FDA LOOSENS GUIDELINES FOR FOOD LABELING DUE TO COVID-19! What does it mean and how can you help?

This week has brought some very disheartening, frustrating, and honestly scary news for the food allergy community.

This past weekend, the FDA issued new guidance that loosens up the labeling requirements for non-top 8 food allergens due to COVID-19. This guidance came as a shock to everyone in the food allergy community – including Food Allergy Research & Education (or FARE). The new guidance does not effect rules with the top 8 allergens, but it does create problems for millions of food allergy families who are constantly searching for safe foods.

The FDA lists that the goal of the new guidance, “is to provide regulatory flexibility, where fitting, to help minimize the impact of supply chain disruptions associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic on product availability.” And while this makes sense on one-hand, it also means that families that rely on very clear and strong labeling laws are now at risk. The FDA guidance goes on to say, “For example, we are providing flexibility for manufacturers to use existing labels, without making otherwise required changes, when making minor formula adjustments due to unforeseen shortages or supply chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The FDA does it make it clear that the top 8 allergens (along with a handful of others – sesame, celery, and mustard to name a few), may not be substituted without clear labeling. It does not, however, include rules for dozens of other ingredients that can cause anaphylactic reactions in people with food allergies. Keeping the guidelines the way they were would cost the food companies a headache along with some money. But changing these guidelines like they did could cost someone with a food allergy their life.

How is it the entire country/world has entered and accepted this current pandemic and taken drastic measures to prevent the spread of it, but yet there is a pandemic, if you will, around food allergies… that has not received near the attention it should? This is a life or death situation daily, and for their entire lives, for these individuals… and now the audacity of the FDA to lessen the required labeling is sickening and appalling.

– Katie Fraunholtz – fellow food allergy mom

All of this is on top of the stress and fear that many food allergy families are facing right now due to limited food supplies from COVID-19. Because grocery stores are selling out of “normal” items, many people are turning to allergy-friendly alternatives instead. This limits the availability of those allergy-friendly foods for those that NEED them. I know in our family, we have had to go to a handful of stores in one trip to find the allergy-friendly essentials we need to feed our daughter. Now with this, options could be even more limited (or non-existent) for those whose allergies are outside of the ingredients listed in the new FDA guidance.

Many organizations, food allergy families, and food allergy allies are looking for ways to stop this new guidance. FARE has asked that food allergy families join in the fight to ask the FDA to re-think these new guidelines. A simple way to do so is by filling out a short form at regulations.gov and putting your concerns in the “Comment” box. Be sure to include your name and hit “submit” when finished.

We need to send a strong message to the FDA, and by taking action today, you can be a voice for the 32 million Americans who depend on strong labeling laws to protect their health and safety.

– Food Allergy Research & Education

I beg you to please take the time to fill this out! If there has ever been a time to stand up for those with food allergies, it’s now.

Food Allergy Education Resources

May is Food Allergy Awareness Month and May 10-16 was Food Allergy Awareness Week. In honor of that, I worked hard over the last couple of months to create some food allergy education resources!

As a food allergy mom, I’ve seen the need for creative ways to explain food allergies to kids. So, I decided to create an educational activity book geared towards kids ages 3-8. It helps explain food allergies through interactive, printable pages that can be used at home or in school! 

If you have a child with food allergies and are looking for a way to educate other kids about those allergies, this if for you! If you are looking for a way to teach your child about food allergies so they can better support their friends, this is also for you!

The activity book is available through my Etsy shop here.

It’s only $5.50 and $1 of every activity book purchased will be donated to Food Allergy Research & Education to support food allergy research!

Each order contains a 6-page activity book that you can print as many times as you’d like once you have purchased it! I used the book with my kindergarten daughter and she loved it! It was great to teach her more about her sister’s allergies but also to teach her about other food allergies as well. I hope it’s as useful for some of you as it is for us!

The second thing I created is a food allergy coloring book just for kids with food allergies! It contains a page specific to each of the top 8 allergies. It covers the very basics of what it means to have a food allergy and gives them coloring pages to talk through it! It’s available to purchase from my Etsy shop here for only $3. 

These were truly a labor of love for me and I would be extremely grateful if you would consider using it with your own children! Every kid who knows about food allergies is a kid that can help keep my daughter safe! ❤️❤️

Staying Positive During a Pandemic

If you’re like me, these last few weeks have had a lot of ups and downs. I stopped working three weeks ago when the major retailer I work for decided to close their stores. Thankfully, they are still paying all of us, so that’s one major headache that I haven’t had to encounter. But the stress, anxiety, and worry that came along with stay-at-home orders, rising COVID-19 numbers, and working from home were all there.

We have 3 kids at home – a 6-year-old, a 2-year-old, and an 8-month-old. The 6 year old in in kindergarten, so when schools shut down, teaching from home became our new normal. I still breastfeed my 8-month-old which means that he is tied to my hip about 10 out of the 24 hours of the day (aka the entire time he’s awake). The 2-year-old is independent and needy all at the same time. She is so strong-willed and she’s also my allergy kiddo. She’s also potty training. My house is chaotic. Just the three of them cooped up in the house creates some stress. But the things outside the house create even more.

Will my family stay safe through this pandemic? Am I making the right choices to help keep them safe? Am I doing enough to disinfect everything that we have delivered? Am I being over the top if I wipe down every single thing that enters our house? Am I not being protective enough if I don’t wipe every single thing down or leave it in the garage for days as I keep seeing people suggest? What provides less risk – having our groceries delivered by a stranger or having my husband run out to grab what we need? Will the store have all of the allergy-friendly foods that my daughter desperately needs? When will I go back to work? Will my daughter get to finish her first year of school in her actual school building or will we be finishing the school year at home? Did I just hear someone sneeze? What does that mean? Where is my thermometer? Am I paying enough attention to the kids and providing them with enough activities to keep them entertained? Am I taking care of myself during this and giving myself the breaks I need? Am I still being a good wife to my husband? How did I forget to add that to my grocery list? Am I a good enough mom to survive this?

These questions and others like it have been running through my head constantly these last few weeks. I struggle with anxiety as it is, so this pandemic has only amplified that. I really thought I was doing well until I realized that my old friend insomnia had come back for a visit. Suddenly I was having a hard time falling asleep and sometimes an even harder time staying asleep (although my 8-month-old doesn’t really help that! haha!). I had to re-frame my thoughts – and fast – if I wanted to come out of this pandemic with all of my hair.

The truth is, there are a lot of things I can’t control right now. That’s where anxiety stems from – the unseen. But the other truth is that there are still things I can control. There are things we can all do to stay positive. I can choose joy. Here are some of the things that I’ve been making myself do. Hopefully they will help you too!

  1. Focus on the time you get to spend with your family.
    • This time is invaluable. Outside of maternity leave, I have NEVER gotten this much time to spend with my kids or my husband. As a working mom, I feel like I’m constantly missing things. But in these last 3 weeks, I have put my kids to bed every single night. I’ve been there when they woke up every morning. I’ve eaten dinner with them nightly. I’ve played with them, read to them, cooked for them, and cuddled with them. I’ve been there. And that is enough!
  2. Go back to the basics.
    • The other night we had one of the most fun moments I think we’ve ever had as a family. My husband lit the fire pit, we roasted marshmallows, and then we played a good ole’ fashioned game of tag. The laughter of my two girls and the deep, winded breaths of my husband and me did so much good for my soul. It was so simple. All we were doing was running around our yard looking like crazy people. But it was so much fun. Kids don’t need elaborate games for playtime. They don’t need your latest find on Pinterest (although those can be totally fun too!). They just need you to be there with them and show them attention. That moment playing tag was a great wake up call for me. It will forever be a favorite memory of mine. And my goal is to make sure that moments like this don’t stop once all of this is over and we go back to “normal”.
  3. Look for the helpers.
    • As the great Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” I’m telling you guys, they are everywhere! Seek out the good stories. Seek out the people that show you that good still exists in this world. Share those stories with others. We all need them!
  4. Be a helper!
    • Nothing brings more joy than sharing kindness with others. People are struggling right now – financially, mentally, and emotionally. There are always ways that we can help. It could be monetary, but it doesn’t have to be. Send a letter. Send a text. Pick up the phone. FaceTime someone. Have your kids draw pictures to send to family and friends. Bless someone if you have the opportunity.
  5. Remind yourself that this is temporary.
    • This won’t last forever. Give yourself some grace right now. We are in uncharted territory. None of us really prepared for this. But we will get through it!

How are you surviving all of this? Are you staying positive? Let me know what you’ve been doing to stay in a positive state of mind!

Becoming a Food Allergy Mom

On November 27, 2018, we found out that my 11-month-old daughter was allergic to dairy. I suspected she might be after two strange incidents. The first incident involved vomiting violently after eating a new baby puree. When I checked the ingredients of the tub of baby food, I saw that it had pineapple and milk – two things she had never had before. I wondered if that could be a cause but I quickly dismissed the thought and returned to life as normal. A month or so later while eating out at a restaurant, my daughter got ahold of a butter packet on the table. She chewed on it, busted it open, and made a mess. I didn’t think much of it – after all, my kids have done much worse before. But about 10 minuted later, I noticed that she had a swollen upper lip.

At first I thought she must have hit it when the packet exploded. Then my mom brain kicked in – what if this was the milk in the butter? Could she be having an allergic reaction? Again, I sort of dismissed my thought but her lip was only getting worse so we decided to be safe and head to urgent care.

The doctor said that it did, indeed, look like an allergic reaction. My head started spinning. There’s no way she’s allergic to milk, right? Not my kid. We made a follow up with our pediatrician who referred us to an allergist just in case. Two weeks before my daughter’s first birthday (you know… the one where they are start drinking whole cow’s milk…) we found out that she had a dairy allergy. What did this mean??? They ordered us an epipen, quickly taught us how to use it, gave us about 20 sheets of information about allergies, asked if we had any questions and sent us on our way. Did I have any questions? Um… yeah… about a thousand. I couldn’t even wrap my head around this food allergy. No one else in my family or my husband’s family had ever had a food allergy. I had no idea what it really meant. But boy, was I about to find out.

Within a couple months, our allergist had us try a few other foods – soy, egg, peanut. Soy didn’t produce an allergy. Thank God! One down! When my husband tried peanut butter one day while I was at work, he thought we had made it through that one as well. She was acting fine. But the moment I walked in the front door after work, I saw a tiny spot on her skin. We started checking her and the hives literally started spreading before our eyes. We called 911. I had to give the epipen. My daughter was crying hysterically. I was putting on a brave face but inside I was terrified. We went to the hospital to be monitored. Thankfully, the epipen worked and we were discharged within a few hours.

Another month went by and we introduced egg. This time, we were both home when we did it – we were scared to do it alone. Her reaction to the egg was scarier than anything we had ever experienced. She broke out in hives. BAD hives. So bad that they spread to every inch of her body. I called 911 to be safe. I wanted them to check her lungs. While on the phone with them, my daughter started wheezing. My husband and I looked at each other and knew that the epipen was needed. I once again slammed the needle into my daughter’s leg. She once again cried. We were once again terrified. We went to the hospital, as you always should after administering an epipen. But this time was worse.

The hives started spreading again. She was crying and lethargic. She was laying on me and not letting go. I was praying – literally. The doctor said they were going to have to do another round of epi. They went to place the order. I was filled with fear. Why wasn’t this working? Why was she so lethargic? Was she going to be ok? I prayed again – literally. Right before the doctor came back in the room, her hives started subsiding. She started acting more like herself. Thankfully, we escaped having to administer more medicine, but the fear remained.

My husband and I went home that day more scared than ever. It was the first time we had REALLY seen the potential danger of her food allergies. This was more than hives. This had effected her breathing, and that’s something you never want to see your child go through. From that moment on, we became more vigilant than ever. Throughout the past year, we’ve learned a ton. We still mess up. Food allergies are really difficult to navigate. And out of that, this blog/site was born. My goal is help provide support, educate others, and share some tips and tricks along the way! Like it or not, I’m a food allergies mom. I hope this will help some others out there like me!