Attack of the ice cream (when accidents happen)

252562895_99c2c7b661TODAY A TODDLER put an ice cream covered finger in my baby girl’s mouth.

My first reaction was to yell ‘Noooo!’ and whip her out of her pushchair to douse her mouth out with a wet wipe.

Then I started to panic that she might react (so far she appears allergy free but Sidney’s doctor advised we delay the introduction of egg, nuts and sesame to his little sister until she is properly tested later this autumn). Then I began to shake, thinking: “Oh my God, what if someone had done that to Sidney?”

Continue reading “Attack of the ice cream (when accidents happen)”

O brave new world (and its pitfalls)

IMG_7084DAY ONE of our bold new world and a very proud little boy shows off his haul of goodies from M&S.

It’s astonishing what a difference losing just one allergy can make – previously I struggled to find anything worth buying in Marks & Spencer and couldn’t see why others raved about their allergen labelling. Gluten free foods contained eggs and everything else was plastered with nut and sesame warnings.

Now I can better appreciate the efforts they have gone to to cater for allergies: their website is explicit that anything featuring a ‘may contain’ label does so because of very real risks. And anything without a warning is manufactured in a controlled environment free from the dreaded allergen – so no need to triple check each item at every turn.

Continue reading “O brave new world (and its pitfalls)”

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?

A rare treat

FELLOW food allergy parents will know what a rare treat it is to go out without a sackful of pre-prepped meals for the tot. You get so used to it, it barely registers sometimes – until that moment when you don’t have to do it.

No, I’m afraid I can’t announce a miraculous new dining spot where allergy kids get to eat freely and safely… unless, that is, you come round to my parents’ house for a barbecue one weekend this summer. Continue reading “A rare treat”

Essex ice cream makers scoop ‘free from’ prize

A PERSONAL TRAINER who set up his own allergy-friendly ice cream company has landed a top gong at the Free From Food Awards.

Fitness expert and nutritionist Steve Bessant established Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream with pal Ian Drury in Essex just last year.

The only Brit-based ice cream to be made from coconut milk, it is dairy free, egg free, gluten free, soya free and totally vegan.

Continue reading “Essex ice cream makers scoop ‘free from’ prize”

And the best ‘free from’ products are…

From pies to beers, here’s the full list of winners from the Free From Food Awards 2012 – and details of where to buy ’em:

Best Pie, Flan or Ready Meal

The Gluten Free Kitchen’s Ovencrust Chicken & Bacon Pie (gluten, wheat, dairy free) “Crisp, golden pastry with a succulent, tasty chicken filling.” £2.50 from The Gluten Free Kitchen

Continue reading “And the best ‘free from’ products are…”