Cross-Contamination Series: Day 2 in Stowe, Vermont

The gang is all here!

the boys with their american cousins

So great that Andy’s sister and her family could join in on all the fun!

Day 1 in Stowe, Vermont was all about the sun…Day 2 was a little bit of everything!

Andy ready for our first run of the day

We started the day with overcast skies…which moved into dense fog and low clouds…with a dash of freezing rain! After our packed lunch, the skies cleared and the sun came out, the chill subsided and it was like a completely different day!

The hills were literally abandoned…it was like we owned the hills!

My nephews are all about the tricks! Check out the set up!

view of the a ski park at Stowe, Vermont

I have never seen this done before!

nephew going off a rail on skis at Stowe, Vermont

Look carefully…he is doing a back flip!

nephew doing a back flip at Stowe Vermont

I know! And he does it so effortlessly!

Chilling on the hill!

boys chilling on the hill at Stowe Vermont

Another perfect day spent with the family…Matthew rates this day a 9 out of 10 ski day!

A little ‘apres ski cocktail’ while waiting for the kids to finish up on the slopes.

a little apres ski cocktail at Stowe Vermont

Our ‘little cabin in the woods’ smelled amazing upon our arrival home again today…Spaghetti and Meat sauce simmering away in the slow cooker!

I cooked up the ground turkey, onion and garlic last night and combined it with the defrosted sauce I made and brought from home. Put them all in the slow cooker this morning so dinner is super easy tonight…especially since we will be entertaining ‘guests’ !

A tossed salad, my Dairy, Egg and Soy Free French Stick and for dessert…Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Pie are all ready to be fixed and/or heated up in the oven.

Boys are all off having a swim, sauna and whirlpool…winding down and relaxing before our yummy dinner!

Heading back to our ‘little cabin in the woods’ to do the final preparations.

Tomorrow is all about ‘leftovers’!

P.S. Click here for my next post on our trip.


Day 4 in a Series on Cross-Contamination: A Weekend Away Visiting Family

Monday February 20, 2012 is Family Day here in Ontario, Canada.

What better way to spend this extended weekend than with family…so we are off on another adventure to visit my brother and his family in beautiful Ottawa!

Our plans involve an assortment of winter activities: watching my nephew play hockey, some back yard pick up ice hockey, skiing at a local ski hill and skating on the Rideau Canal…it is also the last weekend of Winterlude. Beaver Tails will be all the rage! Not sure if they are allergy friendly for my boys…but we will find out.

For the past week, my boys have been glued to their I Pods on ‘face time’ with their cousins. Top priority…getting the low down on my nephew’s hockey games…if the team gets 5 points by the end of their Friday game, then they don’t have a practice on Sunday. Rack em up boys…since we hope to go skiing that day! So far they have 4 points…one more to go…a win or a tie will do it! Thank goodness we will be there to cheer them on!

A few things we must consider on our weekend getaway with the family: My eldest son, Michael, has food allergies to dairy, beef, egg, sesame, fish, shellfish, peanut/tree nuts, mustard and raspberry. My second son, Matthew, has a peanut/tree nut allergy.

Travelling anywhere with multiple food allergies takes a little extra planning…but it can be done.

A simple allergy friendly weekend away visiting family involves some preplanning: deciding on allergy friendly meals, what allergy friendly products to bring and what kitchen items to bring to limit any cross-contamination issues in the kitchen.

In my experience, my destination helps me to determine what to offer to bring allergy friendly meal wise, allergy friendly product wise and if I need to bring any allergy friendly kitchen items to use.

It’s a personal choice. One you need to make in order to keep your sanity while visiting family.

Do you offer to bring an entire allergy friendly meal, parts of an allergy friendly meal or offer to make the allergy friendly meal.?

Do you bring your own allergy friendly kitchen supplies, some allergy friendly kitchen supplies or use your family’s kitchen supplies?

Personally, if I am going for the weekend or up to a week, I do all my baking at home.

For this weekend away I will be bringing: ‘safe bread’ ie. Dairy, Egg, Sesame and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Sub Buns, French Stick and Allergen Friendly Pita Chips. I like to bring ‘safe treats’ ie. Dairy Free Rice Krispie Squares and Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies are two of my boys’ favourites. Perhaps a ‘safe dessert’ ie. Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Pie, I have one in the freezer ready to bake in the oven or Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Bundt Cake. Plenty of over ripe bananas sitting on my counter begging to be baked into something scrumptious! If I have time this afternoon, I will bake one.

I will also be bringing a box of Smart Pasta Penne and Maple Leaf Natural Selections Black Forest Ham.  Can’t forget Guardian Angel Cocoa and Natura Soy Milk to make Dairy Free hot chocolate to bring in a thermos to the hills and skating!

For a weekend or up to a week away, I also like to check and see if I can offer to bring an allergy friendly meal or at least provide for one when I am there.

Cooking in someone else’s kitchen can also bring up cross-contamination issues.

Personally, I try to help out in the kitchen, especially if one of my boys food allergens is part of the menu. Assisting with the prep work, the cooking and the clean up to keep an eye out for any cross-contamination.

Depending on where I am visiting, I will bring some of my own kitchen supplies: a bread knife, cutting board, paring knife, or a small pot for cooking pasta/rice/oatmeal.

As I tend to stay for longer periods at my mother’s house in the summer, I have left certain baking items there such as: a rolling-pin, silicone baking pads to put over her baking sheets, a brownie pan, bundt pan, muffin tin and pan for making my Dairy Free Rice Krispie Squares.

I have to be honest, some family members have had a hard time adjusting to my sons’ food allergies. Even after 15 years, we encounter issues of misunderstanding. As stressful as that can be, we try to do the best we can to keep our children safe and keep the family ties in tack.

I am always on high alert when food is involved around my children. Some may describe my behaviour as ‘obsessed’, ‘over the top’ or ‘crazy’! However, I like to think if I had more people on my ‘team’ I wouldn’t have to feel like I was the only one looking out for their safety…as they say, it takes ‘a village to raise a child’. 

Finding a balance is key…not always easy…but then such is life!

Visiting family is very important to me. I only have my mother and my brother’s family here in Canada. The rest lives in Scotland and in the United States. My husband has his parents and sister, that live within an hours drive, that we also like to visit.

Bottom Line: Working as a ‘team’ to keep cross-contamination at bay while visiting family works better when everyone is on the same page. Preplanning is essential.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this area…everyone’s situation will be unique and need to be thought out on an individual basis.

I only hope that by describing how I go about planning for my visits will be somewhat helpful to others thinking about  how they might be able to best plan their own allergy friendly family visits.

Wishing you and your families all a safe and fun Allergy Friendly Family Day Weekend!

Tip: I have to give another shout out to the book Allergic Girl by Sloane Miller. Her real life experiences give light to many questions you may have in dealing with family and friends on your own journey with food allergies. I highly recommend it as your ‘go to guide’. I know I do! Click here to check out my book review.

Question: How do you go about planning for a weekend away at a family members house? What works for you and your family? Please share your tips and experiences so as we all can learn from each other.  

Day 3 in a Series on Cross-Contamination and Food Allergies: Purchasing Food Products

Grocery shopping for me is always an adventure in learning! I could literally spend hours checking out all the goods.

On my trip out to Vancouver in November, I hit a Whole Foods Market…I was like a kid in a candy store! Luckily my friend Michelle knew what she was getting in to when we set out. Can you imagine we had three to choose from! The closest Whole Foods Market to me is a drive in to Toronto!

Why do I spend so much of my time in grocery stores one might ask? Looking for allergy friendly products for my two boys with mulitple food allergies (dairy,egg,beef,sesame,peanut/tree nut,fish,shellfish,mustard and raspberry) and  READING INGREDIENT LISTS!

Yes, reading ingredient lists is a mandatory grocery shopping rule when there are multiple food allergies to consider. We’re not just talking checking new products, but checking ingredients on ALL products…even those we think we know and trust.

From my experience, I have learned to never take for granted that a product will always remain free of my boys’ allergens. My experience has taught me to ALWAYS READ THE INGREDIENTS LIST.

I have been caught a few times where a product has relabeled their product to include one of my boys’ food allergens on their may contain list. Luckily, we have not encountered any reactions to the trace amounts that the product may/may not now contain, however, I do not like to play Russian Roulette.

How am I to know whether or not the traces will cause a reaction? I would rather pass on the risk.

Some personal experience examples are as follows:

1) Rice Dream Non Dairy Frozen Desserts and Novelties are free of dairy. One day I happened to reread the ingredient list to discover a warning.  Rice Dream states: “they are produced on shared equipment with dairy ingredients and may contain trace amounts of dairy.”  My son was devastated…no more ‘ice cream’.

2) Dempster’s Stays Fresh White Bread used to be the only bread I could find in a store that did not have a disclaimer stating the bread may or may not contain any traces of dairy, egg or sesame seeds on the packaging. Unfortunately, they eventually added one. Again, I just happened to reread the ingredient list and came upon the new disclaimer on the bag. However, if you go to Dempster’s website, there is no may contain warning after the ingredient list. If you go to their website, Dempster’s states: “Every effort is taken to ensure that the ingredients and nutritional information listed here is accurate, however, data may change from time to time.  Please always check the package for the most current information.”

I actually called Dempster’s to discuss the discrepancy. They advised me to follow what is written on the packaging. Due to the package warning, I no longer purchase Dempster’s Stays Fresh White Bread.

Dempster’s Thin Bagels, as of today, do not have a may contain warning on their packaging nor is there one on Dempster’s website. There is the same statement as above after the ingredient list.

Dempster’s Original Bagels, on the other hand, does have a disclaimer on their website stating that the bagels “May contain soy bean,egg,sesame seeds,sulphites and milk ingredients.”

I occasionally buy Dempster’s Thin Bagels for Michael as he likes to have them once and awhile. However, I always check the ingredient list on the packaging each time for any changes in their claims.

3) Barilla pasta: Finding a pasta that has not been manufactured on equipment that processes egg products is limiting. I was purchasing Barilla but since they now have the egg warning I take a pass. Again, it was by chance that I happened to check the ingredient list to find the addition.

SMART pasta by Catelli is our pasta of choice.  I like that it looks and tastes like white pasta with the fibre of whole wheat. Not only that…my kids and hubbie love it! In fact, my husband was watching a SMART pasta commercial and commented that we should give it a try. I replied, “You just ate it for dinner!”

4) Fry’s Cocoa is the latest product I have found to add an allergy warning to their product. I have always noticed that Fry’s 500g container has had an allergy alert warning of possible dairy ingredients but not the 250 g container.That is, up until a few weeks ago. I happened to be in the grocery store and noticed a red band around the top of the 250 g Fry’s Cocoa. It reads, “See back of pack NEW Allergen Information.” In another red band under the ingredient list is the warning, “May Contain Milk”.

I have to admit, I am very impressed with Fry’s Cocoa’s attention grabbing red warning label. More companies should utilize this method of alerting their customers of changes in manufacturing policies.

I called Fry’s Cocoa to inquire about the change. Unfortunately, they were not able to discern why there is now an allergy warning. In fact, they were unaware of the changes.

I have noticed that some grocery stores still have some unrevised containers of Fry’s Cocoa…so I stocked up. I will be purchasing my Dairy Free Cocoa from Guardian Angel. What other brands of cocoa are dairy free?

Uncontrollable Cross-Contamination of Products

I try to be careful with the products I purchase for my boys. I make a mental note to ensure I am reading ingredient labels at each purchase. However, even when all one’s good intentions are in place, there is still one more glitch that can occur…an accidental cross-contamination at the facility.

Summer of 2010, such an occurance happened.

Much to our delight, Natura Rice and Soy milk products by Nutrisoya became available in our local grocery stores…they even had frozen desserts! (ice cream)  I have tried them all… Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate and Maple.They are heavenly! Michael and I both love the Maple! I also love their Chocolate Soy Milk!

Summer of 2010, I had baked my Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crisp. I had just purchased a brand new Vanilla Natura Frozen Dessert to serve with it. Michael was served first as usual. One bite into a mixture of Apple Crisp and Natura’s Vanilla Frozen Dessert was all it took. Michael looked at me with big eyes and I knew. He had a slight tingling in the mouth…always seems to be his first symptom with his food allergens. I grabbed the epi pen, he took an antihistamine and I had him lie down on the couch.

Michael’s allergic reaction did not venture any farther than the tingling of the tongue. I monitored him for the rest of the evening and through the night.

I initially blamed myself for cross-contaminating the Apple Crisp…with what I was not sure…I thought I had been extremely careful. I never thought it could be the Natura Vanilla Frozen Dessert, as I had just opened it and used a clean spoon to scoop it out. I was very puzzled and confused.

It was not until I ran into a friend at the grocery store, her son also has a dairy allergy, that I learned of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s recall.

We were standing  by the frozen section where the Natura Frozen Desserts are kept. I made a comment on how there was no Natura Frozen Desserts and about our experience during the summer. Apparently, certain shipments of Natura Frozen Desserts may contain milk.

All of a sudden, it all made sense…it was not the Crisp I had made but rather the Natura Vanilla Frozen Dessert!

It was at this time, that my friend also informed me of the Anaphylaxis Canada’s Registry program. It is a free program that anyone can sign up and receive email updates on ‘product recalls, corporate sponsor updates and messages, food labelling, news on advocacy efforts related to airlines and other hot topics, research and trends in school policies.’ I signed up as soon as I got home.

I found the Natura Frozen Dessert CFIA recall and called mom to check the UPC/Code. Sure enough, they matched!

I am always surprised at the number of allergy alerts that fill up my mail box. I am indeed glad that I registered.

If you are purchasing products of any kind for someone with food allergies, I highly recommend signing up for the service. It could save a life.


How do you feel about purchasing products that have a may contain warning? Do you stay clear of them or take the risk and purchase them?

Do you read the ingredient lists for allergy warnings every time you purchase a product or just now and again?

Has someone you know with a food allergy had a reaction to a product that has trace amounts of their food allergen in it? (I ask this, as that is how we discovered Matthew’s peanut/tree nut allergy. He had a delayed allergic reaction to a cake from a bakery.)

Were you aware of the new allergy warning on the 250g Fry’s Cocoa?

Were you aware of the Anaphylaxis Canada Registry? If yes, how has it helped you? If no, will you be signing up?