Our Peanut-free Journey

Life with a peanut allergic son.

Hershey’s and I need to have a talk. — November 22, 2009

Hershey’s and I need to have a talk.

Every year I count on Hershey’s chocolate chips for my holiday baking. Now I am thinking that perhaps I will need to buy them from a safe peanut-free internet site. You see, Hershey’s has decided that Mexico is a wonderful place to manufacture some of their products. I do not know the conditions of these factories and I do not know how well they adhere to the food allergy guidelines.  

If a Hershey product says “Mfd. by The Hershey Co.” on the back near the ingredients, I know that it was made in Hershey, Pa. If it says “Distributed by The Hershey Co.” it did not come from Hershey. In fact, we don’t know where it came from. They’re tricky like that.  

And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the chocolate chips now say Distributed by. I’m very upset. I will more than likely be buying my baking chips from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. I am not thrilled about this as I hate that I can’t just buy my chips when they are on sale for $2.00 at the store. I am now paying considerably more plus shipping. Yes, my son will be safe but why did Hershey’s have to sell out and take away jobs from us Americans. It’s disgraceful.

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Halloween 2009 — November 3, 2009

Halloween 2009

Halloween this year was a crazy mess. We arrived home from Disney around 2:00 in the afternoon. Trick-or-treaters were due to arrive at 6:00.  We came home, unloaded the car and then headed to K-Mart to get some candy for the TOTers and for Alex and Isabelle. Alex was surprisingly happy to dress up as a vampire and hand out candy to the kids. I’m hoping this is the start of something new for us. It was wonderful being able to buy the kids candy (and popcorn) I knew they could have while still giving them that Halloween rush. We had a ton of kids come to the house and at the end of the night Alex informed me that he “sold” a lot of candy. Lol! If only that were true! Ha!

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Labeling — October 21, 2008

Labeling

Is anyone else as confused about labeling as I am? I know that the FDA put the new labeling laws into effect to help us and to some point it has. We no longer have to worry about some scientific sounding word being a synonym for peanuts. My problem is with the “may contains”.

There is a new FDA guideline being considered to change the labeling once again. I can only hope that a “may contain” law goes through. I am so torn on some products that I confuse my family, my husband and even myself. For instance, I am not 100% positive that Oreo’s and Chips Ahoy are safe. I’m pretty sure they aren’t made on a dedicated line but when you call Nabisco/Kraft they give you the run around and say that if the product contains peanuts it will be labeled as such. That doesn’t help me. I would prefer that my son not be exposed to peanuts at all. Allergy wash or not.

I remember specifically not putting those on the safe snack list for Alex’s class. But yet I put down Fig Newtons and Teddy Grahams, both made by Nabisco. What was my reasoning for that? I have no idea. I really am confused. While putting the new “may contain” law into effect will probably take away at least of half the stuff Alex eats right now, it will put my mind at ease knowing that he is eating something without a peanut exposure. I truly hope that this law gets passed so that we can look forward to a more specific label.

Halloween Handover — October 13, 2008

Halloween Handover

Alex will be trick-or-treating like every other child in our neighborhood this year however when he gets home, he will hand over his bag for a bag that has been prepared especially for him. Rather than take the chance of cross-contamination I decided to gather up some safe candy and other little treats and put them in a bag for Halloween night. If, while we are out I see something that I  know is perfectly safe, such as playdough or juice boxes etc. I will get that for him and put it in a bag that I will carry. This just makes life a little easier while still getting to enjoy the fun of Halloween. I’m very tempted to make up a sign to wear around his neck that says he’s allergic to peanuts but I’m not sure if that’s taking it too far.

Speaking of fun, my kiddos are going to look super cute this year. My daughter, who will be 17-months-old at trick-or-treat time is going as Minnie Mouse and Alex will be going as Mickey Mouse. They are going to look adorable!! I can hardly wait.

Homeschool Failure — September 17, 2008

Homeschool Failure

I can’t do it. I wanted to. I just can’t. I called the elementary school that Alex was suppose to attend and got the ball rolling to put him into the kindergarten class. We have a meeting on Friday where we will discuss our concerns and what protocols Alex will need.

I have been having an internal battle again about whether this was the right decision. This is just so tough. I just feel that Alex will have a better education in the public school system. It’s not that I feel what I taught was wrong. He just doesn’t have much of an interest in learning and I feel that a person who was taught how to teach would be better for him. I will do what I can at home to help him but he needs that classroom experience.

Is this the end of our saga? Probably not. Will he ever be homeschooled again? I can’t say for certain. I hope that this decision is the right one. When I told him that homeschool wasn’t really working for us I asked if he wanted to go to school. He replied with a sigh “well, I do miss my friends”, maybe if he is around kids his own age he will get interested in learning.

The Dreaded “H” Word — September 3, 2008

The Dreaded “H” Word

For the last two years Alex has gone out trick-or-treating like any normal child. I would come home and exchange the candy he couldn’t have with candy or chips that he could have. Lately though I have been reading about parents who do not let their child TOT at all. I can understand that. It’s horribly scary to think about your child touching all that candy with heaven knows what kind of residue on it.

To be honest, it never crossed my mind that p.b. cups that were in the same bowl as a mini Hershey bar** could cross contaminate the wrapper of said Hershey bar and thus get on my son’s hands and into his mouth. Now that I’ve read it and heard other parents agree, it makes sense.

So now I am wondering what we should do this year. I think Alex will be very upset if I say that TOT is out this year. He was just starting to really get into the whole knocking on the door thing. I’ve thought about just going up to the door with him and if the bowl has candy mixed with p.b. candies, I’ll place it in a separate bag that I carry. All known safe candy would go in his bag. This sounds very tedious though and I think many people would think I’m some crazy sugar-Nazi mom. Ugh. I don’t know what to do.

I thought about a family Halloween party but part of the fun of getting dressed up is having the neighbors see you. Last year Alex went as a scarecrow and Isabelle, who was only 5-months-old at the time, went as Dorothy. They were so cute!

So that’s what is weighing on my mind right now. It’s trivial I know but to a 5-year-old it’s a big deal.

**I know that the mini Hershey bars say “may contain almonds” but since he’s not tree-nut allergic it’s in my comfort zone.

Moving Forward — July 28, 2008

Moving Forward

Now that the school situation is figured out, we are moving on to bigger and better things for Alex. Up until now we have solely relied on our pediatricians for peanut allergy information. I have decided to take Alex to an actual allergist. We need to figure out what we can do to keep him more safe and to see if there are any trials he can participate in. A lot of trials seem to want candidates who have actually gone through anaphylaxis. Thankfully Alex has not but it also makes him a less likely candidate.

The trials we are most interested in are the ones where the patient ingests small amounts of peanut protein on a daily basis until they are ingesting the equivalent of several (like 13) peanuts. The plan here is not to make the patient no longer allergic to peanuts, it is to avoid the cross contamination issues we face on a daily basis. We wouldn’t have to worry that the chocolate chip cookie he ate was made on the same line as the Nutter Butters or that the ice cream he had wasn’t made in the same machine as a peanut containing ice cream. Anything we can do to make Alex’s world a little safer is what we want to do, as any parent would.

Now, the problem with all of this is that the allergist doesn’t have an appointment until December 30! Literally the end of the year. We’re on a cancellation list but even that is long. We’ll see. Hopefully, fingers crossed we will get in earlier.