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.