Monday, April 14, 2014

Talking Food Allergies at Mylan Specialty’s Blogger Summit

By Kelley Lindberg

It’s not every day I get to feel like I’m making a difference in the world. But last week, I was privileged to join over a dozen other food allergy bloggers at the home of Mylan Specialty L.P., the makers of EpiPen® epinephrine auto-injectors, where we put our heads together to do just that.

Food allergy bloggers convene at the
Mylan Specialty Blogger Summit
Mylan generously brought us to their beautiful new Canonsburg, PA, facility to be updated on the current state of food allergy research, learn about new developments with EpiPen® education, and hear about the progress on legislation allowing individuals and entities to stock epinephrine (among other topics). But even more importantly, they provided us with a forum to share our stories and ideas with them and with each other.

As I sat in the room (a little in awe of the other bloggers, many of whom I’ve been reading for a long time and think the world of), I was a bit dazzled to think of how many people we reach between us every month. People who are newly diagnosed and frantic with worry, people who are settling into their new food allergy routines and looking for kindred spirits, people who are entering new stages of their (or their children’s) lives and need a trail marker or two to find their new path. Because of the tireless efforts over the years of those 15 food allergy bloggers in that conference room, thousands—probably tens of thousands—of food allergic adults and children have found candles in the darkness. They’ve found new recipes, new products, and sometimes new doctors. They’ve found encouragement, advice, and support. They’ve found ways to talk to teachers, methods for handling in-laws, and survival tips for holiday parties. And they’ve told us what matters to them.

So we were all able to take those conversations to Mylan and represent those tens of thousands of worried people in our meeting. We were able to talk about what matters to us, what scares us, what thrills us, and what frustrates us.

So if you’ve ever read one of our blogs, commented on it, or shared your food allergy story with any of us, you were right there in that conference room with us. And we were able to make suggestions for improving education and raising awareness, offer ideas for future research, and share ideas with each other for strengthening food allergy support in our own communities. (As a huge bonus, I was able to connect in a very real, very personal way with people I admire, forming friendships that I already treasure!)

What I learned at the Mylan Food Allergy Blogger Summit filled pages and pages (and pages and pages) of my notebook – too much for one blog post! Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing that information, so be sure to check back each week. (And I'll be posting a blog roll of all the bloggers who attended as soon as I get it, so you can add them to your reading list!)

[I disclose in any communication made by me about EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector and/or the Mylan Spcialty Blogger Summit that such communication is at my own discretion and based on my own opinion. I also disclose that my travel expenses were compensated by Mylan Specialty in exchange for evaluation and feedback on information presented during the meeting.]

Monday, April 7, 2014

Allergy-Free Easter Candy Round-Up 2014 (Local Stores)

By Kelley Lindberg

Last week, I listed some good sources for ordering allergy-safe Easter and Passover candy online. There may still be time to order that candy if you’re quick. But if you’re like me and find yourself procrastinating, never fear… there are some allergy-free options close to home, too.

If you’re looking for nut-free chocolate bunnies, but you can tolerate milk, your best bet locally is, as always, Hershey’s. I found a good supply of safe Hershey’s bunnies at Target. I also found a Hershey’s chocolate cross at Walmart. The safe bunnies are all 6-inch style (Snapsy, Speedy Bunny, Princess Bunny, and Hollow Bunny), and they all contain milk and soy lecithin, but they appear corn-free. I also found a package of 6 Hershey’s solid chocolate bunnies that are nut-free and contain only milk and soy lecithin (but avoid the package of 6 “cookies and cream” bunnies – they have additional allergens). Some flavors of Hershey’s kisses are also nut-free, as well as Hershey’s mini foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. But double-check labels – many Hershey’s products have nut warnings, so don’t assume they’re safe until you check. And remember, all Hershey’s chocolate includes milk and soy. Those Cadbury mini eggs are also nut-free, although they contain milk, soy, and corn. But only the mini eggs are nut-free – the larger sizes tend to have nut warnings (although Target has a Cadbury Hollow Milk Chocolate Egg Filled With Mini Eggs that is nut free, but contains milk, soy lectithin, and corn).

Walmart did have bags of Sixlets, which are small nut-free candy-coated chocolates (similar to M&Ms), that contain milk and soy lecithin. And Target has cones of Hershey’s chocolate drops coated in white candy, sold in a cellophane cone (contains milk, corn, and soy lecithin).

As far as other Easter candy, I was pleasantly surprised to find that more and more allergy-free candy options are appearing every year. Many of our “tried and true” candy manufacturers are jumping on the jelly-bean band wagon, which means more safe jelly beans for our kids. I was especially happy with the amount of new and interesting safe candy items at Target, although you can find at least a few safe candy options at all the big grocery stores, like Walmart, Smith’s/Kroger’s, and Fresh Market.

If you’re avoiding corn as well as the Big 8, your best bet is to order online (see last week’s blog), but you can also try these:
  • Pixy Stix
  • Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails (I found them at Smith’s and Target)
  • Cotton Candy (Walmart)

If you can tolerate corn, then more options open up. The following are free from the Big 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish) unless otherwise noted. But please remember, READ EVERY LABEL EVERY TIME! Because the same company may use many different factories across the country to make their products, never assume that if one package is safe, all of their packages will be. Peeps are a great example. Some flavors and pacakges and styles of Peeps will be milk-free, while others in the same store – sometimes on the same shelf – will contain a milk warning. Anyway, here are some allergy-free Easter candies you may want to take a look at:
  • Jelly Beans:
    • Jolly Rancher (contains soy lecithin)
    • Jelly Belly (contains soy lecithin)
    • SweeTart
    • Starburst
    • Life Savers
    • Nerds Bumpy Beans
    • Swedish Fish Eggs
    • Mike and Ike
  • Giant Gummy Bunny (Target) – Looking for a 6-inch bunny for the basket, but don’t want chocolate? Try a Pink Lemonade or Blue Raspberry gummy bunny! (Contains soy and gelatin)
  • Dum-Dums
  • Easter Egg Surprise Lollipops (Walmart)
  • Wonka Springtime Fun Dips
  • Life Savers Gummies Bunnies and Eggs (contains gelatin)
  • Smarties
  • Gummy Butterflies in a large egg-shaped tin (Target) (contains gelatin and coconut)
  • Haribo Happy Hoppers (Target) – traditional gummi bears in individual packets (contains coconut and gelatin)
  • Rain-blo Bubble Gum Eggs
  • Pez Dispensers (contains soy lecithin)

Looking for pre-filled Easter Eggs? Walmart has a package of 28 eggs filled with candy that might work for you. The Noah’s Ark version says “Soy may be present,” but the “Bunnies and Chicks” version doesn’t carry that warning. And Sam’s Club has pails of 36 pre-filled plastic eggs that might work for you. Check the labels for your allergens.

Of course there are other safe candy options, like regular Starbursts or chewing gum, but I focused on Easter-specific candy for this round-up. Hope it helps! And if you run across a great allergy-free find, be sure to share it with us in the Comments!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Allergy-Free Easter and Passover Candy Round-Up 2014 (Online Stores)

By Kelley Lindberg

Easter is later than usual this year, so the Easter Bunny won’t be making his rounds until April 20. That means the ol’ Bunny still has time to order his allergy-safe Easter candy from online stores that make allergy-safe candy for him to tuck into those baskets! And Passover is from April 14 – 22, so there’s still time for your Passover candy, too. This week, I’ll focus on online sources for allergy-safe holiday candies, because if you need to order your candy online, you’ll want to order it asap. Next week I’ll look at the candy you might find in local stores.

Several great online manufacturers and grocers offer allergy-friendly chocolates and candies for every holiday and just about every type of allergy. Especially if your family must avoid multiple allergens, these online suppliers might be your best bet.

  • Amanda’s Own Confections: They offer a whole line of chocolate goodies for Easter and Passover, as well as jelly beans and other candies, all dairy-free, peanut-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free.
  • Vermont Nut Free: Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. Check out their chocolate bunnies, caramel bunnies, buttercream bunnies, chocolate lambs, Easter fudge, chocolate eggs, and chocolate crosses. (Their chocolate is not kosher.)
  • Divvies: Peanut-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. (They don’t mention whether their products are kosher.)
  • YumEarth. YumEarth candies (lollipops, gummy bears, sour beans, sour worms) are corn-free, as well as being free from the big 8, and they use natural colorings and flavorings. They’re available on the Yummy Earth website, in health food stores, and from Their website says they’re now sold at Walgreens, so you may find them locally, too! (Certified Kof-K kosher parve.)
  • Indie Candy: This website is fantastic for people with multiple food allergies, corn allergies, and those avoiding artificial colorings. Their candies are free from all the Top 8 and sesame and artificial colorings, and they have several candies free from corn, too. They have a large selection of confections in a rainbow of flavors, like mango, key lime, and watermelon, and you can search by your specific allergy needs. All of their ingredients are Feingold diet safe. They also offer corn-free gummies and marshmallows!
  • Peanut Free Planet: This site sells candy from lots of different manufacturers, including Vermont Nut Free and Amanda’s Own. You’ll find chocolate, jelly beans, and all sorts of allergy-friendly groceries.
  • Natural Candy Store: This site focuses on natural ingredients, and they have an advanced search feature that lets you search for candy free from the specific ingredients you choose! You can also search by Feingold-safe candy and other special diets. They even have biodegradable plastic Easter eggs.
  • Gimbal’s Fine Candies: Gimbal’s offers jelly beans in 41 flavors, as well as fiery LavaBalls and licorice Scottie Dogs, all free from the Top 8 allergens.
  • Oriental Trading Co.: Remember, Easter eggs and Easter baskets don’t have to be filled with candy. Oriental Trading Company offers a bazillion (I counted them) little novelty toys that fit inside Easter eggs or into Easter baskets, and you can buy them by the dozen or more. And for the ultimate in time-saving, you can even buy plastic eggs pre-filled with little toys. Now THAT’s a helpful Easter Bunny.
Hoppy shopping!

Monday, March 24, 2014

From Spain, with Allergy-Free Love!

By Kelley Lindberg

He’s home! My globe-traversing son is back from his class trip to Spain. He spent 11 days in Madrid, Toledo, and Salamanca, with a few other stops in between. He ate everything from calamari to chocolate con churros, and brought home souvenirs ranging from swords (yes, plural), to a scarf from the Real Madrid soccer team, to a certificate showing he earned his very first college credit from the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca. Not bad for a 15-year-old junior high kid.

I’m also happy to report that he didn’t have any trouble with food while he was in Spain. He had a brief incident on the plane on the way home from Spain when his mouth began to tingle, so he took some antihistamine and the tingling went away. He’s never had a reaction on a plane before (and he didn’t eat anything but the snacks he brought from home), but he was prepared with his Wet-Wipes, his meds, and friends who knew about his allergies and watched over him during the incident, and everything turned out okay.

In Spain itself, he had no problems. He said the waiters were very accommodating if you tried to speak Spanish, and he had no trouble ordering safe foods. He memorized the info on his translation cards and was able to talk confidently with waiters and chefs. Interestingly, lupin flour wasn’t a problem – he said most waiters looked confused, like they’d never heard of lupin flour, and assured him they only used wheat or white flour. Perhaps lupin flour isn’t as widely used in Spain as it is in France and Italy. Either way, it was a relief.

So thank you to everyone who kept your fingers crossed for him. His first—but definitely not last—travel adventure without me was a huge success and an invaluable character-building experience (for both of us).

But I must admit, I’m glad to have him home, safe and sound. I missed those hugs!