Shopping at Costco for Food Allergy Families

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People often ask if a Costco membership is worth it when a lot of what you’ll find in any store, let alone a membership based one, isn’t an option when you have food allergic individuals at home.  Produce and basics aside, I wanted to write about a few finds this past week at our Henderson Costco.  Be advised that these selections are specific to our Southwest region of the country and that no one paid me to write any of this though Happy Family and Luke’s were FABlogCon sponsors last year.

This post has been on my mind since I first wrote about Kirkland’s Ricemilk (here and here) but thank you to Sharon Wong from Nut Free Wok for encouraging me to get it done!  The photos are just from my phone so they are more illustrative and informative than pinterest-worthy.  As always, call companies to verify a food’s appropriateness for you.  I uploaded these files at full resolution so you can click on the images and peek at ingredient labels if you are interested in seeking a product out.

Corn Tortillas

Tortilla Land Tortillas

Tortilla Land Tortillas

When E outgrew her corn allergy but had not yet outgrown her wheat allergy, these were a great option.  I usually am not a fan of corn tortillas but you cook these up fresh and they are wonderful in recipes like enchiladas.  60 for $6.39, I’m not sure if they freeze well or not.

Tortilla Land Tortillas

Tortilla Land Tortillas

Kirkland Ricemilk

Kirkland Ricemilk

Kirkland Ricemilk

Read more about the ingredients here and about their stock status here for Kirkland Organic Ricemilk.  We use it almost exclusively even though milk is now technically a safe option for us.  Unlike many Ricemilks, it is not in a shared facility with nuts per my last communication with Costco corporate.  $13.99 for 12 containers with 4 cups in each.

Kirkland Ricemilk

Kirkland Ricemilk

Udi’s Granola

Udi's Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

Udi’s Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

We can’t have oats, peanuts, tree nuts, or sesame so this Granola isn’t an option but I include it here for my gluten free and vegan friends that may not be aware Costco is carrying products by Udi’s.  My favorite nut free and oat free granola is by Enjoy Life but I don’t know if they’ll break into Costco with anything other than Plentils for the time being.  $6.79.

Udi's Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

Udi’s Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

Luke’s MultiGrain & Seed Crackers – Chia Seed

Luke's Crackers

Luke’s Crackers

Luke’s crackers are pretty tasty and though my favorite of their products would have to be their chips (and even some of those have sesame), I love that an allergy aware company is featured at Costco.  This particular box consists of two large backs of the crackers (not snack packs like I assumed when I first purchased them) and the flavor is very neutral.  $7.99.

Luke's Crackers

Luke’s Crackers

Nutiva Coconut Oil

Nutiva Coconut Oil (Peanut Facility Warning)

Nutiva Coconut Oil (Peanut Facility Warning)

I am sharing Nutiva’s coconut oil in a cautionary way since they now carry a shared with peanut oil in the facility warning.  We haven’t bought it since but it may still be a safe option for some!

Peanut warning on Nutiva Coconut Oil

Peanut warning on Nutiva Coconut Oil

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

I purchased this for my sister in law, who is doesn’t eat wheat or gluten products, so I could make an easy treat considering we don’t stock gluten free flours the way we used to at home when E was allergic to wheat.  She really enjoyed baking with these mixes and liked the results.  Great price, but again, I didn’t buy these necessarily for my daughter so I don’t know what other factors may come into play ingredient-wise.  Just nice to see gluten free options for people!  $7.99.

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze

Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze

Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze

When I was a kid we didn’t eat anything out of a pouch. . .well, I guess except for drinking Capri-Sun “juice.”  But I digress.  My kids love all things pouch based it seems and Costco is in tune with that.  $11.99.

Mamma Chia

Mamma Chia

Go Go Squeez

Go Go Squeez

Go Go Squeez

These applesauce pouches are E and R’s favorite – my daughter even wrote the company a letter (with her Auntie’s help) to thank them for being nut free.  You may think, of course applesauce is nut free, but it is nice to see Go Go Squeez taking pride in that.  $10.99.

Go Go Squeez Applesauces

Go Go Squeez Applesauces

Happy Family Fruit and Veggie Twists

Happy Family Pouches

Happy Family Pouches

Happy Family also has a line of fruit sauce pouches but crazily these were stacked right next to the powdered peanut butter in the store (just an observation, I know everything is sealed) and they have this little note on them saying your purchase supports “Operation Peanut Butter.”  I looked into it and it is actually a program to help with starvation around the world in children with peanut butter enriched with other ingredients.  Every purchase supports this project.  You can watch a video clip from Happy Family about Operation Peanut Butter here.  I personally would like to know more about the way they are approaching this program but their hearts are in the right place and it is not an implication regarding the manufacture of these pouches themselves.  I just was surprised by the new reference on the label and looked into it a bit.

Happy Family Fruit and Veggie Twists

Happy Family Fruit and Veggie Twists

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

We stumbled upon this bread a while back and bought some to try when my sister in law visited.  No nuts, gluten, dairy or soy!  It is also delicious toasted or untoasted so do check it out.  $7.99 for two sizable loaves of yummy gluten free bread is a great deal too.

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

 Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

$10.59 for 48 fruit leathers that sell at supermarket checkouts for 50 cents apiece is a substantial deal (22 cents apiece, in fact).  All of these fruit leathers are natural and make for a good purse/diaper bag emergency snack.

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

40 fruit snacks from one of our favorite companies, Yummy Earth!  These are even gelatin free.  I like to buy things like this for my daughter’s class so they have safe treats on hand in case a student forgets a snack at home.

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

100 individual bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans for $9.79 – I bought these for my daughter’s school Trunk or Treat so they could pass out peanut free options.  Please confirm that these are safe for other allergies of course.

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Annie’s Crackers

Annie's Crackers

Annie’s Crackers

These are wheat based crackers but another option for in class snacks at $11.89.  They do have soy and milk alerts in addition to wheat, I am glad for the absence of oats on these.

Annie's Crackers

Annie’s Crackers

Kirkland Tortilla Chips

Kirkland Tortilla Chips

Kirkland Tortilla Chips

We buy the non-organic Kirkland corn chips for a very good reason – the Organic variety has a nut warning.  Click here to see the front and back of the Organic variety.  We once grabbed the wrong one by accident so I thought I’d mention it.  $4.99.

Kirkland Tortilla Strips (Choose the Non-Organic Variety to Avoid a Nut Warning)

Kirkland Tortilla Strips (Choose the Non-Organic Variety to Avoid a Nut Warning)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

$4.79 for a bag of potato chips bigger than your head can’t be beat.  I like to eat these with salsa which I know makes me weird but I don’t mind.

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Honest Company Shampoo

Honest Company Shampoo

Honest Company Shampoo

I haven’t purchased this shampoo but the label looks promising.  Have any of you tried it?  $14.99 is spendy for me but it might be a good option given the ingredient list.

Honest Company Shampoo

Honest Company Shampoo

Allergy Medicine

Allergy Medicine

Allergy Medicine

I have yet to fill an epinephrine prescription at Costco (see also: my posts about EpiPen and Auvi-Q two packs and expiration dates) but we do get Zyrtec, Claritin, and Benadryl there for time to time.

And on an amusing note…

I spotted this cart at checkout – when we entered the store Costco had a display for singing Olaf dolls.  R wanted one and I said no but a lot of parents had their kids playing with them in their carts so it was funny to see how many ended up on the “re-stock” pile.  Poor Olaf!  Don’t worry, some grandparent is going to buy you anyway so you can sing for the whole family at home. . .

Discarded Olaf Dolls

Discarded Olaf Dolls

So!  I hope this was of interest – I’d love to know what food allergy friendly finds you have at your local Costco because I’m a Costco nerd (Exhibit A).

Review: Dreamy Desserts Nut Free Bakery in Las Vegas, Nevada

Nut Free Cake by Dreamy Desserts (image courtesy of Dreamy Desserts)
Nut Free Cake by Dreamy Desserts (image courtesy of Dreamy Desserts)

It has been almost two months since E’s 6th birthday and she knew she wanted a “store bought” cake.  Not “mommy made.”  It had to be “Frozen” themed and as her RSVP list grew the prospective cake did as well.  I had been watching with fascination the updates on twitter and facebook of Penny Redlin, owner of Dreamy Desserts (a nut free online bakery based in Las Vegas), and knew that the nut free made to order bakery was my “store bought” solution.

Frozen Birthday Decorations

Frozen Birthday Decorations

Penny was incredibly friendly and helpful with the process.  Given her time limitations she fills up reservation spots on her calendar and as your date nears you can get in touch and firm up what you’d like.  I actually shipped (via Amazon Prime) cake toppers directly to Penny to make the process that much easier.  Advance ordering isn’t just for cakes but for other treats like cookies or parfaits as well.

Elsa

Elsa

Dreamy Desserts is Las Vegas based so if you’re traveling to town for an event you can order in advance and even pay to have your order delivered if you are within a certain range.  I sprang for delivery because I had no idea how to transport E’s cake.  The best part of doing business with a fellow food allergy parent is that you can ask all kinds of questions and never feel silly – there’s a detailed answer in response and even frank discussion of kitchen practices for those allergens that are off the beaten path (oat and sesame for us on top of peanut and tree nut).  Dreamy Desserts can make vegan cakes as well, which we debated to be more inclusive of E’s dear friend K but after consulting with K’s mother she was going to make her own matching cupcakes (see, I’m not the only one!) for the party.

Image Courtesy of Dreamy Desserts

Image Courtesy of Dreamy Desserts

More about Dreamy Desserts:

Dreamy Desserts was created for anyone looking for nut free treats.  Sadly, my son can not have peanuts or tree nuts.  As it turns out, I have over 20 years of baking experience, so I decided to offer nut free baked goods to others with a similar need. 

We are an online bakery based in Las Vegas, NV.  We can deliver any of our nut-free treats within the Las Vegas area!

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, just ask, we may be able to accommodate

 (as long it doesn’t have nuts!) 

(source: Dreamy Desserts).

I should stop rambling and offer the big reveal – the look on her face made it so worth it.  E’s  6th birthday “Frozen” cake…

Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Oat Free, and Sesame Free Frozen Birthday Cake

Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Oat Free, and Sesame Free Frozen Birthday Cake

The snowflakes were a mix of sugar (the smaller ones) while the larger details were a vegan fondant.  The frosting sparkled and the cake was white with strawberry preserves.

Frozen Birthday Cake by Dreamy Desserts

Frozen Birthday Cake by Dreamy Desserts

E was delighted, as was I.  Penny didn’t ask me to write about this but I kept meaning to highlight how wonderful she is to put so much love and care into making special treats for those that live with food allergies.  By the way, Dreamy Desserts’ Facebook page is really close to breaking 20,000 likes so if you’d like to see other delicious options as photos are posted, head on over!

____

Also at E’s birthday was my friend Pamela Sundlie, owner of Magic Wand Face Painting, who did a fantastic job with face painting and glitter tattoos for the kids.  Best of all, she had her ingredient sheets with her (and we’d gone over them in advance of course) so there were only adorably painted faces and no itchy cheeks.  I love that we can support the creativity of our local friends while also having a great time.  This was E’s first solo party since before R was born (we’ve been doing joint parties) so I wanted it to be special – I warned her that I can’t really top her 6th party until perhaps her wedding day.  She seemed okay with that.

UPDATE: Suit Filed against Amtrak re: Unaccompanied Minor Policy’s Exclusion of Food Allergic Youth

What follows is a press release from Stein Vargas – I am so very privileged to be able to share this with all of you!  You can make a difference!  (See my prior post for more: Amtrak’s Unaccompanied Minor Policy Explicitly Excludes Food Allergic Youth and download the press release here).

Press Release

Press Release

PRESS RELEASE – 10/16/14

CONTACT: Mary Vargas, Stein & Vargas, LLP | 240-793-3185 | Mary.Vargas@steinvargas.com

Washington, D.C. – Noah Joseph, a Michigan teenager seeking the opportunity to visit his grandmother by train, filed suit today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak”). In his Complaint, Joseph alleges that Amtrak’s policy prohibiting teens with food allergies from train travel discriminates on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Joseph, who carries an epinephrine auto injector for his allergy, had been scheduled to travel by train with his older brother from Kalamazoo, Michigan to visit his grandmother in Dearborn, Michigan during his summer break in August of 2014. However, when Joseph’s mother attempted to make reservations, Amtrak refused to book travel for Joseph because of his food allergy regardless of his ability to travel safely.

The Americans with Disabilities Act specifically prohibits Amtrak from categorically excluding individuals with disabilities. Likewise, Section 504 prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance, like Amtrak, from refusing service on the basis of disability. While Amtrak allows teenagers without food allergies to travel by train, Amtrak’s policy of denying travel to teens with food allergies is stated explicitly on the company’s website at www.amtrak.com/unaccompanied-minors-policy.

Joseph hopes that in filing suit he will encourage other teens with disabilities to stand up for their rights and that he will win the right to travel by train to visit his grandmother.

Joseph is represented by Stein & Vargas, LLP. For more information, please contact Mary Vargas at Mary.Vargas@steinvargas.com or at (240)793-3185.

Stein & Vargas, LLP is a civil rights firm committed to the principle that all people have full and equal access to all parts of society.

When a School Tries to Split Up Epinephrine Auto Injectors

Source:  http://portal.nasn.org/media/SavingLivesatSchool_Handbook.pdf
Source: http://portal.nasn.org/media/SavingLivesatSchool_Handbook.pdf

Have you ever been in a situation where something comes out of nowhere and you are too surprised to react?  A parent recently shared an experience that had all of us in a private Facebook group for parents of children with food allergies up in arms.  I asked if I could share it here on their behalf to prepare others for questions that would otherwise catch them off guard.

To set the scene, imagine you are at your school’s “meet the teacher” night and dropping off medication, paperwork, and of course epinephrine auto-injectors:

“[They] promptly took out the [EpiPens] and split the two pack and handed one back to me. I kind of had a mini-meltdown [...] I said what are you doing? You’re not supposed to split a two-pack. She told me that was [District] policy. She then checked with the nurse who said she’d been doing this for 17 (?) years and that they don’t ever keep the second one because, according to [District] policy, only a nurse is allowed to administer the second dose and that a nurse will almost never be on campus. I was a little shocked and replied that I was told NEVER to split the two-pack. They told me they could keep the second one, if I insisted. They told me they had been splitting the two-packs all morning and I was the only one who said something. [...] This was new to me as last year they took the two-pack, no problem.”

The parent here, let’s call them Pat, is entirely correct.  Epinephrine auto-injectors come in packs of two for very specific reasons.  In researching for this post, I stumbled upon a 2008 post from “Our Story: The Good, the Bad, and the Food Allergies” by Janeen Zumerling where she discussed being faced with a pharmacy trying to fill one prescription for a 2 pack of EpiPens instead of more because they figured two pens came in one box.  So while this is the first time I’ve heard personally about this happening, it could happen at school, at the pharmacy, or elsewhere.

Suggestions as to How to Respond

(The following come with the overall caution to remain respectful, polite, and evidence based in your appeals to the decision maker in question – it may also not be a good idea to have these discussions in front of your child, depending on their age, if they are present when the attempt to split injectors occurs):

1) “This is how my doctor prescribed it.”

Sometimes people will back off if you tell them the instruction comes from someone other than yourself, like an allergist or physician.  My daughter’s allergist writes her prescription for a “two pack” – does yours?  In the story above, Pat was told that the school nurse had been doing it this way for years and that no one else had complained, so this response may not work.

2) Stock Epinephrine Laws

If your state has a stock epinephrine bill, as Nevada does, you can point to the bill’s language.  Nevada specifically references “two doses” of injectable epinephrine.  NRS 388.424 (I’m so used to calling it Senate Bill 453, I had to look up the final Nevada Revised Statutes citation, it makes me happy to see it nestled in the law on the legislature’s website!) reads (in part) as follows:

Each public school, including, without limitation, each charter school, shall obtain an order from a physician or osteopathic physician for auto-injectable epinephrine pursuant to NRS 630.374 or 633.707 and acquire at least two doses of the medication to be maintained at the school. If a dose of auto-injectable epinephrine maintained by the public school is used or expires, the public school shall ensure that at least two doses of the medication are available at the school and obtain additional doses to replace the used or expired doses if necessary. 

(emphasis added).

3) Clarify – EpiPen and Auvi-Q versus Twinject

If your injector is the Auvi-Q or EpiPen, that the Twinject is the only injector where the first dose of epinephrine is an autoinjector and the second is a traditional injection that might cause the concern regarding a nurse administering it.  (Source)  Even so, the doses should be kept together.

4) Look into self-carrying

If your child is responsible, they may be able to carry both doses on their person instead of having to wrangle a school when it comes to attempts to split doses.

5) Turn to your 504 Plan (or IEP)

Depending on the makeup of your school (public schools fall under this, for example, it is dependent largely on the receipt of federal money), you may qualify for a “504 Plan” for your student.  (Source, I discussed school accommodations in my overview of the Fox Chapel case FARE amicus brief as well.)  This is a shorthand reference to the accommodation to which you are entitled for your student.  Don’t have one?  Request a meeting.  Even if the person trying to split your injectors is a novice on the food allergy front, they should know what a 504 plan is (stay tuned for a post on what to do when you get blank stares after mentioning it, as happened to a friend of mine recently).  Does your plan reference both doses?  The plan we have for my daughter references a second dose after 10 minutes if emergency services have not yet arrived.  Some schools may not permit a 504 plan where an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is in place to cover other accommodations, so your allergy procedures should be contained in that document instead.

6)  Go higher up

You can speak to someone in the school district that may be more informed than the individual you’re dealing with.  If the person you’re facing is a school nurse, use data from the National Association of School Nurses.  They have a great guide about anaphylaxis here (aptly titled “Saving Lives at School“) and I’ve isolated the page about two doses of epinephrine below (click the image for a larger version).

Second Dose of Epinephrine Referenced in School Nurse Guidelines

Second Dose of Epinephrine Referenced in School Nurse Guidelines

7) Research Response Times

This may take some google searching on your part but some areas may have response times for emergency services (ie, 9-1-1) that exceed 5-10 minutes.  If you’ve ever been in a traffic jam near your child’s school, you probably won’t be surprised when you do find the stats you need.  You’ll see that this is even more important when you see my notes on biphasic reactions below.

8) Know Some of the Reasons Why Epinephrine Autoinjectors Come With Two Doses

Not only could the first injector malfunction, there may be user error (or inexperience) at play in addition to the risk of biphasic (subsequent) reactions from the same exposure or the epinephrine wearing off before help can arrive.  I’ve broken this final suggestion down with supporting information I was able to find – sometimes just knowing why a protocol is in place will help you if someone down the line challenges you.

Background Research

Here is some additional information (background research that I did) that could come in handy if someone tries to force split your two pack of injectors:

A second Dose of epinephrine is required For At Least 1 in 10 patients

While the percentages vary, a second dose is required for 10%-35% of patients experiencing an allergic emergency to deal with the symptoms of the reaction.  (EpiPen says 20%, Auvi-Q says 10%-20%, and Twinject says 35%)  Remember, of course, I am not a physician and none of this is a substitute for medical advice.  I just want to arm people with information that they could use if they find themselves in Pat’s shoes.  A study spanning 2001-2006 records for two hospitals in Boston found that 12% of children required two doses of epinephrine as opposed to one per Susan Rudders, MD, of Children’s Hospital Boston. (Source:  “Kids With Food Allergies May Need 2 EpiPens” – WebMD Health News, March 26, 2010)  The article goes on to quote Dr. Rudders as saying, “The problem is, we really don’t have good ways of identifying who will and will not need an extra dose.”

The effects of one dose of epinephrine may wear off after 10-20 minutes

Epinephrine suppresses the progression of a reaction. (Source)  It may wear off after 10-20 minutes, however, which may not be enough time for emergency help to have arrived.  (Source)  Remember, use epinephrine by injecting it into the outer thigh, call 911, also remembering to keep the patient lying down with their feet elevated and be prepared to use that second dose.

User Error And Device Malfunction

 Not that anyone wants to consider making a mistake when the situation calls for epinephrine, but in a high stress situation the person using the product may not know how or may make a mistake.  I found an interesting article from 2010 that compared four injectors (it was funded by the makers of the Intelliject, later called the Allerject in Canada or Auvi-Q in the United States) entitled: “A comparison of 4 epinephrine autoinjector delivery systems: usability and patient preference” from the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (by Stephanie Guerlain, PhDemail, Akilah Hugine, MS, Lu Wang, MS, in Volume 104, Issue 2, Pages 172–177, February 2010 – the manuscript version is here).

The manuscript mentions that when a device malfunctioned, the likelihood of failing to follow instructions was higher.  What I was searching for were stats on malfunction but the reference here admits it is a possibility in a test setting at least:  “Studies have shown that patients and caregivers do not always correctly administer epinephrine autoinjector devices. [...] There may also be a large time lapse (several years) between when a person is trained on an autoinjector and when it must be used during an allergic reaction. Finally, a patient or care provider may be under significant stress while attempting to provide the potentially life-saving dose of epinephrine when it is used.”  Id.

As an aside, I was surprised that the most common error for use of an epinephrine injector was not holding it for the correct amount of time.  In the study I looked at,  versions of what would become the Auvi-Q (INT02 and INT01 in the study)  were used as well as the EpiPen and the TwinJect.  “The INT02 device resulted in participants committing this [(not holding long enough)] error 11 times compared with 27 (INT01), 40 (EpiPen), and 42 (TwinJect) times.”  Training across devices was held to be crucial, with the manuscript indicating that “[t]he fact that less than 50% of participants across all devices could follow the labeled instructions without committing a single error provides confirmation that the need for training on the use of epinephrine autoinjectors is still important.”

I didn’t mean to get sidetracked but I found it interesting.  At any rate, someone administering the medicine could not hold it long enough, the device itself could malfunction, the person may not be adequately trained, or the stress of the situation could cause errors as well.  With these things in mind, a second device is a very important thing to have.

Biphasic Reactions

The first time I heard of biphasic reactions I was fairly shaken.  It isn’t enough to worry about accidental exposure to an allergen without now thinking that you could have the reaction, be stabilized, only to have it return like an aftershock even hours later.  A biphasic reaction is defined as “a worsening of symptoms requiring new therapy after resolution of anaphylaxis.”  (Source)

Final Notes

I hope some or all of the above is useful!  I also hope you don’t run into push back when you work with your school.  Pat was able to get the school to retain both EpiPens and I really appreciate the talking point the story provided (thank you!).

As I stated in my post regarding EpiPen and Auvi-Q expiration dates (people are reporting in the comments that they’re receiving their $400 Auvi-Q savings cards in the mail in about 2 weeks after reporting short dated injectors, check out Amazing & Atopic and Food Allergy Pharmacist for even more if you’re following the issue), I have connections at both Mylan and Sanofi (I am the co-founder of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference and they are both sponsors and my travel, hotel, and some food was covered for my attendance at the Mylan Summit earlier this year) – see my disclosures page as always for more.

The opinions herein are my own, do not constitute legal advice or medical advice, and are provided merely as discussion points.  I am an attorney and parent of a child with food allergies living in Southern Nevada. 

More Graphics for Food Allergy Bloggers Conference 2014

50 Days until FABlogCon!
50 Days until FABlogCon!

It has been a month since I shared some of the graphics I put together to promote aspects of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference and I have come up with some more I thought I’d collect here.  I hope they are helping people to see the value of what we’ll have at #FABlogCon.

In addition to the graphics, we recently shared a video from last year’s conference that may be useful if you are preparing for back to school – Dr. Mike Pistiner and Lynda Mitchell spoke about allergies and education in their presentation viewable here.

With contributions from friends and family I wrote out some ideas of things to do and see in Las Vegas as well!

Four Stages of a Food Allergy Mom

Four Stages of a Food Allergy Mom

Do you have a favorite graphic?

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As always, feel free to contact me with questions if you are considering attending as I’m a co-founder and co-organizer of the conference (FABlogCon.com) along with Jenny Sprague of Multiple Food Allergy Help).  We are offering single day tickets to Las Vegas locals in case that is an option that works better for you.  You can follow the conference on Twitter or Facebook (or both!) to see new graphics as they come out.  Register to attend today and remember this is not just a blogger event!  See the schedule here for more information.

Amtrak’s Unaccompanied Minor Policy Explicitly Excludes Food Allergic Youth

If you think I talk about Food Allergies all the time here, imagine how my friends feel!  A friend from law school, Ali, wrote to me that though her daughter doesn’t deal with food allergies, she saw this policy on Amtrak’s website and was disturbed that a food allergic minor would not be permitted to ride Amtrak alone while one without food allergies might be allowed to do so.

Their site simply states:

The unaccompanied child may not have any life-threatening food allergies.

I have written to Amtrak to inquire about this policy but have not yet received a response.  If I do, I will be sure to update this post.  The full policy, with the allergy reference highlighted, is below:

If I were to speculate, there’s a lot implied here.  My mind first goes to the thought that food allergic children have to be more responsible and aware versus non-allergic children (source).  On the other hand, the teen years are notorious for risk taking behavior (source).  I am not sure that Amtrak is weighing either of these considerations in their policy, however.  They could simply want to delegate responsibility for a minor with food allergies to the individual accompanying them.  Or, to take it a step further, from reading their other statements regarding food service and nuts (source), they are taking the approach many of us have experienced where a restaurant or other location just turns a food allergic individual away without attempting basic accommodation.  As I stated, though, this is speculation.  Their automated system kept kicking me back to their dining policy and customer service e-mail has gone unnoticed thus far.

Most of all, I was not sure how to respond to my friend.  She thought it was outrageous to have such a restriction.  Here in Las Vegas we don’t really have this sort of transportation – is it common for a teen to ride a train unaccompanied in the United States?  Does Amtrak require disclosure of allergies upon ticket purchase?  To buy an unaccompanied minor ticket it seems that one has to call in and not use the online system at the outset.  To interview a child at the station to determine the ability to ride alone (included in the above policy) but exclude from that determination whether they could adequately manage their own food allergies for the duration of travel seems to attach a strict liability concern for Amtrak.  That is to say, is the act of a teen with food allergies traveling alone patently risky to the point where Amtrak cannot allow it – or such that they would point to the policy as a defense if something did happen to a teen with food allergies traveling alone?  And what of allergies that present for the first time without prior warning?  There is a push in many states already to move stock epinephrine beyond schools and onto public transportation and in restaurants (read more about Nevada’s efforts here).

The American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA for short) of 1990 established that “[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a) (2000).  A disability under the ADA “means, with respect to an individual– a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2).  Arguably, food allergies, though something that can be mitigated through avoidance, impact the major life activity of eating and are covered by the ADA.  Here, I’m sure the response by Amtrak would be that the person wanting to travel could do so, albeit accompanied.  They’d try to look at the age restriction as the reason for a limitation and not at an outright discrimination based on allergy.  It certainly bears more investigation/research into the current state of disability law in the United States.  And of course none of this is legal advice or anything, I’m just wondering if this is simply a policy that has gone unnoticed or unchallenged.  My area of practice as a Nevada attorney doesn’t run to this area of law, I deal largely with elder exploitation and guardianship day-to-day, but my interest is definitely piqued by issues such as these.  (See also: my post about labeling)

My knee-jerk reaction would be that if, say, a 14 year old meets all other requirements Amtrak has for unaccompanied travel and also happens to have food allergies, I can’t see why they should not be allowed to travel alone.   What are your thoughts?  Does this strike you as a discriminatory policy?  Is this a policy that protects the potential unaccompanied youth with food allergies or does the protection run to Amtrak alone?  At what age would you be comfortable with your child, food allergic or not, traveling alone?

Disney’s “Frozen” Party Favor Idea

If you enjoyed my lightsaber valentine idea (glow sticks and Star Wars valentines), I have another idea that my daughter helped me come up with as we have been planning her “Frozen” themed 6th birthday.  When it worked so well she asked me to share it here.  Who knew the day would come when she’d say “can we post this on your blog, Mom?”  She is writing her own cookbook right now and you may even see some of those recipes in this space.

Frozen Bubble Favors

This doesn’t work with all cupcake rings, the plastic needs to be a little bit pliable, but it did work with the “Frozen” cupcake toppers we’d purchased on Amazon (amazon affiliate link or ebay search link) and these mini bubble bottles from Oriental Trading (search: hexagon bubble bottles and choose your favorite color).  Just work the ring over the top of the bubbles and there you go.  Easy peasy way to give a theme to the bubbles but also works as a food-free idea for party favors.

(For R’s 4th birthday we’re doing Chinese paper yo-yos and Power Rangers rings – his were too sturdy to work with bubble bottles.  I love August birthday planning!)