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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in food allergy (10)


Released Today: The CDC Guide to Managing Food Allergies in Schools

Today,October 30, 2013, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs." It is the first national comprehensive guidelines to help schools manage food allergies in their facilities and with their students.

This guide was created for schools, but I think every parent should download it and read it. It will help parents with food allergic kids understand what you can expect from schools, and also help parents of kids who have no food allergies understand why these regulations are in place. It might even help a parent save a kids life.

A Quick Snapshot of the Guide

The guide was created with the help of a team of experts, including federal agencies with the expertise in food allergies, consumer organizations who give advice on the clinical management of food allergies (like FARE and The American Academy of Pediatrics), organizations who represnt professional groups who work in schools, like school nurses.  They also worked with one school district, one state education agency, and two parents of food allergic kids.

The guide also takes into account the emotional needs & symptoms of food allergic kids, as well as guidelines on how to deal with bullying. Emotional needs are important, as well, since "the peanut table" can be a very lonely experience, as can be being forced to eat in the nurse's or principle's office.

The guide describes the symptoms of a classic allergic reaction, and how to recognize it as such from a clinical perspective, including mental and emotional symptoms. A child, for instance might have a sudden mood change or have a "sense of impending doom." I've certainly experienced this as part of a food allergy reaction, and I'm super glad that they included emotional symptoms in the guide.

The guide also gives examples of how a kid might describe a classic allergic reaction (one that might result in anaphylaxis). Here are a few examples:

  • It feels like something is poking my tongue.
  • There’s a frog in my throat; there’s something
  • stuck in my throat.
  • My tongue feels full (or heavy).
  • My lips feel tight.
  • It feels like there are bugs in there
  • (to describe itchy ears).

A very important component of the guide is the strategic planning and framework section. It helps the schools set up a system for the school so they can properly and quickly respond to an emergency, and document any emergency, so they can learn from any incident that might occur. This includes guidelines on professional development and training for any staff who has frequent contact with food allergic kids.

It also sets up a system for each child to help prevent and reduce the risk of any emergency, including child/parent education. How many times have we heard that a parent didn't realize that their food allergy posed such a risk for their child? The parent didn't learn from the doctor who diagnosed the child, but learned from an emergency room visit?

There are several sections that describe how to put these guidelines into practice, including checklists and recommended practices from the cafeteria to the bus, to field trips, to outside groups who use the school. 

Finally, the guide gives a clear description on the Laws that govern food allergies:

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
  • the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)h
  • Governing Statutes and Regulation for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974


...and a very comprehensive list of federal resourses to help schools and individuals find and understand the laws.  These are listed at the end.

This is an incredible resource with a great deal of information, that is very well organized. 

Download it here:  Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs.

You can also read more about this, and find other resources on the FARE website.


INTERVIEW: Bob's Red Mill on Gluten-free Processing, Testing and GMO's


This is an interview with Cassidy Stockton, the Social Media Specialist for Bob's Red Mill.  Through the interview, she takes us behind the scenes at Bob's, and gives us insight into their practices and philosophies, and some of the challenges in the allergen-free food market.  The above video opens the door to the plant and their testing facility, so we can see how things are done.



TF:  How & Why did Bob’s Red Mill get started? 

Bob’s:  Bob's journey began in the mid 1960’s after running across a book about old, stone-grinding, flour mills.  The book really struck him.  He became so enthusiastic, in fact, that he began to search the U.S. for stone mills that were still usable.  High-speed, steel, roller mills were quickly dominating the market, so any stone mill was a rare find.  Bob is pretty persistant, so when he procured millstones from an old water-powered flour mill in North Carolina , Bob and his wife, Charlee, began their first mill in Redding, California.

In 1978, Bob and Charlee decided to pursue others interests and moved to Oregon City, Oregon. On an afternoon walk, Bob came across yet another, beautiful, old mill.  As luck would have it, the mill was for sale.  In a few months, Bob was producing stone ground flours and cereals for local customers. Word quickly spread and Bob's Oregon City based mill enjoyed much success until 1988 when a fire destroyed the building.

Bob knew he owed it to his family of employees and loyal customers to rebuild.  He spent many years growing the business to where we are today. Our current site, located in Milwaukie, Oregon is a 320,000 square foot facility covering some seventeen acres and produces thousands of products each day.  Our products are all made with the same good old-fashioned techniques our customers have come to love and trust since our beginning.



Bob's Whole Grain StoreTF:  How does Bob’s keep their GF flours truly “gluten-free” when also processing other products that contain gluten grains?

Bob’s:  Our gluten free process begins at the farm. We source from suppliers who can deliver clean, gluten free grains.  We do not use suppliers who cannot provide us with grains that are mostly clean from gluten-containing grains. Once we receive a shipment, it is tested in our on-site gluten-free laboratory for gluten before it is released into our gluten free facility. If an ingredient does not test gluten-free, it does not go into that facility. All products and ingredients are tested to be under 20 ppm.

Within our building we have two manufacturing facilities- one that is entirely gluten free and one that is for everything else. The gluten free facility has dedicated storage areas, manufacturing lines, employees, and even a separate ventilation system. Customers can learn more, here: (links to a tour of our GF facility). All gluten free products are tested when they come in (as ingredients), during and after production before being released to the public.

Our entire facility is HACCP certified, which means that we practice Good Manufacturing Practices and all of our employees are well-versed in preventing cross contact between allergens.

Link to HACCP

Link to GMPS


TF:  Do you use a particular process for cleaning machines and your facility?   If so, why did you choose this particular process?

Bob’s:  Yes, we have a full procedure for cleaning machines. All lines are cleaned between runs using air and 30 lbs of the new product is flushed through the system before packaging begins. Production is scheduled with allergens in mind so that cross contact is minimized, for example if a soy product is to be run on a line, only products containing soy are run after it.


TF:  What certification organization(s) do you use?

Bob's:  We are certified organic by Quality Assurance International and certified kosher by Kehilla Kosher. Our HACCP certification is done by Randolph Associates, Inc.


TF:  Do you source your gluten-free grains from farms that do not rotate their gluten-free crops with wheat, rye or barley? 

Bob’s:  Yes, all of our gluten free oats are grown by a farming cooperative in Canada who is committed to only growing oats. No oats can be grown on those farms within the last 3 years prior to joining the coop. Additionally, while I don’t know the exact mileage, all of those farms are located a certain distance from farms growing wheat/rye/barley or other gluten-containing grains to prevent cross contamination due to weather/ birds/etc.  


Bob's Gluten-free LogoTF:  To what ppm do you test for gluten?  Why have you chosen that particular number?

Bob’s:  We test products down to 20 ppm, which means nothing over 19 ppm goes out- period. We chose 20 ppm because we felt that was low enough for the mass majority of people and high enough for us to produce the wide variety of gluten free products that we carry. At the time, this was the standard used in Europe. People should know that while we do test to below 20 ppm, most of our products fall much lower than that.


TF:  You also process nut flours.  If someone has both gluten and nut allergies, is it safe for a nut-allergic person to eat your gluten-free flours?  What is your advice?

Bob’s:  Yes, we package hazelnut and almond meal in our gluten free facility. We do not grind these flours, as stone grinding cannot produce flour and instead turns nuts into butters. We do package those flours and as we stated above, use good manufacturing practices to prevent cross contact. We have many people with nut allergies who eat our gluten free products with no problem, but it really comes down to the comfort level of the individual. There are several companies that specialize in allergen-free and nut-free products and we recommend customers look to them if they are not comfortable with our practices.

TF:  Do you test for other top allergens? 

Bob’s:  No, we do not.


TF:  Are you considering testing for other allergens to help more people with multiple food allergies?

Bob’s:  No, there have been no plans to do so.


TF:  Why are some of your gluten-free grains, like whole grain millet, not labeled “gluten-free”?

Bob’s:  All of our gluten free grains that are tested, including millet, are labeled gluten free. Some products, such as the millet, are sold to all sorts of customers. Those products have a small symbol on the front of the package to indicate gluten free, while the products that have been specifically designed for gluten free eaters display a more prominent gluten free label. We do have some products that are inherently gluten free, such as Buckwheat Flour and Soy Flour, but are not packaged or tested to be gluten free. This typically happens when we cannot secure a supplier who can provide the commodity in a reliable, gluten free manner in a sufficient quantity for our needs.


TF:  Oats are another fairly common allergy for people with gluten allergies or celiac disease.  Do you also test for oats in your gluten-free flours?

Bob’s:  No.



TF:  While on the subject of gluten, what are Bob’s thoughts on the proposed gluten testing  & labeling law?  Do you think 20 ppm is enough? 

Bob’s:  As a leader in the gluten free industry, Bob’s Red Mill was asked in the original hearings. We fully support this labeling law and eagerly await its release. We have been very active in pushing this law through by working with our US senator, Ron Wyden. (

We support 20 ppm because we feel it is a reasonable level for most manufacturers to attain. When you start getting into 10 and 5 ppm, many companies won’t be able to meet that threshold and will not be able to produce gluten free foods.


TF:  Could you see the law going further in any area?

Bob’s:  One area that begs more consideration is regarding the use of the gluten free claim on foods that are inherently gluten free. The spirit of the law is to prevent people from putting gluten free on things such as milk and eggs- things that would not ever have gluten. However, it will cause problems for foods that are inherently gluten free, such as oats, but need to be produced in a way that makes them fully gluten free. It does not help the consumer to say that all oats are gluten free- they simply are not.

TF:  Could you clarify what the labeling law means for foods that are "inherently" gluten-free?

Bob's:  It’s kind of a tricky wording on the proposed law. It says that if a product is inherently gluten free, you must state that. So for things like Quinoa, for example, even if we go above and beyond to ensure that the product is gluten free (through sourcing, production, and testing), we’ll have to put “quinoa is inherently gluten free” on the labeling if we want to call it gluten free. What worries our company is that people might assume that all quinoa is safe for consumption because it’s "inherently gluten free", (when it could be sourced or processed with gluten grains, and is not tested for gluten). That’s just an example, by the way. It’s just scary with the foods that really do have a high chance of cross contact- like oats- and if customers are not as savvy about what something like "gluten free oats" really means, they might think that all oats are inherently gluten free, so safe to eat even if the label doesn't actually say "gluten free".

TF:  What is the most difficult thing for food manufacturers to deal with when serving people with food allergies (Tender Foodies)? 

Bob’s:  Cross contact and keeping our ingredients clean through the entire process. It’s hard when you’re trying to source grains and your suppliers don’t know enough about allergens to work with you.



TF:  I see on your web site that Bob is a big supporter of health and wellness.  In fact, he and his wife recently gave to Oregon Health and Science University.   What inspired this interest and the gift to OHSU?

Bob’s:  The donation to OHSU and the two given last year to Oregon State University and the National College of Natural Medicine are all working to create and bolster nutrition research and education. The OHSU donation is the largest and will create the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health. Bob and Charlee want nothing more than to help end childhood obesity and educate people about proper nutrition.


TF:  I also noticed that Bob’s site has a section dedicated to Autism.  I know that a gluten-free diet has helped many people with Autism.  What is Bob’s interest in this condition?

Bob’s:  Our gluten free products have always been free from dairy/casein and we started hearing from our customers about their success following a GF/CF diet to mitigate the symptoms of autism. We care about our customers, so we listened and started trying to get more involved in the autism community.


TF:  Do you have any new products coming to market, or any events coming up that you would like my readers to know about?

Bob’s:  We have a few new gluten free products coming in 2012, but we cannot divulge what they are at this time.



TF:  What is your position on GMO's?

Bob’s:  All of our products come from identity preserved seeds. This means the seed planted in the ground is non-GMO. We simply can't guarantee against cross-pollination due to natural occurrences such as wind drift, so we do not label our products GMO-free.



TF:  How can Tender Foodies help manufacturers serve them better?

Bob’s: By increasing education and awareness (in the community).


TF:  If you were to give the Tender Foodie Community one piece of advice, what would you like them to know?

Bob’s:  Be an advocate for yourself. You are your biggest ally in eating allergen-free.


My warmest thanks to Cassidy Stockton and to Bob's Red Mill for the information they provided for this interview. 



Review: Bistro Bella Vita serves up a "Foodgasm" when dishing for patrons with allergies

Boeuf Bourguinonne. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hage, Green Frog Photo.


Some Background

I’ve dined at Bistro Bella Vita upon several occasions, twice, specifically for this review.  I have always been treated with respect and generosity by the Bistro Staff, even when I push my list of allergies and their accompanying strict instructions at my server; and even before I started writing reviews.

In my experience, Bistro Bella Vita has done their food allergy homework and they make it clear that they welcome special diets of any kind.  I know this because they told me as much, and they have gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan menus.  But it is also evident in the presentation of each meal, the tastes and textures on each plate, and the consistent care in the service I’ve received each time.  

The knowledge of the chefs, kitchen and servers are a fundamental, dining-out requirement for anyone with food allergies.  Personally, I also want my food to be made with whole, quality ingredients.  I want it to taste delicious, even if those ingredients are restricted.  There are several dishes on the menu that bring me back to Bistro.  In the case of one particular dish they serve, and according to my dining companion, it is “foodgasmic”.


The Food

That dish is the bœuf bourguignonne, a dish that I love, but one that I didn’t think a restaurant would serve to someone with dairy allergies.  French dishes are sometimes attached to their butter, and the balance of slow cooked flavors is what makes a this French stew so good.  Its advanced preparation can prohibit on-the-spot customization.  Unexpectedly Bistro said, “no problem” when I first ordered it, and I’ve ordered it several times since.

I was lucky to have Jeff Hage, a professional food photographer, with me during my most recent meal there.  I decided to “let” Jeff have the Boeuf Bourguignonne while I tried the sautéed duck breast for a second time.  As I scrutinized and enjoyed my duck, Jeff would make a few wordless utterances as he experienced his beef.  I asked him what inspired each reverent hum and he, a super foodie, started describing some tastes and flavors to me.  Here are two such verbalized hums:

“The mushrooms are roasted just perfectly.  Absolutely perfectly.”

“Oh, I just had a foodgasm.  A little piece of chard found its way in with a bite of the beef.  Oh.  So good.”


An Aside

ASIDE:  I looked up “foodgasm” – I thought it might have made it into the dictionary by now, but it hasn’t.  I did find a fun looking culinary web site, though (currently under construction).  Its called “  The Cherry Popping Experience.”   I thought that was hilarious.  And apropos.


 More Food

Duck with Steamed Summer Vegetables. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hage, Green Frog Photo.
My duck was also very good.  It came on a bed of perfectly steamed yellow and green haricot verts and summer squashes.  The balsamic reduction mingled with the duck juices that were seeping onto the plate and under the vegetables.  After watching Jeff photograph my dish, I then proceeded to enjoy that mingling.  The meat was nicely cooked to medium/medium-rare, though a bit chewy both times I had ordered it.  Jeff has more experience with duck than I, so I asked him why this might be.  He said that it usually has to do with the duck itself.  If you put two ducks side by side, one might cook into perfect tenderness, while another might be a little rubbery.  This didn’t stop me from enjoying the dish.  It almost didn’t stop me from literally licking my plate.  But alas, we do live in a civilized world with reputations to protect.

The Staff

I would be remiss if I did not mention Erica, our server.  Erica remembered that I tend to drink sparkling water with lime, made sure to get my food allergy card to the kitchen and then back to my wallet, and made my guests (and me) feel comfortable as we discussed my specialized menu.  Kyle, the special events coordinator worked with the Chef to get a recipe for the duck, including a cassoulet, which will be posted in a few days so you can try the duck for yourself.  He also worked with the manager, Brad, and the Chefs to answer questions about their food allergy practices.  I appreciate the time that each of them offered to help Tender Foodies take a comfortable and delicious space at their table.

Many, many thanks to Jeff Hage of Green Frog Photo for his delish pics.  

Bistro Bella Vita’s Food Allergy Practices

Food Allergy Training:  Developed our own internal process.

Menu Options:  Gluten-free, Lactose-free and Vegan Menus available.  

Gluten-free Options?   Currently no gluten-free pasta or pizza crusts but might develop one in the future.

Comfortable with Nut-allergic Patrons?
Yes, our staff is very well trained and very passionate about accommodating all guests and their allergies.

Dedicated Fryer?
  No, we only have one fryer therefore suggest against fried foods that must be gluten free.

Dedicated allergen-free prep area?  
All prep areas are washed with health department approved cleaners.
We use freshly washed equipment prior to cooking dishes with specific allergies. We change cutting boards, knives, pans and other dishes.  We make sure that all food is prepped on clean surfaces and is not within distance of foods that contain common allergens.  Staff members change gloves prior to preparing an allergen-free meal.  Our kitchen staff is always aware if there is gluten present in spices, and we don’t use tenderizers, caking agents, or roux’s. We do everything in our power to assure that there are no trace of allergens in dishes that require special attention.

Staff Training?

All employees are well trained and informed of the ingredients of all our products and our food allergy practices.  Our wait staff and management understand the potential for a severe reaction and know what to do if something happens.  If an allergen is mistakenly put on a plate, for example, our staff knows that a clean plate must be used and new dish must be made.  Regular refresher training is given to regular staff and new staff is trained.

How many allergen-free patrons do you see each month?

It would be impossible to give an exact number, but there are easily hundreds of people a month who dine with us who have allergies.

Local Sources?  Yes

Organic Sources?  Absolutely.

GMO Products?   We use non-GMO sources whenever possible.


44 Grandville Ave. SW • Grand Rapids, MI 49503 - CLICK HERE FOR OUR GOOGLE MAP

616.222.4600 (voice)
616.222.4601 (fax)




Shop in Allergen-free Teams for Less Stress in Severe Weather.

Courtesy of Shopping with food allergies often means mulitple trips to multiple stores.  This can be exhausting in any weather.  During severe storms, stocking up before a hurricane hits can be very complicated when food allergies are involved.  People with food allergies have to eat certain foods that are not readily available or convenient to find.  If you need help, or know of a neighbor who does, partner with them or with the people in your local food allergy support network. 

Each person can take a list with specific products for each person in the shopping group.  One person is assigned to one or two stores.  Keep the groups manageable.  Keep the lists to essentials -- but get enough.  The news warns to have enough food, water and flashlight batteries for 5 days.  And of course all mediations, including Epipens, need to be accounted for and with the allergic person at all times.  Pick a local spot that is convenient to everyone and exchange food and money accordingly.

If you don't know of any other person with food allergies, perhaps a friend or family member can help by picking up some stuff for you at their regular grocery store while you do your shopping at the allergen-free store.   

When times get tough, it takes a community.  To all of our friends on the East Coast, stay safe, secure, and loved.  Lots of good energy is coming your way.


Recipe: Potatoes and Onions on the Grill


The Healthier Side of the Potato

I can't remember a time when I didn't love grilling potatoes in aluminum foil packets (although now I line the foil with parchment and nix the butter).  I grew up crisping them up with onions, butter and salt.  Since this is a simple, classic way to cook these wonderful comfort-giving tubers, you may have tried this very recipe.  It may even be part of your regular grill-time magic.  But if you've forgotten about this summer treat, or your dairy allergies have left these carmelized bits of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, mangenese, copper, tryptophan and phytonutrients off the table, I'm here to remind you about them.  You don't have to use butter.  And potatoes are good for most of us, especially the phytonutrient-rich red and purple ones.


The Recipe

This recipe works really well with Old Beau Steaks.  Yum!

Serves 3-4.

Get the grill cranking to about 425 degrees.

Cut 2 8x8 pieces of aluminum foil and 2 8x8 pieces of parchment paper.  Put the parchment paper on top of the foil. I like smaller packets so that there is more carmelization on more of the potatoes. 

Slice 4-6 red potatoes into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices, or 1 inch chunks.  Place as many as you can comfortably fit onto the parchment paper evenly.  You need to have enough foil/paper to fold all four ends into a tight little package.  You can use any kind of potato for this.  I like red or Yukon gold because of their taste and tenderness.

Slice 1-2 onions (any kind will do, but Vidalia are super tasty) into 1/4 inch slices - or chunks.  Place with the potatoes on your parchment.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil

Swirl a few pinches of sea salt onto the potatoes and onions to taste. (Sea salt has more nutrients than regular table salts, which have been stripped of nutrients).

On a gas grill, leave them on the hottest part of the grill, covered, for about 30-40 minutes and flip with tongs after 15-20.  Open a packet or two (carefully; the steam is intense) and check to see that the potatoes next to the parchment are nicely charred brown and super tender when pierced with a fork.  If they are, they are done.  You can let them sit in the unopened packet while you cook your steaks, or you can put the steaks on after you flip the packets.  Either way, they will stay hot in the packet for 15 min.  For charcoal grills, put them over a spot on the grill where there is a high mound of coals. 

I like them just like this - no frills.  But once in a while I mix it up.  You can add things like:

  • minced garlic or shallots
  • parsley,  dill, sage, or rosemary
  • black or red pepper flakes; or fresh hot peppers
  • green, yellow, red, or purple bell peppers, sliced
  • Marconi peppers
  • mushrooms
  • cooked bacon
  • lemon slices


Health Note

Potatoes, as well as tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), eggplant and tomatillos, are nightshades and contain alkaloids.  So your doctor might recommend that you not eat them if you have certain conditions. 

I avoid placing my food in direct contact with aluminum whenever possible.  Even though the most recent studies don't show a direct link between alzheimer's and aluminum, it has been studied as a cause and aluminum has been found to be toxic to the nervous system in high doses (how high is unclear).  So I put parchment paper on the inside of the aluminum foil to reduce the chance of unnecessary heavy metal leakage.  To me, let's just steer away from the risks we can and give our immune and nervous systems a break.  And although the potato, the most plentiful crop on the planet, is usually fried, dipped or smothered in something, if you can eat it, give the potato a break, too.  Eat its goodness and partake in its nutritiousness, not its calories.  Although, I admit, the occasional mound of french fries is a thing of beauty, I dont' miss them when I eat this recipe.


For more information on potato varieties in the U.K.:

In the U.S.:


This post does not consitute as medical advice in any way, shape or form.  As always, consult with your doctor if you have any medical conditions or nutritional restrictions.