Archive for the ‘Epi-pen & Food Allergies’ Category

Food Allergies and Celiac Disease Confuse Americans

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I thought you might be interested in the results of a new nationwide survey, conducted by allergen-free cookie maker, HomeFree, in partnership with Harris Interactive, which finds that Americans are dangerously confused between food allergies and celiac disease. The survey results were recently featured in USA Today.

The survey found that while three out of four Americans can correctly identify at least one food allergen from a list of foods including cinnamon, dairy, gluten, bananas, nuts, wheat and eggs, 43 percent of people surveyed incorrectly identify gluten as an allergen. A very dangerous misconception.

Below is a press release including the full results of the survey. Tables are also available upon request.

New Nationwide Harris Interactive Survey Finds Gluten is Commonly and Erroneously Believed to Be a Food Allergen

WINDHAM, NH (April 7, 2010) – HomeFree, makers of organic, ready-to-eat, whole grain cookies free of common food allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy, today released the results of a new nationwide survey revealing that America has some knowledge of food allergies, but is confused about the difference between food allergies and celiac disease.

The survey of 1,013 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Interactive® by telephone between January 28 – 31, 2010, found that three out of four Americans can correctly identify at least one food allergen from a list of foods including cinnamon, dairy, gluten, bananas, nuts, wheat and eggs. Smaller majorities can correctly identify nuts, 65 percent, and dairy, 60 percent. Less than half identify eggs, 46 percent, and wheat, 44 percent, correctly as common food allergens. Interestingly, a similar number, 43 percent, incorrectly identify gluten as an allergen. Just 3 percent of Americans can correctly identify all four of the listed common food allergens (nuts, dairy, eggs and wheat) without making any incorrect identifications, while 19 percent correctly identifies all the listed allergens but also incorrectly include gluten as one of the allergens. Over 1 out of 5 Americans, or 22 percent, either don’t know or think none of those mentioned are common food allergens.

“We commissioned this survey out of concern for what appeared to be widespread confusion between food allergies and celiac disease, given the potentially serious health implications of such confusion,” said Jill Robbins, president and founder of HomeFree. “People want to be able to serve food safely to other people. To do so, it helps to know that people with celiac disease – a disorder in which people have sensitivity to gluten, found in foods such as wheat, rye, and barley – can get sick sometimes even from traces of gluten. It also is important to know which foods are actually common food allergens. That is because if someone with food allergies eats even a trace of a food to which he or she is allergic, it can quickly lead to a life threatening condition called anaphylaxis.”

The survey also revealed how Americans interpret the urgency of food allergic reactions, including in comparison to gluten sensitivity reactions. The survey found that that just over half of Americans surveyed, or 54 percent, correctly believe that when someone who has a wheat allergy eats a brownie and has a physical reaction, it could be an immediate life-threatening emergency, while about the same number, or 57 percent, of Americans incorrectly believe it could be an immediate life-threatening emergency when someone who is not supposed to eat gluten eats a brownie and has a physician reaction. This number goes up to 68 percent of Americans when including those who identified at least one situation incorrectly (i.e. someone who is not supposed to eat gluten, and/or someone who has celiac disease). Of further concern, fewer than half of Americans, 46 percent, correctly see someone reacting with a dairy allergy as similarly being at risk.

Given the critical need for early treatment with epinephrine for some food allergic reactions, and not for accidental ingestion of gluten, the results indicate a need for further education about allergies in general, as well as about the difference between wheat allergies and gluten sensitivities.

Robbins says, “People want to know what to do if a loved one, or someone in their care, suddenly has symptoms. Accidental ingestion of gluten for someone with celiac disease can be extremely uncomfortable, but is not an immediate life threatening emergency and is not treated with epinephrine. Accidental ingestion of a food allergen can lead to anaphylaxis, the successful treatment of which depends on rapid treatment with epinephrine (Epipen or Twinject).”

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), “an allergic reaction to food may begin with a tingling sensation, itching, or a metallic taste in the mouth. Other symptoms can include hives, a sensation of warmth, wheezing or other difficulty breathing, coughing, swelling of the mouth and throat area, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, a drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. These symptoms may begin anywhere from several minutes to two hours after eating an offending food, but life-threatening reactions may get worse over a period of several hours.” The eight foods that account for 90 percent of food allergic reactions are peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish (note that the current study inquiries did not include peanuts, soy, fish, or shellfish). FAAN reports that more than 12 million Americans have food allergies (about one in 25 Americans), and more than three million of them are children. Research also shows that there are more than five times as many people with food allergies as with celiac disease nationwide. HomeFree cookies were created for health conscious people looking for an enjoyable, certified organic, wholesome snacking option, and as a solution for safely including people with food allergies when serving treats.

Jill Robbins, HomeFree founder, mother and clinical psychologist, turned to baking when her son was diagnosed with food allergies eleven years ago. The author of Allergen Free Baking: Baked Treats for All Occasions, Jill focused on creating a solution to the social aspect of food allergies, finding it heartbreaking to know that many children, and adults, cannot fully participate in school and social events when treats with potential traces of allergens are served.

HomeFree cookies carry a suggested price of $4.99 per box at retail locations or $5.49 per box (plus shipping and handling) through the company’s website, HomeFree cookies are available in a variety of flavors including chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, and oatmeal (6.3 ounce boxes), as well as mini chocolate chip, mini chocolate chocolate chip and mini oatmeal chocolate chip. Individually wrapped cookies are $1.49 each or $14.90 for a case of 12.

HomeFree cookies, allergen-free baking cookbook and specialized allergen-tested baking ingredients are available for purchase through the company’s website. The cookies are available at over 450 retail locations nationwide including participating Whole Foods, Wild Harvest sections of Shaw’s supermarkets, Food Town and Giant Carlisle Supermarkets, as well as at a growing number of supermarket chains and institutions such as schools, camps, and sporting venues. For more information, or to purchase HomeFree products, please visit

About HomeFree
HomeFree, LLC is the maker of delicious, organic, ready-to-eat whole grain cookies and coffee cakes free of common food allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy. HomeFree was founded by Jill Robbins, a clinical psychologist, self-taught baker, author of Allergen Free Baking: Baked Treats for All Occasions, and the mother of a child with food allergies. HomeFree manufactures and packages its products in a dedicated facility. With the highest commitment to product integrity, HomeFree sources its ingredients with great care and conducts allergen testing on ingredients and random product batches. HomeFree cookies, coffee cakes and specialized allergen-tested baking ingredients are available for purchase through the company’s website and the boxed cookies are available at more than 450 retail locations. HomeFree, a woman owned business, is headquartered in Windham, NH, and donates a portion of its profits to organizations that provide food allergy research and!
education. For more information, or to purchase HomeFree products, please visit

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research that is powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit

# # #

Survey Methodology
This allergen study was conducted by telephone by Harris Interactive on behalf of BML Public Relations/HomeFree between January 28 and January 31, 2010, among 1,013 adults comprised of 510 men and 503 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. A full methodology is available including weighting variables. Please contact BML Public Relations at 973/337-6395 or

Will I Ever Outgrow My Food Allergies?

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I received the following question from a reader this morning, and I think many of us would like to know the answer. I would like to know what others have experienced.

“I have several food allergies eliminated from my diet, there is no change in my digestive health, will I ever be able to reintroduce some foods I miss so much? what other tips could I use to improve my digestive health, thank you.”

Before I begin the discussion, please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional. I am just a mom who has been dealing with food allergies for 22 years.

Lets’ start with our oldest son who started with his food allergies at 5 months old back in 1987. Our introduction into the world of food allergies was milk. Just a minute spec in a tiny taste of mashed potatoes sent his body into alert mode, head to toe hives, red skin, screaming at the top of his lungs with a very raspy throat and compromised breathing. As a result, I decided to continue nursing him for thirteen months. Later, via his Rast tests, we also found out he was allergic to egg even though his only suspected exposure to egg was through breast milk.

Twenty two years later, that milk allergy, along with egg, peanut and tree nuts still persists according to his Rast tests.

As we hesitantly introduced solid foods into his diet, he developed a pattern of safely eating a food for a year or two, and then developing an allergy to it. This happened with chicken, turkey, soy, watermelon, and nitrites. He was no older than four when most of his allergies presented themselves. The first time he ate kiwi, he develped a rash on his face, so we plucked that from his diet right away.

He ate oranges for 13 years before an unexpected reaction, which happened to send him to the ER. No previous warnings at all! At age 16.5, the orange allergy magically disappeared. His rast showed negative, and he passed the food challenge with flying colors.

We never attempted to give him peanuts or tree nuts since his skin tests were positive and his Rast scores were ridiculously high as a toddler. I remember his peanut score was reported as “>100″ back in 2002. I always thought it odd that the report showed a “greater than” sign. I interpret it to mean that at some point the exact score doesn’t matter.

He strictly avoids anything that he is allergic to. No cheating allowed. I was and still am too scared.

The soy allergy lasted only a short while and the doc took him off Nutramegin and put him back onto soy formula. I let him use the soy formula for years in his cereal to keep the nutrients flowing his way. I didn’t know of any Silk-type fortified rice or soy drinks to switch him to back in the late 80’s.

The chicken, turkey and watermelon allergies lasted for more than ten years, into his early teens. I periodically would request new testing for him and once his scores showed up negative, we did a food challenge.

There is no allergy test for nitrites, so he was told to avoid them. Of course, when he went off to college and was no longer under my supervision, he somehow managed to do his own food challenge with the help of a friend who practiced her Epi shooting skills into a plump and juicy orange. Yeah, I bet you can’t wait for your children to be off on their own after reading that tidbit. At least, they had several Epi-pens out on the coffee table “just in case”. And he actually did know the proper way to perform the challenge since he had done them many times with supervision. The big risk was not having a negative Rast test or skin test to warrant the challenge.

To this day, he still has to avoid milk, egg, peanut and tree nuts. His Rast for Almond and Pecan have shown negative, but we can’t find either nut that’s not cross-contaminated. It seems to be common practice to use the same trucks to haul tree nuts from the field to the factory. For example, the first load might be walnuts and the following load might be almonds.

At this point we’re waiting and watching. Most of his Rast scores have dropped in the past seven years, but are still in the “very allergic” category. Some have even gone up a hair, but I attribute that to human error and lab technique. This stuff is not perfect. I’m a mother, so I speculate.

I don’t have any real answers. I pray every day for the researchers who are trying to come up with a cure, and I am cautiously optimistic about what I read. I keep thinking that in 5 years he’ll only be 28, and in 10 years he’ll only be 32. I can wait that long. Come to think of it, I have no choice.

Onto son number two who is now twenty years old. He wasn’t allowed to eat anything his brother was allergic to for the first year of his own life. At age one, on a brave day, I gave him less than one drop of milk and he had the same reaction that his brother had 2.5 years earlier. RATS!

His initial battery of Rast tests showed allergies to milk, egg, and peanut. We were good at avoiding them, so we did.

I periodically requested testing for him and at age thirteen I got the call that every mom is waiting for. They were all negative. Of course, I cried. When I finally pulled myself together, I requested skin tests to be sure the Rasts were accurate. Confirmed. Negative. At that point, we jumped into the food challenges, saving the dreaded peanut challenge for last. Milk, good. Egg, good. And believe it or not, peanut, good.

So, in reality, I have no answers on this topic, just stories. I hope you find most of them encouraging. And I hope that some of my experienced readers will log in and comment. As usual, it’s always a good idea to check with your allergist to see what she/he thinks, since each allergy is so unique.

Best of luck to all of you, and you’ll be amongst the first to know if Bud outgrows anything else.

Regards, Ann