Sunday, May 3, 2009

The 24-hour Allergen-Free Challenge

Could you do it? Could you live allergen-free for 24 hours?

This week (May 4th-8th) is “National Food Allergy Awareness Week”. Anaphylaxis Canada is challenging everyone in the country to take a 24-hour period and be allergen free. Can you do it?

In order to do this, you would need to do what we go through every time we go to the store, or a restaurant, or eat out at friends’ and family’s houses. You will need to know every ingredient that went into everything that goes into your mouth. Are the allergens listed on the label? Does it contain trace amounts of allergens? Has it come into contact with any allergen and been cross-contaminated? What do you know about the facility in which the food was made? Was it baked in a allergen-free environment? Did it come from the bulk section of the supermarket? Was it made in-house?

When checking for allergens we are advised to read the label three times – once when purchasing the item, once when putting the food away at home, and once again before using it. Can you do it?

Our family lives a completely peanut-free life – we have to. Our three children have been diagnosed as allergic to peanuts, including trace amounts of 10 parts per million (ppm). Our youngest son – Liam – is airborne-allergic as well, which means that if you’ve eaten a peanut (or other tree nut) within the last 48 hours he could react to you.

When eating peanut-free, you have to be fully committed; you can’t cheat like you do on a diet. One wayward ingredient and you could be spending the night in the emergency room. With the severity of Liam’s allergy we can’t guess that something is “safe” – it’s his life at stake.

So I encourage you to take up this challenge – this will help you understand the stress that this adds to the life of someone who deals with this every day. Take one day this week and give up an allergen – peanuts/nuts, soy, wheat, eggs, fish, or others. As this blog is about peanut allergies, I can give you a short (non-inclusive) list of things to avoid that may contain peanuts.

What Contains Peanuts
(items marked with * have caused deaths )

peanut* / peanut butter* / peanut meal arachide / cacahuete / cacahuate
peanut soup / peanut punch / peanut drink ground nuts / beer nuts
peanut popcorn / peanut shells / peanut flour goober nuts / goober peas
peanut sauce / satay sauce* Mandelona nuts / Nu-Nuts
peanut-scented fishing lure (Mann’s Vworm) peanut butter flavour lip gloss (Bonne Bell)
Roy Rogers’ butterfinger milkshake Rocky Road ice cream

What May Contain Peanuts
(items marked with * have caused deaths )

chocolate / candies / cookies European chocolates*
Desserts* / sweets* / almond paste* chili* / egg rolls* / salsa / barbeque sauce
designer jelly beans / donuts / muesli pesto sauce / curry sauce / marinade
ice cream / sundaes / cereal / milkshakes plum sauce / mooshu sauce
granola bars / rice squares vegetable burgers / dried salad dressing
pet food (ie: gerbil. birdseed) some European cow’s milk formula
animal food (ie: pellets at petting farms) some Lean Cuisine meals / Arachis oil
homemade playdough bean bags with peanut shell filling
peanut butter suet cakes milk sold in the USA – may sometimes have peanut oil or fish oil to carry added vitamins

Note: European chocolate often has nut pieces which are not declared on the label. Some zinc and Castol oil creams, vitamin syrups and Nutella, Pears soap may have peanut oil. Many ant traps use peanut in them.

As an idea of some restaurants that our family have given up due to possible peanut cross-contamination:

  • Boston Pizza
  • Pizza Hut
  • Pizza Pizza
  • McDonalds – we only order at the drive thru, never eat-in, and not all menu items (chiabatta buns and cookies are out)
  • Burger King
  • Montana’s
  • Kelsey’s
  • Jack Aster’s
  • Tim Hortons / Country Style – coffee/tea only, at the drive thru, no food items

And for even more fun, we re-seeded our lawn this week and noticed that the bag of grass seed said “No peanut shells”.

So try the challenge. Read the ingredients label every time you pick something up. And remember, just because it doesn’t list “peanuts” on the label doesn’t mean it’s safe. Call the company and find out.

For you it’s only 24 hours.

1 comment:

  1. Great challenge! I have a PA son so I am already doing this. Still, I like that you put the challenge out there.