One thing both my husband and I have agreed upon from the start is that we would maintain a peanut and nut free household, meaning that everything in the house would be safe for DJ to eat. That meant no peanut butter hidden in out-of-reach cupboards, or other potential hazards for out tot to accidentally stumble upon. While DJ will definitely have to learn he can't eat everything that every one else can, we want our own home to be a safe zone, where we can all feel confident and not worry about allergic reactions.
So, needless to say, I was troubled to find out a mutual friend brought, and consumed peanut butter at our lake property last week. Even though DJ wasn't there, our friend used our cutlery and plates; while he washed them thoroughly afterwards I can't help but feel uncomfortable. What if a minuscule amount of peanut butter remains? Washing dishes out of a pasta pot without running water may get plates clean in the normal sense, but I'm not sure it's enough in this case.
While spending time at the lake with DJ is immense fun, it's also a lot of work. And now, there's even more, since the next time we arrive, I'll be washing clean dishes before we get them dirty again, to ensure all traces of peanut butter have been removed.
Maybe I'm being paranoid, but with a 30 minute drive to the nearest hospital, I'd rather be safe than sorry.
Next time, our friend is going to have to find a new bread spread.
I'm starting to find the contradictory information offered up by certain companies more than a little frustrating.
Take Pizza Pizza for example. To start, the allergen information was not easily accessible. After digging around on the website for nearly ten minutes with no luck, I emailed the company. A rep responded that I should check the website. Like I would have never thought of that...
I did end up finding it, and in my opinion, its information like this that is virtually useless for someone with allergies.
The product list states that there are no peanuts or tree nuts in any products. However, this is the statement found lower down the page:
"If you have a food allergy, please be aware that Pizza Pizza products may have come into contact with nuts, peanuts and other possible allergens such as shellfish. Pizza Pizza is a restaurant environment, serving foods that are not in sealed packages. Therefore, we unfortunately cannot guarantee a 100% allergy-free environment."
So does the pizza at pizza pizza contain peanuts and tree nuts or not? I can't tell from this statement. Looks like the company wants to avoid any liability.
Since their pizza sucks, I'd be unlikely to eat there anyways. But I am increasingly irritated with companies with wishy-washy statements like that.
Health Canada is strengthening labelling regulations. This time, the proposal is to expand the current requirements to include all of the components, or raw materials, of listed ingredients. Under the current rules, those don't have to be included. The list of priority allergens could also be expanded to include ingredients like mustard.
With the warm weather holding out, it was the perfect weekend for another trip to the Toronto Zoo. DJ was wired with excitement - refusing to slow to a walk at any point - even running on the spot when we were "stopped" to check out the various animals.
It was the first time I've had to deny him a treat that he really wanted because of his peanut allergy. Even though we've got into a good groove over the last couple of months, it reminded me that there are going to be lots of tough times ahead; times when DJ may feel left out or deprived because he can't eat certain things.
This time it was ice cream. Every time DJ saw a kid with a cone or any kind of frozen treat, he asked for one.
While I already assumed all ice cream was out, it was disappointing to see items like Rockets and Lifesaver pops also crossed off our safe list thanks to the 'may contain' warning. Given that Nestle already has some certified peanut free chocolate products it would be nice to see them step up to the plate with some peanut-free frozen treat offerings.
In the end, after looking at the label of nearly every frozen treat available in the bin, I pried a crying DJ away and headed into the gift shop, were he got to pick out a new stuffed toy (A fish we've named Nemo) as consolation.
While I know I won't be able to buy him out of every situation where his peanut allergy puts a damper on his fun, while he's too young to really understand the 'why's' behind the 'no's' it's a strategy I may find myself using again - to the detriment of my wallet.
Last week I contacted Whittamore's Farm in Markham for allergy information about their food offerings.
While I never heard back from my email request, we decided to give the farm a go for DJ's birthday anyways, with the idea that we would just enjoy the activities and bring our own snacks in case we couldn't get anything safe there.
With an antique tractor to climb on, a sand lot full of play tractors and a dirt track with ride-on pedal tractors it's a great place for transportation loving tots like DJ. A barn bouncer, goats to pet and a wagon ride through the farm's pick your own fields helped round out the day.
After all that playing, we were all looking forward to a snack. With a teen aged boy running the concession stand, I was hesitant to even ask about the allergy content of their offerings, thinking I just didn't feel like getting into it with someone who wouldn't understand.
Happily, I was wrong. My question was quickly countered with a sheet detailing all of the ingredients in all of the menu items. None contained any nuts. While we were assured that only canola oil was used in the deep fryer we were also cautioned that they couldn't guarantee the items hasn't been in contact with nuts at the manufacturers. However, given the stringent labelling requirements, to me it seems like any cross contamination concerns would have been evident since the ingredients were lifted directly from the packaging.
We ordered fries and DJ ate them without incident; that's if you don't count the ketchup in his hair.
Without ingredient labels and lots of nutty items available, all of the baked items in the store were clearly off limits. Still, there was a great selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to pick from (and you can pick your own if you've got the energy - we didn't) so it's not like you have to leave the store empty-handed without a treat if that's what you're after.
While we'll definitely head to Whittamore's again, a little more responsiveness from the company - like an answer to my original email - would be nice, especially considering the facility is geared towards kids.
I heard back from Galaxy Desserts regarding their flash frozen croissants - only available through Williams-Sonoma mail order. Sadly, they are not nut-free.
Here is the company's response:
It is a really good question, and you were right to ask such information. Our croissants are NOT considered "nut free". We do offer croissants that do not contain any nuts however our products are manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts.
Too bad! But thanks to Galaxy for at least getting back to me with the information.
Doesn't it just frost you? Apparently, a saying that would elicit both a giggle and eye-roll from my husband when his mom's friend would use it to express irritation years ago.
Well...Duncan Hines...you frost me. After going to pick up both a cake mix and frosting, I was surprised to see that all of theirfrostings and nearly half of their cake mixes all carry the warning that they were manufactured on equipment that also processes tree nuts.
I get that not every food maker can manufacture their products in a peanut or nut free facility, but considering that at least half of Duncan Hines' items don't carry that warning, and frosting and cake go hand in hand, it seems like they could make theirfrostings on a safe line.
All of the brownies are off-limits too.
Betty Crocker, on the other hand, offers lots of nut free frostings and brownies. Nearly all of their cake mixes seem to be nut free too - strangely enough - even the Butter Pecan. I'd be skeptical about serving that one up!
I’m an admittedly lazy baker. While I love to cook, the precision required by baking often eludes me. With DJ’s second birthday coming up, I’ve been busy preparing for the festivities. This of course, will have to include some baking.
While I’m prepared to spend hours frosting an elaborate fire truck cake, what I’m not looking forward to is baking cupcakes to send with him to daycare.
If DJ wasn’t allergic to peanuts and tree nuts this wouldn’t really be an issue; I would pick up a half dozen cupcakes from a local bakery. He would get a special treat to share with his tot friends, and I would get to spend less time in the kitchen. But he is.
Of course, the other option would be to not send anything. But what kid wouldn’t love cupcakes on their birthday?
One thing I want to make sure of is that DJ never feels like he missed out on anything because of his allergy – and that includes taking cupcakes to daycare. So it looks like I know what I’m doing tonight.
Whittamore's is a pick-your-own fun farm in Markham with fun-for-kids features like the Sand Toy lot and a 1950's tractor they can climb on.
Galaxy Desserts Jean-Yves Charon's flash frozen, ready-to-bake croissants were highlighted as one of Oprah's favourite things in both 2002 and 2005. They're only available through Williams-Sonoma mail order.
Let's see if either establishment gets back to me. So far, I'm batting about 50% in terms of getting a response. Those that I don't hear back from I consider not interested in my business.
Is that too harsh? I'm not sure. I just don't have the time to ask twice sometimes.
With another trip to the lake planned for this weekend, I've been busy getting our food supplies ready. The whole process underscores how critical it is to be careful about reading labels and feeling comfortable with any food-related decisions, both at home and when travelling.
One thing both my husband and I agree on is that we won't feed DJ any new packaged products that he hasn't already tried before when we're at the lake since it's at least a thirty minute drive to the nearest hospital.
With the weather turning more chilly, I've packed individual brown sugar and oatmeal packs for breakfasts. While there's no peanuts or nuts indicated on the packaging, in keeping with our previous decision, I tested it out on DJ this morning. I served it up topped with sliced bananas, and a little dollop of whipped cream. No problems! Except that my picky little eater only ate three spoonfuls before he declared "all done" and flung his bowl on the floor. Thankfully, our dog is not as picky, and did the bulk of the clean-up.
Buying fresh buns and bakery items is always challenging when considering a peanut/nut allergy. I particularly miss buying open bin buns from our local bakery.
While hosting a barbecue for some friends last weekend, I discovered Silverstein's Bakery on McCaul. While they don't produce any cookies or sweets, I was able to pick up slider buns with just a days notice. There are no nuts on the premise, so there are no worries too!
A blog about how one family is finding safe places to eat out in Toronto
Always do your own research before eating out with a severely allergic child. Call ahead and speak with the restaurant owner or chef, remind the staff once you arrive. Ask once again before you order and when the food arrives. Always carry an epi-pen, medical information and a cell phone. Understand there is always a risk.
Since my 20 month old son was diagnosed with life-threatening peanut allergy, I've become the crazy nut lady!
In Toronto, eating out is almost a sport, and it's one that my husband and I enjoyed frequently, both with and without our tot.
An anaphylatic reaction to a dab of peanut butter smeared on toast pretty much put an end to that. Instantly, we stopped eating out. Even ordering in seemed fraught with stress.
By starting this blog, I'm hoping to find a 'new normal' A way to balance keeping our son safe, while still enjoying all that the city has to offer.