I had the pleasure to attend the 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show last month in San Francisco. Over 1,300 vendors were spread out in three exhibit halls at the San Francisco Moscone Convention Center and I was a food allergy mom on a mission to find delicious, healthy, and allergy friendly products.
Big PictureThe Winter Fancy Food Show is a huge event with US and international companies proudly showcasing their latest products and sharing samples. It was wonderful to see so many products that were organic and/or non-GMO certified. While there plenty of foods that contained nuts, I looked for allergy friendly snacks, sweets, and well labeled Asian grocery items. I also made it a personal mission to find an allergy friendly ice cream. It was eye-opening to talk with manufacturers about the issues that we care about: what allergens are present or excluded from their facilities, how do they limit cross contact of allergens, do they use allergen advisories, and what information is available on their websites. My big take home lesson from my experience at the Winter Fancy Food Show is that manufacturers want to make what people will buy and they are keen on food trends. What better way to influence change as consumers is there than to take the time to share thoughtful concerns and questions and to support those businesses who make it a priority to make their foods allergy safe, organic, non-GMO, healthy, or whatever criteria that you have for the food that you eat and share with loved ones.
Sometimes I could jump for joy when vendors were stellar. As one example, the folks at Divine Marinade were intrigued by my food allergy related questions and were interested in what they could do to better serve the needs of the food allergy community. What makes a product allergy safe or not? What information do we look for in a label? Seriously, folks, how awesome is that? I loved talking with them. Sometimes I felt like a food allergy mom ambassador to share with some companies about the needs of the food allergy community. At one point, I introduced myself as a food allergy blogger from Nut Free Wok and the representative offered me a sample of tea, which I found out later was mixed with almond milk. Definitely was an eye opening moment for me about the amount of vigilance a person with food allergy needs to stay safe. There were some instances a representative would tell me that their product is nut free and not made in shared facilities with nuts, but upon closer review of their packaging or website, I discovered discrepancies so it’s important to be vigilant.
Fact Check for YourselfFor the reasons I shared above, readers are 100% responsible for for their own safety before buying or consuming any foods. My intention is to highlight products which are peanut and tree nut free but there might be details that slip past me, ingredients and manufacturing practices change without notice, and I have no control over the websites linked. Allergies to the top 8 allergens, peanut, tree nuts, egg, dairy, soy, wheat, shellfish, and fish account for 90% of all allergic reactions but people can be allergic to any food, including ingredients in foods that are considered allergy friendly. Since everyone has allergies to different foods and has different levels of severity, I cannot predict whether any or all of the following food finds would be appropriate for readers. Use this resource as a guide to start your own research, I followed up with each manufacturer by phone or email (except where noted) and only included those which seem consumer friendly, responsive, or with some allergy aware wording on their website or packaging. Please take the time to visit the websites of the brands or products that interest you and consult with your medical care team if you have any questions.
Allergy Friendly FavoritesThese are the rock star brands of the food allergy community. They sponsor food allergy events, support research, and provide allergy friendly alternatives for many families. If you aren’t familiar with them check out their websites. In addition to being portable for lunches or snacks away from home, it’s good to know about these companies so that you can always go to a supermarket and buy something you know is safe when you are heading to a party, on vacation, suddenly need snacks for 30 people, etc.. These are well known brands in the food allergy community and I didn’t follow up with emails or phone calls.
Enjoy Life Foods – Free of the top 8 allergens, gluten, casein, potato, sesame and sulfites, their products include cookies, cereal, snack bars (my younger son loves Cherry Cobbler), seed and fruit mixes (my favorite snack, my older son enjoys these too but he currently has braces and can’t eat them), chocolate for baking and snacking, and Plentils (my older son and husband loves them). They recently announced that they are partnering with Mondalez but will maintain the same dedication to being allergen safe.
Sun Cups – Nut Free and gluten free chocolate cups in four flavors. Dark Chocolate Sun Cups are dabs of Sunbutter spread encased in crisp, delicious dark chocolate. Milk Chocolate Sun Cups is a softer and sweeter milk chocolate cup with a dab of Sunbutter inside. One has to be prepared to eat like a kid when eating the Dark Chocolate Mint Cups or the Milk Chocolate Caramel Cups, bite into the yummy chocolate and a bit of minty goodness or caramel oozes out, what an experience.
PASCHA - Top 8 allergen free, non-GMO verified, organic dark chocolate that is free from peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, egg, fish, wheat, and gluten and comes in a variety of flavors in the form of bars, chips, and (soon to hit the market) personal sizes. The flavors are excellent, slightly decadent, a touch exotic, and best of all safe for people with many kinds of allergies. My friend, Kristen O., shared that she buys PASCHA bars for her children’s teachers during parent-teacher conferences. What a great idea to show a little allergy friendly love.
Lucy’s – Gluten free, vegan, peanut and tree nut free cookies that are non-GMO and allergy safe (except soy). These crispy cookies are in many supermarkets and come in convenient packaging for portability. See what Dr. Lucy is holding in the photo for a hint of what’s to come in the coming months!
Sunbutter - They make peanut and tree nut free sunflower seed spreads that can be used as a nut butter alternative for those who do not have a sunflower seed allergy.