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.

Our weekend of dining in PA Dutch country


Well, if you’ve been keeping up, you read about my plan for our trip, what we did on our trip, and maybe even the email from the Amish Village owner.  This one’s all about the food.  We ate a lot while we were out that way, but we didn’t hit the regular buffet/smörgåsbord places like Miller’s or Dienner’s.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about my shellfish allergy.  Buffets can be a nightmare for someone like me… not only do I have to worry about cross-contamination in the kitchen (like on shared cooking surfaces, utensils, or fryers), but I have to worry about my fellow slovenly patrons carelessly flinging bits of deathfish on to adjacent foods, or better yet inadvertently dropping some off of their plate while at a different table.  No thank you.  No worries though, with the internet I was able to do a lot of research ahead of time on shellfish-free and allergy friendly restaurants.

FOOD

Prince Street Café
Prince Street Cafe on Urbanspoon Prince Street Cafe on Allergy Eats Prince Street Cafe on Facebook Twitter | @PrinceStCafe

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

The continental breakfast at the Super 8 in Lancaster was lacking, so we decided to check out the Prince Street Cafe first thing on Saturday morning.  We were quite glad that we did!  I had an email exchange going on before our trip with the manager that put me totally at ease.  I noticed there was no shellfish on their menu, but I emailed them to be sure.  It ends up that they do occasionally have a seafood soup and it would be in-house while we were there, but I wasn’t worried about the cross-contamination there after hearing how it was prepared and seeing that they acknowledged food allergies on their menu by offering gluten-free and nut-free options.  I can’t stress enough what a relief & pleasure this type of email exchange was.

The place was packed and we got there shortly after 9:00am.  The line before us went quickly & there were thankfully menus posted prominently in two places near to where you order.  My wife & I both chose the classic breakfast sandwich on ciabatta, I opted for the addition of bacon.  I also had an iced tea, and added some honey which was available on the counter… which made it absolutely perfect.  The sandwiches were great, the eggs were cooked perfectly (by a microwave of all things, I think), the cheese was beautifully melted & the ciabatta was nice & fresh.  I dug the nice slab ‘o bacon too, it didn’t overpower the sandwich.

All-in-all, this seemed like a great place to hang out.  The employees were friendly, there was a really diverse crowd, it was very relaxing.  We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in the area, perhaps for a lunch or even just some coffee.

Jakey’s Amish BBQ
Jakey's Amish BBQ on Urbanspoon Jakey's Amish BBQ on Allergy Eats Jakey's Amish BBQ on Facebook

Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

I hadn’t  seeked-out Jakey’s before our trip.  I did find a business-card sized ad in the giant tourist brochure display wall in our hotel.  I saw the word BBQ, and it was all over.  I mean, I do love BBQ.  I did find a menu online before going in, and again no deathfish, but I did do the usual awkward asking if there is/was every any shellfish prepared there before ordering & after looking over the menu.  After a no from the waitress, a confused look, then a double-check with someone in the back, we were good.  My problem in general with BBQ joints is that I want everything.  Thankfully they usually have sampler or at least combo platters.

Since we were there for lunch though, and doing some touristy running-around, I came to the sad realization that I shouldn’t fill up on BBQ.  I opted for the barbecue turkey sandwich with the mild sauce, and my wife went for the chicken sandwich.  Sadly, you don’t see a lot of turkey BBQ ’round the ‘Burgh… so I was glad to have that as a choice.  I had a side of fries, & Bethany got the macaroni salad.  My sandwich was delicious.  The turkey was nice & juicy, and there wasn’t so much sauce that you couldn’t appreciate the taste of the meat.  I did grab the spicy BBQ sauce that was provided on the table… for the sandwich & for some french fry dipping.  It wasn’t really all that hot for being the “spicy” sauce, but it was really good.  I’d like to try the other meats & the Carolina-style sauce…  Maybe some corn fritters instead of the fries?  We’ll be through again when we’re back that way!

Added bonus, it had a real BBQ joint kind of vibe… it shared space with a T-shirt shop that sold all kinds of stuff, from religious to raunchy.  The tables had that red & white checkered pattern tablecloth, and there were while plastic outdoor type chairs.  The guy behind the counter who I must assume was the owner or at least a manager was very cool to his employees who seemed new, telling them they were doing a good job.  He even sent out extra fries for us, apparently there weren’t enough on my plate when it came out!  Ha ha.  Our waitress did quite well, especially if she was new.  The order was correct, quick, and we had sweet tea refills without even asking.  Add this place to my list of favorite BBQ joints!

Stoltzfus Farm Resaurant
Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Urbanspoon Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Allergy Eats Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant on Facebook

Family-Style Meal

Family-Style Meal

Now, this place was just incredible.  Again, I checked out the menu online beforehand, and asked the hostess about shellfish when we arrived.  No deathfish in sight (or hidden in the kitchen), so I was good to go.  It looks like a  quaint little farmhouse with a beautiful garden on the outside, and once inside it doesn’t really lose that farmhouse appeal.  We were seated in a room off to the side with smaller tables, as large tables filled the front room (& I believe around back) and were full of mostly families with a bunch of children.  Our waitress could have played Granny in the Tweetie & Sylvester cartoons if they were to be made into a live action film.

On the way in the door, you opt in for (& pay for) the buffet, and then if you make it through that, you can order desserts à la carte.  We didn’t make it to dessert.  Why?  Well, they managed to stuff me full of literally everything on the menu.  I actually had everything too.  It was quite comforting to not have to worry about any cross-contamination or hidden ingredients… and it helped that everything tasted perfect.  first they brought out applesauce, pepper cabbage (a kind of cole slaw with red bell peppers & a vinegar dressing), chow-chow, and apple butter w/ white & wheat bread.  It was my first time trying chow-chow, and I loved it.  It tasted like bread n’ butter pickles, but was a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, green beans, cucumbers (pickles), kidney beans, and maybe peppers and onions?  Next, she brought out everything else…  Fried chicken, sausage, hamloaf, green beans, corn, buttered noodles, potato stuffing (I’ve heard it called potato filling), & sweet potatoes.  All their meat comes from Stoltzfus Meats, right next door.  The fried chicken was excellent, the breading was perfect & the chicken itself was delicious & succulent.  I could eat potato stuffing all day… I mean carbs + carbs, covered in carb-filled gravy?  Yes please.

I could go on, but you get the point.  If you catch me on a craving & a free day… I just might drive out there to get a meal & come right home.  It would be worth the drive!  I wish I had room for the tapioca pudding.

Wawa
Wawa on Urbanspoon Wawa on Facebook Twitter | @gottahava

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

It’s odd mentioning it with the other places, but we did eat breakfast there.  I’m from the other side of the state where we have Sheetz & Get·Go… so of course I had to try a Wawa.  I’m a huge Sheetz fan, and had it in my head that I already liked Sheetz better.  I may be wrong.  The girl that made our sandwiches was really friendly, and offered to help us with the touch screen if we needed it.  (We must have appeared to be n00bz while we were blipping through checking out the entire menu.

My sandwich not only ridiculously large, but they eggs were really fluffy.  I think the menu said something about them containing cheese?  Whatever they do with them, it works for me.  I got a steak egg & cheese sandwich and it was delicious.  Wawa has the same problem as Sheetz & Get·Go as far as wrapping sandwiches though.  No matter where I get touch-screen gas station food, there’s always more sauce/ketchup/dressing on the outside of the bun than the inside.  You’d think that someone would have come up with a solution for that by now.  Perhaps it’s a tie.  Maybe Sheetz is still my favorite.  It’s pretty close though.  (Luckily, there was no deathfish on the menu, so it’s a safe place for me if not classy.  Ha ha.)

Strasburg Railroad Trackside Café
Strasburg Rail Road - Trackside Café on Urbanspoon Strasburg Railroad on Facebook Twitter | @StrasburgRR

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries...

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries.

We stopped here to get some lunch after the first train ride of the day at the Strasburg Railroad.  It was an OK cafeteria-style kind of joint, sadly cash only.  I checked out the menu when we got in there, & did ask if they ever cooked shellfish.  I was told they didn’t & felt safe.  I got a turkey sandwich & Bethany got a burger, and we shared some fries.  My sandwich was pretty good… but Bethany wasn’t a big fan of the burger.  The fries seemed a little old for some reason.  I think we both wished we had just went back to Jakey’s.  Ha ha.

Overall though, I guess we got what we paid for, it was a nice cheap quick & convenient lunch.  I did like the fact that they had up signs warning about the use of peanut oil for those with peanut allergies.  For a family attraction & with food allergies on the rise, this is a responsible thing for a business to do.

Splits & Giggles
Splits & Giggles on Urbanspoon Splits & Giggles on Allergy Eats Splits & Giggles on Facebook Twitter | @splitsngiggles
First off, best name ever for an ice cream shop.  Secondly, the guys that own & run the place are very cool.  I also can’t believe I didn’t pause to take a photo of the ice cream.  This was another place that I had scouted-out beforehand, and found through either Urbanspoon or Allergy Eats.  I saw that their menu was devoid of deathfish, so I sent the now standard just-to-be-sure email.  They had a soup containing seafood, but it hasn’t been in-house for a while… so I was safe.  These guys were really cool via email, and even dropped me a line about special hours for that Sunday when they noticed I didn’t stop in on Saturday.

I was hoping to make it there for a lunch or light dinner topped off with some ice cream, but as it happened we were heading home well after lunch & way before dinner, so we decided to ruin dinner & just have some ice cream.  It was a good call.  I had a hot fudge sundae in a waffle bowl, and Bethany went for rocky-road in a pretzel cone.  The ice cream was great, and the place was really cool.  It had a nice neighborhood vibe.  They even took a bowl of water out for some customers who were outside eating some ice cream whit their dog.  Next time we’re in the area, I’d like to get in & try one of their panini sandwiches.  They get bonus points for the line “Please alert us of ANY food allergies or concerns you have before ordering.” on their menu.

FOOD

Well, that was all of our meals while on our road trip.  I won’t include the Hardee’s that we hit on the way home…  it’s probably best for them if I don’t comment.

Ever been to any of these places?  Let me know what you think!

Subway | Eat Death™


I’ve recently renewed my dialog with Subway, sparked by the news of them rolling out a gluten-free menu.  Here’s how it’s going down:

From:

ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Subject: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: Paula Gomez <gomez_p@subway.com>, Rob Searfus <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>, Mack Bridenbaker <m.bridenbaker@sfaft.org>, Christine Sumecki <c.sumecki@sfaft.org>, Subway Customer Care Team <asksubway@subway.com>, “B. Pingarron” <b.pingarron@sfaft.org>, “M. Luby” <m.luby@sfaft.org>, “Anna Marie Seeley (Customer Care Representative)” <seeley_a@subway.com>, Kevin Kane <kane_k@subway.com>

Hello Friends at Subway,

I write to you today because we have had a dialogue going in the past about food allergies and cross-contamination that I would like to continue.  I have recently read a few articles online informing the masses that Subway plans to roll-out some gluten-free menu options in the Dallas & Tyler Texas markets soon.  If you would like to read the articles in question, here are some links:

While I would like to be able to applaud this effort, I also find it quite frustrating.

I am quite proud of Subway as an organization when I read such responsible things like “The baked goods will arrive pre-packaged and individually wrapped. Employees will be educated on how to cut the bread using a pre-wrapped knife to avoid cross contamination.”  I mean, really… this is a novel idea and a stellar effort as well as great news for Celiac afflicted potential Subway customers.  Certainly lines like “Also, to further avoid cross-contamination, that same Sandwich Artist will prepare the order from beginning to end, ensuring a 100-percent gluten-free meal” offer a level of comfort to those who must dine gluten-free.  While other restaurants have offered gluten-free menus, you seem to understand that a knife that cuts a regular bun cannot also cut the bun of a gluten-free selection.  This would, I imagine, be quite a worry for a wheat-allergic or Celiac person.  I can imagine this scenario quite well, actually.  You may remember my past missives expressing my allergy to shellfish (and more specifically to your “seafood” sub offering).

This is where my frustration sets in.  I have written to you on multiple occasions expressing the frustration for not only my shellfish allergy, but all of the “top 8”; Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  Why have you picked this opportunity to only concentrate on the wheat?  There are others too… I know of people with tomato and pepper allergies that would be thrown into the same anaphylactic shock that I would given I were to take a bite of unknowingly deathfish-laiden lunchmeat.  While you seem to understand the importance of a gluten-free knife… what about a cheese-free, tomato-free, and shellfish-free knife?  Perhaps you have forgotten my previous letter with a few colorful illustrations of the contaminated knife issue.  I will repost here for your convenience:

Then we have the community knife.  If one were to cut someone’s seafood sub with that knife, wipe it off, then cut my sub, there are STILL allergens on that knife, enough allergens to kill me.  Do you want me to be thrown in to an Anaphylactic fit?  I doubt it.  Well, at least, I hope not.

Think about this – do you share your toothbrush with everyone in your household?  Would you with everyone in your office?  Would you share it with everyone that you pass on the way to work in the morning or with everyone who’s eating lunch with you at the same place where you’re choosing to dine?

Yes, it sounds gross, but those potential germs that you’re no doubt currently horrified of are the same as the very real allergens that will most certainly throw me into instant death.

If that didn’t do it for you, imagine I put a giant dried dog turd on the sandwich board, cut it in half, wrapped it, wiped off the knife [with a re-used dishrag type cloth], and then cut your sandwich.  By Subway’s current logic, that knife is clean and contamination free.  This is most certainly not a pretty picture to you, my friend.  Is it?

Does any of this ring a bell?

Also, I have received conflicting reports on how such issues are currently handled or have been handled in the past.  One reply states…

The Company policy directs our independent restaurant owners / operators to take all necessary precautions to prevent the possibility of cross contamination. This includes the policy of washing all utensils and containers after each use. Each restaurant is independently owned and operated and is the responsibility of the franchise owner to implement and enforce the policy.

Which seems to conflict with yet another reply…

I have gone ahead and copied our Training Department so that further lessons can be addressed with owners and their employees on proper handling.

And, the latest information according to the QSRWeb.com article is that “Sandwich Artists in those two markets will be trained on how to cut the roll with a pre-wrapped knife for one use only.”  So, have they been trained in allergies in cross-contamination already, or not?  Color me confused, my friends.

I’d feel safer if the seafood concoction wasn’t anywhere near the meat & cheese where it currently sits.  I’d also feel safer if the same knife wasn’t used to cut all of the sandwiches, and the same dishrag-type towel wasn’t used to wipe off the knife in random intervals between sandwich slicing.  I’d feel safer if all the sandwich artists, managers, and owners were trained on allergens, cross-contamination, and the seriousness of anaphylactic shock.  I’d feel safer if all stores contained a first aid kit complete with an epi pen and clear instructions for its use.

Why should the Celiac-afflicted feel safer, but the rest of us with deadly food allergies should not?  I look forward to your response, your insights, and how you plan to move forward regarding all potentially deadly allergens and how they are to be handled in your stores.  Thank you once again for your time, I hope to hear from you soon.

Inquisitively,
-ERiC AiXeLsyD

P.S. – I was wondering, when you work in an office for Subway, do you have an in-office Subway in which the employees receive (or make) their own lunch?  Or, is there a Subway nearby where you get free or discounted food?  Or, are you all too sick of Subway to eat there?

And I got this back…

From: Searfus, Rob <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>
Date: Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 4:31 PM
Subject: RE: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>

Hello Eric,

My apologies for not replying earlier, I was traveling and in meetings most of the week, (as well as attending to some family business).  But enough of the excuses.

Forgive me for not having more product answers, but I’m simply a field marketing representative out here on the west coast.  I have inquired with our R&D department to try and get the answers to your questions.  No replies yet, but this week has been tough for me to get a hold of anyone on the east coast due to the severe winter storms that they have been having (offices closed for at least a couple of days.)

I’ll follow up by e-mail when I get any answers for you.

Thanks, and BTW, what part of the US to you hail from?

Rob Searfus
Field Marketing Manager
Subway® Franchise World Headquarters
16337 SW Leeding Ln
Tigard, OR 97223
Cell: 503-954-5479
Toll Free: 1-800-888-4848 x 4089
Fax 503-579-6715
e-mail: searfus_r@subway.com

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION CHANGE:  PLEASE NOTE MY EMAIL ADDRESS HAS CHANGED TO searfus_r@subway.com.  Please update your address book to reflect this change.  We are undergoing a technology transition.  During this transition, you may still receive emails from the “sfaft.org” address.  This is not an error, but please enter my new subway.com email address when sending emails.

So I wrote this…

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 4:17 PM
Subject: Re: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: “Searfus, Rob” <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>

Thank you Rob,

I had actually wondered if anyone would reply.  I had an email chain going before with a Ms. Paula Gomez & Ms. Ana Seely… but they have been short replies and my main questions have gone unsanswered.

I’m in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  Thanks for your time, I hope to hear from your colleagues soon!

-Eric

But in the mean time, I made some pretty pictures.  I can’t decide which one I like the most.

Which one do you like best?

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.

Families & Allergy Comprehension Problems…


Got an interesting email today from Allergic Living Magazine, calling for submissions of stories for people with families who just don’t comprehend the severity of some food allergies, down to simple stubborn refusal to cater to the needs of food-allergic relatives.

From: Allergic Living magazine <Allergic_Living_magazine@mail.vresp.com>
To: [me]
Sent: Fri, September 24, 2010 8:33:04 AM
Subject: Allergies and family feuds

When Family Doesn’t “Get” Food Allergies

Dear Allergic Living reader,

Do you dread visiting your parents because they don’t take the allergy precautions you or your child require? Maybe you have a sister who knows you have a shellfish allergy but insists on serving shrimp? Perhaps your mother-in-law refuses to stop putting out bowls of nuts, even though her grandchild is allergic?

Or have you finally figured out a way to get through to a close relative, and now it’s all smooth sailing?

Allergic Living magazine is researching a feature article for its coming Winter issue on dealing with relatives who fail to grasp the seriousness of allergies or celiac disease. Writer Carolyn Black will be speaking to experts about solutions to help open the lines of communication.

But first, she wants to hear the stories of people’s experiences with family. We commonly hear of allergy feuding, but we want to try to understand why it occurs. If you have such a story, please e-mail Carolyn directly with a brief summary of it at mcarolynblack@rogers.com. If she can use your story, Carolyn will contact you.

Since this can be a delicate subject, Allergic Living can protect people’s identities where necessary. Thanks in advance for helping us with an important article.

Regards,

The Editors at Allergic Living

I’ll have to think about my own stories.  I generally don’t expect family picnics to be shellfish free, but I’m very picky about what I eat at any informal  (or formal) gathering.  For my own internal mental issues, I have to be able to visually identify all the ingredients before I put it on my plate.  I also generally use the wife as my official taste-tester.  Do those mini wraps contain crab?  Does that salad have shrimp? Ha ha.

I’m interested to see the follow-up to this, as dealing with people in general in regards to a severe allergy is difficult enough.  I can’t imagine not having familial support.

I have run into people thought that insist you just need to “eat it a little bit at a time”, suffer the reactions, and “build a tolerance”.  While this may work for some less severe reactions… it’s certainly not advisable in all cases.  I’m thankful that I’m not related to these people.

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.