Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Danger Lurks Everywhere for the Food Allergic

yes, I am the star of my very own action-adventure film. Or maybe I'm just a supporting actor, but since I'm the mom of an allergic child, I'll put myself as the current star and realize that she will take over as star when she is older.

As I become more aware of issues involved with food allergens, I am also becoming more scared, but I'm also learning a lot. I'm confident that as I learn more, I will become comfortable with how to keep my daughter safe. And then once I'm really comfortable, she'll be older and independent and I can worry that she is kissing some boy who just ate peanut butter or she's at a party where she is eating chicken satay (I believe there are stories for both that involved fatal reactions). We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

For the first time while grocery shopping today, I actually used my cell phone to call customer service for many of the products I was buying.

Red Baron 4 Cheese Classic Crust frozen pizza: according to the Customer Service rep (who kept me on the line awhile), this is produced in a peanut-/tree nut-free facility.

Store brand Bran Flakes cereal: (yes, this is the cereal of choice for my 8 year-old). Customer service took my name and number and said they would have to call their producer to find out allergen information and they should be able to get back to me by the end of the day. DD has been eating this for months with no problem, but I put the box back on the shelf and bought Wheaties instead -- I'll have to call them at some point.

Honey Maid Graham Crackers (Nabisco): long chat with Customer Service. Sounds like they will mark it if they think it is likely to contain nuts. She said much more than that, but I was in line at the check-out so I don't remember everything. Basically, Nabisco and Kraft are big companies and from what I have read, they are good about labelling. The Customer rep said nothing to contradict that.

I will note that it is hard to grocery shop with two kids while calling companies constantly. I look closely at labels and note that Nestle's Semi-Sweet chips are produced in either a shared facility or on shared equipment (can't remember which and it doesn't matter because, for us, it's a no go either way). I want to check with Hershey's since that was the other brand of semi-sweet chips there that was not generic. I have heard good things about Hershey's, but I need to call customer service myself.

This call made at home:
Pillsbury Customer Service: long recorded statement about allergens, referral to FAAN. Speaking to an actual rep, she directed me to the label. It's not the ingredient list (the obvious), it's not in the "contains" line underneath (obvious again), the bottom line says "may contain egg ingredients." According to the rep, that is the label that is used when the product is processed on shared equipment or in a shared facility with an allergen. Since we aren't allergic to eggs and peanuts and tree nuts are not mentioned, we should be safe.

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