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.

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.

My Food Allergy Responses Graph


Inspired by the Food Allergy Fun graph of responses that Tiffany gets when she tells people her child has a food allergy, I made my own graph.  These are the typical responses that I, as an adult, get when I tell people about my shellfish allergy & try to give a brief description of the dangers of cross-contamination.

Typical Responses When I Explain my Food Allergy & Cross Contamination:

This is what I hear all the time.

Click the graph above for the full-sized image.

Food Allergy News, the good kind…


OK, so my last Food Allergy post was a little sad, disheartening, and rant-like.  Hopefully this one will be the Yang to the others Yin.  (Or is that Yin to the others Yang?)

I’d like to share some good news in the form of links, and a little commentary…

http://twitter.com/#!/AllergyEats/status/17239393752322048

http://twitter.com/#!/FoodAllergy/status/17567884217683969

  • FAAN | The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Management Act – Finally, the FAAMA bill has passed, and is expected to be signed into law.  This will hopefully prevent events like the ones surrounding Katelyn’s death from happening in the future by making sure schools are more educated on the subject, and more equipped to deal with similar situations.  Sadly, it’s a voluntary policy and not a mandatory one.

http://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/17572685122895872

Food Allergy News, the Katelyn Carlson tragedy.


So food allergy news seems to be all over the place the last few weeks.  There are good things happening, and there are bad things happening.  I’ll hit you with the bad news first, then we can move on to the good news with a perspective on why it’s good news & why it’s important.  (Looks like I’m so long-winded, that will need to be its own blog post.)

Sadly, Katelyn Carlson, a 13 year old girl passed away earlier this month due to an anaphylactic reaction to peanut oil or a peanut cross-contaminant in some Chinese food that was served at a school function.  Apparently parents and teachers “checked multiple times” with the restaurant to make sure there were no peanuts in the food, or peanut oil… I’m guessing there were cross-contaminants somewhere along the line.  My thoughts on the subject are summed up perfectly in a Nut-Free Mom blog post on the subject.  While I don’t want to appear as pointing the finger at anyone… this tragedy could have certainly been avoided if the parents, teachers, administrators, and/or restaurant employees were all better educated about food allergies and cross-contamination.  Unfortunately, all involved will certainly be more cautious about such issues in the future.

Mr. Yuk
Mr. Yuk

Being allergic to shellfish, Asian food is at the top of my “No!/Keep Away!/Do Not Touch!” list.  (Okay, maybe 2nd to Red Lobster, Joe’s Crab Shack, & Long John Silver’s.) Not only is shellfish a visible ingredient in Asian cuisine… crab can be in “vegetarian” egg rolls as something is lost in translation, and oysters and brine shrimp are commonly used to make a plethora of sauces.  Similarly, peanuts and peanut oil are an essential ingredient to a bunch of Chinese food.  Why would one even attempt to assume it was safe?  Obviously, it’s just not a good idea.  I have ended up becoming pretty good at making a few Chinese dishes at home that I know are safe where I can read all of the bottles.  It may not be as good as the place run by actual Chinese people a few blocks over, but it’s also not going to potentially kill me.

Obviously, this points to a need for better food allergy education across the board…

  • For Restaurants: The chefs, the owners, the waiters and waitresses, the host or hostesses… anyone who can be asked in any situation where there’s food involved needs to be educated about potential food allergy dangers ans especially about cross-contamination.  Also, they should be required to have an epi pen or two in their first aid kit, without question.
  • For manufacturers/processing plants: I call “shenanigans” on the whole labeling process that puts the CYA warnings like “This (whatever) processed in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat, and belly button lint.”  The other day I saw packaged cheese that had the shellfish warning on it.  Where, why, and how would cheese ever need to or potentially come into contact with shellfish while it’s being made or processed?  Does Admiral Ackbar run your processing plant?  Is there lobster flavored cheese every few runs?  I would push for stricter rules for these companies where such allergens do not come into contact with other foods… it requires separation and sterilization.  Also… why not a “Mr. Yuk” type system with images or icons?  Everything else has been dumbed-down to icons over the years.  Why not make it easy with a rating-system for “contains”, “possibly contains”, and “processed in the same facility” with little pictographs of the scary deadly allergens?  Let’s differentiate between “allergy” and “intolerance” while we’re at it.
  • For schools: Food allergies are obviously a real issue.  Obviously there’s a comprehension problem when it comes to safety.  School nurse’s stations and cafeterias also ought to be required to be equipped with an epi pen.  This is one area where federal laws ought to trump state laws (as much as my inner political self is against this) and require them across the board, everywhere.  Teachers and administrators ought to be required to take food allergy classes or even tests just like first aid certification… or in with first aid certification.
  • For parents: Obviously, it’s a fine line between being over-protective and ridiculously worrisome and educating your child on food allergy and cross contamination issues.  They are serious and potentially life threatening.  Medical tags/bracelets and a personal epi pen are probably a good idea.  Your child needs to be equipped with the knowledge of potential allergy triggers, aware of what can happen, and the confidence to say “no, I’m not eating that” to other kids or ignorant adults.  In with being aware of what may happen… staying calm is necessary when an allergic reaction happens.  Knowledge of what happens, how, and how to stop it and get help can greatly increase the chances of remaining calm.
  • For people with food allergies: Obviously you’re (hopefully) on guard all the time.   Stay that way.  Read up on the subject, be informed, teach others.

So, there’s my humble and seemingly grumpy opinion.  My heart goes out to the family, friends, & classmates of Katelyn, I can’t imagine the greif that they’re going through.  I hope they can take some comfort in the fact that many others can use this tragedy to become more aware of and educate others on  food allergies, cross-contamination, and perhaps even funding for research for a cure.

Food Allergy Buzz | Shellfish Allergies at the Beach


Just saw a cool tweet this morning, linking to an article from Food Allergy Buzz called Shellfish Allergies at the Beach.  It excites me because 95% of the time I see a food allergy related article, it involved peanuts or wheat/gluten, and the other 4% of the time it’s tree nuts or lactose intolerance.

Basically, it’s asking those of us afflicted about our beach fears.  I hope it sparks some discussion, and I’d like to find more of us out there!

I had never really thought about the possibility of swallowing a brine shrimp while in the ocean or being pinched by a crab and what might happen…  Heh.  I know I have handled hermit crabs without incident, and even went crab fishing when I was younger with no issues…  I just can’t eat the things.

My issues with going to the beach (besides being a bit overweight and a pasty/chalky white under my T-shirt line) mainly revolve around finding places to eat that don’t serve some kind of shrimp, crab, lobster, oyster, clam, mussel, or calamari dish.  It’s damn near impossible… whether it’s a bar, a road-side or boardwalk stand, or (of course) fine dining… it’s inescapable.

Anxiety over potential cross-contamination is a normal issue for me, but it goes up to 11 at the beach.