Thursday, November 25, 2010

Granola Bar Recall

Quaker Canada had issued a recall on certain Quaker brand Chewy Granola Bar value packs. Read more about it here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Montana's Redux

We did end up checking out Montana's for dinner a couple of weeks ago, and felt like the experience was a positive one for us. As soon as we met with the hostess, I explained DJ's allergy and asked to see the allergen-chart for the menu items. I had already checked it out closely (at work!) and knew exactly what I was going to order for myself and had picked two nut-safe options for DJ. both of which I knew he would enjoy. I find that looking at the allergen chart before hitting a restaurant is the best way to reduce stress. I can take my time looking at the chart solo, without tending to interruptions from my sweet preschooler. That way, I'm sure not to miss anything. Still, I checked the chart again, and made sure to discuss the situation with the waitress, who assured me she would pass on the information to those working in the kitchen.

Years ago, the food snob in me would have shunned eating at Montana's. But now, we're happy to have options like this available to us. The best part was that the restaurant even offers a peanut-free dessert - individually wrapped, peanut-free bear claw cookies. That DJ would be able to eat dessert in a restaurant (even though we didn't that night) is something rare indeed. Most of the time now, I don't even bother looking at the desserts on the assumption they won't be safe.

By the way, a reader was kind enough to send in the allergen chart of Kelsey's that I wasn't able to find online. Clearly, I didn't look hard enough. Still, after taking an initial look at it, we'll still be taking a pass. There are simply to many menu items that contain actual peanuts and nuts. Given the possibility of cross-contamination, the risks at Kelsey's simply seem to high.

Friday, November 5, 2010


We're both starting to itch to get out of the house more, now that the weather has turned and eating on the deck every night is 'off the table.' That's got me checking out allergen info at chain restaurants again, brushing up on potential possibilities. Montana's has a comprehensive allergen chart, and very few items with either peanuts or nuts. Everything on the kids dinner menu looks safe, and there are even a few desserts DJ could try. We may try it out tonight. Will blog more later.

To note - I couldn't find any allergen info for Canyon Creek or Red Lobster. I called the Red Lobster guest enquiry line and was greeted by a voice-mail telling me there was a department meeting and to leave my name and number. they're actually going to get back to me. As for Kelsey's I found their allergen warning non-informative and on the verge of insulting, like they simply can't be bothered. Then screw em!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I spotted NoNuts Golden Peabutter at a local Metro yesterday, excited at the thought of yet another potential peanut butter substitute. Both my hub and I tried it on our favourite pb conduit...toasted English muffins. Even with a healthy dollop of blueberry jam to 'juicy' it up, we both found it a bit try and agreed we both like Soya and Sunbutter better. Still, it's great to be able to find an alternative without having to make the trek to Wholefoods. I really wish the big chains would start carrying it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Peanuts and Pregnancy

I ate tons of peanut butter when I was pregnant. I craved it constantly, and ate it several times a week. I've often guiltily wondered if my consumption played any role in DJ's peanut allergy. According to this article in the Post, maybe. Great. Nothing like a little maternal guilt to start the week.

A Happy Halloween

Luckily, another Happy Halloween with no nut-related allergy problems. DJ was pumped to hit our street and canvas for candy. With both epi-pens and a cell handy, we headed out. After last year, we both felt pretty confident there wouldn't be any real issues as long we were careful. After coming home with a full bag of loot, we emptied the entire contents onto the kitchen table - away from DJ and sort it into two buckets - safe and not safe. The not safe bucket went on top of the fridge until DJ was tucked safely into bed for the evening. Then, we mowed down on a load of peanut butter cups, crispy crunch, wunderbar and o'henry's while watching a scary flick. I was particularly paranoid about dropping a reese's piece on the couch, but didn't. And once we were done, it was great to see all of the wrappers into the garbage and out the door, knowing there's now no chance any of the contraband will fall into DJ's hands.

One thing we did that that surprised me: a pack full of unshelled peanuts. I know not everyone goes out of their way to buy peanut free, but peanuts? Really?

Also sort of disappointing was to see neighbors that just last year, went out of their way to ensure they had nut free treats for DJ drop peanut butter cups into his bag. I've said before I don't expect my kids peanut allergy to be on top of every one's mind, so it wasn't like I was surprised. At the same time, it just reinforces that not everyone remembers and that reminding people about it is in your best safety interests.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Handling Halloween Safely

Alot of my co-workers, knowing about DJ's allergy, have asked if he'll be allowed to trick or treat this year. I'm telling them what I keep telling myself; that as long we don't allow him to eat anything before we get home, check and separate the safe from the not safe treats, I don't see any reason why not. Halloween has got to be one of the funnest holidays for kids, and there is no way I want DJ to miss it. I do think, in years to come, we may have to develop strategies to ensure he doesn't feel burnt when we have to take away some of his candy. But at this stage, I'm sure he'll be happy enough to simply go door to door in his super-cute fireman costume, collecting candy.

One thing we will do to try to minimze any potential dangers is to watch what goes into this bag in the first place so we can pull dangerous items out right away; one of us will be carrying a 'not safe' bag for that.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Raisinet Recall

Nestle is recalling its Raisinet's in the U.S., citing undeclared peanuts. Given the peanut counterpart, I had always assumed Raisinets were off the table, so to speak and have never even looked at the packaging. Still, this serves as a reminder that even the biggest food companies can get it wrong.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Feild Trip Fumble - Or Overprotective mom?

There's an article in the Globe and Mail today about a mom outraged by teachers eating almonds in their cabin at night during a school trip she attended to chaperon her 13-year old peanut-allergic son.

Admittedly, I often side with the parent of the allergic child when I read articles like this. But in this case, I think the mom is off base. The teachers were in thier own cabin, after the kids were in bed. That means the risk of cross contamination with her son should have been extremely limited. Presumably, all of those teachers would wake up in the morning, brush thier teeth and shower, eliminating any unlikley traces of nut. Furthermore, it's not like teachers have close physical contact with thier students, so again, the risk of cross-contamination is low. To call them out on thier actions seems pretty harsh to me. Furthermore, it sets up the situation where everyone thinks that parents of allergic children are over-protective of thier kids and want everyone to bend to thier way of thinking. I'm sure the comments section of the Globe will be filled with the usual rants.

Not to mention, this kid was 13, and his mom was chaperoning him. I sincerely hope that by that age, DJ will understand his allergy and be responsible enough to know what he can and can't eat, and that he will be able to attend events like this, like any other normal kid - without his mom.

Personally, I would be more annoyed that the teachers were drinking on the job.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bread Spread Battle

After trying Safe4School Wowbutter, my husband and I debated which is better: it, or Sunbutter. While I love the both the crunch and roasted flavour of the sunflower seeds in Sunbutter, I'm not crazy about how dry it is. On the other hand, I feel like the Wowbutter has a bit of an aftertaste.

Still, I came down on Wowbutter's side. So did my hub. Where do you stand? Take the poll and let me know!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Safe4School Wowbutter

I often check the bread spreads section in hopes they[ll start stocking safe butters like soy or sunflower seed. Much to my delight, the ValuMart on Lakeshore has started carrying Safe4school Wowbutter!

Given its similarity in to peanut butter though, I was wondering how kids would be able to take it to school without prompting allergy concerns. Check out the safe school procedure section of the website for details on how to send your kid to school with this tasty soy butter; it includes down loadable sheets to send to school with your child and even a label template you can affix to lunches to ensure school staff know you're eating safe.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Girl Guide Cookies

Girl Guide Cookies are nut free! A friend recently came around with her two daughters, selling them. We were happy to be able to pick up - and subsequently devour - two packs of the chocolate mint ones.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Allergies and Bullying

I just read this disheartening article on The Toronto Star's website about how kids with allergies are often the subject of bullying.

With just one year to go until DJ enters the school system, I'm definitely worried about issues like this. Part of me is concerned that DJ will be marginalized socially because of his allergy. Kids can be cruel and anything that makes you stand out can be reason enough to taunt. While kids will be kids, we're going to be sure to help DJ understand how to deal with this type of thing. Just not sure how yet...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Take-out Talk

With summer in full swing, I've been to busy to blog, but a conversation with DJ last night is still sitting heavy on my mind. Normally we all eat dinner together, but last night, I fed DJ separately, thinking my hub and I would order in some forbidden Chinese food after he was in bed.

Well, DJ woke up when the doorbell rang and started in. I went up to comfort him when he asked if we had ordered pizza in. I said no - Chinese. Can I try some? No, I'm sorry you can't. It has peanuts. He looked sort of bewildered and asked if that meant we would get sick if he tried it. Of course, I had to say yes. Then he started whimpering that he too was hungry and wanted something to eat.

I grabbed him a drinking yogurt, and came back upstairs, where I tried to explain that the Chinese food was a treat for Daddy and I. He seemed okay with it - especially after I promised we would order pizza tonight and that he could have his own dipping sauce (man that kid loves sauce!).

Still, the whole experience left me feeling sort of crappy.

Along those same lines, DJ attended his first birthday party last week. It was a success, with no reaction and he had a great time, but the lead up was awkward for both of us; me, trying to feel out the mom on the menu and DJ for anxiety that he wouldn't be able to eat the birthday cake.

While he may be a bit young for me to throw the idea out there that he may not be able to eat everything at the party, I wanted to prepare him ahead of time to avoid any toddler meltdowns.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lake Lessons

Back from another fun trip to the lake and happy to report no incidences with DJ's peanut allergy. There were definitely a couple of (potential) close calls, which just reminded me that we've got to stay vigilant.

The first was when Paul, the quasi-director of the lake we're on stopped by with his truck. DJ loves that truck, and was asking all week if Paul was going to bring it. He was hoping to sit in it, which he's done many, many times since we've been going to the lake for three years now. This time, however, before I popped him in, I saw a grocery bag on the front seat. I didn't want to snoop, but asked Paul's daughter if there was anything potentially dangerous to DJ (knowing full well he would likely rummage through it if left to his own devices). Indeed, there was a bag of open cashews, half eaten. I explained to DJ why he couldn't sit in the truck, and he seemed fine with it.

Which reminds looks like the lessons we've been teaching DJ are paying off. Several times in the last couple of weeks he's questioned both Rick and I when we give him food, asking "is it peanut-free/" I know he still doesn't know what that means exactly, but at least he's aware and learning.

As for Storyland, we didn't make it there. I never heard back from the company asking for clarification about their distribution line, which was disappointing, although that's not why we didn't go. Simply didn't have enough time, so hopefully next month.

I'd encourage everyone to read the somewhat nasty comment, posted of course, by someone anonymous, ripping me for complaining about Storyland. Maybe an over-reaction on my part, yet, but at the same time, the company never answered my original question. I sincerely hope that anonymous email didn't originate from the company itself, but my spidey senses are tingling.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dangerous Prank

It's pranks like this that scare the hell out of me. What could someone be thinking? While it may have seemed like a funny idea, it's dangerous and could potentially put someone into a life-threatening situation. It's also a reason to carry the epi-pen, no matter where you're going or what you plan on doing, even if you're not planning on eating.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Storyland AMusement Park Response it is: the response from Storyland Amusement Park. This is the type of reply that I really sort of hate.



Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee peanut free foods at the park. While most of our packaging may read that it does not contain peanuts, we like to tell customers that we can't promise a peanut free zone based on our distribution line.

However, we welcome picnic lunches! Your hand stamp allows you to keep your coolers and bags in your vehicle, and you can retrive them at any time.

I hope this helps and we hope to see you this summer.


No...actually that doesn't help. What does 'distribution line' mean? And I didn't ask that they guarantee a peanut-free zone but if one specific restaurant within the park would be considered safe. I get that restaurants like to cover thier ass, but once in a while it would be really nice if they would just answer questions concisely. In my opinion, that's a disappointing answer.

If the Middle of the Hill Grill offers five items, and none of them come in packaging that suggests any peanut or nut contamination, then there shouldn't be a problem. If one of them does (like say for instance, a burger) then say so. As in "one of the items we serve at this location has nuts or may contain them, so we can't guarantee...etc" Calling out a 'distribution line' means absolutely nothing to me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Storyland Amusement Park

DJ is really ripe for a visit to the Storyland Amusement Park. Since it's just a hop, skip and quick drive from our lake, we're hoping to spend a day there. I've contacted the company to ask about the potential for eating at the Middle of the Hill Grill.

I know it's unlikely we'll be able to take part in any of the desserty items offered in other areas of the park, but with most cooked meats and packaged buns usually safe for consumption, I'm hoping this will be a go.

I'll let you know what I hear back.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekend Round-Up

With my husband up at the lake - hoping to get up a bathroom before summer vacation rolls around - I was left to my own devices this weekend.

DJ is loving the company of other little kids, so I made sure to hook up lots of fun activities. Now that he's older, and is getting more social, I can see that the rules of keeping him safe are changing quickly and that we are going to have to be diligent when we're in new situations so that there aren't any problems.

First, we headed up to friend's in Unionville for a swim. After, with both tots hungry and impatient for the BBQ'd chicken burgers to be ready, my friend offered DJ a fruit popsicle. Even though it seems unlikely something ice-based with fruit juice would have nuts, I was immediately concerned because I consider all frozen desserts to most likely be unsafe; I've only found a couple that are okay (like some Chapmans ice-cream). I asked my friend to see the box; sure enough, they came with the 'may contain warning.' I had to tell DJ he couldn't have the popsicle. Admittedly, he was upset, and started crying, but got over it quickly when he was offered a juice box. BTW...I also asked a few questions about the grill, like if they ever bbq anything with a nutty marinade, like satay sauce. In the end, I considered it safe, and let DJ eat food from their bbq. He loved the chicken burger!

I have mentioned to my husband that I think we should get our own small portable bbq for similar situations. Particularly after another recent bbq outing, where chicken satay was served up (yeah...nice). In that situation, I clearly didn't remind my friend blatantly enough about DJ's allergies. I sort of thought they would remember (my mistake). They didn't, and it made for a fun but tense evening on our part, since clearly we were concerned. In the end, I didn't allow him to eat anything that had been on the bbq, and asked that his corn be boiled instead of grilled. It really did drive home that cooking surfaces can be contaminated to start.

Anyways I'm rambling...more to come.

Friday, July 9, 2010

SunButter Poll

I love sun butter; love its roasted yummy goodness. I hate that it's so hard to find. Whole Foods is the only place I've tracked it down. And it's pricey too! At $7.00 for a small jar, I never end stocking up as much as I think I'm going to. Considering how fattening it is, maybe that's a good thing.

Anyways, had some tonight on a crisply toasted whole wheat english muffin; one half with honey, the other with strawberry jam. I think I liked the jam better. Plain is too hard core for me. I've got to cut it with some sort of spread!

What is your favourite way to eat SunButter? Take my poll!

An Epi-Pen Experiment

With the weather in Toronto sizzling over the last week, I've been concerned about the health of DJ's epi-pens. Their temperature range is somewhat limited; that is, they can't get too hot, or too cold.

Normally, they sit on our kitchen counter. I like to keep them both handy and visible, so it's easier to remember them when leaving the house. But with the humidex making it feel like it's hotter than hell (really, hotter than 40), I've been worried that the pens will spoil. Apparently, an 'off' epi-pen will look discolored. I've checked DJ's and they look normal to me, but I'm sort of wondering just how discolored they get.

I'm going to try a little experiment. We have two expired epi-pens that we've been waiting to administer to an orange. DJ's allergist suggested we do so to get a feel for really administering the pen, instead of just using the practice one. Before I do that, I'm going to let them simmer in our car for a couple of days to see if they really do turn colour to indicate spoilage.

I'll post pictures of a car-baked pen beside one that's been sitting on our kitchen counter once the experiment is over. And then, we'll get that orange out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bad Wolf BBQ

Here's the response from Bad Wolf BBQ:

Thank you for your interest in Bad Wolf BBQ; we hope to see you at the Toronto Ribfest!

There are no peanuts of other nut products used in our ribs, bbq sauce, chicken coleslaw or beans. Our cornbread, however, while not containing nuts itself was nevertheless made in a facility which uses nuts in other products.

I hope this is sufficient information for your requirements.

Thank you.

Based on that response, I would feel fairly comfortable letting DJ try food - except for the cornbread - from the Bad Wolf BBQ stand.

And again - a shout out to any company that actually gets back to me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DBV Gets FDA Go-Ahead

DBV Technologies has got the go ahead from the U.S. FDA to start clinical trials on its VIASKIN Peanut product for the desensitization to peanut allergy. Here's the release.

Basically, the company is working to develop a non-invasive method to treat IgE mediated food allergies, like peanut allergy. The product looks like a smokers patch; the principal of its use is to maintain an allergen on the skin of an allergic subject for repeated and prolonged periods in order to achieve clinical desensitization.

There's more information on the trial here with contact info for those looking to delve further.

While the clinical trial process can take time and there are no guarantee of positive results, it's studies like these that give me hope that a cure for this allergy will be found. Wouldn't that be awesome!

Ribfest Feedback - Horn Dawgs

I forgot Horn Dawgs on my list of ribbers that I contacted for the Toronto Ribfest. Here's their response:

Thank you very much for your e-mail. Our sauce does not contain peanut or tree nut nor do we use any nut oil in our cooking however, we do have a manufacturer that prepares our sauce for us thus we cannot guarantee that in the processing it has not come into contact with nut products.

We look forward to seeing you at the Toronto Ribfest!

Based on our general house rules for DJ's nut allergy, we wouldn't have tried these. At the same time, I really appreciate the company getting back to me. Some didn't.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Found it!

I found the missing hummous! It was at the back of the fridge and ate it for lunch.

Ribfest Round-Up

Ribfests and summer go hand in hand in Ontario. For years, my husband and I have taken in at least one a season. Last year, we shied away because of DJ's peanut and nut allergy, simply assuming it would be unsafe. This year, I took a more proactive approach and decided to at least contact a couple of 'ribbers' (as they call themselves) to find out if attending was a possibility. Plus, I really wanted a bloomin' onion.

Even though the Toronto Ribfest in Centennial Park has now passed, with a couple of other coming up before the summer is over, and lots of the same outlets at attending each one, I thought I'd post the list of those I contacted with the responses from those that replied.

I contacted the following outlets:

Crabbys BBQ
Bad Wolf BBQ
Camp 31 BBQ

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hummous on the Loose

I ended up bringing the marked hummous to work. Even though I'd marked each of the individual containers with thick black marker, I was uncomfortable even having it in the fridge. While DJ isn't really big enough to help himself to snacks, he often grabs things randomly while its open when I'm cooking dinner. The one thing that is still really bothering me is that the carton had 12 individual packs in it; I only have 11. My husband didn't eat one, and neither did I. I've looked around the kitchen, under the cabinets and in all of the usual nooks and cranny's and it still hasn't turned up. Maybe it fell out in the store cart, the parking lot or is still in the trunk. In any event, there is one loose and potentially dangerous mini tub of hummous out there. I don't think DJ would be able to open it, but I'm still extremely concerned about its whereabouts. ]'s a link to our favourite donkey, Buddy, from the sanctuary. He managed to sneak up on me twice.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Slip

Yesterday, I dashed out to do the grocery shopping while DJ was taking a nap. Costco was overwhelmingly busy, so much so I was directed to park in the shipping dock! Anyways, I was tired and crabby and wishing I was home. I was also disorganized; I felt scattered and unsure of exactly what I needed to buy in order to avoid a second trip to the grocery store. I saw a snack pack size of hummous. Most of the time hummous has been a safe choice for us and DJ likes it. I dropped a box in my cart after quickly reading the label.

Clearly I didn't read it carefully enough. Even after I got home I glanced at the label and put the individual packets on the snack shelf in the fridge.

Today, with plans to go to the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (in Guelph) I wanted to pack a picnic. I immediately thought of the hummous packs. I'm always cautious about giving DJ untried products in situations like that - unless they actually have a peanut free label. All of a sudden I felt unsure about the hummous and dug the packaging out of recycling. Under the ingredients, there is a clear warning about the product being processed in a manufacturing facility that uses nuts. I don't know how I could have missed that the first two times I looked at the package - but I did. Yikes.

It seems like lots of times that I buy a new product I find myself slipping. Grocery shopping entails looking literally dozens of labels and sometimes unsafe items slip through the cracks. Most often when its when I'm in a rush, or don't know exactly what I'm buying.

Still - no excuses. I've got to be more careful.

While we don't stock "may contain" items in our house, I'm also not going to throw out food that I've accidentally bought; it's just too wasteful. IN this case, I marked each package with a big "NO" in thick black marker and put them out of DJ's reach.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Chilling Q's

Another section of the questionnaire we filled out for the peanut registry study at McGill really chilled me. The question was whether or not your child had suffered an allergy attack in the last year. If the answer was no, you skipped ahead, but if your answer was affirmative there was space allotted to describe at least three incidences. Three!

While DJ's peanut allergy is definitely a drag, I'm super grateful that we have managed to go the entire year, reaction free. With us slated to fill in the questionnaire every year until further notice, I hope every year is the same when it comes to that question and that we can skip ahead to the next.

Room for Improvement

After putting it off for a couple of weeks my husband and I finally got around to filling a questionnaire to participate in a study being conducted at McGill University to establish a registry of people with peanut allergy. Participating in a studies like these helps me feel better; sort of like doing the CIBC Walk for the Cure. Maybe I'm being naive, but I really believe that a cure for peanut allergy will be found and I want to do everything in our power to help the process along.

Still, I was really disappointed with a few of our answers. One question was how long our child had gone with an expired epi-pen. I felt embarrassed to admit the answer was 1-2 months. I realize now that we even went to London with two expired pens. How? Two of them expired in late March, 10 months after they were prescribed. Clearly, we did not receive fresh epi-pens from the pharmacy for the first prescription we had filled, which was on the way home from the emergency department immediately following DJ's first exposure. The second, which was filled just days later at a different pharmacy for keeping at DJ's daycare, had a longer shelf life of 12 months. However, when I checked the expiry dates, I clearly only looked at the newest batch and had made a mental note to have them ALL refilled in May. which we did, leaving the two pens we keep at home and carry with us on all outings unknowingly expired. I shudder to think about the number of times we grabbed snacks on the go or ate out with those expired pens in that time frame. Obviously, there's room for improvement in the way we are managing DJ's allergy. This time, I've put a reminder in my outlook that will 11 months from reminding me of the need for fresh pens.

None of our answers to the other questions really shamed me the way that one did. Still, others made me wonder how anyone could answer them honestly without feeling completely lacking. For example, one question asked where the participant's epi-pens were at that very moment. One potential answer was "I don't know." Another asked when you would administer the epi-pen if your child experienced a reaction. Again, one potential response was "I don't know."

Clearly, there are different interpretations and methods to handling allergies. My husband and I have tried to be proactive - to learn as much as we can and take the necessary precautions to keep DJ safe. This study made me realize that there are probably people out there who don't know where the epi-pen for their child is at the moment, and even people who haven't decided when they will administer an epi-pen if their child has a reaction. Maybe they haven't hammered out an emergency plan hoping they'll never need it.

I know for us, we're more comfortable coming down on the precautionary side. We've got an emergency plan in place and have decided who will administer the pen, and who will call 911. Of course, in the event of a real emergency things may change. I do know that there won't be any debate thought about when to inject DJ; it will be the moment we realize there's been an exposure. Still, I'm hoping we never need to.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Novel Approach

I've read alot of about the potential of immunotherapies to treat peanut allergy, or the possibility or developing a vaccine. But what about an allergy-free peanut? The US Department of Agriculture is working on it. While its a fantastic idea, my initial thought was how one would know the origin of any peanut in question. All of the research being done does give me hope that one day DJ's peanut allergy will be a distant bad memory. Even though we have managed over the last year very well, with no allergic reactions, there is no denying it has had a profound impact on all of our lives. It's created extreme stress and sadness and much anxiety. Its changed lots of aspects of our daily lives - from how much we eat out to what type of vacations we take. It's caused tension with friends that don't understand or can't appreciate the extent to which DJ's diet must be monitored. Most importantly, there is legitimate fear for DJ's long-term safety. Will my darling boy, who loves all things construction, make it to a ripe old age? I can't even think of the alternative; it's too painful to contemplate. Still, with peanut allergy there is a heightened risk. Hopefully the USDA, or some other researcher, can put an end to it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nut Free Gourmet

A couple of months ago, on the way back to work from a lunchtime appointment, I grabbed a grilled cheese sandwich from The Leslieville Cheese Market on Queen. I picked up a roll of Nut Free Gourmet chocolate chip cookie dough and threw it in the freezer at work, hoping to remember it on the way home. I didn't. Weekends in a row, I remembered the seemingly abandoned cookie dough while at home, wishing for a peanut and nut-free baked snack (and too lazy to whip up my own). Anyways, I finally remembered the dough last week in time for a neighborhood bbq. I baked them up Friday night; totally delicious! They never made it to the Bbq. I polished off half of them lazing on the couch, watching the tubie, while my hub ate the remainder after I went to bed. In any event, it looks like they've got lots of retail locations. I'll be sure to pick some up the next time I see it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taste Restaurant Redux

We tried out Taste Restaurant last night; it's the newest addition to the the New Toronto strip of Lakeshore. Again, when we arrived I checked with the manager about peanut and tree nuts and was assured that all of their dishes were made fresh on the premises and no nuts were used. I had a 1/2 chicken dinner, while my hub tried the cod cakes. DJ ordered nuggets from the kids menu. Everything was tasty and the meal was great - except for our fussing toddler who refused to sit still and wailed repeatedly for a milkshake. It's great to have a place to walk to - and we'll definitely try it again - once they've invested in some booster seats!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taste Restaurant

I'm totally excited to try this new restaurant - Taste - tonight. A quick call to the manager confirmed there are no peanuts or tree nuts used in any of the dishes. This resto takes the place of an old fave - Lee's Thai Spring Roll - that moved a couple of blocks west on Lakeshore about six months ago. Of course, we can't eat there anymore, but have really been missing having a local restaurant we can walk to when the mood strikes. Will blog more tomorrow about how it turns out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feeling Pissy

There have been a couple of times since DJ has been diagnosed with peanut allergy that I get the feeling that certain friends just don't get it. They don't get how difficult it is to find safe restaurants to eat at and why we just don't take his own food with him to ones where we can't safely order something for him. I don't know how other people deal with this, but I don't want DJ to feel excluded. And to me, sitting in a restaurant eating food he couldn't possibly even touch doesn't seem fair. So when a 'friend' recently suggested I 'think about' bringing DJ to eat at an unsafe restaurant because that's his preference, I sort of felt like telling him to shove it.

Frankly, there's not a lot to think about for us. DJ's safety comes first - always. And for friends that don't understand that, I think we'll probably see less and less of them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Food Allergy Awareness Month

It's Food Allergy Awareness Month. Check out this link at to win a prize for sending in your expired Epipen and Twinjet devices. The idea is that expired injectors can be used for practice by newly diagnosed families and those simply looking for a refresher.

DJ's pens don't expire for another month, but when they do, we'll be using them ourselves to practice on oranges. That was the advice from our allergist.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Campino - Your Info Placement Sucks

Last week, I was mortified to find out that we had a potentially dangerous snack easily accessible to DJ in our house - Campino Yogurt Gummies. I had opened the package more than a month ago, with the remainder chip-clipped and sitting in the cupboard, right beside DJ's snack basket. Several times in the last couple of weeks, he had grabbed them, and asked for one. Each time, I said no and simply put them back.

Then, last week, my mother and father-in-law baby-sat for the day. DJ wasn't feeling well, and neither my husband or I were in a position to take another day off. Again, DJ tried his luck with the candies, and asked Grandma for one. Luckily, she read the label and caught what both of us had previously missed; a warning that the candies could contain peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

I distinctly remember reading the label when I pulled the candy out of my Christmas stocking; I also remember my husband saying it was challenging to find peanut and nut free treats to fill it with.

Yikes. So how did this product end up in our house with two people that supposedly read every label every time? Some mighty strange allergy info placement.

While I'm not abdicating either of us from responsibility (and believe me, we both felt terrible about it) Campino's placement of the warning was so odd, I'm not that surprised neither of us saw it. The product ingredients were listed in English on the back of the package on the left-hand side. The French ingredients were listed immediately below. Neither language included an allergy warning immediately below the listed ingredients, where you would normally find it. Instead, the allergy warning was on the right-hand side of the package, underneath a product description. I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly, but I'm pretty sure the warning was in English only. I'll double check and report back later.

This is obviously a lesson for both of us. I look at the ingredients list and immediately below for any allergy warnings. I don't examine the whole package. From now on I will.

In the meantime, I will be wary of any candies made by the family company, Stork.

Has anybody else seen products with labelling like this, where the allergy information is located in a different spot than the ingredients?

Thanks goodness DJ didn't actually have any of them and a shout out to my mother-in-law for not assuming everything in our house was safe and reading the label. If not, DJ may have inadvertently suffered a potentially dangerous reaction.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Talking PA

Since day one, we've talked to DJ about his peanut and tree-nut allergy. Given his young age, at this stage we're really just trying to install an understanding that he can't eat nuts and that he has a very serious allergy. Nearly every time I'm cooking, I re-read labels in front of him and tell him how I'm making sure there are no nuts. We do the same thing in the grocery store, and I make a big deal about showing him that I'm checking all food to make sure it's safe.

Because he is so very young and rarely out of my care, there is an almost non-existent risk of someone feeding him. Still, lately, I've started trying to explain how he can never take food from others, saying he must say no and that they must 'ask my mommy first'

Recently, when I asked him what he would say if someone asked him if he wanted to eat nuts, he veered off course. Normally, he promptly replies with our practised answer "No nuts, I'm allergic" But this time, he said "Yes, nuts are yummy yummy. I like nuts."

I quickly snapped back that he must never eat nuts, and holding his pudgy little hands in mine, I told him he could become very, very sick, even die.

I'm almost embarrassed to write this post, thinking about my over-reaction and how I may have frightened DJ. Of course, he doesn't understand death. Our beloved 14 year-old American Eskimo Stella recently died, and he tells me nearly daily how is going to hug and kiss her better.

This article I just read in Allergic Living struck home. Clearly, we will have to find ways to make DJ understand just how serious his allergy is while not making him over-anxious.

Over the last year we've really learned that this allergy is manageable. With a little research, vigilance and communicating the right balance that will keep him safe yet still let him enjoy life is sure to be a challenge.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I recently met another PA kid mom, who tipped me off to Terroni. As we chatted about the challenges of eating out with a severely allergic child, she mentioned how many great experiences her family has had at this smallish (4 locations) Toronto chain. I've long enjoyed the pizzas at Terroni's, but hadn't even thought of it as an option. Mainly, it didn't register because every time I've eaten there in the last couple of years, it's been overwhelmingly busy; and the last thing I want when eating out with DJ, is wait staff that's too busy to take my concerns seriously. But now, with a recommendation in hand, we will definitely be trying out Terroni the next time we're up for a night out.

Mostly, it was great to hear about how another family deals with this allergy and still manages to live life normally - and by normally, I sort of mean eating out. It also got me thinking about all of the other safe places that are out there that we're bypassing, for whatever reason.

That's a call for suggestions! Send them my way. And thanks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A McDonalds Scare

When I saw the news that McDonald's had introduced its two new McMini sandwiches in pesto and spicy Thai, I felt dismayed. I immediately associate both of these terms - pesto and Thai - with nuts and envisioned no longer being able to count on McDonald's for a safe treat.

Of course, before DJ's peanut allergy was diagnosed, I was determined to keep him away from McDonald's and similar fast food places in general. My husband and I rarely ate at them before and with Toronto's awesome selection of cheap places to eat, it seemed like we could easily find tastier and healthier food at nearly as low prices.

Of course, all of that has changed. With limited safe choices, and DJ's unabiding love for nuggets, it's become somewhat of a go-to in certain situations, like when we're on the way to the lake.

Anyways, I was relieved to see there are no peanuts or nuts in either of the new McMini's. The nutritional content is available on the website. Yippee.

Research Falls by the Wayside

Even though I did tons of research before we left, emailing potential restaurants to suss out safe options, we didn't eat at even one of them! I had even went as far to print out the locations of several of the bigger chains where we intended to eat, including Wagamama and Browns.

The reality was though, once we were there, we rarely found ourselves in exactly the right spot when we wanted to eat, and there were so many restaurants to choose from we were always able to find something suitable.

Even the first night, when we set out for Covent Garden, we didn't make it to our intended destination - Browns. The restaurant had provided me with a confident reply to my questions, and assured me we would eat there safely. Still, as we wandered through the area, looking at our different options we ended up at the Salisbury pub, less than a two minute walk from Browns.

Several times, we saw a Wagamama location in passing and I would call it out. It sort of felt like the Big Ben/roundabout scene in National Lampoon's European vacation. Still, we never ate at one.

So was my research a waste of time? I don't think so. By having at least a dozen restaurants we could eat at, it gave us the confidence to leave our apartment in the morning knowing there were safe places to eat - whether we choose them or not.

By the way, several restaurants that I emailed never got back to me. I'll highlight them - including the lamest response ever - in another post later.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Armouries Restaurant - Tower of London

The gusty winds and intermittent rainfall were the perfect backdrop to our visit to the Tower of London. The terrible weather made the place seem even more gloomy. Still, we were chilled to the bone after wandering around the site and decided it was time for a bite to eat. While we had packed snacks for DJ, eating outside simply wasn't an option and we headed into the New Armouries Restaurant on site.

The cafeteria style resto offered up a yummy looking selection of savoury pies, sandwiches and a few hot plates. While everything looked delcious, and we were starving, we were concerned about its saftey. A line-up built behind us while we asked a myraid of questions. Still, the server was patient with us and went to the back of the kitchen to speak with the manager, who quickly came out to answer our questions. No...none of the menu items had any peanuts or nuts used in the recipes, and all of the items were made fresh on the premise. I asked about the potential for there to be traces of nuts in the deep fryer and was again told that there was very little possibility since no nuts were used in any of the items, with the exception of some of the desserts, none of which came near the deep-fryer.

After holding up the line sufficiently, we decided to split a fish and chips with mushy peas. There were no problems - unless you count DJ flinging his yogurt all over a woman sitting nearby. On the unlikely chance she ever reads this - thanks for being so patient while I wiped a considerable amount of yogurt off the back of your sweater!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Salisbury Pub

After a long first day in London, spent hitting some of the more popular sights, like Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, we headed to Convent Garden on the advice of our concierge, who told us the area had a great selection of family friendly restaurants. Browns, one of the restaurants I'd researched and had a good response from was in the area, so we headed out thinking it would be our most likely destination.

After leisurely wandering through the area, reading several posted menus, we ended up stopping at Salisbury Pub. The fine print at the bottom of the menu was what originally drew us in. Something to the effect of how they take food allergies seriously and a suggestion to speak with the manager to voice any potential concerns.

My husband stepped into to assess the situation, and after a detailed talk with the manager felt confident we could eat there safely. He was assured there were absolutely no peanuts of other nuts used in any of the freshly made menu items, which accounted for nearly the entire menu. At the same time, he was cautioned about trace elements in the ingredients and was assured that should we order any item that was not prepared from fresh ingredients on the premises, the ingredient list would be checked and we would be advised accordingly. We ordered fish and chips - both of which were prepared on site.

Of course, because it was a pub, we were unable to take DJ in, and ate instead on the patio. While DJ noshed on the fries, he declared the fish 'too spicy.' It wasn't; instead it was battered perfectly in a delicious crunchy coating. Served with freshly made tartar sauce and mashed peas it was a perfect - sand safe - first dinner in London.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding

While we may not have been able to indulge in any of the delicious sounding desserts on many of the menus while we were in London, we were able to pick up a few real taste treats at some of the different shops.

Fortnum & Mason was a total fave. I could have spent hours sifting through all of the goodies on the two food floors of this grand department store, a fixture on Picadilly since 1707.

In addition to a mighty pricey jar of potted Stilton (which was well worth it and already gone!), I also picked up a Cartmel Stick Toffee Pudding. I became an avid fan of this delicious dessert when travelling in Australia and order it any chance I get. While it was certainly disappointing to have to bypass it at most restaurants (I did order it once in a pub where I was assured it was baked on the premises with no nuts in sight) I was happy to see it was one of the few baked items we could safely purchase. I only wish I'd bought a couple of them!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interpreting Labels

We're more than used to scanning labels here to identify safe products. Even though I know there is a review underway to make labelling even more comprehensive and open up more food choices to allergy sufferers while reducing risk, I feel like at least I understand what the labels mean. In London, we had some real confusion over what different labels said and how to interpret them in terms of safety.

For one thing, the actual ingredients on many items were not listed. Instead, there was an allergy label. In one instance, for example, I picked up a meat pie at a Marks & Spencer's food store. It read:
  • no nuts used in recipe
  • no nuts used in facility
  • cannot guarantee no nuts

To me, that seems somewhat clear, and I would consider the product safe. The 'cannot guarantee' warning seems like a simple blanket statement to avoid liability. In this specific case, I didn't purchase it, but was just looking at different labels.

However, other labels brought up some real questions and concerns and neither my husband nor I knew what to make of them. For example, many products had labels that read:

  • no nuts used in recipe
  • manufactured in a nut environment

Does that mean the product is produced on the same line? In that case, I would consider the product unsafe. However, it could also mean that there are simply nuts being used in other products, but not manufactured on the same line.

To me, it sort of seems like very similar to the 'may contain' warning, but is somewhat more ambiguous and therefore, at least to me, more confusing. When a label reads 'may contain' I simply consider it off-limits. But I'm pretty sure that we probably allow consumption of foods in our house that were manufactured in a nut environment. Why? Because they don't have the peanut-free symbol. That's my interpretation of the situation anyways.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Air Canada Indifference

Normally, we book our flights online. It's been years since I've called an airline directly, but this time, I insisted my husband speak directly with Air Canada to ensure they knew well in advance about DJ's peanut allergy. Not only did I want to ensure his safety, I wanted to be able to sidestep any issues like the one this Calgary women faced when flying back from Mexico. She was asked to leave a flgith from Mexico last month after asking flight attendants to not serve nuts on her flight.

Admittedly, I think it's somewhat self-centred to think an airline is going to change thier menu at the last minute on the request of one passenger; procuring food for dozens of passengers at the last minute would be a huge logistical issue.

Still, I wanted to be prepared so we mentioned the peanut allergy and spoke with our booking agent in detail. We were told to remind the clerk at the check-in counter and again, to remind the stewardesses once we boarded. We were assured our issues would be well-noted on any flight information.

When we checked-in, we mentioned DJ's peanut allergy. The clerk was surprised and said there were no notes on our file. Again, right before boarding I mentioned the same thing; again, we got the same response. There were no notes on our file.

Once on baord, we pulled a stewardess aside and mentinoed our concerns. She asked what we wanted to do about it. Well, really, what did we want? I'm not sure. I don't think it's realistic to ask other people not to eat snacks they've brought on board, and since the airline wasn't serving any peanuts, we were somewhat at a loss to answer her question. In the end, we simply stated we wouldn't be taking any offered on-board food.

To note: We did have a bit of an issue taking DJ's snacks on-board given the 100 ml. liquid restrictions. several of his yorgurt snacks were above the limit as was his orange jello and juice boxes. We explained the sitation though and were allowed to keep all of his treats.

On the return flight, we didn't bother mentioning the allergy, and simply declined any snacks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Back From London!

We're back from London - safe and sound after a great week spent exploring. I've got tons to blog about, from the flight (Air Canada) to wonky labelling, to a couple of really great restaurant experiences. Most importantly, we had no problems keeping DJ safe. We were able to find plenty of safe places to eat, and having the apartment really came in handy. With more than three years behind us since our last trip, it was awesome to get out of and see the sights. DJ made it so easy; he loved seemingly every minute of our trip, making it easy to keep him (and ourselves!) happy. Already I'm thinking about how I can finagle another get away.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two Epipens are better than one

That's according to an article in today's Globe and Mail that says kids with potential for anaphylactic food reactions should carry two epipens instead of one. We always carry two, and on the plane to London, will be toting around four! Our allergist suggested taking all of them on board in the event of a reaction, and once in London, to leave two at our apartment in the event anything happens to the two we carry on us at all times. Of course, we've got our fingers crossed for a safe flight. We'll be packing all of our own food - for all of us. That way, there will be no temptation for little hands to grab at food that potentially isn't safe.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Browns Bar and Brasserie

I've been trying to do as much research as possible to find safe places to eat while we're in London. Here's the response I got from Browns Bar and Brasserie. With six locations in London (including one in the neighborhood where we're staying) this looks like a good option for us. While the risk statement regarding the supply chain is somewhat worrisome, careful ordering of dishes that use only fresh ingredients, avoiding fried foods, and asking lots of questions should help avoid that issue.


Thank you for your enquiry

With regard to your enquiry on an allergy awareness program within our restaurants we have a number of practices in place.
Our teams under-go Basic Food Hygiene which covers cross-contamination.
We are regularly audited by an independent company to check all of our practices and likewise our area managers conduct regular audits on their visits.
Awareness of the risks of cross contamination is therefore very strong.
The menu states that there is a risk that traces of nuts may be in all dishes due to the realities of our supply chain where 100% guarantees cannot be given since factories may use nuts in other areas etc.
We do knowingly add nuts to a number of dishes and have the right training and procedure to ensure we avoid cross-contamination.

Like yourself I have a 2.5 year old who has allergies including some nuts and my wife has a more severe nut allergies to him.
I have no reservations in regularly eating in our restaurants with both of them.

I hope my response offers the assurance you need to visit Browns in the near future with your family

Paul Hulyer
Snr Marketing Manager, Browns Bar & Brasserie
07808 09 5163

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Keg

My in-laws took my husband, DJ and I out for a lovely early birthday celebration on Saturday. I had heard good things about the Keg with respect to allergies and had called ahead to find out what precautions they would take. I was told to ask for the manager upon arrival and to remind our server when we ordered.

The manager on duty was extremely helpful, and said that once we had decided what DJ wanted to eat, they would check it against their allergy binder. My only real beef is that I would have preferred to look at the binder myself so that I could check what my husband and I would be eating as well in case DJ wanted to try a nibble.

Still, I was told the menu items that weren't safe (there were only a few) and was told that all of the kids items (except the chicken fingers) were safe for both peanut and nut allergy. We passed on the fries, knowing deep-fried items are always sketchy and ordered the daily vegetable for DJ instead with baked potatoes for ourselves.

The waiter seemed very attentive and assured us both when we ordered the food and once it arrived that it had been prepared in a special area. All in all, a great experience.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Getting Lazy - Part II

I take any chance I can get to make routines with DJ fun, and that includes dinner. We've dubbed Wednesday "Pizza Wednesdays" in our house as a way to break the monotony of cooking every night during the week. It's a break for me - and for my husband and DJ too - since we can just sit around and relax while we wait for dinner to be delivered. Last night, we sat on the deck and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather.

Every time I order from Pizza Nova I diligently ask about its peanut-free status. There is a note on our file and every week I get the same response - that there are no peanuts or nuts in any of the regular menu items.

But again, I feel like I'm getting sloppy and I'm worried about the consequences. Last night, distracted by a tot crawling up my leg, I put my order in over the phone without asking about the peanut/nut status. We even ordered a different menu item - a Caesar salad. When the pizza arrived and I realized my error, I felt badly about my complacency. The package of dressing had the ingredients listed and it was nut free so there was no problem, and I called Pizza Nova back to reconfirm. Still, it's instances like this where I realize that my laziness would cost my son his health.

We've got an appointment with DJ's allergist next week for a 'refresher' course on epipen administration and a general discussion about handling air travel and eating out to prep us for our trip.

I want to make sure we're safe. I'm going to redouble my efforts to maintain diligence.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is Benihana Safe?

We'll soon find out hopefully. I've sent an email to the Picadilly Circus location, close to where we'll be staying London. I'll let you know when I hear back. I've put out feelers to several chains there, and will post responses as I receive them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cool Canadian-Made Epipen Holders

Check out these nifty Epipen holders from KozyEpi. There are lots of cool fabrics to pick from and the pouches fit both Epipen and Twinjet in their protect tubes. There are options to fit either one or two pens and pouches can be ordered with a different attachment options: adjustable waist straps, a slingor buckle or clip.

I usually carry DJ's Epipens in my purse so having an alternative when I don't want to carry one is great. I know these will come in handy for my husband too, as he's often challenged to find a way to carry them discreetly when he's out and about with our tot.

I'll be sure to order a couple of these as soon as he decides on a color/style combination.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New Way to Travel

With less than two weeks to go until we leave for London, it was time to book accommodation. In the past, we made a point of staying in modest hotels to save on money. This time, it's a little different. With DJ's peanut allergy, a hotel doesn't make a lot of sense. Eating out three times a day is simply to stressful to contemplate with a peanut-allergy tot. Instead, we've booked a service apartment - essentially an apartment set in a hotel-style setting that offers a full kitchen. That way, we'll be able to eat at least a couple of meals at home each day and have the amenities to make lunch for the road.

This will be our first overseas trip since DJ was born. We loved to travel pre-baby, and were determined to keep at it once we were parents but a cottage property, DJ's peanut allergy and an old, sweet dog have kept us Ontario-bound for the last couple of years.
We'll see how this trip goes, but it looks like booking a service apartment is pretty easy and they seem to be available (according to google!) in most cities. So hopefully, it won't be another 3 years before we go away again.
As for that old, sweet dog, she's now gone. Stella died peacefully on February 27th, with both my husband and I at her side. Here's a picture of our sweetie. She is dearly missed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting Lazy - Better Smarten Up

I'm getting lazy; not just about posting but the important stuff too - checking every label every time. Friday after work, I whipped to the grocery store. Hoping to get home before DJ and his dad arrived home from their walk down to the lake, I sped through the grocery store, tossing in mostly the same items I buy every week. But this week, I grabbed a jar of President's Choice Olives, stuffed with garlic. I'm not sure why I didn't read the label; maybe because I was in a hurry, or maybe because I usually buy Sardo olives, which are safe. Whatever the reason, I didn't read the label. Then, Sunday at home, lazing in front the of the TV and craving a snack I popped the jar open and put a few in a small dish out on coffee table. Then, remembering I hadn't read the label jumped up and rushed back into the kitchen. The label read "may contain tree nuts" Yikes. DJ was in bed, so we ate the olives without incident, but now there is an unsafe item in our house. The jar now has a sticky note on it with a warning, but it just goes to show that getting lazy happens, and that getting lazy can potentially be very dangerous. My husband often puts olives on our home-made pizza he makes at least once a week. Granted, DJ always picks them off, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have a reaction from one touching his food.

While it's a lesson learned about consistently reading labels, it does worry me. We'll have to re-double our efforts to ensure we're consistently careful. Not just when we're not in a hurry to get the grocery shopping done.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rainforest Cafe

We all headed out to Rainforest Cafe in the Yorkdale Mall on the weekend to help celebrate my sweet two-year old nephew's birthday. After looking at the menu online it was difficult to determine if it would be a safe place for us to eat; the menus posted on-line are not specific to each location and there was no allergy information. I called ahead to speak with the manager and was assured that the kids menu was free of any nuts, except for the desserts. Knowing that a birthday celebration would include a cake, I didn't want DJ to feel left out so asked if I could supply my own. I was told it would be no problem.

The restaurant itself was pretty noisy and it was difficult to talk to the servers. I did pull our waiter aside to explain the situation and was again told that the kids menu contained no nuts and that it would be a safe experience. I asked again about the preparation area and if the food prep staff know how to avoid cross contamination. To be honest, I wasn't really happy with the answer I got "It's no problem" I didn't really feel like the issue was being taken all that seriously. What I really wanted to hear was what steps would be taken to ensure my sons meal would be safe in terms of food handling and prep.

Still, we placed our order: nuggets with fries and a small milk. That the food arrived with a different server concerned me and again I asked the new waitress to confirm the order was nut-free. I was pleased to see that she indeed was made aware by our original server and the kitchen. Still, a hand-off like this is the type of situation where I could see a potential problem cropping up.

While DJ certainly enjoyed the cafe, he also seemed somewhat over-whelmed and at several points, held his hands over his ears and said it was too loud. Judging by the number of screams of sheer terror throughout the restaurant I think it's really more for the five and up set.

Even though it was ultimately a safe experience, I wasn't a 100% comfortable and I doubt we'll be going back anytime soon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

While my hub and I remain diligent in ensuring DJ avoids all contact with peanuts and tree nuts, our real hope is that he one day he will outrgrow his allergy. While we've certainly become accustomed to our new lifestyle, I have frequent bouts of anxiety worrying about DJ's future, when I am no longer with him every minute of the day to control what he eats. Will the lessons that we are teaching him now keep him safe?

Of course, a cure would be great too! And it looks like there could be some hope, according to this article in the Toronto Star. While two or three years to a cure sounds like it is still in the distant future, it seems like warp speed compared to the development of other disease treatments. So let's keep our fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Nut Free Bakery!

Thanks to a reader for bringing my attention to Half-Baked Ideas, another nut-free bakery by Mount Pleasant and Davisville. The pull apart cakes look great. While the location may be out of the way for me, it looks like a great option for mid-towners!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pizza Express

Pizza Express was listed on a UK-based allergy website as a potential safe place to eat. After this response, I think we'll have to give it a miss. While it does look they are very allergy aware, I'm simply not comfortable given the variety of different nuts being used. I think its just easier - and safer - to pick a place that don't have a lot of nutty items to start with.

Thank you for your email.
We use various nut items within our menu items that contain nuts, such as pine nuts, pistachio nuts, peanuts etc.
Our menu states that the items listed with the 'n' symbol next to them denotes that that item contains nuts as an ingredient or as a topping.
Kitchen staffs are trained to ensure that when they are notified of a nut allergy customer (which is not uncommon) they do take extra care during preparation and cooking to prevent possible cross contamination.
We do have nut items in the kitchens which we recommend are used from dispensing bottles to prevent cross contamination such as spillages & drops onto other products. We also have a storage policy for ensuring nut items are stored at bottom of fridges etc. to prevent cross contamination.
I must stress that despite all these measures, PizzaExpress could not offer (as with many other restaurants) a 100% guarantee that cross contamination could not occur.
I recommend that if you wish to discuss your allergy and preventative
procedures at your local restaurant, please contact the manager directly.
I hope this information has helped you, if we can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us again

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Wagama is chain of Japanese restaurants in London. I've heard lots of good things about it and its come up in a few searches on peanut-free eating in London. I enquired yesterday about the potential for eating there safely on our upcoming holiday. Here's the response I got.


thank you for contacting us
we recognise that many of our customers do have various dietary needs and we try to cater to them as best we can. on our website you will find our dietary requirements page with different lists containing options for most requirements, I have provided a link for you:
I can assure you that there will be no case of cross-contamination but I do encourage you to advise your server once you are seated for further assistance
many thanks

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

London Calling!

We're just weeks away from booking our first trip in years! Both my husband and I love to travel; before DJ, we swore having a tot wouldn't change our travel habits.

What a reality check! While we used to try and get away at least twice a year, we haven't been away since December of 2006. That's the longest we've went in our 17 years together without hearing the satisfying sound of a passport stamp.

But now, with house renos under control and my 40th birthday looming we're back at it. This time it's London! Neither of us have been to Europe since our honeymoon in the Czech Republic, more than 12 years ago, so it's sure to be a treat.

At the same time, I'm already anxious about eating out with DJ so often. One reason we picked London is that at least there will be no language barriers to contend with when trying to find a safe restaurant.

Any suggestions for safe eating out in London?

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Toronto Treasure Turns out to be Nut-Free!

My husband and I both really love Indian food. Unfortunately, the local restos we tend to order from all use cashewpaste in their dishes, so we've stopped ordering from them. One of our long-standing favourite take-aways is Gandhi on Queen West (at Bathurst). The butter chicken rotis are the best I've ever had, with the blend of spices just right.

We like to order half and half - splitting both a butter chicken and saag paneer roti, its tender chunks of Indian cottage cheese the perfect complement to the spicy spinach. Mo

Split in half to share with the saag paneer, with its soft and delicious chunks of Indian cottage cheese. it was one of our favourite ways to spend dinner in, or lunch on the fly.

Since DJ was diagnosed it was one of the place's I've almost been afraid to check. It's not like we would feed DJ from there anyways, because we like to order it hot, but in keeping with our nut-free home policy, we simply assumed it probably wasn't safe.

What a thrill to find out it is! They use no nuts or peanuts in any of their products and the oil in the fryers is vegetable.

One word of caution. Mother India, further west on Queen, and owned by the same proprietors, is NOT SAFE. At least that's according to the people I've spoken to at Gandhi who say that their spin-off serves a couple of nut-laden desserts. Of course, I'll be sure to check for myself since Mother India means about 15 minutes less in the car for a take-out trip. I'll blog more later when I find out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another Nut Free Option - Swirls Cupcakes

A quick reply from Swirls Cupcakes confirmed that there products are both peanut and nut free. While I've got used to baking a little more - and have even started to enjoy it - I'll be sure to check out this place the next time I'm crunched for time and need to provide DJ with a nut-free treat to take to daycare.

Swirls Cupcakes - Peanut Free?

A colleague has told me that Swirls Cupcakes on Dundas is both peanut and nut free. There doesn't seem to be any information on the website so I've contacted the bakery directly to ask. I'll blog more when I hear back.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

High Anxiety in the Air

A last minute trip to Winnipeg over the holidays had me scrambling for information about how to manage DJ's peanut allergy. Did I need anything special to get his epi-pens through security? Would the airline make any special accommodations? How could I keep him safe on the plane, with no real access to medical attention if there was a problem? These were just a few of the questions that had me in a state of high anxiety before our trip. 

With heightened security at the Toronto airport one of my main concerns was if I could take his epi-pens on board. Without them, I simply couldn't see going. A call to Westjet put my concerns at ease. All I needed was his prescription. However, as soon as we purchased the pens, I immediately threw out the boxes that they came in, the same ones that had the prescription label affixed to them. A quick trip to the local Shoppers where I had the prescription filled fixed that. The pharmacist was able to print out a prescription for each and affix them directly the pens themselves. In addition, we provided me with another prescription, which he signed. 

I was also assured by Westjet that they would also ask passengers in the two rows in front and the two rows behind us to refrain from eating nutty snacks. Once on board, I watched this process unfold. Everyone, with the exception of one man, seemed okay with the request.  This guy, who looked to be in his late 30's to early 40s declared somewhat loudly that he would eat whatever he wanted. He did add, however, that he didn't have any nuts, so I'm not really sure what the point of his outburst was. 

In any event, the flight was incident free. DJ loved the whole experience. The ride home was the same thing. The best part: DJ waking up mid flight on the way home, and looking out the window to see a rainbow in the sky as the sun rose. "look mommy. I spy a rainbow" Super cute. 

And encouraging to know that an airplane ride could be safely accomplished. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Epi-Pen Lessons

Over the holidays, I headed out of town to a family funeral for a beloved, elderly aunt. Of course, I took DJ with me. The funeral service itself was held in the chapel attached to an seniors living facility. I haven't been to a funeral in some time, and wasn't prepared for there to be a lunch served immediately after the service. However, as soon as the service was over, tables and chairs were rearranged and food was set out. Sticky buns crusted with almonds sat on every table.

Earlier, before the service, as we headed into the chapel my sister mentioned I was free to leave my purse in a backroom, where family had left coats and bags. Indeed I felt sort of awkward with my purse when everyone else was hands free. Still, I was reluctant to be physically separated from DJ's epi-pens.

As soon as I saw the food coming out for the luncheon, I knew I had made the right decision. I checked with the women preparing the lunch to see the contents of the sandwiches. The bread, cheese and cold-cuts all seemed safe and I was assured the utensils to prepare them were clean and had not come into contact with any peanut butter or other nutty spreads. I removed the almond buns from our table, and we proceeded to eat lunch.

With family not seen in decades to visit, it was difficult for me to keep my eye on DJ after though. My young niece and nephew trailed him, making sure he didn't get his hands on any food.

Later, my decision to keep the epi-pens on me was reinforced. DJ needed a diaper change. I went to the back room where I had left both my coat and diaper bag. It was locked and the front desk attendant was no where to be found. It took me a full ten minutes to retrieve my diaper bag. The entire time I waited for the key to be tracked down, all I could think about was what would have happened if I had left my purse, with DJ's epi-pens in it, in the room which was now locked and he had a reaction. I would have endangered his life.

For me, it was a real lesson in keeping his pens on me at all times, even if it seems inconvenient. It's something I won't forget.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Peanut Allergy Test in the Works

It looks like there's could be a new test to determine who really is at risk from anaphylaxis from peanut allergy. Here's more on that.

One common thread that I've noticed on the comment boards, is that many people believe those affected by peanut allergy aren't truly allergic, that most are misdiagnosed and that hysterical, hyper-vigilant moms create drama where there is none.

Some information in this article actually supports that, saying that in a new study, only 1 in two kids that had a positive skin of blood test had a true peanut allergy as diagnosed by an oral challenge.

I wish that were the case in our situation. How awesome would it be to find out that DJ was really only allergic to grass, or pollen? Unfortunately, that's unlikely. We found out DJ was allergic after eating peanut butter smeared on toast. A skin test further confirmed his allergy.

Still, this sounds like a test that will give a lot of people back their freedom to eat without fear.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

G&M Comment Board

As usual, it's depressing to read the comments in relation to the Air Canada nut-free announcement. Everything from how the women in question should have a peanut butter sandwich thrown at her head to comparisons to obese passengers getting a second seat for free. Makes you realize lots of people are just total self-absorbed assholes. Not much more to say.

Peanut-Free Buffer Zones on Air Canada

Some good news from the Canadian Transportation Agency for peanut-allergy sufferers looking to travel safely. It's ruled that passengers with nut allergies must be accommodated by Air Canada. It's unsure whether the ruling applies to all Canadian airlines. Here's the story in the Globe and Mail.

This is of particular interest to me since I flew WestJet with DJ last week. More on that later...

New Year's Resolutions

Like probably everybody, I make a bunch of resolutions each New Years that I never keep. When I started this blog. my intention was to highlight safe places to eat out with peanut allergy. Looking back over my blog posts though, I realize how few times we've actually eaten out with DJ since his allergy was diagnosed. As much as we were determined to not let his allergy change our lifestyle, it's had a profound impact in lots of ways. We rarely eat out anymore, and have travelled far less than we normally would. To be honest, we're both terrified of travelling with him; eating out in Toronto is challenging enough. Toss in another language, and eating out three meals a day just seems too daunting.

In some ways, eating out and travelling less has been positive. We've eaten at home more, which means, for the most part, healthier eating choices and less discretionary income spent, freeing up cash for other things.

Still, we both miss our old habits. One resolution to maintain DJ's safety is too simply get our babysitter in more often - at least once a month - so that we can enjoy a night out without worrying about food allergies. A second is to simply find more safe places to eat out.

So, with that in mind, any suggestions for safe eating would be greatly appreciated. Bring 'em on!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates Redux

In December, I ordered $80 worth of chocolates from Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates. I could barely stand the idea of a chocolate-free Christmas, and bored my husband to near-tears debating about what to order. In the end: three boxes of truffles, three bags of chocolate-covered pretzels, two bags of chocolate stars and snowmen to decorate a gingerbread house, and of course, a chocolate Santa for DJ’s stocking.

When the box arrived, my gut reaction was disappointment; it was so small! Could there really be $80 worth of chocolates in such a tiny box? While all of the ordered items were accounted for, the short answer, in my opinion, is no.

While everything was certainly delicious, and most importantly, nut-free, I think I could have spent my $80 more wisely. DJ was way more interested in plucking the Smarties off the gingerbread house than the foil-wrapped stars and snowmen. In the end, my husband and I were the ones that ended up scarfing them down in a late night binge. Same thing went for the chocolate Santa in his stocking. It is still sitting on the counter, whereas the two boxes of Smarties Santa also brought have been long gone. I could have easily replicated the chocolate-covered pretzels at home.

As for the truffles, I simply didn’t order enough to be able to offer them up to guests, which is when I would normally put out boxed chocolates. With 12 to a box and several occasions with more than 10 people in the house, they seemed like a paltry offering. Plus, my sister-in-law’s truffles were nearly as good.

I did tons of baking over the holidays to make up for what I was worried would be a lack of chocolate. In the end, really there was just too much junk in the house to eat. And eat it we did! I’ve been suffering a food hangover for at least a week.

So while Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates may be an excellent resource for some, I’m doubtful I’ll be placing another order anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! What a great holiday season. Not only was it great to visit with friends and family, but it was also reaction-free. Even though I was concerned about how to handle DJ's peanut allergy with all of the nutty food flying around, we managed to navigate through the season safely. Of course, I've got lots to blog about, including some thoughts on Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates, airplane travel, holidays parties and more. Stay tuned.