Finally – have your say (though it may change jack shit)

Almost a year ago now I wrote a post about looming changes to the laws on food allergy labelling.

New EU regulations set to come into effect in December 2014 state that allergen information should be extended to non-prepacked foods – that means that restaurants, delis, cafes etc will be made to comply.

The catch is, however, that it is up to each individual European country to decide exactly how to implement the proposals. And I for one am desperate to avoid the same mess we’re in with allergen labelling in shops: that is, the manufacturers slapping on ‘may contain’ warnings willy-nilly without ever getting to grips with the issues of cross-contamination and actually doing something practical and helpful about it. Continue reading “Finally – have your say (though it may change jack shit)”

A doctor calls…

Well, no, not him – but am v happy to reveal that Dr Tammy Rothenberg, a consultant paediatrician with a specialist interest in allergies will be the resident expert at the food allergy parent support group in Stoke Newington on Saturday 30 June. Dr R – formerly of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and now the Homerton, Hackney – will be there to to answer all your burning questions about childhood food allergy. Plus there will be some great allergy friendly recipes to take home, as well as a chance just to catch up and chat with parents in the same boat.

Please follow this link for details and info on how to come along… Would love to see as many food allergy parents from the area as we can squeeze in!

So far soy good

Well, we’re on Day Six of our soya home challenge. It’s like the Daz doorstep challenge but without Danny Baker. And more messy. Think it tastes worse, too.

Basically, we weren’t sure whether or not Sid was allergic to soya. If you haven’t had any experience of it, you probably think an allergy test is a pretty conclusive thing. That’s what we thought, too.

In fact, neither skin prick tests nor blood tests (which measure antibodies produced by the immune system in response to specific allergens) are 100 per cent reliable.

Our situation is complicated by the fact that little Sidney has dermatographism: it’s harmless enough, but his skin flares up when it’s scratched, rubbed or knocked. So he flared up to pretty much everything on the last skin prick test – including the negative control, water.

As for the blood tests, the results were clear for some (egg, peanuts and banana) but for others, such as soya, wheat and sesame, the levels of antibodies were on the low side. That means a food challenge is the only real way to test whether he’s actually allergic or not: in other words, introducing the food under controlled conditions and monitoring any reactions.

For sesame our doc decided a hospital-based challenge was the safest bet. And just as well, because he developed a violent red rash minutes after the tiniest smear of tahini touched his skin.

But for wheat and soya we’ve been allowed to test Sidney at home. You do it over a period of six days, with carefully printed sheets detailing the exact amounts to give him and what to look out for… and EpiPen and antihistamines at the ready.

We entered the cheerily named Weetabix Home Challenge before Sid’s first birthday with brash confidence: our doctor had always said his wheat reaction was ‘borderline’ and that Sid was 95 per cent unlikely to be allergic. Turns out he’s a five per cent-er. Up popped the hives on Day Six when we fed him a tablespoon of the stuff.

This week was soya week, and this time we had no false hopes. It would be a dream if he could have soya because it’s in virtually everything that doesn’t have wheat, nuts or egg. Nut-free chocolate? Soya. Wheat-free bread? Soya. Egg-free mayo? Soya.

So we started last Saturday with a touch of tofu on the inside lip – nope, nothing.

The next day, a quarter of a teaspoon; then half a teaspoon; one teaspoon. Yesterday, Day Five, two teaspoons: no reaction. And bless his socks, he’s been wolfing down the cold raw tofu as if it’s fish and chips.

And here we are today on Day Six. A whole tablespoon. And I’m overjoyed to say we’ve not had a peep of a problem… thus far.

Now we have to double the dose until he’s eating a normal sized portion for his age. As for what a normal sized portion of cold raw tofu is for a 15 month-old, I don’t rightly know, but we’ll aim for a small bowl and keep our fingers firmly crossed.