NoPeanutsPlease is an independent blog.

All views, opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by any other party.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Six Months In

So here we are ... six months into our daughter's severe food allergy. I have been struck by how tight knit the anaphylaxis community is and just how much there is to learn. I think we've done a good job of managing the allergy without having to significantly alter the things we do, but it is certainly a challenge at times. It is difficult to be 100% compliant in reading labels, checking ingredients, quizzing servers, bringing the EpiPen, bringing safe snacks, etc. It is annoying to deal with people who think that you are overreacting. It makes me sad to hear my daughter It is also quite stressful to live with the intense fear that rises up whenever you see a red spot on your daughter's hand.

That being said, while it would be great for her to outgrow her allergy I would not change anything. She is an absolute treasure and the food allergy is part of who she is. I am certain that we appreciate every day with her even more after experiencing a near fatal allergic reaction to peanut six months ago.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sunbutter On the Cheap

For those of you sitting at the edge of your seats wondering when I would find less expensive Sunbutter, the wait is over! I did a review of Sunbutter recently and noted that the only negative was its high price. Several readers commented that $8.49 for a jar of Sunbutter was ridiculous. Turns out they were right.

My wife talked to the grocery manager at Stong's our (excellent) local grocery store here in Vancouver. They now stock Sunbutter and price it at a reasonable $3.99. I guess that leaves me with a clean review of Sunbutter afterall!

Sunbutter is perfect for those with anaphylaxis due to peanut allergy in their homes. We do not let our daughter eat Sunbutter to avoid confusion but it has been an excellent peanut butter replacement for us.

Please Don't Pass The Mayo

Tonight we had an incident that reinforced our decision to remove all raw egg products from our home. We ate dinner on the deck tonight. My wife ran back into the kitchen but for an instant and in the time she was gone, our daughter grabbed her hamburger and took a big bite. In the past we always had mayo on our burgers. Given our daughter's egg allergy this would likely have been a bad situation.

But alas we are now using an eggless mayo so disaster was averted. There was no way I could have gotten to the burger before my daughter. Naturally my immediate thought was a mental image of the allergic reaction that might have ensued should the mayo have been of the egg variety.

Our decision to remove eggs from the home came after I ate an omelet. It was about a month ago. Up to that point we kept eggs but removed peanuts. The thinking was that we could be careful with eggs but despite all my precautions during the cooking process, I gave my daughter a kiss after eating the omelet and she had a large welt on her cheek. That was the final straw.

Ironically a week or so after we removed eggs from the house my parents were here. My Dad found four eggs in the back of the fridge and fried them up. My wife caught him just as he was bringing the eggs downstairs to my Mom, who incidentally was playing with our egg-allergic daughter. Understandably my Dad did not think about the allergy and it was only after my wife caught him at the top of the stairs with a plate of eggs that he remembered. I did not even realize we still had eggs in the back of the fridge.

Though (like me) you'll probably miss many of your favourite food items, I urge you to rid your home of any products that contain allergens harmful to your family members. Accidents happen and it is just not worth the risk.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Topic Of Conversation

I always find it interesting how many times our daughter's anapylaxis comes up in conversation. People are genuinely interested in it. Surely our forced preoccupation with her allergies is a major factor but when the topic comes up people do not shy away from the discussion. They are typically inquisitive and sympathetic at the same time and seem interested in discussing it at length.

I was reminded of people's interest tonight after reading an article which discussed the fact that food allergy seems to be growing exponentially. That point resonates with people whenever we discuss food allergy - they are not generally aware of this increase. The other thing they are struck by is how little research funding is out there. Though total research seems to be growing, at least anecdotally, the fact remains that food allergy research lacks funding versus other health issues. The Food Allergy Project sums it up well:

"Food allergy research is woefully underfunded. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends less than $10 million a year on food allergy research, compared to $107 million on attention deficit disorder and $1.2 billion on diabetes. These are all important diseases that deserve attention."

Whenever we discuss food allergy over dinner or in a group setting, people are troubled by the fact that while many healthcare professionals and scientists concur that there is likely a cure for food allergy, research into a solution is underfunded.
Hopefully this will change as awareness builds.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Peanut Free Zone

The Padres have followed the lead of the 2006 Minnesota Twins, offering one home game with a peanut free section. Though this is a positive step, there is room for improvement. First of all, they are offering one game out of 80+. In addition, even with Padres attendance up 8% so far this year they draw only 33,000 per game versus the 42,500 seating capacity. There is an opportunity to have at least one peanut free section for every game.

The one difference here, as compared with the Twins, is that the allergic kids are at least sitting in a proper section of the ballpark instead of being quarantined in a skybox. To enhance safety, the Padres have assigned two additional ushers to the peanut free zone and have a paramedic in close proximity in the event of an allergic reaction.

Allergic fans should understand that there are no guarantees. There is always the risk of a remnant peanut from a prior game, but certainly this is much safer than sitting next to a guy who has a mound of shells at his feet and particles blowing all over those seated nearby.

Though the Padres are taking a step in the right direction, I am looking forward to the first stadium that steps up and ends the sale of unshelled peanuts. This would allow allergic kids to sit throughout the stadium. The Padres designated section 326 as the peanut free zone. From this seating chart you'll notice that section 326 is so deep in the recesses of the upper deck that you might as well be watching from home.

Note: Soon after I made this post I came across another article while visiting ABCPeanuts. It noted that the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL played their entire 2006 home schedule peanut free. Kudos to this CFL team for being the first to step up!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Product Review:

Today marks the debut of NoPeanutsPlease Product Reviews. These reviews will focus on products that make life safer or more comfortable for those with severe allergies. The reviews will have four categories: Impact, Quality, Price, Style.

The first product I am reviewing came to my attention as a result of the interconnections created in May by Ria Sharon, our inaugural Villager of the Month. Ria highlighted other bloggers on her site during food allergy week. One of the featured sites was the Food Allergy Queen, who pointed me in the direction of You could say it took a village ...

Product being reviewed purses and totes


The first thing I look for is whether this product contributes to comfort or safety. We've often rifled through the recesses of a diaper bag trying to locate allergy medication that we know to be inside. The stylish and colourful totes and purses easily carry parental accessories. More importantly, the bags neatly hide allergy medication in a lined, zippered section on the bottom of the bag, thereby improving both safety and comfort.

The bags are made of a lighter cloth and to a high level of quality. Though I do have concerns about the durability of the cloth over time, and whether it will hold up in Vancouver's winter rain, there have been no issues to date.

Priced at $65 for the purse and $82 for the tote, the bags are reasonably priced. In addition you have the option of ordering a custom bag at no extra charge.

In addition to improving comfort and safety, these bags score points for style. Each bag is unique and the peppy colours, funky beads and catchy names (such as 'Harriet Takes New York') are just downright fun. A diaper bag has never looked this good!

The smart design of these purses and totes have been a hit with my wife. The zippered compartment is very convenient and the bags are quite stylish. Though the bags will likely not prove as durable as the traditional diaper bag, they truly are a great accessory for the hip urban Mommy.

Friday, June 8, 2007

NoPeanuts TV

YouTube (aka Google Video) has a cool blog widget that allows users to view videos. I have a video strip below that allows you to view videos that are pulled based on the following search terms: peanut allergy, food allergy, anaphylaxis. The risk is that some suspect videos show up but I think this will be an entertaining addition to the blog. Note that when you click on a video thumbnail the video plays at the top of the page.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dare To Dream!

I cannot even imagine how relieved I would feel if our daughter grew out of her allergies. I just read an article about a four year old, peanut allergic girl who successfully completed a peanut challenge. She ate 39 peanuts! After living with a severe food allergy for three years I suspect that it would take an adjustment for her family to get back to 'normal'.

I am resigning myself to the reality that this is an unlikely scenario for us, (ie: <20% chance) , but it sure would be nice ... dare to dream.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Peanut Gala

Tonight I was at an awards dinner for the technology industry in BC. The first course was seafood spring rolls with peanuts sprinkled on the side. I passed my plate to a colleague. I was shocked that a shellfish and peanut dish was served to such a large group. Perhaps I have become so allergy aware that I am naive once more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Don't Wait For The Big One

This week a 9 year old peanut allergic boy died in the UK after putting a piece of candy into his mouth. The boy had prior peanut reactions but none this severe. Sadly it often takes a severe reaction for parents to realize how dangerous the allergy is. This was the case for us and this particular story reminds me of how lucky we were.

Although our daughter had two minor reactions before her major reaction on Boxing Day, we were not educated enough to truly understand the risk. If your child has a history of even the smallest reactions to peanut you are advised to have an epinephrine auto-injector, such as an EpiPen, with your child at all times. At the first signs of an allergic reaction you should immediately call 9-1-1 and summon up the strength to use the EpiPen should that be necessary. If the reaction becomes more severe it is advised to use the EpiPen versus bringing it to the hospital with you.

Our (first) ambulance driver said it best, "don't mess with a peanut allergy".

Monday, June 4, 2007

Restaurant Review: Avenue Grill

NoPeanutsPlease Restaurant Reviews will assess a restaurant's level of allergy awareness based on three categories: Menu, Server Reaction, Attention To Detail. I will then provide an overall rating of Peanut (allergy risk) or NoPeanuts (allergy friendly). Where possible I will foward the URL of the post to the reviewee to give them the chance to reply.

For those with food allergies every restaurant poses a risk. The point of this series is to outline where restaurants can improve and highlight restaurateurs who are astute when it comes to serving food allergic patrons. Even if you do not live in Vancouver these reviews should be helpful in terms of showing you what we look for.

The Avenue Grill on 41st Avenue in Vancouver, BC.

The Avenue Grill has a fairly broad lunch menu but it stays true to its bistro-meets-diner ambiance by offering up a page of egg dishes and a variety of burgers and sandwiches that all seem to include mayo. For those with egg allergies this menu is an issue. Though you could order your sandwich without mayo, the large volume of eggs going through the kitchen heightens the risk of cross-contamination. We ended up choosing a fruit salad and cottage cheese for our daughter.

In my opinion, when it comes to managing an allergy the most important person in the restaurant is the server. The cook plays a central role but the server is the one who walks a food allergic patron through the menu and makes the cook aware of the allergy. I prefer to see a server who is receptive, attentive and sincere while helping us select safe food items. In this case, when we told our server that our daughter had a severe peanut and egg allergy we were met with a blank stare. I suspect she was either indifferent or slightly overwhelmed. It is critical to watch for this first reaction as a parent.

Attention To Detail
We made it fairly easy for our server by ordering a fruit salad for our daughter. We did forget to ask for no mayo on my wife's sandwich and my burger. Though we should have caught this ourselves, it would have been impressive if she noticed that mayo would pose a risk to our egg allergic dining mate.

Peanut vs NoPeanuts?
Unfortunately my inaugural review presents a great example of why I decided to add this feature to the blog. The Avenue Grill would be a suitable place to eat for many but for the food allergic, (and especially those with egg allergy), it should probably be avoided. The lunch menu offers up only soup and salad as items that are egg free and though you could ask them to hold the mayo on sandwiches, with so many eggs going across the grill the risk of cross-contamination is high. In addition, our observations did nothing to convince us that the restaurant takes care to clean surfaces fully and avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen. Though our daughter did not come into direct contact with eggs, by the time we left she had well over two dozen hives on her arms and face. This was not a good experience.

Overall Rating: Peanut

General Comments:
Though this feature is focused on the allergy awareness of a restaurant, I figure that readers would also like to know what our overall impressions were. An institution for decades, the Avenue Grill was high on the list of neighbourhood restaurants that I wanted to try. Unfortunately the inattentive service and fairly bland meal did nothing to make me want to return. There are better options for lunch in Kerrisdale, egg allergy aside.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Peanuts! Getcher Peanuts Here!

If you have been to a baseball game or other major sporting event you are well aware of how prevalent unshelled peanuts are. Interestingly there have been several press releases recently advertising 'peanut restrictions' at sporting events. The most recent was for a peanut free home date for a Michigan soccer team. Another prominent example from baseball is the Minnesota Twins, who offer a peanut free skybox for four of their home games.

While a peanut free game is encouraging, I find the Twins offering to be patronizing, more than helpful. Though the Twins' press coverage generates allergy awareness, offering up one section for 5% of your games when you are averaging 28,000 fans in a 48,000 seat field is a pittance. I challenge the Twins and other major league teams to do more. It is great that they recognize this to be an issue. Though it would require some planning and oversight, it would be ideal if every stadium had a reasonable percentage of its seats designated as peanut free, or at least as peanut-shell free.

The last five times I have gone to an NHL game, in three different arena, a person within 5 seats of me has been eating a bag of unshelled peanuts. The fun of eating nuts this way is that it is publicly acceptable to make a huge mess. The downside is that I have to brush the peanut debris from my clothing before I head home to give my daughter a goodnight kiss. I am not looking to ban peanuts, but I would certainly prefer that only shelled peanuts were sold.

I understand that sporting events and peanuts go hand in hand. I used to eat a bag of unshelled peanuts myself at every NHL or NFL game I attended, complete with the aforementioned pile of shells at my feet. Now that I am aware of the danger that this might pose for those with allergies I could not imagine doing this again. Though there is a debate as to how dangerous this really is, a quick Internet turns up multiple cases of severe allergic reactions.

The Twins are helping on the awareness front but I challenge them to take a leadership role in making the game even safer for their younger peanut-allergic allergic fans. As we develop additional insight into severe food allergy, I hope that one day unshelled peanuts will become an artifact of sporting legend.

Peanuts, Peanuts Everywhere

Those managing peanut allergies received concerning news in late May. It seems that 'Peanuts Are Hot'. The number of top 200 restaurants serving menu items containing peanuts increased 84% since 2000, and the number of menu items with peanuts increased 142%. In grocery stores peanut butter is growing at a rate of 7.6% and peanut snacks at a rate of 56%. Consumer favour for peanuts is very high with 80% of consumers saying that peanut butter tastes great and 75% citing it as a good source of protein.

With several cities now banning trans fat from restaurants, peanut products will likely become even more prevalent. One item of particular concern is the positioning of refined peanut oil as allergen free. As noted in a prior post on NoPeanutsPlease, "there have been contradictory reports on the allergenicity of highly refined peanut oil" and those with peanut allergy should perhaps err on the side of caution and avoid peanut oil until the research is clear.