A mom at my daughter’s school contacted me two weeks ago about her daughter’s upcoming birthday – she wanted to get safe cupcakes for the whole class that were inclusive of allergies as well as vegans and vegetarians.  I responded as I often do, by offering to cover our side of things so she wouldn’t have to worry but she pressed on.  Last week she brought me the brochure of the vegan bakery she’d found and said they’d assured her they could make peanut, tree nut, oat, and sesame free vegan cupcakes.  As most of you may know, letting go of control is not my strong suit, but yesterday when she brought the cupcakes after school I was late.  When I arrived, my daughter was standing there holding a cupcake and waiting patiently, her friend’s mother had told her to stay close and wait until I came and gave the final all clear.   She ate it with gusto, and was on cloud nine.  She always tries to eat the cake first so she saves the frosting for last, I am not so self controlled.

Fast forward to this morning – my mom was visiting briefly from Colorado and I let my daughter miss the morning part of her school day so that we could go grab an allergy friendly breakfast at the South Point and celebrate (belatedly) my nephew’s birthday (he was visiting from California).  At any rate, at breakfast my phone chimed and I saw a message from my daughter’s classmate’s mother – she noticed at lineup that my daughter was missing and was worried about a delayed reaction keeping her out of school.  I messaged back right away that we were playing hooky a little bit and that all was well but I was truly touched by her compassion and kindness.


On Monday we took advantage of the holiday and met up with a dear friend of mine and her family – their children all have food allergies and their eldest has a particularly severe dairy allergy.  She excitedly showed me some girl scout cookies that were safe for them, and upon investigation they were an option for us as well (apparently different distributors/manufacturers make the cookies across the country so one of them has some allergy friendly options).  My daughter ate her first “scout cookie” and we managed to polish them off.  Jokingly, my friend said we should go find more and it wasn’t long before we loaded the kids in our respective vehicles and drove to the nearest store to see if we could spy any girl scouts.

First: Albertson’s.  We slowed through the parking lot but it was a bust so we moved on to the next store, it was silly and fun and it was all on our way to my daughter’s swim class and my friend’s errand to get new shoes for her youngest.  At Von’s, our second store, my friend said she’d go to Smith’s while we went to swim class and then we could all link up at Chipotle for dinner.  It was spontaneous and still makes me smile to think of it all.  We came up empty handed on the cookie front but that was never really the point.  It’s nice to think that though I’m getting older (I’m having major dread as my birthday approaches), I can still be silly.  Plus, I just want to hug the stuffing out of my friend every time I see her – she makes me feel normal.


Last week, I was walking to my car after dropping my daughter off at school and a fellow parent stopped to chat with me.  We ended up talking for the better part of an hour about our trials and tribulations and it was oddly reinvigorating.  None of us are truly alone.


I recently unsubscribed from a bunch of food allergy information sources because I felt like they were feeding my anxiety instead of quelling it.  Some great things do go on, like Kyle Dine’s allergy video Kickstarter or the fundraiser for Dr. Xiu-Min Li’s research, but then there are things like sponsored jokes at the expense of those with allergies, school board members in another state laughing at a remark suggesting shooting children with food allergies, cartoons throwing food allergies into the vaccine maelstrom, and most recently a facebook page that claims that allergies are not real.  I get the frustration, I get the anger, I just also get wistful about the energy and fervor that is expended on bullies when our community faces the looming specter of inadequate access.  Access to epinephrine, access to employment opportunity, access to education, and more for food allergic individuals.


Did you know that federal disability law in the United States doesn’t just protect the allergic person in question but those associated with them, such as parents and advocates?  Did you know that a court in California opined that threatening the safety of a child with food allergies through institutional policy “approach[es] the limits of what a civilized society will tolerate” in a recent unpublished opinion?  The courts can be maddening a lot of the time, but I find intellectual safe haven in the idea that the “civilized society” is the quiet one.  The village that we forge with friends near and far, and the support networks we may not realize we have.  I find emotional safe haven in the idea that I get these moments and glimmers of the sisterhood (and brotherhood) of compassionate people.

I’m reminded of this quote from Bruce Lee (source) –


(In case the image is hard to view, here’s the text):

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

Granted, I think adjusting can be assertive, but I like to think of how water is never just one thing – it can have strength and it can have calm, the tide can lift us all or it can be a destructive agent.  The moments, the conversations, the support we feel from within and without are just as powerful, if not stronger, than the trolling and insensitivity others dish out.

Of course, all of this comes with the caveat that I’m not always even tempered or as kind as I’d like to be.  I hope that I can learn from others and stay true to myself as the years roll on but to throw out one more quote, Henry David Thoreau wrote: “When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact to his understanding, I foresee that all men will at length establish their lives on that basis.”  We have to constantly check our assumptions and our imagination before we mistakenly establish our lives on shaky ground.  We have to be open to correction, through a sort of social scientific method, testing and re-testing our hypothesis of living.

I have felt quiet on my blog of late because of that sort of adjustment and re-evaluation.  I think I set out to share the story I began with, the story of the birthday cupcake, and ended up all over the place so maybe I do have a few things left to put out into the ether.

Thanks for reading.

Homemade Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges

Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges from OhMahDeehness.Wordpress.Com
Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges from OhMahDeehness.Wordpress.Com

You know you’re a food allergy mom when. . . you find yourself re-imagining childhood treats!  Chocolate oranges are a December holiday memory for me and I wanted to share the flavor and fun with my kids.  Longtime readers of this blog will know I get into the chocolate crafting spirit at this time of year and 2014 is no exception. . .

My family moved to the United States from England when I was about three years old but our love of British chocolate endured.  In the store the other day I perused the label of a childhood favourite (see what I did there?) – a chocolate orange from Terry’s – and knew it wasn’t an option for our family because of nut warnings.

I debated getting chocolate molds (amazon affiliate link), orange foil (amazon affiliate link), and orange extract to create these but cooking with food allergies is complicated enough without getting a bunch of extra supplies.  Enter Google!  The very first result when I searched “home made chocolate orange” was a post from February 2013 on a site called “Lilyshop” entitled “How to make a chocolate orange.”  The author used a hollowed-out orange to accomplish her orange shape and the presentation was pretty stunning.  Her ingredients were chocolate, cream, and orange extract – none of which are problematic for our family with our current restrictions (peanut and tree nut free, oat free, vegetarian, and sesame free) but I still strive to go top 8 allergen free whenever I can so I can be the most inclusive.

So!  Yesterday we braved the store (we did venture out over the weekend to go to the Clark County Museum and the Natural History Museum as a family but I wasn’t going to go shopping!) to get items for a holiday packet to send to my brother (December 1 is the recommended final ship date for APO packages if you want them to make it to their intended destination by December 25th).  All I needed were oranges since I had the chocolate and coconut oil I anticipated using to create the recipe (I skipped orange extract because I wasn’t sure what brand would be safe and also wanted it to be easy to make).

Just Three Ingredients!

Just Three Ingredients! (Photo credit: RLW)

The photo above was taken by my son and he helped me make these and is by me as I write this post so he voted it was the best picture.  I convinced him cropping out his foot on the carpet by the bag of chocolate chips would be ideal, though.

Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges


Knife and cutting board

Muffin pan (optional)

Metal saucepan and metal bowl (essentially a make-shift double boiler)



2 medium sized oranges (navel is just fine)

1 teaspoon of orange juice

1 teaspoon of orange zest

1 9 ounce bag of Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels (other Enjoy Life varieties are fine)

1 teaspoon of coconut oil

Water for your makeshift double boiler


Halve one of the oranges and use a small knife to hollow it out.  There are great in-process pictures here so I didn’t try to take pictures with a knife in hand myself.  Do this over a bowl so you catch the juice.  With the second orange, zest it on the bottom hemisphere so you can then halve it and hollow out the top.  You’ll likely have enough chocolate to make 1 1/2 orange peels into chocolate oranges but if you need more zest I’d use the second orange for zesting and any excess chocolate can go into an ice cube tray or other mold for general snacking.

Tip: when I hollowed out the orange halves there was a small hole at the bottom so before you melt the entire bag of chocolate chips, reserve about 10 individual morsels (more if you’re using mini-chips) to fill the hole before adding the melted chocolate mixture.  Set the orange halves in a muffin pan or on something that will keep them stable.

Heat some water (maybe an inch or two, making sure it won’t touch the bowl you set on top) in the saucepan to boiling and reduce the heat to simmer the water.  Set a metal bowl on top of the saucepan and add your chocolate chips (less the 10 you reserved).  Stir with a silicone spatula/scraper and add the orange zest.  Follow with the one teaspoon of coconut oil.  Once the mixture has become liquid, you’re going to add the orange juice very gradually.  The chocolate may start to seize a little so that is why I’d suggest waiting until the very end of melting it.

Once mixed, spoon the chocolate into the hollowed out orange halves and use a knife to level the top.  Put them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or in the fridge for longer.  You want them to set but not become solid at this point because you’re going to slice them before putting them in the fridge to become solid.

Vegan, Nut Free, Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Slices

Vegan, Nut Free, Soy Free, & Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Slices

If you want to be really fancy, after you quarter the orange halves into slices you can use a toothpick to make some detailing on the side of each slice or you can leave them smooth.

They were delicious right after slicing – easy to bite into – so if you prefer them at that stage be aware that putting them into the fridge again for too long is going to give you a more snappy chocolate instead of a yielding one.  I am thinking if you want them fudge-like you can add coconut cream to your chocolate mixture but I haven’t tested the idea yet.

As presentation goes, this is a lot of fun!  Maybe do a version with mint or make a batch of Cybele Pascal’s top 8 free thin mints to accompany the chocolate oranges for an allergy friendly tea party?

Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges from OhMahDeehness.Wordpress.Com

Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges from OhMahDeehness.Wordpress.Com

If you’d like to buy pre-made fancy chocolates, check out Indie Candy (I’ve sampled the top 8 free orange truffles and they are amazing), Premium Chocolatiers, or Vermont Nut Free Chocolates (these do have milk) to start but you can really have fun making treats in your own kitchen so I hope you’ll try!

CSPI Files Sesame Labeling Regulatory Petition

We have 8 planets and 8 top allergens – that’s about to change!  Well, we’re hoping it will change and a fantastic organization called CSPI (the Center for Science in the Public Interest – a Washington, DC based non-profit health advocacy group) has taken a major lead in doing so.  No, Pluto isn’t coming back (at the moment) but CSPI and many other folks would love to see sesame added to FDA labeling requirements for allergens.

I’ve discussed labeling legalities on my blog in the past as well as specific examples of labeling woes, but to those that don’t live with a sesame allergy this may not seem like the exciting step it really is.  If we open the door to the “top 8″ notion expanding, what else are we capable of changing?  


My dear friend Jessica Almy is not only the founder and editor at Vegbooks.org, a site focusing on kid movies and literature reviews with a compassionate (vegan and vegetarian) lens,  she is Senior Nutrition Policy Counsel with CSPI.  Jessica is one of those people I say I want to be like when I grow up, she has even changed the way I think about food and I thought I was pretty entrenched after 6 years of being a food allergy mama.  Two of the campaigns she has worked on look at the use of icons that appeal to children to sell junk foods/candy (ex: Hello Kitty on just about everything, How to Train Your Dragon with candy “advergames”).  These are pressing issues – just yesterday my husband e-mailed me this article from the New York Times about the ubiquity of Disney’s Frozen to sell products to children.

In January 2013 Jessica connected me with Janna dePorter, a research associate at CSPI, about CSPI’s work on a petition for the FDA to get sesame labeling going.  I was able to reach out to my own networks so that Janna could speak with other great individuals that wrangle sesame allergies in their life.


The Petition

I’m used to keeping mum on things but here we are in November and I get to finally share that yesterday CSPI’s petition went up!  Read the press release here, and download the pdf of the actual petition here.

From the petition (internal citations omitted):

The sesame seed (Sesamum indicum) is an oilseed crop and edible seed that is used in many food and consumer products.  It is used in an increasing number of foods and might be listed in the ingredient list under an unfamiliar name, such as benne, benne seed, benniseed, gingelly, gingelly oil, gingelly seeds, gomasio, halvah, seed paste, seed oil, sesamol, sesamolina, sesamum indicum, sim sim, tahini, and teel or til.

This is part of the background research that Janna and others were involved with when they reached out to food allergy families – where and how does sesame, one of the top 10 allergens labeled for in Canada already, hide and endanger an at-risk population?  Sesame also hides under terms like “spices” or “natural flavorings” in food.

My statement in support of the petition is featured on page 13 as pictured below, I’ll also paste it in for easier reading but it gives a better idea of why I think this is such an important step:

Wordy as usual!

Wordy as usual!

September 21, 2014
H. W.
Las Vegas, Nevada
My daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies shortly after turning 1. She’d had reactions before the confirmation of her condition but it took time to isolate her triggers. She was initially allergic to peanut, tree nut, oat, sesame, corn, milk, egg, wheat, soy, and grape. This made cooking and shopping a challenge and it still is a challenge even though she did narrow her list after outgrowing a few allergies to peanut, tree nut, oat, and sesame. Having a “mainstream” allergy mixed with a “non-top-8″ allergy makes a life of constant vigilance that much more challenging. You could say “just avoid the allergens” but when companies don’t have to disclose the presence of sesame or use the commonly understood name of sesame, things get tricky. 5+ years into our allergy journey I know how to pick up a product and hunt for the clues that tell me about the presence of something like sesame but even my food allergy mama sleuthing skills can’t see into the mind of a manufacturer that just lists “spices” as an ingredient. “Tahini,” or ground sesame paste, is another nebulous ingredient that I try to work on with my budding reader but which inhibits the ability of others to assist in keeping her safe. Which is to say that I may know that tahini equals sesame but a teacher or other parent may not know that. It really boils down to disclosure for our family – sesame is a fairly major allergen not being labeled for. No one is asking companies to stop using sesame in their products, just to let the consumer know that it is there. The precedent set by adding to labeling requirements will open the door for more transparency and safety for consumers in the United States. How do I teach my child to be responsible about her allergies if companies that make food products aren’t required to tell her the ingredients of their “spices” or that tahini lurks within. I distinctly remember buying tomato sauce and seeing that one variety had sesame. I was shocked and wondered if the absence of sesame on the other brands’ labels meant it was present and they didn’t feel obligated to tell anyone. The broader issue is not whether I’m going to walk out of the store with tomato sauce, it is that if we’re consenting to have food production so removed from the end user, we should be heard when we ask for assistance knowing whether we can safely provide a food product to our families.

What can you do?

Be sure to share the press release with others to raise awareness of non top 8 allergens.  You can even share your own story of dealing with sesame or another allergen that isn’t mandated for labeling.  More disclosure benefits all of us and may put companies on notice that they should take a step further than what is legally mandated already by FALCPA.

My daughter is reading labels as her reading skills improve, it is exciting and scary for me at the same time because she believes the things she reads (this goes back to the other work CSPI does about children and marketing) and relies on them.  She does know that the next step is calling the company or emailing them to find out about other allergens and manufacturing practices and that will still be our norm, but maybe things can change.

Keep sharing also your own stories about living with food allergies with people in your community.  Just as there are “teaching moments” when you spend time with a child, there are teachable moments in everyday conversation with others.  We may each only be one person but you never know how far a message can spread!


Edited to add: Here’s a link to Brian Heller’s Change.org petition CSPI’s filing references, if you’d like to show support that way!

Write a Card for Each Day in November #NaNoCaMo


Quote: “Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way.” – Author Unknown

In January, fellow VegBooks reviewer and all around awesome gal, Kristin Wald from her blog at mutterschwester.wordpress.com, wrote about the 200th anniversary of Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen’s brilliant work) and opined about real letters, not just thank you notes and birthday cards, but a handwritten missive:

An actual “catching up” or “I have wanted to tell you” letter. And, if it’s your style, add something quirky or fun or surprising to the letter.  Make it your very own craft project. Maybe you’ll even need to buy some crayons. Or cut up a magazine for color.

– from “Pride and Prejudice: Celebrates Its 200th Anniversary on Paper.”

I loved the idea but I do tend to write letters in cards as well as in folded sheets (upon sheets).  I wrote letters and notes and cards but nothing I had the presence of mind to share with Kristin as she asked in her post.  Still, it is funny that her request that we write real letters to one another came in connection with a post about Pride and Prejudice because that (and Jane Austen’s Persuasion) contain my favorite letters in all literature.

Birthday Card

Quote: “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Last year my friend Mindy moved very far away to the Dakotas and it reminded me of another author who lived in the Dakota territory, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I told my friend that I wanted to exchange handwritten letters after she moved.  Yes, we both had email and our respective blogs to follow and comment on, but she was going to live a pioneer life so letters were a must.  When I get her letters, I will sometimes wait a few hours before I open them so I can savor them.  There’s just something special about that.

Birthday Card

Birthday Card

Fast forward to recently, I received some wonderful letters and cards in the mail, including from my friend Annelies Zijderveld(her blog is The Food Poet and she has a cookbook coming out in April 2015!) – who unsuspectingly asked for my address and sent a cheery orange card my way.  I responded in kind with a handwritten card.  Annelies then suggested on Facebook that instead of “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month or National November Writing Month, not sure which is the accepted version) we should do “NaNoCaMo” (National November Card Month) and “send a card everyday in November to someone in your Facebook friends list[…].”

(Redacted) Envelopes

(Redacted) Envelopes

I’ve sent four cards so far and will be aiming for 30 total.  For about the cost of a stamp you can make someone smile, so why not?  You could write a note of thanks, a birthday card, a letter, encouragement, you name it.  Here are my first four – I love doing matching envelope doodles so I included those as well.  As it is still early November, there’s still time to message your friends and find out their addresses.  Considering there’s no mail on some days, you won’t be sending a card every day, but it is more fun to space them out through the month, even if you’re not following a rigid schedule.

"Happy Healing Vibes Are Being Sent Your Way" (Interior: Unless You'd Prefer a Happy Healing Hot Fudge Sundae Instead..."

“Happy Healing Vibes Are Being Sent Your Way” (Interior: “Unless You’d Prefer a Happy Healing Hot Fudge Sundae Instead…”

Thank you, Annelies, for the idea!  Anyone else joining in?


Speaking of VegBooks, here are the latest posts I’ve contributed to. . .

Letters of the West

Tracks Count

Best Books for 5 Year Old Vegetarian and Vegan Kids

Amtrak Quietly Changes Their Unaccompanied Minor Policy

Amtrak has quietly changed their Unaccompanied Minor Policy.  Before and after images are below, revealing that the food allergy related has been removed – the suit filed is ongoing.  A change in the policy as listed online does not change the discrimination that occurred and that was inherent when suit was filed.

To my knowledge, Amtrak still has made no statement about the case, about the policy, or about the change in policy.

August 3, 2014 versus November 3, 2014 (click to enlarge)

August 3, 2014 versus November 3, 2014 (click to enlarge)

Finally, the following note now appears immediately after the changed policy – the requirement of self administration may be an attempt to disclaim any responsibility for Amtrak’s conduct on its trains with regard to food allergic individuals:

Take Precautions for Allergies

Because Amtrak is unable to guarantee a peanut-free or allergen-free trip, we strongly encourage unaccompanied minor passengers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure. Parents/guardians must ensure that the unaccompanied minor travel with all necessary medications for food allergies (including epinephrine auto-injectors) and be capable of self-administering these medications.

Read more:

My initial post about the policy (8/3/14)

General post about food allergies and travel (8/20/14)

Press release about the suit against Amtrak (10/16/14)

Stepping Down From Management of #FABlogCon


Handmade Stained Glass  Teal Ribbons by Borealis Baubles

(image: Handmade Stained Glass Teal Ribbons by Borealis Baubles)

I would like to share that I am stepping down from management of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference.  I am grateful for the experiences and connections made through my participation in planning the event for November 2013 and again for September 2014.  I’ve had questions about 2015 and thought it best to share that I will not be involved next year.

It is through meeting so many of you that I have learned more about myself.  It is through working to put the event on here in Las Vegas two years in a row that I have made connections that make this city feel more than ever like home.

I wrote in April about a movie my cousin made called Helsinki-Tehran and the words feel applicable here:

My sister in law once told me she values her drive home from work.  If she was able to teach near her home she would miss it, the chance to unpack her thoughts from the day, to be silent after teaching elementary school children all day.  To switch from her teacher self to her self-self (my words, not hers, I promise she is much more erudite).

Mom has a “hospital voice” and I think I have a “work voice” too.  And a “court voice.”  And the voice when no one is listening.

I think I like that last one best.

When you’re always at work, there is no coming home in the classic drive home sense but instead I have moments, glimmers, of coming home and they happen randomly.  Sometimes it is late at night when I finally flick off the light in my home office/laundry room.  Sometimes it is the sound of my husband’s key in the door signalling that I can come home too.

So I continue in my gratitude for my journey and the lessons.  For being able to “come home” even though I never actually left.

What the conference stands for is the breaking of the mentality that we are competing against one another.  We are collaborating and lifting one another up.  It is bigger than any one person can lay claim to, though the credit can certainly be shared.  Jenny Sprague‘s vision has been embraced so wholeheartedly by this community that I leave knowing that she has the support of many in continuing the tradition of bringing people together to share in the causes that find us.

Hearing Elisa Camahort Page speak at the 2014 conference was a watershed moment for me.  The stories of our mothers and grandmothers need not be lost, nor our own stories.  That is why when people ask if there is room for a new blogger I will always say, “yes.”  If there wasn’t such space we wouldn’t have wonderful bloggers like Sharon at Nut Free Wok or Tiffany at Food Allergy Pharmacist to bring their fresh perspectives and stories to the table.  I would have never had reason to discover the adventures of Karen at Sweeten the Trip, Jessica at Food Allergy Sleuth, or Annelies at The Food Poet (to name just a few).

Shortly after the conference I was honored by a local magazine as a “top” attorney in Southern Nevada for 2014.  It came out of nowhere and I was incredibly humbled.  It felt like a little bit of public validation for so many hours of work.  So, please remember:  Your words matter.  Your heart matters.  Your integrity matters.  And keep fighting the good fight for awareness, inclusion, and an independent supportive community.

Homa Woodrum

FTC Dot Com Disclosure Guidelines and Food Allergy Blogging

"Blog and Order" at the 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference (Left, Homa Woodrum, Middle, William Devine, Right, Assly Sayyar)

“Blog and Order” at the 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference (Left to right, Homa Woodrum, William Devine, & Assly Sayyar)

I had the privilege of participating in a panel last month entitled “Blog and Order” at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference along with Assly Sayyar, Esq. (my older sister) and William Devine II, Esq. (a friend of mine from law school).  The usual caveats apply here that all three of us are licensed to practice in Nevada (my sister is also licensed as an attorney in California) and nothing we discussed then (or below) are meant as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.  It is purely information and we’d encourage you to contact counsel in your area with specific questions.

William and Assly

William and Assly

William tackled a great segment about protecting your intellectual property and the rights/obligations associated with that.  Assly spoke about defamation and best practices for communicating online within that realm.  My section was about guidelines (in the US) that impact how and what we share on our blogs and in social media to essentially protect our readers.  Our session started late (AV issues overall during the event had a bit of a domino effect) so I had about 4 minutes to summarize everything I meant to discuss (my apologies!) and promised to post some links and additional information here at a later date.

The March 2013 FTC .com Disclosures file can be downloaded from the FTC here, I’ve also mirrored the file here in case that link doesn’t work.  It isn’t a huge file as many of the pages are examples of webpages so I highly recommend downloading it to your kindle or smartphone or even just printing it out and reading it next time you’re waiting at the doctor’s office.  Or, if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll just read it for fun.

QUID for Responsible Blogging

Interestingly enough, necessity being the mother of invention, I threw together a mnemonic I really like when I realized I had to scrap my planned presentation:

"QUID" for FTC Disclosures

“QUID” for FTC Disclosures (Just realized that I’m channeling my friend Selena with this font since she uses it at Amazing & Atopic – I just liked the swirls!)

So what does “QUID” entail and how do you incorporate it into your blogging practices?  QUID stands for “Qualify, Use Common Sense, Integrate, and Disclaim/Disclose.”  I like that it hearkens back to the phrase “quid pro quo,” which means “something for something” in Latin.  When you receive a product for review, chances are in exchange you’re going to write a post, so the mnemonic really works for this context.

Generally, if you follow all four points when you include affiliate links, product reviews, paid content, and the like, you’ll be protecting your readers and yourself.  What do I mean by protecting your readers?  Well, the whole theme of the FTC .com Disclosure guidelines is that you don’t want to hide the ball, you don’t want to make it difficult for someone to know up front what biases you may have before they take some sort of action.  It could be as simple as having someone click on a link without making it clear that you get a cut from any sale that results from their time on a given recommended site or it could just be that they read some (but not all) of your review of an awesome meal and come away thinking “Blogger A really loved that place, I should check it out” without ever knowing that you tacked on a disclaimer at the end of the post that your meal was comped.

This concept transcends your blog, so if you wrote a review of a restaurant and had been comped for the experience and later have an automatic script that tweets out your old posts to generate interest, or you pin your page to a board on pinterest and don’t repeat/include some sort of disclosure, you could be running afoul of disclosure rules.  Taking our hypothetical restaurant review, say the title of the post was “Great Meal at Chez Allergy” and in the post itself at the very end you disclose that the meal was free.  Later, when tweeting out a link to the post you just say “Read about my great meal at Chez Allergy” or have the post title and a link with no other information.  If you don’t disclose in the medium you’re sharing the link that you received some benefit, you could be causing confusion then and there.  Your followers may never click the link to discover the full circumstances of your dinner but they’ve already taken some information in and internalized it, which is that Blogger A really loved Chez Allergy.  You’ve impacted them without giving them the full benefit of knowing how you came to eat at the restaurant and write about it.

Talking with my hands, as usual!

Talking with my hands, as usual!

It sounds cumbersome in my examples but using QUID we can see how Blogger A could approach the restaurant review. . .


Another word for “qualify” would be “characterize.”  We want to ensure that whatever is being presented is going to carry with it the right weight given a circumstance.  In the same way I see bloggers mention “I wasn’t paid to say this, I just really wanted to share this product,” you’d be saying to your reader, “I have independent opinions but want you to know that I did get a free product that I am now sharing with you.”  Simple, to the point, and it actually can increase your reader’s esteem for you in the long run because they’ll know where they stand.  This is what I like to think of as the “I’m not a doctor but I play one on the internet” type of concept – you want your readers to know that just because something was safe for your allergic family, they need to do independent research.  I had one great question at the end of my talk where I was asked how a blogger can share articles of a scientific nature without having people think they are endorsing them or putting them out as something they might not be.  The best solution we discussed in that circumstance was to say exactly what is going on  – something like, “I read this abstract and it sounds fascinating/promising/what have you, so I’m sharing it while also letting you know I’m no expert and you need to do your own investigations.”  You’ll find the right voice and tone for your space, probably significantly less wordy than mine, but I hope that helps.

Use Common Sense

This is a bit of a catch-all parameter but it goes back to putting yourself in the shoes of your reader.  What do you want to know when you read a review of account of an experience?  Price is often an important factor, so when you get a free product and review it can you really be as fair as you would be if you had to shell out $5 for said bag of gluten free flour?  This also carries into integration and generalized disclosures.

Also under common sense, please give credit appropriately.  If you get permission to use someone’s image, share that, if you’re getting a recipe from another site, why not link your reader to that site and avoid wholesale copy/pasting?  Others will extend you the same courtesy as well.  Watermarking is something else we discussed on the copyright side.  When I see poor practices I usually make a mental note of the person engaging in that behavior and view them with suspicion.  Don’t get on my suspicious list!


This is a tough one.  As I mentioned above, if you are sharing a post via twitter and enticing people to click over to your blog, or even sharing a recommendation on instagram, you need to integrate the disclosure with the medium you’re in.  That means you can’t just have a link to your disclosures page at the end of a post or tweet or instagram picture.  If you cannot for some reason perform appropriate integration, you cannot share that recommendation in that medium.  It bears repeating – if 140 characters is not enough to get across that you got a free meal at Chez Allergy, you shouldn’t be sharing on twitter that you had a great meal.  It is probably a better fit for your facebook followers, etc.  So you’ll also be cautious about auto feeding your facebook posts onto your twitter account because even with proper facebook disclosure you know your words will be truncated as they go out onto twitter, etc.

Integration is a platform issue as well – you need to be beta testing your own site on multiple platforms.  A sidebar disclosure that you have affiliate links in all your posts is not going to be enough when someone looks at your site on their mobile browser.  The sidebar in that circumstance collapses into a menu or is too small to read, or the like.  The FTC .com Disclosures even go so far as to say you need to look at where people’s eyes are drawn and not hide disclosures where they don’t look.  I’m personally fascinated by this stuff, so you can check out an article about eye tracking here but generally, there are areas of a page people just aren’t going to be looking so that is not the place to put a qualified disclosure.  What does this mean in a common sense approach?  Just put your disclosure right where you’re making your recommendation or placing your affiliate link.  For affiliate links I state a product name and then parenthetically place an affiliate link labeled as such.  For a post about an experience, I would put information to indicate it was provided by a given company at the start and end of my post.  If the post is lengthy so that you could scroll a ways and not see any indication of a disclosure, it may be a case where you remind your reader the meal or experience or product was comped.  It doesn’t take long to write these disclaimers and it doesn’t take long to read them.  Your readers will appreciate you all the more for respecting their time and energy.


So we’ve qualified our words, integrated them into our posts and been reasonable about our approach. . .what exactly are you disclosing in a disclaimer to protect your readers?  You want them to know anything that is essential to understanding your position or understanding that they could be benefiting you by clicking on a link or taking some action.  If I tell you Chez Allergy is great and you find out that they paid me to make the recommendation, it is going to diminish your opinion of my words.  In the more extreme case, if I point you to something and make it sound like I’m a doctor or know something specific about an area and I don’t actually have that expertise, then I could actually cause harm.  You don’t want to do that, and the FTC doesn’t want you to do that.  The more specific your claim or recommendation, the more you’re going to be disclosing.  That doesn’t mean you should shy away from taking positions or making opinions known, but anything you can provide by way of behind the scenes information to let your reader make an informed choice is going to be good.

People blog to inform, to vent, to make money. . .the list goes on, but since you are in control of what you share, you need to view the trust your reader is giving you with a sense of responsibility.  You’ve seen magazine ads that try to look like an article (“advertorial” is the term I believe) and they list clearly that they’re an ad.  Same goes for blogging.

Assly is on Twitter @vistalawyer, William is @devinelawyers, and I am @woodrumlaw (I tried to make the dry erase colors match our outfit colors that day)

Assly is on Twitter @vistalawyer, William is @devinelawyers, and I am @woodrumlaw (I tried to make the dry erase colors match our outfit colors that day)

Let me end by saying you’re allowed to make money for the work you do – for food allergy families a free box of cookies represents a $5 benefit and a nice perk for being involved in writing, researching, recipe testing, etc.  You’re allowed to get a percentage of a sale if a reader orders a book based on your suggestion.  What you can’t do is be sneaky.  Being careless is tantamount to being sneaky for the FTC – just not knowing these guidelines are out there is not enough.  The disclosure pdf is written in easy to understand terms and has a lot of great examples via screen shots.  I just wanted to distill the concepts into something you can implement in your blog right away.

With my older sister, Assly

With my older sister, Assly, at the registration desk

I can’t thank William and Assly enough for taking the time to come speak at the conference – the volunteer time people put in as speakers, at the registration desk, and helping with set up and take down was so appreciated.

Thank you for reading!