Do you know or suspect your child has a milk allergy? Help AllergyUK help you (and win £30)

For many parents, a suspected but undiagnosed food allergy can be a source of huge stress and uncertainty. We had tried elimination of certain foods to try and help small boy’s eczema, but it wasn’t until the terrifying reaction to a peanut that we even considered food allergies.

Amongst other things, small boy is allergic to dairy, or specifically cow’s milk protein. He was breastfed as a baby, but was a champion vomiter from day 1. When I used to give him cow’s milk after he turned one, and he continually vomited it on his own head, I just thought that was normal- he was my first (so I didn’t know any better) and he was a sicky baby. With hindsight, of course, I was filling him with something he was allergic to and that’s why he was sick.

But what if you do suspect your child has an allergy, specifically to cow’s milk protein, which is hard to avoid in the early years? Cows’ milk protein allergy is actually the most common childhood food allergy, affecting between 2-7% of babies under one year of age.  With a wide variety of symptoms, many of which can be similar to other conditions, having a child with cows’ milk protein allergy can be very worrying for parents.

Allergy UK, the national organisation supporting people with allergies in the UK, is running a survey to share the experiences of parents or carers who have a baby with cows’ milk protein allergy, or suspect their baby may have the condition.  The survey asks 30 questions (although some are quite long) about your experiences with a cow’s milk protein allergy, or suspected allergy, and if you complete the survey you could be in with a chance to win one of 30 £30 vouchers from Mamas & Papas.  The survey is available from http://www.allergyuk.org/news_cowsmilksurvey.aspx.

AllergyUK have also partnered with infant nutrition brand Aptamil (who produce a formula suitable for allergic babies) for to create a range of actually helpful resources to help support parents and help them to understand this condition http://www.aptamil.co.uk/allergies.

If your child does have an allergy, or you suspect as much, do go and see your healthcare provider, because managing the nutritional needs of your small child can be difficult and you need to demand all the help and support you can get. Small boy was 3 when his allergies were diagnosed, and he is also allergic to soya, so has to make do with rice and oats milks. Fortunately, the growing awareness means that alternative milks are more readily available than they once were.

Free From Food Awards 2012- Judging getting nearer…

I may have previously mentioned that I have been invited to judge some of the categories in this year’s Free From Food Awards. Judging day is getting closer, my train ticket is booked and my tastebuds are at the ready.

I am sure all the entrants in all the categories will be fantastic, but I asked the Free From Food Awards HQ for an update on why this year’s awards are going to be the best EVER.

Michelle told me she is “very excited about the ready meals category which has always been a bit sparse in previous years but this year is bulging with entrants – real reflection of what is happening in the free from market.”

HQ are also very excited about the new raw food and superfood category. They have had some great entries, including  raw chocolate, mesquite flour, ‘flax dippers’, kale chips, beet juice and cheesecakes to name but a few. Interestingly traditional categories, such as bread, are now part of the main stream (a great reflection of the expanding free from market) so there are fewer entries this year – although, of course, cakes  are still holding up *cue collective sigh of relief from judges*

Still, the most popular judging category still remains the alcoholic variety, where judges can even sample some Free From nettle beer.

Can’t wait 🙂

Naming and shaming- Ramada Penns Hall

If you have allergies, you will know that it is difficult to eat out. However, when you have spoken to the eatery in question and have been assured that your allergies can be catered for, to be told 15 minutes before your booking that actually, they can’t is a bit off. But that is exactly what the Ramada Penns Hall Hotel, Sutton Coldfield did to me yesterday.

The event was a pantomine and dine, a three course carvery followed by a pantomime. Together with some other mums from my children’s school, we arranged to go. I did the organising and spoke to the events team before booking to ask if I could bring my own food for my son. I was told that this wasn’t usual and if I did this under no circumstances would I expect to pay any less for no food than for someone having three courses. This was, of course, discriminatory against allergy sufferers, but I was advised that the kitchen would be able to accommodate our needs on the day. I then rang up to book- the final number of attendees was 22. Again I was advised that the kitchen would be able to accommodate my son’s allergies.

So, six weeks later, the day of the meal arrived. Everything was paid four weeks in advance, but having a sixth sense about this, I rang the hotel as we were on our way just to check 100% that the allergy friendly food would be available. There was some discussion on the phone before they advised us that actually, they could not guarantee anything leaving the kitchen would be nut free. At 12.45pm before a 1pm booking.

I went home to take a packed lunch for my son- we couldn’t let everyone down at that late point- but I was angry. My son rarely gets to feel ‘normal’ and to be dumped back into his allergy box at this late stage was soul-destroying. If they had advised me at the time of booking I could have prepared him and made alternative arrangements. Perhaps we would not have booked, which is presumably why they did not tell me then- why lose 22 people’s bookings when you can just ruin one small boy’s day and charge him £11 for some hot water.

The Ramada Sutton Coldfield Hotel, run by BDL Hotels Ltd will not be getting my custom again, and I will be investigating whether I can challenge their refusal to cater for, or offer alternative prices for allergy sufferers under anti-discriminatory legislation.

Free From Food Awards

If you are here, on a site about managing food allergies, you have probably already heard of the FreeFrom Food Awards 2012 “The industry’s only award for excellence for freefrom food – raising the profile of freefrom within the industry and with the consumer”.

Manufacturers of free from products were asked to submot their products for consideration in up to 17 categories, as follows:

1. The Innovation award:
The innovation category is open to any product which successfully pushes the boundaries of freefrom in terms of concept, ingredients and/or manufacture.

Categories:

2. Dairy and/or lactose-free animal milk, butter, yogurt and ice cream
Sponsored for 2012 by Swedish Glace

3. Plant (soya, rice, oat, nut, potato, hemp, millet, coconut etc) ‘milk’, spread, yogurt, ‘cheese’ and ice cream
Sponsored for 2012 by Pure

4. FreeFrom breakfast cereals
Sponsored for 2012 by Fria Gluten Free

5. FreeFrom breads and bread mixes
Sponsored for 2012 by Genius Gluten Free

6. FreeFrom pasta and pizza bases/mixes
Sponsored for 2012 by Tesco

7. FreeFrom foods manufactured for food service
Sponsored for 2012 by Livwell

8. FreeFrom ingredients, pastry/pastry mixes, sauces, flour, stock, marinades, sweeteners etc
Sponsored for 2012 by Juvela

9. • NEW • Raw foods and superfoods
Sponsored for 2012 by Asda

10. FreeFrom pizzas, savoury pies, flans, sausages and ready meals
Sponsored for 2012 by Delamere Dairy

11. FreeFrom savoury biscuits and snacks
Sponsored for 2012 by Genon Laboratories

12. FreeFrom scones, sweet tarts, Bakewells, sweet biscuits and cookies
Sponsored for 2012 by Tesco

13. FreeFrom cakes, cake mixes, muffins, brownies, cup cakes, cake bars and Eccles cakes
Sponsored for 2012 by Mrs Crimbles

14. Freefrom puddings, sweet pies, cheesecakes and desserts
Sponsored for 2012 by Hale & Hearty

15. FreeFrom chocolate, snack bars and petit fours
Sponsored for 2012 by Tesco

16. FreeFrom Christmas foods
Sponsored for 2012 by Produced in Italy

17. Gluten-free beer
Sponsored for 2012 by Asda

Although the entires are now in, there is now a very important job to be done. In early February 2012, a select group of people will be undertaking the hard task of judging each category, before selecting a winner and two runners up. I am delighted to announce that Food Allergy Kitchen was invited to be on the judging panel and will be deliberating at a secret location very soon.

Although I cannot reveal the categories I am judging, nor make you privy to highly confidential judging discussions, an update on the awards will be posted after the judging has taken place. Please note that I do not accept bribes…

The shortlist will be published on or around the 1st March 2012, before the awards are presented in April 2012. The Awards will also be showcased at the Allergy & Freefrom Show at Olympia in May.