FreeFrom Food Awards – top picks

Unknown-9THREE YEARS ago on Mother’s Day my then five month old had his first allergic reaction and was dashed to hospital in an ambulance. Some bloody Mother’s Day.

But last night I was a guest at the FreeFrom Food Awards and it set me thinking how amazing it is that, three years back, I had no clue about allergy and no part to play in its weird old world whereas now I am privileged to know a wonderful circle of people who share a common cause. Continue reading “FreeFrom Food Awards – top picks”

Absolutely the BEST cake recipe ever

Nut free, dairy free, egg free (optional: gluten and wheat free)

IMG_8319

I CANNOT even begin to say how easy and amazing this allergy safe cake recipe is.

As usual, I left it until the last minute to get prepping for Sid’s birthday (how clearly I remember last year pledging to perfect all manner of sweet treats by the time he turned three. Ha!) and in a state of panic tweeted my worries about finding the right recipe.

Back came a link to something called ‘Wacky Cake’, an American concoction apparently created during the Depression era when fresh ingredients were rationed. It contains no egg, no dairy, no nuts and can be baked with gluten free flour, too. It uses vinegar or lemon to replace the egg and it works.

Continue reading “Absolutely the BEST cake recipe ever”

10 best gluten free pastas

MUCH OF THE past two years has been spent desperately seeking a passable taste of the proper pasta Sid is missing. I needed to feed the one quarter Italian in him, after all.

So here’s what I’ve found – the best of the bunch (as far as I’ve managed to get in my mission, anyway). They’re all nut free, egg free and sesame free, too:

Continue reading “10 best gluten free pastas”

Just none Cornetto…

computer_says_noYOU might think that with the proliferation of ‘may contain nuts’ labels across our foodstuffs, people with allergies would find it easy to gather all the necessary info on what they can and cannot eat.

You’d be wrong. As a glimpse into the doublespeak-heavy world of trying to find out what’s safe and what’s not, here’s an excerpt from my dealings with Unilever’s customer “care” people…

I’ve been trying for weeks to find out which, if any, of their Walls brand ice creams might be safe and free from eggs, peanuts and tree nuts (and all traces thereof). My first call hit a dead-end when the woman on the other end assumed she knew more than I did and kept repeating the mantra “it’s UK law for us to declare if there are nut traces” (it’s not). I felt if she didn’t know the law then there was no way I’d trust her to reassure me on what might be safe for my child to eat.

So I asked for an email response and got a bundle of confusing lists stating which products contained nuts (no mention of eggs) and which didn’t, along with this:

Hello from Walls

Dear Alexa

Thank you for your recent telephone call requesting information on which Unilever UK and Ireland ice cream products nuts and tree nuts.

I have enclosed two lists which I hope you will find useful. This information has been provided in good faith using the most up-to-date information available at the date of going to print. Please note that the information is subject to change due to recipe amendments and therefore ALWAYS check the product label for the most accurate information.

Thank you for your interest in our products and please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have any further queries.

Kind regards,

Belinda Bekaraze
Careline Advisor

That’s a start, granted, but I wanted to know if it was Unilever company policy to state on the packaging if there ‘may’ be traces – and if there was no such warning could I be sure there was no risk of cross-contamination? What are the cleaning processes? Are eggs and nuts used on the same lines? Are the ‘safe’ ice creams made in nut free or egg free factories?

Despite my very best efforts I have received just one subsequent response from “Sophie Michels, careline advisor”. She sent the same lists again, along with a very nearly identical letter. May I direct you, also, to the third paragraph:

Hello from Walls

Dear Alexa,

Thank you for your recent email requesting information on which Unilever UK and Ireland Ice Cream products are produced in a nut free and egg free environment.

I have enclosed a list which I hope you will find useful, so you can compare the lists to see which products are suitable. This information has been provided in good faith using the most up-to-date information available at the date of going to print. Please note that the information is subject to change due to recipe amendments and therefore ALWAYS check the product label for the most accurate information.

The products on these lists CONTAIN Egg and Nut as an ingredient or traces of Egg due to cross contamination they will be produced in a nut/egg free environment.

Thank you for your interest in our products and please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have any further queries.

Kind regards,

Sophie Michels
Careline Advisor

Sorry if I’m being pedantic but when it’s my two-year-old’s life at risk I’m not prepared to take this as a resounding statement of safety.

I replied, suggesting that “Sophie” might like to re-read her email and re-send information that made sense. That was a month ago. Isn’t it ironic that Unilever sponsors allergy research when it can’t get its arse in gear to pass on the most basic information?

“What’ll I do (ting-a-ling) when you (ting-a-ling) are far (ting-a-ling) away..?”

panicPANIC at Nanny and Nonno’s house tonight where Sid is having a sleepover: sudden clutching of tummy and inconsolable screaming at bedtime.

All became clear when he farted.

(In all seriousness, though, this is what allergy does to you: every minor rash or windy pain takes on menacing import; you wonder “has he eaten something he shouldn’t?”, “is this a reaction?” as you grapple with one hand for the Epi.)

On reflection, he probably ate too much of Mum’s homemade ice-cream…

Allergy-friendly holiday: Higher Lank Farm (Part I)

IMG_5711WELL, IT’S taken us more than two years and I never thought we’d do it but… we did, we have, we found a holiday place that caters for food allergic children!

Welcome to Higher Lank Farm, a glorious working farm in the midst of the Cornish countryside where the wonderful Lucy Finnemore has taken it upon herself as a challenge to cater for the oddball needs of food allergic kids. What a lady.

We only heard about this place after a friend, whose own toddler has a similar raft of allergies to Sidney, stumbled across it while searching online for child friendly UK breaks. She saw the website, which mentions in passing – and in typical no-razzmatazz Lucy style – that they “enjoy catering for people with special diets and food allergies” and there you have it.

Continue reading “Allergy-friendly holiday: Higher Lank Farm (Part I)”

A peek inside

… the kitchen drawer of a food allergic tot:

IMG_2098

I think every parent of a food allergic child must have the Special Drawer or Cupboard. That is, the one place in the kitchen where all the safe foods live: wheat free flours, nut free cereals, everything free pizza bases, biscuits, breads, snacks. Stuff we’d never even heard of before, like amaranth pasta, sorghum grain and millet flakes. And loads of it, because the stockpile and siege mentality burns bright in the paranoid mind of a food allergy parent – what if there’s a run on the supermarkets and ALL the freefrom food is GONE?

And here’s the box of overspill in the basement… In the event of gluten versus gluten-free Armageddon, at least we’ll have enough to eat.

IMG_5461

Pizza Express – could it be…?

UnknownBIG excitement among Coeliacs in recent months over the new Pizza Express gluten free pizzas, and rightly so. But so far I’ve held fire.

The company is among the best in providing allergen information on its website but, somewhat oddly, while it mentions garlic and mushrooms among them, sesame and lupin – two of the top 14 under EU guidance – are not listed. For obvious reasons Sid’s (relatively rare) allergies to chickpea, lentil and green pea are also not on the list. So I wanted to find out for sure the full list of ingredients in this new gluten free base, not least because chickpea flour, lupin, psyllium husk and all sorts pop up in many non gluten offerings. Continue reading “Pizza Express – could it be…?”

Allergy Show: the verdict (and five fab finds)

IMG_2091LAST year I penned a super-peeved post about our debut trip to the Allergy & Free From Show. From the ‘welcome’ bag stuffed with sesame bars to the willy-nilly nuts, the lack of allergy friendly cafe fare and the quacks offering dodgy allergy tests occupying pole position at the entrance it was less the allergy show, more the gluten free nut-lovers’ hippy dippy hokum show. OK, I exaggerate a bit: I did find some very fine allergy safe gnocchi and was bowled over to hear the fabulous Dr Adam Fox speak).

To give them credit, after I posted my rant the organisers got in touch and talked through each of my (and my fellow allergy bloggers’) concerns – explaining the reasoning behind some peeves and promising to put other aspects right by this year’s event.

Happily, it seems they have. Continue reading “Allergy Show: the verdict (and five fab finds)”