By Lorrie Baumann
Debra Bloom’s Safe Snack Guide is an important resource that schools and parents around the country use to screen the snack foods brought into their classrooms and offered to their children. Specialty foods company Enjoy Life is one of the manufacturers with products on Bloom’s list of safe snacks.
“One of the things we look for at Enjoy Life is how we can bring the celebration back into everyone’s life,” says Joel Warady, Enjoy Life’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. “The way we do that is that all our products, everything we produce, in addition to being gluten-free, is free of the top eight allergens: eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. That covers about 90 percent of all food allergies in children today.”
Enjoy Life was started 12 years ago by Scott Mandrell, who is still its CEO today, as a manufacturer of gluten-free products. “He started thinking about how to make the gluten-free products even more unique, and that’s when the idea of making allergy-friendly foods came about,” Warady says.
Today, Enjoy Life has eight different product lines, all allergy-friendly. Warady can spin them out for you without a second thought: “Cookies (soft and crunchy), on-the go bars (classic line and decadent line), cereals that are high in fiber and high in protein, which are adult-focused, Plentils, a salty snack line which is a crunchy lentil chip in four savory flavors. We have the only nut-free trail mix in the market, composed of just seeds and fruit.”
Enjoy Life’s products are not just free of gluten and the eight most common allergens, they are also tasty. Over the years, the company has improved the taste across the entire product line. They are a little more expensive than a mass-marketed product, but some of that extra cost goes into rigorous testing procedures and quality assurance controls that ensure that the products are best in class.
“We built the company on three tenets: taste, trust and love,” Warady says. “Number one, our consumers have to trust us. They have to trust that our brand won’t hurt their children. We build that trust every single day with every cookie we produce.”
“We talk about celebration. In reality, it’s more than just classrooms. It’s the birthday parties and the family gatherings. For years, so many children with food allergies were prohibited from going to birthday parties because there was nothing there that was safe for them to eat,” Warady adds. “Because there are these foods now, people can go to parties and enjoy themselves at whatever party they might want to attend.”
For more information, visit www.enjoylifefoods.com.
By Lorrie Baumann
Food allergy is a growing public health concern in the United States. Food allergies are responsible for 100 to 200 deaths a year in the United States, and many studies have found that the prevalence of food allergies is on the rise for both children and adults over the past 10 to 20 years, although the reasons for this are not clear.
Food allergies affect 15 million Americans, including 1 in 13 children, roughly two in every classroom. Nearly 40 percent of children with food allergies have experienced a severe or life-threatening reaction, such as anaphylaxis, which is a severe, potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Find allergy-friendly food products here.
Many Americans really don’t understand that food allergies are a serious, life-threatening issue for many people, especially children. This is according to Debbi Beauvais, a registered dietician and the District Supervisor of School Nutrition for schools in Rochester, N.Y. Beauvais spends a great deal of her time training the foodservice workers in her school district on how to prevent allergic reactions among students and how to recognize and respond to them if they occur. “When I talk to people about allergies in general, there’s a misperception of the definition of an allergy,” she says. “There are allergies, intolerances and people who say they have an allergy when they mean they don’t like the food.”
“A lot of people don’t realize that a food allergy can cause a severe medical event,” Beauvais continues. “It’s not as simple as that they just don’t like that food.”
According to Food Allergy Research and Education, a nonprofit organization that works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, a food allergy is a reaction of the body’s immune system to a protein in a food. There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions are key to preventing serious health consequences. Other food reactions and sensitivities to food are called food intolerances. Food intolerances are reactions that are generally localized, temporary and rarely life-threatening. The most common of these is lactose intolerance. Gluten intolerance is another.
The national school lunch program has very specific requirements for how to deal with students who have food allergies, and those have just been supplemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the October 2013 release of Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs. The guidelines were issued in compliance with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act passed by Congress in 2011 to shift the focus on food safety from response to prevention.
“The new guidelines are significantly broader and address issues that haven’t had that level of structured attention: food in the classroom, the broader school day beyond what happens at lunchtimes,” says Diane Pratt-Heavner, Director of Media Relations for the School Nutrition Association. “It really makes sense for those children who have life-threatening allergies. Unfortunately, food is all around … Kids can encounter the item on the school bus, after class, in a party or at a bake sale, so it is important to bring everyone into the mix to make sure those children are in a safe environment.”
The guidelines note that children with food allergies may face health challenges that affect their ability to learn and their social and emotional development, and that food allergies may even pose a daily threat to allergic children’s ability to live productive lives. CDC studies show that 16 to 18 percent of children with food allergies have had a reaction from accidentally consuming food allergens while at school and that one in four of the severe and potentially life-threatening incident of anaphylaxis reported at schools happened to children with no previous diagnosis of food allergy. While milk is the single most common food allergen, fatalities associated with food-induced anaphylaxis are most commonly associated with peanut or tree nut ingestion. Eight foods account for more than 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
Debra Bloom is a mom who wishes that more Americans understood the potential danger of exposure to a food allergen. Her daughter Elisabeth was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts and eggs when she was just a year old. Elisabeth’s first really noticeable allergic reaction happened on the third time she ate egg, Bloom recalls. “I was getting her something to drink, and when I turned back to the high chair, she had hives all over the side of her face and all over her neck,” she says. “She started rubbing her eyes, which were swelling.” Bloom called her pediatrician immediately and was advised to administer Benadryl, which brought the reaction under control. “The swelling went down, and the hives went away, and she was fine.”
While her daughter was fine, Bloom herself was scared. She made an appointment with an allergist and had Elisabeth tested. “She came up positive for egg and for peanuts. I wasn’t surprised about the egg, but the peanuts results really threw me,” she says. “I had heard many stories about reactions that were far worse than what Elisabeth had experienced, with children suffering full-blown anaphylaxis and not able to breathe. When that happens, you need to rush your child to the hospital. We were lucky.”
A diagnosis of food allergy is a life-altering event, as patients and those who care for them come to grips with the realization that allergic reactions to food are unpredictable and can be deadly. Just because a food caused only a minor allergic reaction once doesn’t mean that the reaction won’t be much more severe the next time it happens. “You have to take every case seriously,” Beauvais says. “You can’t assume that if you only got hives this time, you know how your body will react the next time.”
According to the CDC, food allergen avoidance and the risk of severe allergic reactions can have substantial daily consequences for both allergic children and their caregivers. Caregivers, especially mothers, can experience anxiety, stress and diminished quality of life, and a study of children with peanut allergies found that those kids had significantly poorer quality of life than their siblings as well as greater separation anxiety. A 2012 study found that more than a third of children and teens with food allergies reported having been bullied specifically because of their food allergy, often by being threatened with exposure to an allergen. Some parents even choose to home school their children because of food allergies. In addition, parents with allergic children report that the food allergy significantly affects meal preparation and often family social activities.
When it came time for Elisabeth to head off to school the first time, Bloom found that while the faculty and staff understood how serious was the need to protect her and other children with food allergies, other students’ parents were not so understanding. That created conflicts almost as soon as Elisabeth went to kindergarten. “The kindergarten class had a lot of parties. I wanted to have a say in what they were having, to keep my daughter safe. It was something I had to do,” she says. “At the first meeting to plan the class party, I felt like I was the subject of a witch hunt. We were talking about snacks for the party. I offered to bake 80 cupcakes for the entire kindergarten because I felt that if I baked all the cupcakes, I could ensure her safety.” The other parents in the party-planning group revolted, and Bloom was accused of trying to deprive the other children in the class of their treats.
Bloom left the meeting, went to the supermarket and started reading labels, making a list of safe snacks that all the kids could enjoy. Then she went back to the other mothers to assure them that no one was going to be deprived because her daughter needed to be protected from exposure to peanuts and eggs. “There are a lot of treats in the market that are safe for everyone,” she assured them.
Eventually, that list turned into the Safe Snack Guide, a resource schools and parents around the country use to screen the snack foods brought into their classrooms and offered to their children. Listing a qualifying product is free for the manufacturer, and more than 500 schools are on record as recommending her site, www.snacksafely.com, to their parents.
Elisabeth is in seventh grade now, and Bloom is finding that greater awareness of the potential consequences of food allergies is helping to diminish the intolerance she hears from other parents. Her daughter has joined the ranks of older children and adults who have learned to monitor their own potential exposures and to advocate for themselves to make sure that they are not exposed. That does not mean that Bloom is less vigilant on behalf of her daughter and other children with food allergies. “As far as being nervous, that will never go away unless a cure is found. Food is everywhere. It’s such a part of life,” she says.
“What every mom wants for their child is to be safe, to be included and to be well adjusted. So many people take safety for granted,” she continues. “You send your kid off to school, and you don’t know if they’re going to be exposed to someone else’s snack, or eat something dangerous that’s offered to them. You put your child’s life in other people’s hands all the time.”
Throughout its more than 100 year history, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has earned its reputation as a manufacturer of the finest extracts in the world. The full line of Nielsen-Massey’s Pure Vanilla products include: Vanilla Beans and Extracts from Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico; sugar and alcohol-free Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder; Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste; Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar, Organic Fairtrade Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Beans.
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas also offers a full line of pure flavors: Pure Chocolate Extract, Pure Almond Extract, Pure Orange Extract, Pure Lemon Extract, Pure Coffee Extract, Pure Peppermint Extract, Orange Blossom Water and Rose Water. All Nielsen-Massey products are all-natural, allergen-free, and certified kosher and gluten-free.
The company is headquartered in Waukegan, Illinois, with production facilities in Waukegan and Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.
We can expect to see holiday items in the Lucy’s line of all-natural, gluten free cookies at the Summer Fancy Food Show, says Elisa Krafchin, National Sales Manager for the Foodservice and Convenience Channel. Those items include Pumpkin, Holiday Sugar and Chocolate Merry Mint cookies, she said.
The entire Lucy’s line is gluten free, peanut-free, tree nut free, and allergy-friendly, Krafchin said. The products are made in a dedicated allergy-friendly facility under the direction of the company founder, whose son has food allergies, she added.
Sunshine Burger, the #1 selling brand of certified organic veggie burgers in America, has been honored with recognition in Prevention Magazine’s2014 Cleanest Packaged Food Awards for its Black Bean South West Burger.
The Black Bean South West Burger, which is made with sunflower kernels, brown rice, jalapeño, carrots, cilantro and black beans, is a good source of plant-based fiber and protein, as well as vitamin A, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Like all of the company’s products, the burgers are baked and made with verified non-GMO whole food ingredients – free of wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, corn, dairy, eggs or any added oils.
“We are honored to receive this recognition,” said Cole Jones, General Manager of Sunshine Burger & Specialty Food Company. “Sunshine Burger is dedicated to providing food that is healthful and wholesome and that starts with using real, certified organic, non-GMO ingredients in all of our burgers.”
Sunshine Burgers are available in seven unique flavors – Garden Herb, Loco Chipotle, Barbeque, Falafel, Shiitake Mushroom and Hemp & Sage Breakfast. Last month, the Garden Herb burger was ranked the best-selling meat alternative item in the natural channel by SPINs, a market research company.
Coming off a successful exposition of its newest gluten-free pizza at Natural Products Expo West in March, Sonoma Flatbreads by Donatos® is continuing to rise. The emerging new brand will exhibit at the Gluten & Allergen Free (GFAF) Expo in Schaumburg, Ill., on April 12-13, 2014. The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo, which attracts more than 20,000 gluten-free and allergen-free consumers each year, is hosting the first iteration of its six-city tour this year in the Chicago area. The expo features presenters who are experts in the gluten and allergen free space and is touted to be the largest gluten free exposition in the United States.
Appealing to everyday and gourmet pizza lovers alike – and to those who like to personalize their pizza – the newest offering to join the Sonoma Flatbreads line of gluten-free pizzas is Chicken and Fire Roasted Peppers. This 12-inch pizza has a net weight of 18.88 ounces and includes a special crushed red pepper spice packet.
Exhibiting at Gluten & Allergen Free Expo is timely for Jane’s Dough Foods, an independent, family-owned company celebrating more than 50 years of business, as the company is innovating the way consumers think about gluten-free pizza. “We are redefining gluten-free pizza by combining the flavors and ingredients that speak to today’s consumer with 50 years of restaurant industry know-how,” says Alan Hoover, General Manager of Jane’s Dough Foods, maker of Sonoma Flatbreads. The pizza features antibiotic-free chicken that was fed a vegetarian diet and is minimally processed. The pepper trio includes fire roasted green, red, and yellow bell peppers. A rich tomato sauce and lightly smoked provolone round out the offering. Made with “simply honest ingredients,” there are no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives in any of the Sonoma Flatbreads line. Each serving of the new pizza flavor provides 14 grams of protein. The suggested retail price is $8.99.
Orange tongues and fingers, grease stains, high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, high calorie counts are the telltale signs of cheese-flavored chips, crisps and crackers.
Until now. Mr. Cheese O’s an all-natural, crunchy, delicious, and fun O-shaped cheese snack has announced its launch at Natural Foods Expo West. Mr. Cheese O’s comes from Sonoma Creamery, an artisan cheese company based in California’s wine country, that makes hormone free, 100-percent natural, gluten-free cheeses. The new healthier, wheat-free, corn-free snack comes in four indulgent varieties, — Original, Cheddar, Tuscan Herb and Sweet Chili — with 10-grams of protein per 1-ounce bag, using organic quinoa and other ancient grains.
Mr. Cheese O’s is a snack every kid will crave and every parent will feel good about serving – not to mention adults craving it themselves! Mr. Cheese O’s will be available in the deli section of national grocery and convenience store chains starting this June.
Mr. Cheese O’s handcrafted all-natural cheese and O-shaped bites that contain no artificial ingredients or artificial hormones. They’re gluten-free, preservative-free, corn-free and wheat-free. Made from organic quinoa and other ancient grains, they contain just 75 calories per serving and 150 calories for the 1-ounce pack. There are 10 grams of protein and 25 percent of the daily value of calcium in each pack, with no trans fat, 0 grams of sugar and 6 grams of carbohydrates. The list of ingredients is short, clear and pronounceable.
“As parents, how can we trust snack products that use ingredients with names we can’t even pronounce?” said Sonoma Creamery’s CEO, John Crean. “In a space that’s dominated by not-so-good-for-you products, and being a dad myself, I’m proud that our new Mr. Cheese O’s product is an extra tasty, crunchy real cheese snack with a clean label and all natural ingredients that parents can feel good about giving their kids – and maybe saving a few for themselves, as well.”
Mr. Cheese O’s is set to roll out nationwide in all four varieties early this summer. One-ounce packs of Mr. Cheese O’s will retail for $2.99. Learn more at http://mrcheeseos.com and like Mr. Cheese O’s on Facebook at http://facebook.com/mrcheesesos.
By Lorrie Baumann
The Clean, Lean and Sexy line of snack foods friendly to those with food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies began with a mother concerned about helping her daughter enjoy her life while protecting her from foods that might cause her digestive distress.
Suzie Carpenter, the founding owner of Clean, Lean and Sexy began looking for convenient food treats that her daughter Kelly could enjoy after Kelly was diagnosed with celiac disease at age three. “My daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease 15 years ago, and that’s how the journey began with gluten-free living,” she says. “We have a lot of the same food sensitivities, and so it was a matter not just of finding food for her but of finding food for myself.”
Carpenter found early on that keeping her daughter and herself healthy meant cooking everything from scratch, since more convenient options taken for granted by most Americans simply were not available. “We’re talking 15 years ago, and there weren’t a lot of options. She has other food sensitivities as well. There wasn’t anything she could eat from a box or a bag,” Carpenter says.
Eventually, Carpenter turned the knowledge she had gained about preparing and eating healthful meals into a career. “I went back to school to study nutrition and eventually started a business developing a program for people for healthy weight loss based on principles that I’d developed for myself and for my daughters,” she says.
Now, Carpenter is making products for others who need to be careful about what they eat but still occasionally want to enjoy a delicious snack. The Clean, Lean and Sexy line of snack foods includes Air Popped Popcorn, Coconut Cashew All Natural Whole Food Energy Bars and Honey Almond All Natural Whole Food Energy Bars. “My intention is to make gluten-free products with all healthy ingredients, no hidden ingredients, but it’s fun,” Carpenter says. “There will be more products in the future. We’re currently looking for new flavors to do [a] line extension for the bars. There are no grains in them, no processed sugars and no grains.”
“The popcorn is made with high-oleic expeller-pressed sunflower oil, so it’s got a little bit of a different flavor—a richer flavor than some of the traditional snack food oils,” she adds. “We’re getting comments from people who are wondering how we make this taste like butter when there’s no butter or butter flavoring in the ingredients.”
The newest product in the line is a gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free and sugar-free pretzel that debuted at Natural Products Expo East last fall and is now coming to the market after being in development for more than a year. “The response to everything was phenomenal, but the response to the pretzel was really super,” Carpenter says.
Clean, Lean and Sexy popcorn and pretzels are made in a dedicated gluten-free, nut-free facility. Snack bars are made in a separate facility to sequester the nuts from the popcorn and pretzels. But for all the meticulous attention that goes into making sure that the products are free of ingredients that may cause pain, Carpenter says that even more attention goes into making them delicious as well as nutritious. “For years we suffered with very few options for something to eat, so it’s nice to have something fun that tastes good and is in a cool package and people are talking about it.”
For further information, visit www.cleanleansexy.com.
Free From Food Expo 2014 is Europe’s focused trade show for, and initiated by, the ‘free from’ industry. It’s a key trading platform where top-level decision makers come to source new products, meet new and existing suppliers and keep up-to-date with trends and innovations in the fast growing ‘free from food and beverage’ industry. The show is scheduled to take place June 3 and 4 in Brussels, Belgium.
This two day exhibition and conference will see more than 2,000 buyers and specifiers from small and large retail and food service sectors as well as bio, health, convenience stores and catering companies and nearly 150 exhibitors from across Europe including ‘free from’ food (and ‘free from’ ingredients) manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and traders. Visitors will have an opportunity to attend 25 seminars covering a wide range of topics such as Product Development from Consumer Perspective, Gluten Free Market in Five Years’ Time, Labels and Certifications, Free From Food Market From the Retail Perspective and Importing and Exporting Trends.
Free From Food 2014 is supported by the Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS), an independent, non-profit organisation aiming to raise awareness of celiac disease and to promote research into the diagnosis and management of this illness.
This year, to recognize the growing importance of ‘free from’ food and ingredients, the organizers are also launching the Free From Food Ingredients 2014 Expo. Ronald Holman, Exhibition and Sales Director says: “Free from food solutions are becoming more and more important for the R&D departments and food technologists working with food manufacturers. Retailers and consumers simply demand higher standards, better taste, quality and healthier alternatives. Free From Food Ingredients 2014 will provide the most dedicated platform with exhibitors like Döhler GmbH, Solanic (AVEBE), Meurens Natural, Ernst Böcker, Erbacher etc.”
Hamish Renton, one of the founding partners of the show says: “The first exhibition of Free From Food was a great success for exhibitors and visitors alike. The trade show attracted a high quality buying and decision making audience from Europe’s best retail and food service companies. This year we have a variety of high calibre speakers at the Conference, as well as world famous brands exhibiting and supporting our event. We are expecting hundreds of delegates from across Europe… a sure recognition of the importance of this fast growing sector of the food retailing sector. ”
Free from food categories cover all food and beverage products which are gluten free, lactose free, dairy free, yeast free, wheat free, egg free, GM free, sugar and fat free and vegan.
This year’s exhibitors include: ABS Food, Allergenen Consultancy, Allergy Service Suisse, Bauckhof, Dohler, Dove’s Farm, Dutch Spices, Ernst Bocker, Farmo, Fria, Genius Gluten Free, Hi-Food Ingredients, Nestle, Nielsen, Orgran, Semper, Warburtons.