we try to accommodate our clients’ requests in adapting dishes to their particular needs.

Zero8 pays attention to your needs!

Is that too much to ask?

I have no idea why Canada seems to be light-years ahead of the United States where food allergies are concerned.  They have better legislation, tolerance for epi-pens, and awareness.

Chefs in the US need to get behind this!  If there was a place like this in Pittsburgh, you could bet I’d be there all the time and I’d tell all my friends & family about the place.  There were a ton of Pittsburghers at the Food Allergy Walk last year, you have your clientele ready!

Click the Allergy Eats Blog logo to read about Paul’s experience there!

Allergy Eats Blog