So, have you heard of the #TealPumpkinProject?


This year, we’ll have 3 bowls of treats for Halloween.  We’ll have the traditional chocolate gooey goodness, a bowl of peanut/tree-nut free treats, and a bowl entirely made up of non-food party favor-ish goodies.

Why?  Why not?  I was able to pick up a bunch of party favors at the Dollar Tree, and my wife Bethany got some Halloween themed stuff from Target.  The no-nuts candy wasn’t a big deal either, all we had to do was read the label… which we’re used to.  Even the extra bowl was only $1.  It wasn’t a whole lot of effort or money.

Even painting a foam pumpkin teal for use for years to come wasn’t a big deal, or printing the posters from the FARE website.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that.  This is a movement.  It started with some of the most kick-ass people on the planet, food allergy moms in Tennessee.

FARE | The Teal Pumpkin Project

My point, I guess, is that it isn’t a lot of effort but it can be a big huge gigantic deal for a kid.  What’s a big deal?  To feel included on a holiday where you’re hyper aware that you’re different.  To know that this piece of candy doesn’t contain nuts or wasn’t “processed in a facility that may also use peanuts or tree nuts.”  To know that if you’re allergic to dairy or chocolate or just about everything that everyone else can eat or isn’t one of the top 8, but this little trinket or toy (or 2 or 3 if you’re at our house) is all yours.  To know that you don’t have to go home & “trade up” for safe candy on this one.  To know that your parents didn’t have to drop off a safe treat with all the neighbors ahead of time, and that someone else “gets” it.

I always liked getting those Little Hugs drinks (which may be a safe treat), but some people would complain about the weight.  That would have been gone by the time I got back to the road when I was a kid.  Then again, times have changed.  When I was a kid, we had to play the “guess who you are” game.  If I asked a kid his name now, the next ring of the doorbell would probably be the local police.  Also, kids… always let your parents check your candy for razor blades or syringes.

Like I said, we read labels.  Luckily shellfish is generally easy form me to avoid in packaged foods, slightly less so in restaurants.  Our little girl Molly can’t do eggs.  Well, she can do eggs baked into things, but has to avoid straight up eggs, mayonnaise, some mustards, custard, and we just noticed… Mallow Cups?  (I hate them, they are the devil’s candy.  The wife loves them though… even though it tastes like someone replaced the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with sunscreen.)  Will we have to avoid meringue too?  Who knows?  Hopefully she outgrow her allergy, I’ll never get over mine without some kind of cure.

There are many others out there going through the same thing.  We can stick together, and support each other.  We can ask those without any food allergies to support us too.  Spreading awareness is the key to keeping us all safe.  So, take a few minutes to learn about the #TealPumpkinProject.  Use the hashtag on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.), get a pumpkin and paint it teal, and/or print out the fliers.  Get some safe treats.

Teal Pumpkin Project - Ideas for non-food treats.

Subway still sucks, so does IHOP, take your allergy-sniffing dog there with you…


Some good food allergy articles popping up lately, if you’re paying attention:

  • Allergies in the classroom: What’s OK to send in for snack time?  –  Some good tips.  Not sure if I’m 100% on-board with banning stuff in schools & classrooms.  I’d just promote safety a little more.
  • Subway expanding gluten-free test – Subway is still clueless.  They’re pushing the gluten free fad as far as they can with as little effort as possible, all while making a big deal about it & ignoring that other allergens exist.  (Read the comments.)
  • IHOP flops – IHOP owed by the same company that owns Crapplebees, also could not give a crap about your food allergies.  Try the new effortless lemon-zest dairy-free salad today! (Read the comments.)
  • $20,000 allergy-sniffing dog is a real lifesaver – Such a great idea!  Too bad it’s a $20K price tag.  I’d love to have a deathfish-detecting pooch.  I’d also train him to poop right outside of Subway restaurants.
  • Managing your food allergies in dining halls and dorm rooms – It’s back to school time.  Solid advice from a real expert.  I’m all about the buddy system.  Friends that look out for your best interest as far as not dying are friends for life.

So yeah, stuff’s happening.  I’m really just posting this to say… we’re out there.

7 MILLION People Allergic to Shellfish?


So, check this out…  It’s shellfish/seafood allergy information from the Food Allergy Daily:

Shellfish Allergy Information

An estimated 2.3% of Americans – that’s nearly 7 million people – are allergic to seafood, including fish and shellfish. Shrimp, crab, and lobster cause most shellfish allergies.

Allergy to shellfish is considered lifelong; once a person develops the allergy, it is unlikely that they will lose it.

Approximately 60% of those with shellfish allergy first experienced an allergic reaction as an adult. To avoid a reaction, strict avoidance of seafood and seafood products is essential. Always read ingredient labels to identify shellfish ingredients. In addition, avoid touching shellfish, going to the fish market, and being in an area where shellfish are being cooked (the protein in the steam may present a risk).

Keep In Mind!

  • If you have seafood allergy, avoid seafood restaurants. Even if you order a non-seafood item off of the menu, it is safer to always assume that cross-contact is possible.
  • Asian restaurants often serve dishes that use fish sauce as a flavoring base. Exercise caution or avoid eating there altogether.
  • Shellfish protein can become airborne in the steam released during cooking and may be a risk. Stay away from cooking areas.
  • Many people who are allergic to shellfish are allergic to more than one kind. Talk to your doctor so that you know for sure what foods to avoid.

Frequently asked questions

Should carrageenan be avoided by a shellfish-allergic individual?

Carrageenan is not fish. Carrageenan, or “Irish moss,” is a red marine algae. This food product is used in a wide variety of foods, particularly dairy foods, as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and thickener. It appears safe for most individuals with food allergies. Carrageenan is not related to shellfish and does not need to be avoided by those with food allergies.

Should iodine be avoided by a shellfish-allergic individual?

Allergy to iodine, allergy to radiocontrast material (used in some radiographic procedures), and allergy to fish or shellfish are not related. If you have an allergy to shellfish, you do not need to worry about cross reactions with radiocontrast material or iodine

Yeah, there’s a lot there, but I can’t get past “An estimated 2.3% of Americans – that’s nearly 7 million people – are allergic to seafood, including fish and shellfish”.

DEAD from LOBSTER

DEAD from LOBSTER (AllergyMonkey.com)

<rant> Where the hell are you people?  Not to sound like a whiner… but all the Food Allergy “press” seems to go to peanuts, dairy, & wheat… and “Gluten Free” menu/options crap seems almost like the new Atkins.  All of a sudden, Celiac is Chic.  We have peanut-free baseball games and airplane flights, where are my shellfish-free beaches and cruises, or where’s my “no contact with shellfish” menu, or separate no-shellfish fryer?  Why is Lent my own personal hell every year when a favorite restaurant adds shrimp or crab-legs or a lobster sub to their menu?  It’s even more of a pain when it becomes permanent.  (I’m taking to you; Texas Roadhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, & Quiznos.)

Celiac disease isn’t even an allergy in the traditional sense, but it’s gobbling up all the press.  It’s an autoimmune disorder, and from my understanding… makes you poop a lot if you eat wheat.  Terrible, yes.  But, I don’t get diarrhea when I eat shellfish.  I get anaphylaxis.  Diarrhea may come along with the choking & swelling though.

I wish Shellfish Free had another user or 2 out of the apparent SEVEN MILLION of us out here.

That being said, awareness needs to be raised for ALL food allergies, whether in the top 8 or not.  So, Celiac people… throw us a gluten-free bone here, will you?  When a restaurant offers a gluten-free menu, how about a “That’s cool… but you know, there are so many allergies out there like peanut, milk, egg, shellfish, corn, peppers, and all kinds of crazy stuff.  Maybe you ought to look at your cross-contamination practices in all areas & cooking surfaces with all ingredients.”  (See this:  http://www.foodallergy.org/page/restaurants-guests-with-food-allergies</rant>

"No shellfish for me!"

"No shellfish for me!"

At any rate, where are my shellfish-allergic peeps?  This is your time & place to bitch about finding a good death-free and anxiety-free meal.  Stand up and be counted!  This is a roll call & we need a list 7-million freaking people long.  Please, leave your comments below with your story, your frustrations, or even with a positive experience related to your shellfish allergy… as well as links to any support groups or allergy resources that you hold dear.

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?

Gluten-Free food at Subway?


I recently came across an article that is at once good news and quite annoying…

Food Allergy Daily | Subway Now Testing Gluten-Free

On one hand, it’s great news that they’re finally recognizing a food allergy.  On the other, it almost angers me that they haven’t dealt with the shellfish issue that I have been telling them about for years.  (Literally… over the span of more than a few years, and through dozens of letters and emails.)

This part is quite amusing…

Employees will be educated on how to cut the bread using a pre-wrapped knife to avoid cross contamination.

Perhaps they read my dog-turd analogy?  In a response to that, My friend Ms. Gomez had assured me that they already wash all utensils to avoid cross-contamination.  Apparently this is not the case… or they wouldn’t need new training and a “pre-wrapped knife”.  (Besides the fact that I have seen the sandwich artists “wash” a knife after cutting a sandwich… with a dirty dish-rag.  To me, this doesn’t constitute washing.)

Although, one of the past letters did say this…

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

Maybe I’m the one who got the ball rolling here?

My favorite letter to Subway: https://aixelsyd13.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/five-five-dollar-five-dollar-foot-up-your-ass/

Check out my review of a local Subway on UrbanSpoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/23/271709/restaurant/Dormont/Subway-Banksville-Plaza-by-Kuhns-Pittsburgh

I’m going to have to write to them again, and ask a few questions… like if they’ve already been trained in cross-contamination, what’s this new training for?  And… why are they going gluten-free and ignoring the people with allergies to shellfish, peanuts, eggs, and the other “top 8“?