Still taking donations for the Food Allergy Walk


90% towards my goal of $500!

90% towards my goal of $500!

That’s right, Bethany & I are still taking donations for the Food Allergy Walk in  Pittsburgh.  It’s happening this Sunday, Sept. 18th at 11:00 am.  You can make a secure online tax-deductible donation for either of us, to help us meet our prospective goals, or you can hook us up with a check made out to FAAN.

Support me!
Support me!

Just click the blue “Support Me” button under each of our photos on our respective profiles to donate!

You can read my older posts about the walk for more info:

If you’re following the “Celebrity Endorsement” thing, Andrew Stockey did eventually contact me & agree to help get the word out on WTAE.com.  I still haven’t’ seen anything there yet.

Interestingly, Qdoba & Chick-fil-A also said they’d donate something, yet they haven’t online yet anyway.  I’m going to have to remind them.

You can also read all of my Food Allergy related posts if interested in learning more about food allergies form an outspoken crazy blogger.

More from the Food Allergy Walk Facebook Page

The Walk in Pittsburgh will feature lots activities, such as: face painting, balloon artist, trackless train, mad science and inflatables. We will have a musical performance by Kyle Dine and be joined by Pittsburgh Panthers mascot ROC.

We look forward to once again welcoming Sally Wiggin and Stephen Cropper. Following the Walk, will be Q&A session with allergists from AGH and UPMC who have volunteered their time. Rep. Matt Smith will join us to share information about the new EpiPen laws in PA.

You can get one of these limited edition T-shirts for donating $50 or more, thanks to Erin “Ernie” Payne:

King Krab Orange Ernie and the Berts T-Shirt
Special Edition King Krab Orange Ernie and the Berts T-Shirt

Food Allergy Walk Pittsburgh – Sept. 18th, 2011!


I read about this a while ago, and kind of put it in the back of my mind, and now it’s snuck up on me again. Being a food allergy advocate (or annoyance depending on your point of view) of sorts, I really ought to go to this.

I was excited to see this article today via the Food Allergy DailyFAAN Walk for Food Allergy: Moving Toward A Cure Coming Back to Pittsburgh

This especially caught my attention:

The Walk is a non-competitive 2-mile course and participation is free. Families can enjoy samples from allergen-free food vendors, music and children’s activities. Joining us this year will be Sally Wiggin (WTAE-TV), and singer and songwriter Kyle Dine (http://kyledine.com), to educate and entertain with his songs about food allergies.

FAAN Walk For Food Allergy Logo

FoodAllergyWalk.org

Kyle Dine rules! Kyle is also a soldier in the #FoodAllergyDudeArmy (a covert special ops branch of the #FoodAllergyMomArmy) on Twitter.  Of course, Sally Wiggin is also a local legend.  The walk is taking place at Hartwood Acres.

At any rate… I know there are many many walks for many many reasons, but I see this as an opportunity to do something other than whine about food allergies on the internet and send restaurants annoying (and hopefully entertaining) emails about deathfish.

The article above also drops these fascinating facts:

Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting and the CDC reports that food allergies result in over 300,000 ambulatory care visits each year among children. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, etc.), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Food allergy afflicts one in 25 Americans overall, and one in 17 under age 3.

The official FAAN page for Pittsburgh is here:  FoodAllergyWalk.org | 2011 Walk in Pittsburgh, PA

I’ll sign up to walk as an individual, or I can put together a team if anyone’s interested.  The individual suggested goal is $300.  The suggested team goal is $1,500.00.

So, here’s where I ask for help.  Does anyone want to donate, or walk with me?

Think “Team Deathfish” sounds like a good name?

16 Tips for Dining Out With Food Allergies (via Calorie Lab)


EpiPens are portable epinephrine-dispensing de...

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t blogged much about food allergies lately, so I’ll let this be a substitute post… with tips compiled from the experts.  This is a great list, & I agree with everything stated, though I have my own personal way of going about things.

Calorie Lab | 16 Tips for Dining Out With Food Allergies: Insight From Food Allergy Experts, Advocates and Professionals

16 Tips for Dining Out With Food Allergies: Insight From Food Allergy Experts, Advocates and Professionals

So, do you have a separate fryer for fish & shellfish?

What do I do different?  I don’t like phone calls.  Sometimes, the wife calls for me.  Sometimes, I peep the menu online.  Sometimes, I break down & call ahead.

A lobster ate my baby!

Shellfish on a menu jumps out at me like this.

My favorite anecdote on this subject…  I called an Amish restaurant in Ohio and asked if they had shellfish, and was told that they had lobster, shrimp, and oysters… but nothing was served in a shell.

I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

Anyway, I can’t stress enough… ask the right questions, to the right people.  Don’t trust people telling you “oh, they don’t have any [whatever you’re allergic to] on the menu”.  Happens to me all the time.  90% of the time, they’re wrong.  Check yourself!  Ask if there’s any daily specials that don’t show up on a regular or online menu.  To relax, it helps to surround yourself with supportive friends & family.  It helps to go back to places that you know are safe.  Don’t eat w/o your Epi Pen close by.  (I have been guilty of this.  It’s dumb – like riding a motorcycle without a helmet.)

Allergy Eats, AllerDine, & Eating With Food Allergies are great resources.  There are many other resources out there too.  Use ’em!

What do you think about the tips?  What do you do before dining out with food allergies?  What advice would you pass on to the food allergic?

Get a proclamation from your state governor that says “diarrhea”!


Food Allergy Awareness Week

FAAW

So, Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011 is still a little far off, but at the same time it’s quickly approaching.

Personally, I’m all about pushing it from a consumer-level rather than having some government mandates handed down to reluctant (and perhaps allergen-ignorant) business owners.

But, at the same time, I see the monumental importance of government recognition.  It spreads awareness and gives hope to those of us trying to express the validity and seriousness of food allergies and anaphylaxis.

So, I urge you to do your part, and write to the governor of your state asking for them to declare recognition of Food Allergy Awareness Week.  From the FAAN website:

Take ActionFood Allergy Awareness Week: May 8-14, 2011

Ask your Governor to Issue a Food Allergy Awareness Week Proclamation

Issuing a Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) proclamation is a great way to help raise awareness in your State!

Ask your Governor to declare May 8-14, 2011 Food Allergy Awareness Week!

In 2010, FAAW was recognized in a RECORD 37 STATES! Let’s break this record in 2011!

As of Feb 8, 2011, only one proclamation has been issued (Minnesota). Only 49 more states to go!

So, what are you waiting for?  It only takes a few minutes, and you may even get a nifty official-looking document from your governor with a state seal that has the word “diarrhea” on it.  I mean, how funny is that?


Prepping for Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011


Okay, so I’m on a roll this morning.  That Subway stuff struck a nerve.  It reminded me that I would like to have more consumer-driven responses to food allergy issues, and less government mandates.  Food Allergy Awareness Week is not for a few months (May 8-14, 2011), but it doesn’t mean that you can’t start getting ready now.

I just wrote to the Food Network, requesting some Food Allergy Awareness.  I used their contact form, and this is what I had to say…

I’m a big fan of all the Food Network shows.  I’d love to see an Iron Chef battle where they can’t use any of the “top 8” allergens.  I am allergic to shellfish, and always recoil slightly when it’s a lobster or crab battle… or when the inevitable prawn works its way into a dish.  There is a Food Allergy Awareness week every May.  It would be great timing for such an event… and really help the allergy awareness and cross-contamination cause.  There are MANY food-allergic foodies out there!

I’m sure you’re aware that the top 8 allergens are Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  TO have an Iron Chef battle where they ahd to prepare meals without any of the top 8 allergens would be truly epic, and help show others out there that there ARE indeed alternatives & work-arounds when dealing with a life-threatening allergy.  Food allergy awareness week this year will be May 8-14, 2011.

Thank you for your time, I hope to hear your thoughts on this matter!

-Eric

I’d like to ask that you also write your own letter or email.  And, why stop at one? Please, share with me other places where you think we ought to write, and I’ll write to them too!

I’ll definitely be writing more, perhaps armed with statistics like the following (from Top8Free.com):

Prevalence of food allergies in the United States

Ninety percent of food allergies in the United States are caused by eight foods:  Milk, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish.  This website is dedicated to a diet free of these allergens.  Of course, it is possible to be allergic to just about any protein.  In Japan, rice allergy is one of the offenders.

Just to give you a sense of how many kids are suffering from food allergies today, here is a table of the most common food allergies.  This does not count children with milk-soy protien intollerance or Celiac disease, only children with Ig-E mediated food allergies.

Percentage of young children with allergy to:

  • Milk 2.5%
  • Egg 1.3%
  • Soy 1.1% (There is little agreement on this number.  Estimates range from 1 to 5%)
  • Wheat 1.0%
  • Peanut 0.8%
  • Tree nuts 0.2%
  • Fish 0.1%
  • Shellfish 0.1%
  • Overall 6 to 8% of population

Percentage of adults with allergy to:

  • Shellfish 2.0%
  • Peanut 0.6%
  • Tree nuts 0.5%
  • Fish 0.4%
  • Milk  0.3%
  • Egg 0.2%
  • Soy 0.2%
  • Overall 3.7%

Source: Hugh A. Sampson, MD. “Update on food allergy“, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 2004

While writing to politicians does gain some inroads, there are other productive avenues to explore.

 

W(aL)D Maze & Letter for Pizza Hut…


Dave made me do it.  I’ve been messing with Pizza Hut for a long time… but it’s actually become a serious quest.  I’ve been drawing mazes lately for some reason.  Dave sparked this recent fit of madness with one innocent comment on the last maze;

You should make the START a Pizza Hut and the end a toilet.

Why not? I ask myself.  I took it a step further, and crafted this for my pie-making pals…

Pizza Hut Maze

A letter within a maze, for my pals at Pizza Hut.

Let’s hope this gets someone’s attention, and I finally get a decent reply.  Now, to dig up all those addresses again.  I guess I’ll have to include something with my return address.  I forgot to work that into my letter-maze.

As with all my mazes, if you feel compelled to complete one… please email me a completed maze & I’ll post it here!  (Click the one above for a larger version.)

 

Dunkin’ Donuts on Allergy Signage… [Case# 7577485]


Did you see my allergen warning sign photos from Dunkin’ Donuts and Giant Eagle?  I wrote to both of them to thank them for displaying the signs.  Giant Eagle was the first to reply, and now I’ve heard from Dunkin’ Donuts.  I submitted the following via webform:

Hello,

I was in the Dunkin’ Donuts in Dormont this weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised to see this allergen warning sign:  http://i127.photobucket.com/albums/p139/worldandlunardomination/Signs/p_00527.jpg

As someone who has a severe allergy, I found this to be a responsible and proactive decision on the part of Dunkin’ Donuts, and I just wanted you to know that it’s an appreciated gesture.

Thankfully, my allergy isn’t to peanuts, or I’d most likely go nowhere near your fine establishments, much like I currently avoid Red Lobster and Long John Silver’s due to my shellfish allergy.

I did, as the sign suggested, go to https://www.dunkindonuts.com/aboutus/nutrition/ in order to see allergen information for some of my favorite menu items.

I also see that you have a blanket *.pdf available showing nutrition information for all of your products.  Do you have something like this for allergens in all of your products?

It’s a red flag for me that you have “Crustaceans” on the list, and even expand upon it under the data table with “Crustaceans include, crab, crayfish, lobster, and shrimp.”

Do any of these creepy little sea-bugs show up in any of your products?  My curiosity is piqued, my friends!

Thank you for your time, and for responsibly posting allergen warnings.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Not dead yet,
-Eric

Ant they wrote back…

From:customerservicereply@dunkinbrands.com” <customerservicereply@dunkinbrands.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Tue, October 12, 2010
Subject: Case# 7577485 – Dunkin’ Donuts

Hi Eric,
Thank you for taking the time to contact Dunkin’ Donuts.
To answer your questions regarding allergens, the stores should have a printed document available behind the counter that will tell you if any of the allergens required to be listed by the FDA are in our products.
If you call our Consumer Care line, they can tell you as well.
As far as the shell fish listing on our forms, that form is required by the FDA. We have to show it on the form but you won’t see it checked off for any of our products.
I hope this answered your questions.
You can reach us at 800-859-5339 M-F 8:30AM to 5:00PM EST.
At Dunkin’ Donuts we value our customers and are committed to making your visits to our stores a pleasant experience.

Thank you and have a great day.

Louise
Customer Relations Associate

Reference # 7577485

It’s interesting how people intemperate the laws… I certainly don’t see standardized allergen information on all food-related websites. I’m glad that companies like this are at least trying to be active in their warning, and hope it’s not just a “CYA” measure.

It’s also interesting to note that I received a the same  exact reply to this message at least 13 times, all with the same case/reference number.  Weird.

https://aixelsyd13.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/allergy-sign-d-donuts-p_00527.jpg

Giant Eagle on Allergy Signage… [Incident #: 12702111]


So, remember my allergen warning sign photos from Dunkin’ Donuts and Giant Eagle?  I wrote to both of them to thank them for displaying the signs, and Giant Eagle is the first to reply.  I submitted this via webform:

Hello,

I’d like to thank you for actively posting allergen awareness/warning signage.  Sunday, I came upon this sign above some chocolate chunk (& other) cookies on a display table at the GE in Parkway Center: http://bit.ly/bg09rX

As someone with a severe allergy to shellfish, I appreciate these kinds of signs… but the all-inclusive sign begs the question:  Did these cookies come into contact with any shellfish in the bakery?  I hope not!  I worry enough about the crab cakes & seafood salad in the deli counters!

Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!

-Eric
me@my.email.address

And their reply:

From: sc autoemail <sc.autoemail@gianteagle.com>
To: “me@my.email.address” <me@my.email.address>
Sent: Fri, October 8, 2010 9:06:49 AM
Subject: In response to Giant Eagle Incident #: 12702111

ServiceCenter Operator: arabia michele

In response to your recent communication:

Incident #: 12702111

Brief Description:
Store: Parkway Center Giant Eagle Hello, I’d like to tha

Response:
At  10/08/10 09:06:47  we wrote:
10/08/10 09:06:47 (arabia michele):

Good Morning Eric,

Thank you for contacting Giant Eagle and for sharing your thoughts and concerns with us regarding our allergen signs and the possibility of cross-contamination of shellfish in the bakery.

The sign was generated to alert allergen sensitive customers that our stores do process all allergens. You are correct in your assumption that seafood is not present in the bakery department. We appreciate your feedback and will use it to determine signage needs in the future.

If you have any further questions or comments, please contact our Customer Care Department toll-free at 1-800-553-2324.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us and please know that we welcome your thoughts and feedback in the future.

Sincerely,

Michele Arabia
Bakery Merchandising Department
Giant Eagle, Inc.

I’d like to see stores become more active in labeling prepared foods, but this is a a start.  As noted in the comments on my last allergy post, they are currently doing more than required by law… so that’s a good thing.

 

https://aixelsyd13.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/allergy-sign-giant-eagle-p_00533.jpg

Allergen Signage


Over the weekend I was at two places where I saw these allergen signs, the Dunkin’ Donuts in Dormont, and the Giant Eagle in Parkway Center.  Generally when I see these signs it makes me happy that the place who’s taking my money is at the very least aware that there are products that they have on the premises that may cause certain people some discomfort or possibly even death.

Dunkin' Donuts | Allergen Warning Signage
Dunkin’ Donuts | Allergen Warning Signage

In viewing the allergen information online as the sign suggests, I’m glad that a glazed donut doesn’t contain any crustaceans, but I may now have to scour the rest of the site to see if anything does.   Ha ha ha.

Giant Eagle | Allergen Warning Signage
Giant Eagle | Allergen Warning Signage

I gambled yesterday, hoping that the chocolate chunk cookies  I purchased didn’t come into contact with any shellfish in the bakery.  If I died from eating them, according to this sign, it’s my fault.  I was warned, and should have discussed the risks of cross-contamination with my doctor.

You’ll hopefully be glad to know that I’m not dead, and I had a few cookies last night.  Wow, I had poor eating habits this weekend.  Ha ha ha.  Donuts & Cookies.

At any rate, the fact that they simply acknowledge that allergies exist is a great start.  It’s sad, but so many other food-service companies go with the “it’s not our problem” mantra.  I always thought that Five Guys Burgers  & Fries to be very pro-active with their peanut allergy warnings, and I have commented on the Market District in Robinson’s allergen warnings before.

If you suffer from allergies, do these signs make you feel safer, or are they a blanket statement like “No Lifeguard on Duty” or “Park at Your Own Risk”, trying to absolve the poster of any wrongdoing should a mishap occur?

The blanket statement from Giant Eagle seems a little forced, or an afterthought… as I’m sure there aren’t many lobster cookies in the bakery, but then again there just might be.  How am I to know?  Do I just take this sign as a warning to not eat any food that they prepare?  The sign itself is a great thing, but if it were tailored just a little more to the actual product, it might be more comforting.

I know I’m always afraid of the stuff in the deli counter that’s next to the crab cakes or a seafood salad…  I don’t want a pasta salad with death-fish in it.  Yes, that one little glob of death-juice can kill me.  I don’t see any allergen warning signs there where they’d also be appropriate.  But, I don’t want to get down on Giant Eagle.  They are taking steps in the right direction.  Perhaps I’ll even send them a quick email to let them know that as someone who suffers from a severe food allergy, I appreciate the signage.

If you suffer from allergies, have someone in the family that does, or have a friend that blathers incessantly about them (like me), I’d like to hear your thoughts on the signs.  Are they a good thing, or a bad thing?  Are they proactive or defensive?

What if you suffer from one that’s not a “big 8” allergen but also quite prevalent like corn, peppers, or chocolate?