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I can’t believe it’s that time of year already … with four weeks to go, Christmas is looming. So here’s a list of the nut free Christmas food products I’ve spotted so far this year. Please post a comment and spread the word if you know of any more!

As always, obviously do check the label for yourself each time and enquire directly of the manufacturer, if you are at all unsure as to whether a product is nut safe.

Christmas goodies 2014
The 2014 haul so far…

Nut free advent calendars

If you are not already ready for Advent, here are some nut free calendar options which are worth a look:

Kinnerton

Kinnerton have their usual wide range of advent calendars. Characters include: Avengers, Boofle, Disney Junior, Hello Kitty, Frozen, Me To You, Mr Men, Peppa Pig, Paddington, Simpsons, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Thomas.

Different stores stock different calendars – so check the Kinnerton website if you are after something specific. Stockists include Asda, Morrisons, Nisa, Poundland, Poundstretcher, Poundworld, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug, Tesco, ToysRUs and 99p stores.

For anyone in the Macclesfield area, I can vouch that Poundland (town centre), Sainsbury’s (Cumberland Street) and Notcutts garden centre, Woodford have a selection in stock!

Plamil

If you are after dairy free as well as nut free, check out Plamil, who have dairy free chocolate and “no added sugar alternative to milk chocolate” versions.

Nut Free Chocolate People

This year I’ve invested in a wooden advent calendar, which I’m filling with advent chocolates from the Nut Free Chocolate People. These are still available from the Nut Free Chocolate People website (as at 27 November), however the site states:

Christmas Nut Free Chocolate People advent

Nut free chocolate coins

Chocolates for Chocoholics

Chocolates for Chocoholics sell a bag of chocolate coins, labelled with their “nut safety promise” emblem:

Christmas Chocolate for Chocoholics

John Lewis

Last year, I found nut free chocolate coins by the Chocolate Alchemist in John Lewis. They are available again on the website this year and Kirsten has tracked them down instore:

Christmas John Lewis coins

John Lewis also stock Albert Premier chocolate coins (pictured below). The John Lewis website states:

Christmas Albert Premier John Lewis description 27.11.14

However, the Albert Premier website states that “The chocolate in our factory is produced on lines that do NOT process nuts or dried fruits, only chocolate.” I’ve asked John Lewis if their website description is correct – update hopefully to follow.

Christmas Albert Premier chocolate coins

 

(image courtesy of John Lewis)

Nut Free Chocolate People

Nut Free Chocolate People sell bags of chocolate coins. Act fast if you want to order: their final order date for Christmas is midnight, 30 November.

Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s giant chocolate coin does not have any nut warning (unlike their bags of smaller coins, which do).

Nut free tree decorations

Christmas D and D

(image courtesy of D & D Chocolates)

D & D chocolates make dairy free (and nut free) chocolate and carob. They have both chocolate (pictured above) and carob tree decorations, available to order through their website.

Nut Free Chocolate People sell chocolate filled Christmas baubles. Their final order date for Christmas is midnight, Monday 30 November.

Tasha’s Dairy Free Delights sell tree decorations using either Plamil or Moo Free chocolate. Plamil is a dedicated nut free brand. Moo Free chocolate may contain nut traces. The website says you may specify which type of chocolate is used.

Nut free Christmas biscuits

I’m going to opt for for the Sainsbury family biscuit tin again, which has no nuts listed in the ingredients or referred to in the “allergy advice” warnings.

Christmas Sainsburys biscuits

(image courtesy of Sainsbury)

I’ve also bought a box of Cadbury “Festive Friends”. This product isn’t on the Cadbury website at the time of typing, however there are no nut warnings on the packet I’ve bought.

The United Biscuits nut free list (Nov 2014 version) includes McVitie’s Xmas Festive Faces and McVitie’s Xmas Penguin Yule Logs.

Nut free Christmas chocolates

  • After Eight –  both “dark thin mints” and “bitesize tubes”.
  • Cadbury describe their “Snowbites” and Dairy Milk buttons tube as “nut absent”.

Christmas Cadbury

 

(image courtesy of Cadbury)

  • Chocolates for Chocoholics sell various chocolate packs, which can be personalised. The website description states “Contains eleven pieces of solid milk chocolate that are gluten free, nut free and suitable for vegetarians”.
  • As well as their tree decorations (see above), D & D Chocolates have a wide range of dairy and nut free Christmas chocolate and carob. Chocolate santas, mint snowmen, Christmas novelty shapes and more.
  • This year Kinnerton’s Christmas range includes chocolate lollies (Mothercare, Asda), chocolate shapes (Asda) and chocolate satsumas (Fosters, Selfridges, WHSmith). For their character confectionery, there’s Thomas or Peppa selection boxes plus “mini figures” boxes (in Hello Kitty, Frozen, Peppa Pig, Star Wars, Thomas). The website also lists a Paddington biscuit tin:

Christmas Paddington tin

(image courtesy of Kinnerton)

  • Nut Free Chocolate People sell both bags and boxes of Christmas chocolates (order before midnight 30 November!)
  • Plamil sell chocolate snowmen, in “No Added Sugar alternative to milk” and “Organic Fairtrade alternative to milk” versions.
  • As well as tree decorations, Tasha’s Dairy Free Delights has a large selection of Christmas chocolate shapes (I understand that you will need to specify they use “Plamil” – see above).

Nut free gingerbread

I’ve bought Mini Gingerbread Men biscuits from Sainsburys.

Waitrose have a gingerbread activity kit, which the website lists as “Suitable for those avoiding Nuts and peanuts” (thanks for the top tip, Victoria!).

Nut free mince pies

Last year, Duerr’s and Robertson’s confirmed that their mincemeat was nut free. I will email both to confirm this is still the case, particularly given the Duerr’s website still states (as at 27 November 2014) “May contain traces of nuts”. Update to follow as and when I receive replies.

nutfree_mincemeat

I’ve heard M&S are selling a mincemeat with not nuts in the ingredients and no nut warnings this year (thanks Clare!).

Last year, It’s Nut Free sold jars of luxury Christmas mincemeat. Their website is currently down – however if anyone tracks this down in the supermarkets, please post a comment.

Nut free gravy, sauces and stuffing

  • Free & Easy make a various gravies. We had their caramelised red onion gravy last year (which was lovely!), ordered from Ocado.
  • The Friendly Food and Drink Company make a Christmas chutney “packed with cranberries, oranges, cinnamon and nutmeg”.
  • The Ocado website states again this year that Paxo Sage, Onion & Apple Stuffing Mix is free from nut and peanut. The only may contain stated on the packet I’ve bought is “may also contain milk”. I didn’t receive a reply from Paxo last year confirming the product’s nut free status. I’ll try again…

Nut free Christmas pudding

  • I’ve gone for the Coles gluten, nut and alcohol free Christmas pudding from Ocado – available in two sizes, 454g or 112g.
  • Matthew Walker (100g) nut and alcohol free Christmas pudding is available from OcadoWaitrose and Amazon.
  • Morrisons (100g) and Tesco (454g)  also have their own brand nut free Christmas puddings (thanks Michelle and Steph!).

Nut free Christmas cake

Christmas Just Love Food Company snowman cake

(image courtesy of Just Love Food Company)

Just Love Food Company again has a nut free snowman cake (pictured), described as:

“delicious moist sponge cake with a raspberry jam and crème filling, skilfully decorated using soft icing and personalised with a message of your choice”

The Heavenly Cake Company make a range of nut free cakes. From looking at their website (see, for example, their double chocolate cake), you can add a short message or photo topper to your chosen cake – so it looks like they can be customised to a Christmassy theme.

Final thought: alcohol containing nuts

And finally, here’s a list of alcoholic drinks which contain nuts…

 

Hope everyone has a great, nut safe Christmas when we get there! If you have any other Christmas product recommendations, please do post a comment below.

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Whilst cursing the loss of Fabulous Bakin’ Boys as a dedicated nut free brand, I realised I hadn’t posted an update about Alpro’s decision to keep its soya products (save for yoghurts – see below) nut free.

A quick recap: may contain traces of almonds and hazelnuts

Last November, Alpro confirmed that they were going to produce their soya products in the same factory as their nut milks from the end of 2014. They had begun to add “may contain traces of almonds and hazelnuts” to their soya products in advance of this switch.

Many parents of children with both nut and dairy allergies were distraught at this news. As well as being nut free, reasonably priced and readily available across the UK, the fortified Alpro soya products provided a staple source of calcium for children who had to avoid both dairy and nuts.

The decision also:

  • Meant Provamel products would no longer be nut free.
  • Meant the trade version of Alpro soya (supplied to coffee shops, such as Costa) would no longer be nut free.
  • Would likely mean the supermarket own brand milks made by Alpro would soon bear a “may contain” warning too.

The “Alpro: Save our Soya” campaign

We therefore launched the Alpro: Save our Soya (AlproSOS) campaign, originally to ask Alpro to reconsider the move, given their soya products are a staple part of so many dairy and nut allergic children’s diets. When we learned that the decision had been made, but that their allergen controls were apparently gold standard, we asked if the may contain labels were necessary.

Alpro soya to stay nut free

The first hint of success came in March 2014, when Alpro agreed that the 1 litre cartons (but not the 250ml cartons) of their junior milk would continue to be made in a nut free factory.

Then in August, Alpro “saved our soya”, issuing the following statement: 

“As you know, a year ago we decided to label all our plant based products with a ‘may contain traces of almonds and hazelnuts’ claim. This was to give consumers advance warning of the integration of products containing almonds or hazelnuts into its production facilities.

After thorough investigation and without compromising Alpro’s ethical aims of bringing delicious and safe products to the market, we are pleased to confirm that we will be gradually removing the ‘may contain traces of almonds and hazelnuts’ claim from our soya, rice and oat drinks as well as our plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts.

As part of a major investment programme in our facilities, we will arrange our current production lines to be dedicated to producing soya, rice and oat drinks or almond, hazelnut and coconut drinks. Any avoidable risk of cross contamination is thus excluded, which means the warning can be removed from our soya, rice and oat drink products and our plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts.

We apologise for any confusion relating to the nut claim, but our intention regarding labelling has always to keep consumers fully informed of the changes as early as possible. Now that production plans have changed, the claim is no longer necessary on soya, rice and oat drinks and our plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts.

These recent decisions and measures will allow all consumers to continue to enjoy Alpro soya, rice and oat drinks and our Alpro plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts in the future.”

Clearly this is a fantastic result for those with nut and dairy allergic children. A huge thank you to Alpro for listening to their food allergic customers and reversing their decision to merge the nut and soya milk production lines.

Alpro soya yoghurts ‘may contain nuts’ … for now

The only remaining sticking point is that the “may contain” warning will not be removed from Alpro soya yoghurts at the present time.

The FAQs on the Alpro UK website state (as at 28 October 2014):

Alpro yoghurts screen shot 28.10.14

Hopefully Alpro’s procedures will confirm there is no cross contamination risk and the “may contain” warnings will soon be lifted from the yoghurts too. Keep an eye on the AlproSOS facebook page for the latest news!

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rip-nut-freeRIP another nut free brand.

This afternoon, I read, with dismay, an alert from the Anaphylaxis Campaign, warning its members that Fabulous Bakin’ Boys products would no longer be nut free from November 2014.

Shortly afterwards, I received a copy of the following press release from Fabulous Bakin’ Boys themselves:

“FABULOUS BAKIN’ BOYS SAYS GOODBYE TO NUT FREE STATUS

The Fabulous Bakin’ Boys, who produce flapjacks, muffins and cupcakes for major retailers, will be introducing new nutty variants into its product range next year and as a result, its factory will no longer be guaranteed ‘Nut Free’.

Next year will see changes to the Fabulous Bakin’ Boys’ range with exciting new product lines to meet increased customer demands for nutty, healthier options suitable for snacking on the go.  Producing just a few nutty lines means that the Fabulous Bakin’ Boys’ Witney factory can no longer claim to be nut free and the company is working with the Anaphylaxis Campaign to communicate this to their customers with nut allergies.

Richard Cooper from The Fabulous Bakin Boys explains:

“After years of consumers asking for nutty variants, we plan to start manufacturing a nutty treat or two next year. It’s with a heavy heart that we’re changing our factory’s guaranteed nut free status but hope that our fans will understand the need for change. We will of course still have baked goods without nuts but as they will be baked in the same environment as the new products, we need to alert customers to this.

“Packaging on all products will highlight the change from Nut Free status from November 2014, and we’ll be working closely with the Anaphylaxis Campaign to inform those with nut allergies that we plan on changing in the new year”.

For more information on severe allergies visit www.anaphylaxis.org.uk.”

 

When it comes to dedicated nut free food manufacturers, there are very few companies out there whose entire product range is nut free. Just Love Food Company, Kinnerton (not counting their white label products) and Ilumi are a few of the few examples that immediately spring to mind. Fabulous Bakin’ Boys were another. Since my son’s peanut allergy diagnosis, my “go to brands” for cakes have been Just Love Food (for birthday cakes) and Fabulous Bakin’ Boys (for cupcakes, muffins and flapjacks). There are so few other safe options in the supermarket cake aisle, these two companies have been a godsend over the last two years. To learn that Fabulous Bakin’ Boys are now going to be labelled “may contain nuts” and therefore off limits, is disappointing to say the least.

You can count on your fingers the brands stocked in your supermarket that speak the language of a nut mum: “Relax! Your child can actually eat this product without risk”. Now, one of those brands are pulling the rug. This both frustrates and saddens me.

Surely nut free food choice shouldn’t be decreasing, as nut allergies are on the rise?

fbb_no_longer_nut_free
The new look Fabulous Bakin’ Boys packaging

Why has Fabulous Bakin’ Boys nut free status changed?

One of the plus points about the Fabulous Bakin’ Boys products is that they are all individually wrapped. This makes them ideal, for example, for including in your nut allergic child’s “safe treats box” at school. My son only started school this September and already two of his classmates have celebrated their 5th birthdays, with everyone being given a cake. On those occasions, my son has had a Fabulous Bakin’ Boys cupcake from his safe treats box, and very pleased with it he was too. Unfortunately, this safe solution is no longer an option from November.

It seems that the individual wrappers may have been the undoing of Fabulous Bakin’ Boys’ nut free cake offering. According to The Business Magazine, in 2012, FBB “made a £3m investment in the installation of a new automated line in its bakery in the first quarter of 2012”.

Despite having been described as “the growth star of the UK cake market”. Fabulous Bakin’ Boys went into administration earlier this year. “Overspending”, including on the new automated packaging machinery, has been given as a reason for the company’s financial problems.

FoodManufacture.co.uk reported that Dutch firm Daelmans bought Fabulous Bakin’ Boys out of administration in April 2014 and that the:

“two founders and directors of Fabulous Bakin’ Boys, md Gary Frank and Jon Frank, have now moved on from the firm.”

This looks like a case of a company being bought and its nut free principles then being discarded.

Saying that, the 2012 article on Gary Frank in The Business Magazine makes no mention of Fabulous Bakin’ Boys’ nut free credentials, which begs the question of whether “nut free” was a core principle of the brand, or an incidental bonus.

Either way, in their own words, Fabulous Bakin’ Boys are now “going nuts”. Sadly nut allergic children will no longer be able to “keep on munching”.

fbb_about

(image courtesy of Fabulous Bakin’ Boys, 27 October 2014)

Step forward a new brand?

It’s probably fair to say that Fabulous Bakin’ Boys popularity amongst nut allergy families demonstrates that you don’t always have to have an “amazing” product. I’m not asking for Delia’s secret recipe here. A safe product, that you can buy locally and that your children enjoy, is good enough for parties and class treats.

Whilst there are other bakeries making small, nut free cakes and sweet treats, Fabulous Bakin’ Boys was the only one readily available in major supermarkets across the UK. Let’s hope another manufacturer steps in to fill this gap in the market sometime very soon.

Sources / further information

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That’s the question posed by an Oxfordshire nut mum after she took a closer look at Caterlink’s Nut Allergy Guidelines. Here she tells us what she discovered.

“With the new 2014 school year came a new challenge, whether free meals for every child in reception, year 1 and year 2 would include nut allergic children. My twin boys, one with a tree nut allergy, one without, often ask to try school dinners, so I decided to find out about the new caterer’s nut policy.

After a failed attempt to obtain the policy from school, I contacted Caterlink direct and they sent me their Nut Allergy Guidelines for staff. I wasn’t especially surprised to see the meals were not guaranteed nut free, making it an easy decision to stick with packed lunch.

Screen shot Caterlink 6.10.14 nut policy

However, what I read in the emergency section so shocked me I knew it was only fair that other parents were made aware of it.

Caterlink, featured on BBC’s The One Show as the new school meals service was rolled out and supporter of the School Food Plan, are on the front line at the most dangerous time of day for food allergic school children. The company is a big player in the UK school and university meals business, so you’d expect them to know a thing or two about food allergies.

Yet there on the second line of their emergency advice it read ‘an antidote to administer to known nut allergy sufferers’. A term not usually associated with adrenaline auto-injectors such as Epipen – these guidelines were clearly not well researched. Worse was to come, in bold and underlined it read “do not administer medication under any circumstances”. So even if a first aider can’t be found – even if a 999 operator is telling them to – even if a child is dying and they are the only one there? A chilling thought. You would hope if a child’s life was in danger any one would use the Epipen, trained or otherwise, that’s what it is there for.

At my son’s school it’s unlikely Caterlink staff would be called on in an emergency, but the fact that this policy exists and is given such prominence was a real concern. The calculations of an insurance company may lurk behind it, but it’s an appalling position to put staff in. Signed by Managing Director, Neil Fuller, the advice ends “Remember, death from an allergic reaction to food can take place in less than 10 minutes”.

Screen shot Caterlink 6.10.14 emergency action

There were other problems; no mention of laying the person down, or sitting them up if they can’t breathe; ensuring they stay put until the ambulance arrives, reducing the risk of heart attack; no clear explanations of the differences between mild and serious signs of a reaction.

Outlining my concerns to Caterlink, I asked them to urgently review their emergency advice, suggesting 7 days, and to let me know what changes had been made. I also forwarded an example of a good policy found on the internet; St Paul’s Girls’ School’s policy shows a good understanding of nut allergies and anaphylaxis and makes clear an auto-injector should be used straight away. It doesn’t prohibit anyone from using it. Caterlink emailed back to say my comments had been passed on to the relevant people and I’ve heard nothing since.

Alerted to the danger of assuming everyone would be well informed about allergies in schools, I started asking more questions. My son told me pupils don’t wash their hands before lunch and everyone sits where they liked, including next to those eating peanut butter and chocolate spread. He’s unlikely to react to peanuts, but that’s not the case for the other two nut allergic children in his year.

A month into the term I attended the school’s Epipen training. There were no trainer auto-injectors available. Taking my own Epipen trainer into school the next day I discovered that, whilst many teachers had been trained in previous years, this was the first time for my son’s teacher (let me reiterate, that’s a month into school). The school is listening to concerns raised by myself and other mums of allergic children and we anticipate changes.

So please, if you don’t know your school policies, if you don’t know what happens at lunch-time, if you haven’t seen your school’s caterer’s nut policy – make enquiries and challenge anything you wouldn’t allow to happen at home. Schools are about education, but you may find you’ll need to educate your school about allergies.”

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If your child suffers anaphylaxis, don’t you need to be one of the first to know?

Introducing the Alert 5 smart phone app

I have recently received details of Alert 5, which is a new app that could prove invaluable in the event of an anaphylaxis emergency.

What does the app do?

With a single tap, the app can be used to tell up to 5 people:

  • That the allergic person has had a severe reaction.
  • The exact location on a map of the person suffering anaphylaxis.

alert5-3

If the alert is being sent to:

  • A mobile, then a text message is sent, explaining the sender is having a reaction. The message includes a 20 character URL, which links to a detailed map pinpointing the sender’s exact location.
  • A landline, the text message is read out.

An allergic child with their own mobile phone can therefore alert their parents, brother, sister etc that they are experiencing a reaction.

The stored numbers are easy to amend, so you can set different numbers for different times of the day. You might, for example, include the school office number during school hours, but change this to something different at weekends.

alert5-2

Recipients need to know the drill

For the system to work well, the key is that the recipients of the message know:

  • That the alert will only be sent in the case of an emergency.
  • The agreed plan of action when an alert is received. This would differ from family to family. For example, it might be down to the parents to head off immediately to find the child. The other 3 recipients might check that the parents have received the message safely and be on hand to help with other children.

Handy for parents’ phones too

The app could also be useful for parents to download onto their own phones too. My son, at 4, is (I hope) some way off demanding an iPhone. However, by having the app installed on my mobile I can let my partner and, for example, his grandmothers know that he has had a reaction.

When my son had his second anaphylactic reaction, my sole focus was on administering the EpiPen, giving his inhaler and anti-histamine and keeping him calm. I didn’t have the time or the brain space, whilst in the thick of it, to phone my partner (much less other family members) to let everyone know what had happened. Luckily, on that occasion, a friend was there to make the calls. However, had I been by myself and subscribed to Alert 5, I could have tapped my phone and sent out the distress signal. Ian would have known to come and find us. D’s grandmothers would be alerted to the fact he has had a severe reaction. They could double check that Ian had received the alert and could, for example, be getting ready to head over to our house.

The information screen

The app also allows the sender to press a button to display an information page on your phone, or iPad etc, which would let those around you know what they can do to help if you are too unwell to explain. For an allergic child, the information screen could detail the child’s allergies and let readers know where their EpiPen can be found.

alert5-4

Key message: (1) adrenaline (2) call 999 THEN (3) use app

My main concern when I heard about the app was that someone might waste valuable time in an anaphylaxis emergency rummaging for their phone, when what they need to do first is administer adrenaline and dial 999. When I put this to one of the app’s founders, Lee Henderson, himself a former fireman, he agreed completely: for anaphylaxis emergencies the app is an additional step for AFTER adrenaline has been given and an ambulance called. What the app does is to provide added peace of mind.

How Alert 5 could work in an anaphylaxis emergency

It’s easy to imagine scenarios where the app would come into its own:

  • Your child is at the park with friends when s/he has anaphylaxis. The EpiPen is given, the ambulance is called and the friend presses the help button so you can get to the scene.
  • Your secondary school aged child is at the far side of the school playing field. They have a reaction: hopefully they have their EpiPen with them. If not, if the staff room number was stored in Alert 5, valuable minutes could be saved by pressing the button for help.
  • Your teenager is on a night out. It won’t remove your worry but at least you know they have a simple way of telling you if they have a reaction.

How the technology might evolve in future…

Calling an ambulance at the touch of a screen

I understand that Alert 5 are talking to police and ambulance services about a direct link between the app and the emergency services. If this development goes ahead, the alert button would both call an ambulance and let your 5 emergency contacts know.

Solving the problem of a locked phone

Another concern I had was if the child’s phone was lockable. Would their friends need to know their pin to be able to send the alert? Was there any way the app could override the locking, so someone else could summons help?

Whilst the company make a special “defender phone” which has an emergency button to override the phone’s lock, this product is more suitable for companies to buy for their lone workers, and likely too expensive for individuals. However, Alert 5 are looking at the issue of locked phones to see whether there is a way the app could override the lock with a combination of button pushes. For Android phones, they are also seeing whether there could be a means of overriding the lock if it is shaken for three seconds. I understand that if these upgrades do take place in future, then Alert 5 subscribers will get the benefit of them within their £4.99 pa subscription.

How much is Alert 5 and where can I get it?

Alert 5 costs just £4.99 per year and is available for both iOS devices (iPhone, iPad etc) and Android phones. You simply go to your app store and download it by searching for “Alert 5”.

For me, provided everyone understands it is an action to take AFTER adrenaline has been administered and the ambulance is on its way, £4.99 a year for an added layer of reassurance is well worth it.

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The Anaphylaxis Campaign has the opportunity to make a hard hitting short film warning severely allergic young adults that if they do not carry their adrenaline auto-injectors (AAI) with them at ALL times, the consequences could be fatal.

To make this potentially life saving film, the charity urgently needs to raise £30,000. Timing for the fund raising is very tight: filming is scheduled to start on 5 September, when the donated facilities for the project will be available.

Please help fund this project! Scroll down for details of the ways to donate…

The teenage years

I’ve been told on several occasions by more experienced nut mums that, looking back, the toddler years and the teenage years were the most challenging. One mum told me that she found there was a period in childhood where her son was happy to follow “the rules”, but that the teenage stage was an entirely different kettle of fish.

In her blog post Don’t let this mistake be your last, Issy from the Anaphylaxis Campaign highlighted some of the risks posed by the teenage social scene:

“I think back to all the times we naively put [allergic] friends at risk by eating at curry houses, going on nights out and sharing drinks – all without either of them knowing where their adrenaline auto-injectors were or even what to do with them if something were to go wrong.”

Key message: always carry your EpiPen

(…or Jext or Emerade…)

Anaphylaxis affects approximately 1 in 15 young people in the UK. Swift use of the AAI is the first line of defence against a life threatening allergic reaction. However,  the Anaphylaxis Campaign’s 2012 survey of 500 allergic 15 –  25 year olds found that over 1/3 of those prescribed an AAI did not always carry it. What’s more, of the 77% of respondents who said they had never used their AAI, half had been admitted to hospital because of their allergy.

(image courtesy of Anaphylaxis Campaign)

A film to highlight the dangers of anaphylaxis to 15 – 25 year olds

Given these findings, the film will specifically target 15 to 25 year olds. Anaphylaxis Campaign CEO Lynne Regent explained that the film will aim to both:

  • De-stigmatise both anaphylaxis and the carrying and use of adrenaline.
  • Raise awareness of anaphylaxis as a condition and dissuade bullying and discrimination towards those affected.

Self consciousness, stigmatisation, bullying and discrimination could have fatal consequences for a young adult with severe allergies. As Issy summed it up in her blog:

“For anyone affected by anaphylaxis, your worst mistake could be as trivial as forgetting your adrenaline auto-injector, or thinking you’ll be fine without it. And what’s worse, this one simple mistake could end up costing you your life…

So, all in all, this is an incredibly worthwhile project that, first and foremost, could save lives. In addition, it might help to alleviate some of the anxiety felt by parents of allergic children, if it becomes the widely accepted social norm amongst young adults for those with anaphylaxis to carry their meds. It will also help to educate those whose lives aren’t directly affected by anaphylaxis that severe allergies are life threatening.

How can you donate?

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Lisa recently holidayed at the Coma Gran, Majorca with her nut and kiwi allergic son and gluten intolerant daughter. Here she shares her family’s food allergy friendly travel experience! 

We travelled to Majorca to the resort of Sa Coma with our 13yo son who is anaphylactic to cashews/pistachios/kiwi (we avoid all nuts/peanuts including traces) and our 4yo daughter who is gluten intolerant and also has a nutfree diet. We stayed for 10 days at the Coma Gran and had a great experience.

Thomson were great on the flight, they made an announcement in both directions and did not sell any nut products. We did not hear any moans or comments or see anyone flouting this guidance. We wiped down all of the tray/seat area and my son only ate sweets for the 3hr journey (his choice not mine,  I did have a big stash of other snacks just in case he was peckish !!).

The hotel did their best to cater for him and he did have a good selection of plain foods that were safe. They had a buffet and a grill area where the chef cooked steaks/chicken/pork etc in front of you without any marinades etc so this was brill. The desserts were out-of-bounds very nutty and they had pistachio ice cream too. We avoided breakfast cereals and pastries but they had cooked breakfast everyday so were quite happy with this. They were very clued up for the gluten free food for my daughter, this seemed easier for them to understand than nut-free, however the head waiter was very helpful and happy to check labels for us at any time. So overall our children faired very well for food !

I was great to be able to have an all inclusive style holiday, it worked very well for us. Although travelling abroad with nut allergic children is daunting it is so worth all of that preparation and effort !!

Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa!

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The safety of nut allergic flyers has come under the spotlight this week, after Fae Platten (aged 4) “lost consciousness on a plane when a selfish passenger ignored three warnings not to open a packet of nuts”. Fortunately, she recovered having been given the EpiPen but was “left with badly blistered lips and a swollen tongue”.

As Maureen Jenkins, Clinical Director of Allergy UK explained:

“Airborne particles from nuts have the potential to kill those who are allergic to them. These particles are even more readily inhaled from the recycled conditioned air in an aircraft.”

Whilst Ryanair deserve credit for making the announcements asking passengers not to eat nuts, for me this incident highlights the need for all airlines to implement an actual ban. Can you picture the scenario if an airline said  “Well, we said we weren’t selling fireworks, and we politely asked people to refrain from lighting them, but unfortunately he had a box in his hand luggage and he didn’t see the problem…”. Ludicrous, exactly.

To be meaningful a request needs to be enforceable. Picture the scenario if the police had no power to enforce speed limits. Although there is a 30 mph sign at the sign of the road, someone is run over by a driver doing 70. Would society find it acceptable for:

  • The police to say they did all they could: they put up a speed limit sign.
  • The driver to say I like driving my car fast: that’s my right. If I might hurt someone, well, what are they doing out and about and trying to cross a road?

Yet these types of justifications are raised when airlines say “we made a PA announcement” and passengers say “it’s my right to eat peanuts” and “so don’t take your allergic child on a plane”.

At the moment, nut allergic families are grateful for the 30 mph sign. However, as the Ryanair incident illustrates, even when an airline makes a request, that may not be sufficient.

As I understand it, it’s the dust from nuts which makes them pose a particular airborne risk. The confined space of an aircraft cabin with its recycled air then compounds the problem. It’s not the same as sitting on a bus or train. And added to that, it’s a damn sight easier to summons an ambulance when you’re not at 30,000 feet.

So if there is a nut allergic passenger, and nuts onboard could be potentially life threatening: don’t nuts need to be banned?

How can nut allergic passengers reduce their risk of an in flight reaction?

According to a 2013 study by Professor Greenhawt and colleagues, the following steps might reduce a nut allergy sufferer’s chance of an allergic reaction on a plane:

  • Making a request for accommodation from the airline.
  • Wiping down your tray table.
  • Not using the plane’s pillows or blankets.
  • Asking for a nut free buffer zone.
  • Asking the flight staff to make a request announcement that passengers do not to consume nut containing products.
  • Requesting a peanut free and/or tree nut free meal, or not eating the airline food at all (Sam Sadleir’s experience on Virgin Atlantic highlights the benefits of taking your own safe food onboard).

For those airlines who provide buffer zones, it seems a typical request would be for 3 rows either side of the nut allergic passenger. However, the Jet Blue website, for example, states they will organise “a buffer zone one row in front and one row behind the allergic person”.

In Fae Platten’s case, the man with the bag of nuts was four rows away. The Mirror reported that although Fae’s mum rushed her to “the front of the plane, the air conditioning meant there was no way she could get away from the nut particles circulating in the air”.

It therefore seems that whilst the risk reduction strategies might help ordinarily, a buffer zone or an unenforceable polite PA request would not cover the scenario of someone sensitive enough to react to airborne proteins, where a selfish and/or ignorant passenger decides to go ahead and launch nut particles into the air regardless.

What happened to Fae (and also the reaction suffered by a 9-year-old girl on a flight to Dublin earlier this month) underline what could happen when flying with a nut allergy. Whilst I don’t think these incidents would necessarily make us swear off air travel with our son, they will serve to heighten my anxiety next time we fly.

I’m just hoping that the press coverage of both of these incidents sparks a review of the airlines’ policies, and leads to them banning nuts (after all, the alternative solution of banning nut allergics would surely be disability discrimination!).

Please sign the petitions to ban nuts from planes…

Lynn Noble from Ballyclare has launched a petition to all airlines to ban nuts and nut products from planes. If you haven’t already, please do sign and share the petition. The more attention this issue can receive the better.

Lianne Mandelbaum (@NoNutTraveler) is also campaigning in the US for nut allergic people to be able to fly safely on commercial airlines. In her powerful speech from a FARE event, she asked:

“Does a child have to die on an airplane in order for airlines to enact policies to protect allergic passengers?”

Sign her petition requiring airlines to institute a Bill of Rights for food allergic passengers here.

Which airlines are nut allergy friendly?

Last November, the Anaphylaxis Campaign produced a chart setting out the published policies for different airlines: Food allergies – airline comparison.

How have you fared in practice? Below are the details of the experiences Joanne, Steph and I had with Wizz Air, Thomson and Monarch respectively. It would be extremely useful to know which airlines accommodate nut allergies well – please post a comment below to share any recommendations!

Monarch Airlines

“We flew to Faro with Monarch in March 2014. Before booking, I had called Monarch customer services to ask about their nut policy. I was assured that all I had to do was to call them after we had booked, to add a note of my son’s allergy to our booking. They sent me an email confirming that:

  • We could bring our own food onboard (as they couldn’t guarantee their inflight meals would be free of nut traces).
  • A note would be added to our booking so the check in, security and cabin crew staff are aware of D’s allergy and know we are carrying EpiPens.
  • The sale of nuts would be restricted on our flights.
  • The cabin crew would make an announcement asking passengers to refrain from eating any nuts or nut based products they may have with them.

I booked our flights, called customer services again, and was told D’s allergy had been noted against our booking. I called a couple of days prior to departure and again was assured that D’s allergy had been noted against our booking.

When we arrived at Manchester to fly out (and again when we arrived at Faro for the return journey), D’s allergy had NOT been noted against our booking!

We had to go through the rigmarole of the check in staff adding the details onto the system – which wasn’t straightforward at Faro when I spoke zero Portuguese and the check in lady had limited English.

Once these problems were overcome, the security, gate and cabin staff could not have been more helpful. They didn’t sell nuts and they did make the PA announcement as promised.”

(Louise, March 2014)

For the full story, see Holiday in Portugal with a nut allergy.

Wizz Air

“hello…just thought I would share my latest travel experience with Wizz air….that flies mostly on the continent but also to Luton, Doncaster, Glasgow and Liverpool. I was amazed to find they had a promotion on board where if you bought an alcoholic drink you got a free packet of peanuts!!! and they also sold peanuts. I asked them discreetly if they would not promote or sell peanuts on the flight and they were very happy not too. On the outward journey they made an announcement on the tannoy and on the way back they just didn’t sell/promote them. I have emailed the company to thank them and also suggested they looked for alternative snacks… I am keen to show gratitude and have extended the opportunity to provide further info if need be… “

(Joanne, June 2014)

Thomson

“I was disappointed with Thomson airlines though – they had no record of M’s allergy despite being informed by the holiday company, and the rather dismissive stewardess on the inbound flight just said, “does he have his epipen?” when we told her! Practically speaking though, this didn’t cause a problem as we took snacks and bought pringles that M could eat if he felt a bit peckish; we hadn’t ever intended to have the airline food. Last week we did get an apology from Thomson after I made my concerns known to Sovereign, the holiday company… hopefully it might make a difference next time, or to someone else in the same boat (or on the same plane!) as us.”

(Steph, May 2014)

For more details of Steph’s trip to Gran Canaria, see Steph’s story: Holiday in Gran Canaria with a nut allergy.

Who have you flown with? Please do share your experiences by posting a comment below – let’s start a list of helpful airlines!

Sources

Further information

 

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When my son was diagnosed, one of the first nut allergy challenges we faced was the mums and tots groups minefield. Food perils lurked everywhere. Every playgroup we tried out served snacks (usually biscuits or toast), many children bought in food from home, boxes of cupcakes appeared on birthdays and, on one occasion, we turned up to trestle tables set up for a surprise end of term party tea. A lovely treat for the majority, ulcer inducing for the food allergy mum.

My stress levels reduced slightly as D moved on from the pick-up-anything-off-the-floor-and-stick-it-in-his-mouth stage, and I got to know the playgroup organisers and fill in the other mums on our recent experience of anaphylaxis.

Over the next couple of years, I’m guessing we’ll have new challenges to navigate with things like football and Beaver Scouts. But which out-of-school kids’ groups are allergy friendly?

As ever, there seems to be a wide spectrum of standards. Back in May, I was dismayed to read in the Western Gazette that Curtis Johnson (aged 14) had been banned from Cadet camps because of his nut allergy (see Somerset schoolboy banned from Army Cadet camps because of peanut allergy). However, Allergy UK reported that Brownies are Allergy Aware, so fingers crossed the boys’ scouting organisations are similarly clued up.

Directory of nut allergy friendly groups and clubs

A fellow nut mum then had the excellent idea of starting an online directory for nut allergy friendly kids clubs.

If you go to a playgroup or your children attend a club that inspires confidence in the way it cares for allergic children, please do post a comment below with the details. Once we have a few areas of the country covered, I will set up a searchable directory (along the same lines as the restaurant directory).

To get the ball rolling, here are the details of two of our regular playgroup haunts:

Prestbury Mums and Tots

  • Prestbury Village Hall, Macclesfield Road, Prestbury, SK10 4BW
  • 9.30-11.00 AM Mondays and Fridays (during term time)

Buttered toast and juice is provided for the children, plus tea or coffee for the parents. Two years on and the ladies behind the counter are well used to me scouring the ingredients lists at the start of each session for nutty ingredients and “may contain” warnings!

The Christmas parties usually take place on the final Monday and Friday before Christmas. All the mums bring in food for the children to share. For the last two years, I’ve made sure D sits at the end of the table and have brought in a selection of party food for him.

From September, I will be one of the organisers on a Monday – so do say hi if you stop by!

St Michael’s Church toddler group

Toys are set out in a gated off area around the altar. After half an hour, everyone goes into a side room for nursery rhymes and snacks (Rich Tea biscuits and juice or water for the children, tea and coffee for the adults). The biscuits are kept in a barrel jar. For the last two years that we’ve been going they’ve always served only McVities Rich Tea. One of the organisers previously worked in a school and looked after the allergic pupils’ EpiPens – so they understand the potential severity and the need to check the ingredients.

Word of warning: they often have end of term parties, involving food.

The toddler group is re-run on Thursday afternoons too (I haven’t been to the afternoon session yet).

 

So … which nut allergy friendly playgroups and kids’ clubs have you discovered?

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We’ve been a fan of Ocado since diagnosis. The website provides detailed product descriptions, with an ingredients list and allergen information. They have also attempted to provide a “nut free” filter, allowing you to whittle down your search results to show only the nut safe options. I’ve grumbled in the past that the filter does not pick up every safe product. However, whilst an imperfect tool, it is the best online supermarket I have come across so far, for nut free grocery shopping.

We shop there week in, week out. Invariably ordering their mini breadsticks, which my children love dunking into houmous. This week, we were heading for a playdate at a friend’s house. I’d promised to bring along some nut safe supplies for my two. When stood in her kitchen, I had a tense moment when I went to open the mini breadsticks tub. It now bore the warning:

“May also contain nuts, peanuts…”

Although the packet hadn’t yet been opened, I was annoyed with myself for letting contraband food into our nut free house.

BREADSTICKS

Don’t rely on websites: always check the label

Back at home, I checked the product description on the Ocado website. The allergen information now read:

Ocado mini breadsticks screen shot 22.7.14

However, the description on the Waitrose website still stated (as at 22 July 2014) that the product is suitable for those avoiding nuts:

Waitrose mini breadsticks screen shot 22.7.14

Indeed, the mini breadsticks are still listed on the list of Waitrose Own Label Products Suitable for those Avoiding Nuts and Peanuts (March 2014 version).

So, the addition of the “may contain” appears to be a recent change which the Waitrose website and safe product lists haven’t yet caught up with.

Why the new “may contain”?

My next thought was: WHY has this changed? Have the ingredients source or manufacturing arrangements altered? Or is this another example of a supermarket updating its labelling to comply with the new allergen labelling laws coming into force from December, and apparently seizing the opportunity to slap on a “may contain nuts” warning at the same time?

I have written to Ocado to ask what prompted the change (and to see if any of their own brand breadsticks remain nut safe). Update hopefully to follow.

Checking labels: rule of three

This experience is a reminder to always check the label. I remember reading an article where one allergy mum described how her family has a “three times” rule. They check a food’s ingredients label:

  • When they take a product off the shelf in a supermarket;
  • When they unpack the shopping at home; and
  • Before the product is opened.

On this occasion the label change was spotted in time. However, the breadsticks incident has given me a jolt to also remember to double check the ingredients as I add to basket and when I unpack the shopping too.

Update (28 August 2014): Ocado’s reply

I’m pleased to report that Ocado have now advised:

“This product is currently being re-designed and once the re-design is complete in the autumn, the declaration should change to ‘may contain traces of sesame and milk’. We will be taking out any reference to nuts and peanuts.”

So, it seems this product is only temporarily off limits. I’ll report back as and when I spot the new look packaging (with no reference to may contain nuts and peanuts) online.