Epi Pen Bill! (The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act)


I haven’t written about food allergies in a while.  I would think that Epi-Man would be pleased with this post.  Check out this article about legislation being brought forth to give easier access to epinephrine auto-injectors and their administration by school staff.

EpiPens are portable epinephrine-dispensing de...

Image via Wikipedia

Read all about the The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act at the FAAN website.

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Image by raindrift via Flickr

I’m not big on the gub’ment micro-managing… but how can I not get behind this?  I’d like to see something like this eventually passed for restaurants too.  Why not have one more step in keeping kids & adults safe?

Yes, the act is aimed at kids with food allergies… but us adults are out there too.  What if a teacher, administrator, janitor, nurse, or anyone else on site has a life-threatening food allergy?  This kind of thing could come in handy for all of us out there.

Keep watching the news, I hope this gets passed soon and without any political shenanigans.

Epi-men!

Epi-men!

AllergyEats | Defining allergy-friendly restaurant survey results


So, a while ago I posted asking for you to help out Paul from Allergy Eats with defining “allergy-friendly” as it pertains to a restaurant.  I also took the time to post my own thoughts before I sent them on to be tabulated.

Well, now Paul has posted his summary & survey results to the still mysterious government body.  I enjoyed reading the results, so I thought I’d share:

AllergyEats | Blog Logo

AllergyEats Blog

The AllergyEats Blog | How do we define an allergy-friendly restaurant? A look at the survey results

It’s great to see the results, and I can’t wait to see where & how they’re put to use.  It’s also great that all of our comments were passed along with the report, so rest assured that your voice has been heard thanks to Paul.  Hopefully it lays groundwork for more gub’ment organizations to follow by example!  (Although, we need to push from a consumer level too.)

My take on the results… it looks like we’re all looking for everyone in the restaurant from kitchen to wait staff to managers to be trained in food allergies and cross-contamination and possibly even certified… which seems like a no-brainer.  Even if that’s all we get, it’s a great start.

Employee answering phone needs to be knowledgeable: 1

Apparently, I’m the only one who wants the person answering the phone to know what they’re talking about.  Ha ha.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to define shellfish on the phone, or ask if they have any only to get there after being told no… and they totally do.  Perhaps it’s shame on me for not asking to talk to a manager…  but the person answering the phone ought to be knowledgeable enough to hand-off such questions, so I stand by my statement.

Cross contamination: (42 responses)

Understands and avoids cross-contamination:  21

Separate and cleaned prep areas and cookware:  20

Should wash hands:  1

Who said they should wash their hands?  Seriously?  I hope they’re doing that anyway… and that they don’t really need those signs in the restroom as a reminder.

Treats ALL allergies the same, not just the Big 8: 1

Apparently I’m the lone theorist there.  Really?  Well, I’m in the Top 8 category, so I guess… yo hell with the rest of you!  Ha ha.

No nuts strewn about the restaurant: 1

This one agitates me.  If it’s part of the restaurant’s shtick/ambiance/personality… then just give it up.  I like being able to walk into Five Guys and grab a tray of peanuts.  I don’t expect (or want) to dine at Long John Silvers or Red Lobster any time soon.

Specific allergen menus available in-house (not just online): 13

Allergen symbol list on menus: 12

Online food allergy menu: 4

All excellent points.  I’ve blogged about the need for menu symbols before.  Let’s get this done, people!

Ability to print out all ingredients for customer / show labels to customer if necessary: 11

Great idea.  A representative from Bob Evans once emailed me a chart detailing where everything was cooked in the kitchen & what surfaces would be safe with my shellfish allergy while they has a seasonal Shrimp stir-fry dish.  How cool is that?

At any rate, read the Blog at AllergyEats, and leave some feedback whether you participated in the original survey or not… it’s still valuable.  I’d also appreciate any comments here.  I’m sure the peanut thing will get some people riled up.  Ha ha.

 

Defining Allergy-Friendly


AllergyEats.com

AllergyEats.com

So, quite a task has been put to the food allergy community by Allergy Eats:  Define what it means to for a restaurant to be “allergy-friendly”.

You may have seen it in a recent re-posting by me, or on your own.  I urge you to form your own response and send it to contact@allergyeats.com.  I figured that I’d use this blog to sort out my thoughts before I sent them on to Paul at Allergy Eats.  I don’t exactly how I’ve morphed in to a food allergy advocate of sorts, but I feel that it’s important to help out any way that I can, and encourage others to keep up work that moves us all in the right direction.  There are already some great comments on the blog, and I’m sure he’s got an inbox full of suggestions already… but it’s important to keep them coming so this can be looked at from multiple angles.

AllergyEats T-shirtI like bulleted lists for some reason, so that’s how I’ll try to organize my thoughts:

  • The restaurant has to have a policy that reaches to ALL levels. Too many times restaurants claim to have god allergy practices, but it doesn’t trickle down to the wait staff, the cooks, or anyone past management.  Having a policy is great, but it needs to be understood and respected through all levels.  I feel comfort in a place when the waitress has the manager or even the chef come out to discuss allergy & cross-contamination issues with me.  Training, some sort of certification, and re-training annually or semi-annually would be excellent.
  • Changing current thinking. This is a good one…  Today at Boston Market, I noticed a sign on top of the cash register that read something to the effect of “If you have food allergies, please talk to the manager before placing your order.”  It’s great they’re recognizing the fact that there are food allergies out there, but… the cash register is at the end of the counter, and only reached well after you place your order.  Also, I’d hope that someone with food allergies would already have a heightened awareness when going anywhere to eat.  (If not, please read this.) More thought needs to be put into place, not just “CYA” measures.
  • They have to exude reassurance. A poster is great.  An “allergy-friendly” menu is great.  A sign at the cash register or on your table or on the salad bar is great… but not enough.  In with the training on all levels, the sever (or whoever answers the phone) must bee confident with the answers that you want to hear.  No “I don’t think” or “not really” or “I’m not sure so you’d just better not order that” will do.  Have the right answers.  Know why.  Understand the severity.  Knowledge of the kitchen and where everything is cooked should be a must for servers and managers.  Nuts can’t just be “picked off”.  There’s no such thing as “oh a little won’t hurt” with butter.  The fryer doesn’t “get hot enough to kill anything you’re allergic to”.  It’s unsettling fr someone with food allergies to dine out.  Making them feel safe is a must for “friendliness”.
    • On a related note… especially the person answering your phone.  When dining out of town, I try to call ahead (or get my wife to call ahead for me).  My favorite response ever was an Amish place in Ohio where I asked if they had shellfish (“like shrimp or crab or oysters” I said)… the girl went on to say “No, we have oysters, but they’re in soup, and there’s shrimp… but it’s not in a shell.”  Needless to say, we didn’t go there.
  • All allergies are equal. It’s great to see “nut free” options, or “gluten-free” menus, but let’s treat all allergies with the same respect to cross contamination.  The top 8 are; Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  But, there are others too!  I know of people with severe allergies to peppers, and have heard of corn allergies.  These people need to feel safe too!  Current government regulations don’t regulate the labeling of any allergens other than the top 8, so that’s all that people seem to pay attention to.  Special attention needs to be given to all kinds of allergies, not just one allergen or group of singled-out allergens.
  • Know what you’re serving. Are their anchovies in the Italian dressing or Worcester sauce?  Is this fried in peanut oil?  The server shouldn’t necessarily need to know off hand, but this information should be able to be provided upon request. Having it in written form would be tremendous.  (We could go into other special dietary needs here too… not an allergy, but I have an aunt with Diverticulitus who needs to know if there are seeds or nuts that may be ground up and hidden in things like dressing or soups or bread.) Listing all this on a website would be excellent.
  • Separate locations & utensils for allergy-free meal preparation. Cross-contamination is huge.  I don’t worry about a mutant lobster crawling into my mouth by itself… but I do worry (immensely) that some scallop juice might be on the grill where my steak was cooked… or that someone who just made a shrimp cocktail didn’t wash their hands before making my salad.  I’d love to know that the place where I’m dining has a fish or shellfish only fryer, separate grill spaces for different kinds of meat (even a vegetarian/vegan section would be cool), even separate cutting boards, prep areas, knives, and other utensils.
    • Keep the nuts off the salad bar… near their own station.
    • Hey Subway, don’t put the “seafood” sub stuff right next to the other lunchmeat, and don’t cut those subs with the same knife you use for all the other subs!
  • Ability to accommodate the unusual. Say someone has an inhalation allergy to peanuts…  Can you seat them somewhere so that the people at the next table are able to order some peanut-encrusted dessert without throwing them into an anaphylactic fit?  Can you do this without rolling your eyes, sighing, and making it a big deal?
  • Special markers/identifiers. I saw a commenter note this in the comments on the Allergy Eats blog post, and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Something ought to be a literal red flag… in the system, on an order ticket, on the check, on even the plate itself.  Everyone knows that orange-rimmed coffee pots mean decaf.  Why not red for allergies?  Or get crazy & assign a color to each of the top 8 & one for “other” allergies?  Did I read that Legal Sea Foods does double-plating or something to that effect?  It’s genius.  I’d like to extend the symbols idea to the menu too… why not have some sort of system with easily recognized food allergy icons?

That’s my take for now, but there are already many other great suggestions in the comments section over at Allergy EatsPlease, take the time to send yours to contact@allergyeats.com before Feb. 2nd!

 

AllergyEats | Urgent request for support to help impact REAL, impending food allergy legislation!


This is an important one for my food allergy readers… please take the time to read this post from Allergy Eats and respond accordingly!  This is your chance to have some real input to actual legislation, not just another request to your state, federal, and local officials.

The entire post below is reposted with assumed permission… please re-post, re-blog, re-tweet, use your ham radio or the telegraph, and get the word out.

Urgent request for support to help impact REAL, impending food allergy legislation!

I am reaching out to the entire food allergy community with a great opportunity for us to have an impact on REAL, forthcoming food allergy legislation.

A few months ago, I was invited to work with a governmental body that is enacting a food allergy law pertaining to restaurants.  (For now, please respect my decision not to mention specifics.  I believe doing so could compromise my ability to effectively represent our food allergy constituency.)  I was, and remain, very excited about this opportunity to advocate for our community.

In the course of this group’s discussions, there seemed to be a lingering question – what is the definition of an allergy-friendly restaurant? While I was very comfortable responding to that question myself, I believed at the time that it would be more effective to have community comments, which I was (and am) very confident would support my position.  I suggested that I contact members of the food allergy community, via the thousands of AllergyEats members and social media followers, and solicit as many unprompted opinions as possible.

So here’s what I’m requesting.  Could you please take a moment to answer the following question:

How would you define an allergy-friendly restaurant?  (Please be as specific as possible.)

This is an absolutely critical opportunity to affect not only impending legislation, but legislation that could become a template for other states and municipalities across the nation!

I strongly urge you to take a few minutes to respond to this request.  I believe my effectiveness in advocating for the food allergy community will be directly impacted by how many supporters answer this call.  To that end, please also consider spreading this message as broadly as possible, using social media, blogs, or any other resource you have access to.  The more voices we have, the more effective we will be!

I assure you that I will continue to do my best in advocating for our community and I promise to share more about this particular legislation when appropriate.

Important Note: I need to collect responses by February 2, giving us just one week, so please consider responding as soon as possible.

Again, the question I am asking you to answer is:

How would you define an allergy-friendly restaurant?  (Please be as specific as possible)

Please submit your responses to me at contact@allergyeats.com or feel free to post your comments here on the blog by clicking Comments or Reply.  (Email is preferable, but either is greatly appreciated.)

Thank you for your support!

I’m going to say it even though I shouldn’t have to… comments on this blog are appreciated, but to get them to AllergyEats, please comment on the original blog post or email contact@allergyeats.com.

Sadly, this sums up my general attitude towards dining out with food allergies and “safe” menu options:

http://twitter.com/#!/FoodAllergyBuzz/status/30366826915434496

 

School Board/Food Allergy Obsurdity in Illinois


This is ridiculous and an outrage on many levels.

http://twitter.com/#!/AllergyEats/status/24449565625163776

Please read the article at Allergy Eats (originally from Kelly the Food Allergy Mama), and let them know what you think.  I’ll be commenting later most likely, after I’ve had time to gather some thoughts.

Apparently these people didn’t hear or care about Katelyn Carlson, who is in their own state.

I too, balk at government legislation on allergy issues, with the possibility of reaching too far… but really… all this legislation is calling for is a policy covering some instruction on food allergies, and maybe having some epi pens on hand.  I would guess that these programs could be subsidized by pharmaceutical corporations looking to get their name out there and possibly better their 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

Cake-Baking Hooligans


Testing out this Blackbird Pie Tweet-embedder that WordPress is talking about…

Apparently all I have to do it put the tweet’s url on a line all its own, and it imports the whole thing.  Pretty snazzy.

Really though… if I rode around in the back of my Subie or in the back of the wife’s Scion (assuming the seat was down), I’m pretty sure I’d get a ticket.  Even if I had the Ark of the Covenant that we had just rescued from the infamous  secret government warehouse… I’m pretty sure I’d still get a ticket.  Yet, these people on TV get a free pass.

Not that I’m a staunch seat-belt law supporter… but it is a law now, and I wear one as it has saved me from serious injury in the past.  Maybe I’m completely off base, as this does happen in other states where they might not have click-it-or-ticket laws.  I remember riding with my cousins in the back of my dad’s GMC pickup (with a cap) from here all the way to Myrtle Beach when I was a little kid.  Nobody died, and it was actually a fun trip.

I just think it’s funny that one can do something illegal on camera, broadcast it, and face no repercussions… yet I park on the street in from of my house 1 or 2 days a year on a non-holiday weekday between certain hours or on a street-sweeping day and I get a ticket.

 

POOR DANK SIGN / DANG PRISON OK


I love wordplay, anagrams, and word origins.  Sometimes, I imagine to myself that the subject of this post must be how some people see this sign:

NO DOGS IN PARK

NO DOGS IN PARK

At least, that’s maybe what I hope… that they have some learning disability, a reading comprehension problem, are from a foreign country, or are just flat-out illiterate.  I’d rather believe any excuse over the probable truth;  They just don’t care.

Before we get the animal lovers all riled up… I’d like to make it clear that I’m not arguing against dogs being allowed in the park.  In fact, I think the paths in the park are a perfect place to walk your dog, and that animal lovers everywhere ought to band together to get this rule appealed.

Barring your (and my) personal opinion though, the rule still stands that our canine friends are prohibited from the park.  I mean, that sign is pretty clear.  There’s not really any way to misunderstand the message put forth, and there are plenty of them all around the park.  (If you need to actually see it in writing from an authority, I have done you the favor of finding the Dormont Borough Code online, and you can see in Article I of Chapter 75  [The Animal Code] § 75-2, that animals are prohibited in the park areas.)

I’m not suggesting that the Dormont police patrol the park to hand out pointless citations, as they most certainly have better things to do with their time.

I mean, I get that we were brought up with Fred Rogers telling us all that we’re special and different.  Somehow that may have translated to the belief that rules that you don’t like simply don’t apply to you.  I also get that to a certain extent.  I mean, it’s got to be some kind of inherent human nature to question authority.  When you’re told do do something, you recoil a little bit with an internal “excuse me?” At least, I do.  The reaction is stronger and longer if it’s something that you don’t want to do or something that you don’t agree with.  Perhaps I have just listened to too much anarchy-themed punk rock over the years.

How this translates to the “laws don’t apply to me” mentality, I just don’t get it.  This is just another take on my shopping cart rant, I guess.  The main difference being that that only applied to general guidelines of polite  and decent behavior, and this applies to an actual law… however trivial that law may be.

I’m not saying I’m better than you, or that I never break any laws.  I had a problem a long time ago with collecting speeding tickets, and barring my recent Illinois interstate relapse, it’s common knowledge among my friends and family that I pretty much drive like someone’s grandma these days.  We generally all go faster than 25 MPH in 25 MPH zones (unless we’re on a school campus, busy city intersection, or in front of a police station).  Living in Pennsylvania, I remember the collective sigh of state-wide relief when the speed limit was raised from 55 MPH to 65 MPH.  People didn’t like the law, so they wrote, campaigned, and things were changed.

Perhaps it’s a risk thing?  If I’m speeding, I’m generally thinking the probability of being caught is low… so it’s rationalized as OK with me somehow.  If you bring your dog to the park, are you thinking that there’s never really a police presence in the park, and no one’s going to turn you in so you’re safe?

Is it the classic “well, other people are doing it”?  I can see this one working in someone’s head too.  My wife & I walk in the park probably 5 days out of the week most weeks.  On any given day, we see at least one dog in the park, sometimes as many as 5 or so at a time.  If I were a dog owner in an urban area with access to a beautiful nearby park where other people are walking their dogs, I’m sure I’d bring my dog out too.  Rationale being that all the other dogs are out, so it must be OK.

In fact, not to long ago, we helped a lady corral her unleashed little beagle mix.  He was clearly not ready to go home, and she was in no condition to run after her dog.  Standing and yelling “come here, Casey!” apparently doesn’t work all that well with small excitable furry friends.  He was quite eager to romp over to us ready for more play.  Unfortunately his unconditional offer of puppy playtime was betrayed by us turning him over to his owner.

When I started out, this was going to be another “what’s wrong with you people”* blog with a “what is wrong with a society that stops paying attention to the little rules” tone.  I think the latter has taken precedent, with myself included.

I have just realized that I too would probably be an ass that ignores the sign, and brings my dog to the park until I got that 1st citation.

This leaves me still with the questions of what makes one think that the rules don’t apply to them?  Is it a belief of being “above” the rules?  No fear of penalty?  The thought that if the next person is doing it, it’s OK for you?  The general disagreement with the rule in the first place?  Lack of a presented penalty?  (ie., if the sign also said “$300 fine for violations,” would it deter you?) Is it an aggregate of all the smaller rationalizations?

We’re (arguably) a country founded on breaking the rules… but have we gotten to a point where fighting for a rule change is beneath us, or are we just too lazy to change it?

I’m guessing the NO DOGS IN PARK rule is in place mainly because people don’t pick up the pooch poop once it’s dropped, closely followed by a certain amount of fear of the angry biting dog.  This rule was probably enacted because people weren’t controlling their animals in the first place out of laziness or an “I’m better than you” attitude.  Wow.  It’s just a vicious circle, isn’t it?

As someone who suffers from a severe food allergy, and only somewhat irrational fear of all things shellfish… I can imagine that someone coming to the park with a dog allergy and/or a fear of dogs might have a heightened sense of anger and betrayal at the appearance of a giant hairy dog walking right by the “NO DOGS IN PARK” sign.

Perhaps people ought to get together to create pet-friendly and pet-free sections of the park?  Perhaps the rule could be changed to “pets only on leashes & pickup poop or it’s a $___ fine” rule?

I guess I’d just like to hear everyone’s thoughts on rules like this.

  • Do you think the law is a good one?
  • What is your opinion of those who violate the law?
  • Why do you think they have no problem ignoring the posted signs?
  • What do you think of the lack of the local authorities’ enforcement of the law?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts…

(*Note: Comma omitted per the advice of my grammatical advisory panel, Dave and Kristin!)