Allergy-Friendly Passover and Easter Recipes

For many, Easter and Passover herald the beginning of spring and bring together family for special meals to mark the holidays. Our Passover lasagna is a great way to use up leftover matzo, or as a meal during the week. Blueberry-Peach Upside-Down Cake makes a great addition to Easter brunch. And our spring punch is a refreshing beverage to serve to children and adults alike!

Passover Lasagna
Milk-free, Egg-free, Peanut-free, Soy-free, Tree nut-free

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs. ground turkey
  • 2 (10-oz.) packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 (26-oz.) jar meatless tomato sauce (homemade or a jar kosher for Passover)
  • 6 to 8 Passover matzo boards

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until opaque. Add garlic and turkey; saute until browned. Stir in spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Blend ingredients well and remove from heat.

Pour 1/2 cup tomato sauce into 9×12-inch pan. Moisten 3 to 4 matzo boards under running water. Do not allow them to become soggy. Place each matzo board in baking pan, covering tomato sauce with layer of matzo. Top with half turkey mixture. Pour half of remaining tomato sauce over turkey. Moisten remaining matzo boards and layer over tomato sauce. Follow with remaining turkey mixture and remaining sauce. Bake 30 minutes.

Blueberry-Peach Upside-Down Cake
Milk-free, Egg-free, Peanut-free, Soy-free, Tree nut-free

  • 1 (15-oz.) can sliced peaches
  • 1/4 cup milk-free, soy-free margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 packet plain gelatin
  • 2 T. warm water
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain peaches, reserving half cup liquid. Set aside. Spread margarine in bottom of 8-inch round cake pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Arrange peaches and blueberries on top of brown sugar. Set aside. In large bowl, cream together sugar and shortening. In small cup, dissolve gelatin into warm water. Beat into shortening mixture. Set aside. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with reserved peach liquid. Mix well. Carefully pour mixture over peaches and blueberries. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto serving plate.

Spring Punch
Milk-free, Egg-free, Wheat-free, Peanut-free, Soy-free, Tree nut-free

  • 1 (2-liter) bottle ginger ale, chilled
  • 1 (12-oz.) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate

In large bowl, add ginger ale and pink lemonade concentrate, stirring until combined. Serve immediately. Ice may be added, if desired.

Suggestion: Use lemon-lime soda or carbonated water in place of ginger ale.

Food Allergy Friendly Baseball Games 2014

baseball-gameSpring is here, and so is baseball season. We are encouraged by the number of baseball teams that are actively engaging members of the food allergy community by hosting special “peanut-sensitive” or “peanut-aware” games.

Follow the links for more information about how to purchase tickets and the accommodations available at specific games. We will be updating it with new events as we learn of them.

April

April 12: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

April 13: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

April 13: Tampa Bay Rays at Cincinatti Reds (Great American Ball Park)

April 18: Philadelphia Phillies at Colorado Rockies (Coors Field)

April 25: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

April 26: San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

April 27: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

April 27: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

April 27: Miami Marlins at New York Mets (Citi Field)

May

May 11: Colorado Rockies at Cincinnati Reds (Great American Ball Park)

May 18: New York Mets at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

May 22: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

May 25: Colorado Rockies at Atlanta Braves (Turner Field)

May 25: Oakland A’s at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

May 25: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers (Comerica Park)

May 30: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

May 30: New  York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

June

June 1: Delmarva Shorebirds at Lakewood BlueClaws (FirstEnergy Stadium)

June 6: Oakland A’s at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

June 11: Gwinnett Braves at Louisville Bats (Louisville Slugger Field)

June 13: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

June 15: Vermont Lake Monsters at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

June 15: Wisconsin Woodchucks at Madison Mallards (Warner Park)

June 20: Long Island Ducks at Camden Riversharks (Campbell’s Field)

June 21: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

June 22: Philadelphia Phillies at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

June 22: Tri-City ValleyCats at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

June 23: Chicago Cubs at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

June 23: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants (AT&T Park)

June 24: Mississippi Braves at Birmingham Barons (Regions Field)

June 28: Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

June 29: Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

July

July 1: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (Turner Field)

July 6: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park)

July 17: New Britain Rock Cats at Reading Fightins (First Energy Stadium)

July 19: Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

July 19: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

July 20: New York Mets at San Diego Padres (Link unavailable, we will update as soon as we have more information on how to purchase tickets).

July 20: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park)

July 20: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

July 21: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

July 22: New York Mets at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

July 22: Tampa Bay Rays at St. Louis Cardinals (Busch Stadium)

July 27: Brooklyn Cyclones at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

July 29: Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

July 29: Brooklyn Cyclones at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

July 30: Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants (AT&T Park)

August 

August 3: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals (BuschStadium)

August 8: St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

August 8: Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

August 9: Sioux City at St. Paul Saints 

August 10: Williamsport Crosscutters at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

August 15: Indianapolis Indians at Louisville Bats (Louisville Slugger Field)

August 17: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

August 19: Toronto Blue Jays at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

August 24: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

August 25: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

August 25: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

August 31: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves (Turner Field)

September

September 13: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

September 14: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

September 16: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

Have you heard about other games in your area? Post your comments below.

Giving Back: FARE Awards More Than $135,000 in Support to 60 Communities Nationwide

By John Lehr, CEO of FARE

As the nation’s leading organization dedicated to food allergy and anaphylaxis, building education and understanding throughout the country is a critical component of FARE’s mission.

Working with local leaders is a vital part of how we advance our shared cause. And that’s why we are so proud to announce that we are awarding more than $135,000 in grant support to 60 communities across the country to advance food allergy education, advocacy and awareness efforts as part of FARE’s 2014 Community Outreach Grants program. This is the largest grant pool every awarded in a single year, and is more than double the amount awarded last year.

With these grants, we are helping local food allergy leaders – support group leaders and FARE Walk for Food Allergy chairs – put on programs that will result in a better understanding of food allergies within their local communities. Food allergy is a growing problem — and it will take each and every one of us across the country to raise awareness, advocate and educate in order to keep everyone safe and included.

The projects that were selected to receive grants this year underwent a peer-reviewed application process. Grant applications were reviewed by a selection committee and awarded based on community need, scope, anticipated impact, achievability of project objectives, cost efficiency and geographic diversity.

In 30 states across the country, dedicated volunteers will be using grants from FARE to carry out a wide spectrum of innovative projects throughout 2014. Congratulations to the food allergy support group leaders and FARE Walk for Food Allergy chairs who worked so hard to develop programs that will make an impact in their communities. We look forward to hearing about your successes, and to continuing to expand the FARE Community Outreach Grants Program in the coming years.

The projects are listed below by region:

Midwest

  • Freeze Pops to Say FAREwell to Food Allergies
    FARE Walk Chicago (Chicago Metro Area, IL)
  • Michiana Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Support
    Michiana Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Support (South Bend/Lakeville, IN)
  • Back to School with Food Allergies Education for Schools
    Tri State Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Support Group (Serving Southern IL, IN, and KY)
  • Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Michigan Conference
    Circle of Food Allergic Families (COFAF) Support Group Leader (Metro Detroit, MI)
  • Food Free Easter Egg Hunt
    No Nuts Moms Group of Michigan (Auburn Hills, MI)
  • 504 Plans – 3 Part Series of Presentations
    FACES of Michigan (Macomb County, MI)
  • Booth Outreach Program
    Anaphylaxis & Food Allergy Association of Minnesota (Statewide, MN)
  • Food Allergy Resource Fair
    Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota (Statewide, MN)
  • Halloween/Fall Event, St. Louis County Health & Human Services Conference, Printed Materials & Website Support
    Northland Food Allergy Support Group (Duluth, MN)
  • Halloween Event, Winter Event, and Educational Materials
    West Metro Food Allergy Connection (Howard Lake, MN)
  • Share the Knowledge Summit
    Food Allergy Focus (Cleveland, OH)
  • Understanding Physical, Social, and Emotional Aspects of Kids Living with Food Allergies – Creating a Plan to Keep Them Safe & Included
    FARE Walk Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Wisconsin Community Growth Initiative
    Food Allergy Association of Wisconsin - SE WI Chapter (Southeast WI)
  • Resource Fair & Presentations
    Food Allergy Association of Wisconsin (Madison, WI)
  • School Nurse Advocacy Effort
    Fox Valley Food Allergy Support Group (Fox Valley Area, WI)
  • FARE Conference Scholarship
    FARE Walk Detroit (Detroit, MI)

Northeast

  • Food Allergy Awareness Week Programming, Guest Speaker Series, Resource Printing & Web Development
    Food Allergy Education Network (Statewide, CT)
  • Program on Eosinophilic Esophagitis in the Spectrum of Food Allergy
    FARE Walk Boston (Boston, MA)
  • Food Allergy Expo and Conference
    Food Allergy & Asthma Support Group of North Jersey (Northern NJ)
  • Coping with Transitions: Sessions for Parents & Children with Food Allergies
    FARE Walk Westchester (Westchester County, NY)
  • Support Group Website Build
    FoodAllergyNY (Tarrytown, NY)
  • Educational Outreach for Schools, Families, & Children with Food Allergies
    Capital District Food Allergy Support Group (Albany, NY)
  • Community Awareness Initiative for Food Allergies and Educational Info Distribution
    FARE Walk Buffalo/Western NY (Buffalo, NY)
  • Port Washington Nurse Education Scholarship
    Food Allergy Support and Education (Nassau County, NY)
  • FACTS Forum on Food Allergy in Schools: Keeping Our Children Safe
    Food Allergies: Coping, Teaching, Supporting (FACTS) (Rochester NY)
  • Community Stewardship Materials
    Greater Buffalo Food Allergy Alliance (Buffalo, NY)
  • Materials for Local Baseball Game Peanut-free Section and School Health Fair
    Food Allergy Families of Rockland (Rockland County, NY)
  • Feel Good Forum and Support Group Operations
    FEAST of the Main Line (Philadelphia, PA)
  • PHACT Awareness and Operations
    Parents Having Allergic Children Team (PHACT) (Chester County, PA)
  • Support Group Operations
    Food Allergy Support Group of Tidewater (FASGOT) (Hampton Roads/Tidewater, VA)
  • Education Materials for Loudoun County School District and Support Group Operations
    Loudoun Allergy Network (Loudoun County, VA)
  • School Presentation Packs for Food Allergy Awareness
    Food Allergy Support Group of Northern VA (Fairfax, VA)
  • Food Allergy Awareness Week Campaign and Support Group Activities/Materials
    FARE Walk Wheeling/Ohio Valley Kids with Food Allergies (Wheeling/Moundsville, WV)

Northeast/Southeast

  • Southeastern VA and Northeast NC Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Community Enrichment
    FARE Walk Virginia Beach/Food Allergy Association of Virginia Beach (Southern VA/Northern NC)

Southeast

  • Educational Symposium/Walk Kickoff and Support Group Development
    FARE Walk Birmingham (Birmingham, AL)
  • St. Johns/Jacksonville Nurse Training, Support Group Maintenance, and Lending Library Materials
    FARE Walk Jacksonville/Food Allergy Families of St. Johns (Jacksonville/St. Johns, FL)
  • Educational Symposium/Walk Kickoff/Ask the Expert Panel
    FARE Walk Tampa (Tampa, FL)
  • Educational Symposium/Walk Kickoff/Ask the Expert Panel
    FARE Walk Orlando (Orlando, FL)
  • Food Friendly Halloween Party
    No Nuts Moms Group Palm Beach County (Palm Beach County, FL)
  • Atlanta Food Allergy Outreach/Atlanta Walk
    FARE Walk Atlanta (Atlanta, GA)
  • Food Allergy Treatment Roundtable and Chefs Make Vacations Easy
    FARE Walk Raleigh/NC FACES (Raleigh, NC)
  • EMT/First Responder Anaphylaxis Training
    PAK Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)
  • Practice of Presence Workshop and Support Group Operations
    Food Allergy Families of the Triad (Triad, NC)
  • Education and Outreach to Promote FARE Walk
    FARE Walk Simpsonville/SAFE of Greenville (Greenville, SC)
  • Walk Symposium and Support Group Revitalization
    FARE Walk Nashville (Nashville, TN)
  • Walk Seminar, Support Group Maintenance, and Support Group Lending Library
    FARE Walk Memphis (Memphis, TN)
  • Project Teal
    Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) (Knoxville, TN)

Southwest

  • Food Allergy Community Awareness and Education
    SAFE Boulder County (Boulder County, CO)
  • Educate Schools in Central Oklahoma
    Food Allergy Awareness Coalition (Central OK)
  • 2014 Austin Families with Food Allergies Retreat, ER and Urgent Care Education
    Austin Families with Food Allergies (Austin, TX)
  • Kyle Dine Concert and Awareness Materials
    San Antonio Food Allergy Support Team (San Antonio, TX)
  • Kyle Dine Concert and Awareness Materials
    FARE Walk Phoenix (Phoenix, AZ)

West

  • Kyle Dine Awareness Concerts, School/School Nurse Education, Educational Materials, and Support Group Operations
    San Francisco Bay Area Food Allergy Network (Bay Area, CA)
  • Support Group Development, Awareness Activities, Food Allergy Free Easter Hunt
    No Nuts Moms Group LA (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Website Maintenance
    Billings Kids with Food Allergies (Statewide, MT)
  • Clark County School District CDC Guideline Implementation
    FARE Walk Las Vegas (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Educate Northern Nevada School Nurses and Principals
    AAPE Nevada (Northern NV)
  • Local Adoption of Statewide Food Allergy Management Guidelines in Oregon K-12 Schools
    Oregon Food Allergy Network (OFAN) (Statewide, OR)
  • Utah Food Allergy Easter Egg Hunt, Conference, Support Group Education, Kids Summer Camp, Trunk-or-Treat, Kyle Dine Concert
    FARE Walk Utah/Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN) (Statewide, UT)
  • Regional Food Allergy Conference, Kyle Dine Concerts, Field Guides to Newly Diagnosed, and Restaurant Education Scholarship for Small Businesses
    Washington FEAST (Seattle, WA)

What’s so funny about anaphylaxis?

By Veronica LaFemina, Vice President of Communications at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

Growing up in a food allergy family, I lived in a world where people barely knew what a food allergy was, let alone that it could be life-threatening. It wasn’t always easy to explain to my friends that they couldn’t bring candy or snacks with peanuts or tree nuts over to my house, but this rule was always met with curiosity and compliance – not eye-rolling or jokes.

Today, as someone whose work is dedicated to increasing awareness of food allergy as a serious, potentially life-threatening and growing public health issue, I know there is still much work to be done, but I am heartened by the significant progress that’s been made in ensuring people with food allergies are safe and included. From advances in research and improved laws and regulations at the federal and state levels to national education initiatives, grassroots advocacy movements and nationwide news coverage – all of these efforts have contributed to greater awareness, empathy and action in support of the food allergy community.

One area that’s lagging behind, though, is the portrayal of food allergies in movies and television. These mediums are so powerful in tackling tough issues, shaping our cultural conversations, and shedding light on societal trends in ways that make us think, discuss, question and laugh.

But when it comes to food allergies, many movies and television shows are still living in the Dark Ages. In the last week alone, at least three primetime television shows included scenes that made light of food allergies.

All too often, food allergies are played for a cheap laugh – they’re the topic of a prank or the target of a joke. Reactions are portrayed unrealistically and in such a way that could cost characters their lives, and characters who don’t have food allergies are disproportionately depicted as people who are strangely excited at the possibility of sending someone to the hospital. These portrayals are not only untrue and hurtful – they are dangerous.

Some will say that the mere presence of food allergies and anaphylaxis in popular culture is a sign that the disease is gaining ground in the national consciousness. It is, and that is important. It’s also true that there are many different ways to broach a topic and bring attention to it, including using humor appropriately to educate and raise awareness.

But as a society, we can do better. And as a community, we can help by pointing people in the right direction.

In that spirit, for the producers and writers of movies and television shows who are interested in including food allergies in their story lines, I’d encourage you to keep the following in mind:

  1. Food allergies can be life-threatening. The most insidious fact about food allergy is that there is no way to know how severe a reaction will be until it happens – which means that every reaction has the potential to lead to a hospital visit, or worse. Today, without a cure or preventive treatments that can reduce the risk of life-threatening reactions, avoiding the food completely is critical (and much harder than it sounds). A person with a diagnosed food allergy should also be prepared for a severe reaction (anaphylaxis). That means having two epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times, and knowing how and when to use them (for young children, it’s important for a responsible adult to carry and know how to use the auto-injector). When a severe reaction does occur, the person must be treated immediately with an epinephrine auto-injector and then 911 should be called to transport them to the hospital for further treatment and observation for at least four hours to ensure the symptoms don’t return.A recent episode of a network television sitcom depicted a character self-injecting epinephrine and then remaining at her desk while co-workers laughed about the incident – in the real world, this scene could have ended in tragedy. To treat it so lightly is irresponsible and could be dangerous. If you’re going to show a reaction, then show what it’s really like – not an unrealistic version that downplays the severity and potential consequences.
  1. 15 million people in the U.S. have food allergies. That’s enough people to be our fifth largest state. Since this is a common disease, it makes sense to incorporate characters with food allergies into your work. But it doesn’t make sense to play into a stale stereotype. Food allergy is an invisible disease that doesn’t discriminate based on race, geography, economic status or any other factor. It affects a diverse array of adults and children throughout the country, disproportionately affects African Americans, and is a reality for professional athletes, scientists, actors, musicians, and even those who live at the White House. When you determine which character will have a food allergy, it’s important to keep these facts in mind.
  1. Food allergy bullying is real and can have dire consequences. Movies and television have taken on the broad topic of bullying and explored the issue in meaningful and poignant ways. So what makes food allergy bullying different? A third of kids with food allergies have been bullied specifically because of them, and half of those kids didn’t tell their parents about it. Watching popular shows model ways in which to bully kids with food allergies is terrifying – for adults and children alike – and for what? A lame filler laugh? If exploring food allergy bullying is important to the story you are trying to tell, avoid showing exactly what happened and be sure to show the consequences the bully faced. Don’t make bullying look cool or even acceptable. You can learn more about this subject via FARE’s “It’s Not a Joke” campaign to address food allergy bullying.
  1. Approach this topic in the same way you would other life-threatening medical conditions. Humor can be excellent for softening difficult scenarios and supporting the healing process. And food allergy certainly isn’t the only disease that movies and television shows poke fun at. But when you’re writing a scene about food allergies, I’d ask you to consider this – would you make the same joke about cancer, or diabetes, or a heart attack? More often than not, the answer will be no. This isn’t about special treatment – it’s about being evaluated by the same standard.

Next Monday, March 31, the food allergy community will remember those individuals who have lost their lives to anaphylaxis, and this spring, we as a community will be promoting events like World Allergy Week and Food Allergy Awareness Week to help increase understanding of and support for our cause. Despite these tragedies and the need for greater understanding, food allergies still face skepticism in a way that other diseases rarely seem to.

We are at a critical time in the national discourse around food allergies. Movies and television shows are in a unique position to shape the cultural conversation about the disease. My hope is that they will continue to include stories about food allergy – because food allergy does touch all of us, and it needs to be better understood – and that they do so in a more realistic and empathetic way.

Veronica LaFemina is Vice President of Communications at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Her father and younger sister have food allergies. You can learn more about food allergies on FARE’s website – www.foodallergy.org.   

Kosher Labeling and Food Allergies

Introduction by Rabbi Yitzchok Lerman

The first time we noticed that our daughter was allergic to milk was when she was six weeks old. My wife was heading back to work, and we added some milk-based formula that we received from the hospital to a bottle of breast milk. Within a half-hour, our daughter had hives all over her chest.

Now four years later, my daughter and her sister are allergic to a combined six foods: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and sesame.

Food allergies are a big struggle for religious Jews, because most of our culture and religious practices are structured around food. We have large meals with family and friends on Saturday (Shabbat), holidays, and at almost all special ceremonies there is food served. We were recently at a baby naming ceremony, and there was a large spread of cakes containing milk and various nuts! Of course my children wanted it, and it’s not always easy to bring our own cookies from home that can compete with the fancy cakes and cookies that are being served.

Before we go to an event, we sit our older daughter down (she’s three years old) and tell her that before she eats anything she should ask us, because nuts and milk give her a big boo boo. We are constantly on alert, and my wife and I each take one child that we will keep an eye on. As I’m sure many of you have experienced, and can imagine, it can be a bit difficult to socialize and enjoy yourself.

We ALWAYS carry an epinephrine auto-injector and anti-histamine with us wherever we go, because even the minutest cross-contact can cause a reaction (as we have unfortunately experienced).

As Orthodox Jews we keep a special diet called “kosher.” My wife and I were surprised to realize that our kosher diet actually HELPS us keep our daughters safe. But you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy these benefits. Knowing how kosher certification works can change the way you shop for food.

FARE, in consultation with the International Kosher Council, has compiled some tips for how to decipher kosher labels:

While kosher labeling can be a helpful first indicator that a food may contain your allergens, it is important to note that kosher regulations are different than the labeling regulations enforced by the FDA and USDA. By kosher standards, if a product contains less than 1/60th of the ingredient that is not kosher, it still meets the criteria for the kosher label. Kosher labeling was created as a way for people of the Jewish faith to stick to a kosher diet, not for those with food allergies. So, while kosher products must adhere to strict standards, it is always important to read every label thoroughly and call manufacturers to ask questions if you are unsure whether a product is safe for you.

In the early 1920s, the Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations in America formed an organization that would monitor products to ensure that they were kosher and this organization is now the largest certifying agent for kosher products. Ever wonder what that “U” in a circle symbol is on your products? It is the organization’s primary kosher symbol (pictured above).

There are hundreds of kosher certifying organizations and symbols, the vast majority are reliable and operate on the same standards. The way these organizations work is that they have access to a list of all the ingredients used to ensure that they are Kosher. Then throughout the year they have thousands of supervisors who make unannounced checks at many companies and factories around the world to ensure that the kosher standards are upheld.

One of the many laws of keeping kosher is that it is forbidden to eat milk and meat products together. They cannot be manufactured together, cooked together, served together or eaten together. Kosher symbols are designed to help consumers find products that abide by this law, and can be helpful to understand if you have a milk or meat allergy.

The OU symbols work as follows:

  • If there is only a “U” inside of a circle (”OU”), then the product meets kosher standards for being considered milk free and meat free. By kosher standards, you must have a 24 hour wait-period as well as adhere to certain cleaning protocols before you can be certified as being milk-free and meat-free and earn this certification. In kosher language, products labeled “OU” are called “Pareve” or “Parve.”
  •           An important note on “OU” labeling is that in order for equipment to be considered “contaminated” with milk or meat, the product needs to have been heated to a certain temperature. This can lead to products being labeled “OU” even if they have been produced on equipment that was previously used with milk or meat ingredients, if they were produced at a cold temperature. For example, if warm chocolate that contains milk was poured into a mold but did not get heated to a high enough temperature, then a product with no milk could be used afterward in the same mold and still be given the “OU” label. For this reason, it is important to always check the advisory label and call the manufacturer with any questions.
  • If a product has a “OUD,”  label that means that it contains milk ingredients or is processed on equipment with milk, and is also kosher. This classification can be confusing, since this symbol can be found on products that one would assume are free of milk. For example, soy milk may be processed on the same lines as a product containing milk after the lines are thoroughly cleaned. While the soy milk may be safe for those with milk allergies to drink, unless the manufacturer waits for 24 hours before producing the soy milk, they cannot use the OU symbol and must use OUD instead.
  • The “OUM” symbol means that it contains meat ingredients or is processed on equipment with meat, but it is also kosher. Although allergies to meat are rare, this symbol may help those who are meat allergic identify which products to avoid.
  • For those with fish allergies, the “OUF” symbol indicates that the product has fish ingredients. However, just because the product is labeled “OU” does not mean that it is completely free of fish. As mentioned above, as long as the product contains less than 1/60th of fish, it may be labeled as “OU”.
  • For those with shellfish allergies, Kosher products may not contain any shellfish. So any product that has a kosher label on it is most likely safe.

Now that we have a better understanding of kosher labels, where do food allergies come in? Well, think of it this way; if a product is meat, or if you walk into a kosher meat restaurant, you can be fairly confident that the products are free of milk. If a “kosher meal” is offered it is very unlikely that there are traces of milk in your meat dinner (and vice versa). However, you should always do your due diligence to ensure that your meal or a product you are consuming is free of milk by checking with the restaurant or manufacturer.

Today, one-third to one-half of the foods for sale in the typical American supermarket are kosher. I’m sure if you look into your pantry, you will find that at least 60% of your products at home are kosher certified. So next time you go shopping or traveling, keep an eye out for those kosher symbols to help you quickly identify products that may be safe for you or your family.

Rabbi Yitzchok Lerman is a Rabbi and Dayan, and currently teaches at YTTL High school in Queens, NY. Rabbi Lerman lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Bina and their two daughters. This information was published under the consultation of the International Kosher Council.

Five Things to Know about FARE’s National Food Allergy Conference

Thinking about joining us at our first FARE National Food Allergy Conference? Here are five essential facts to know about the June 21-22 event, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill., just outside of Chicago.

  1. Your conference registration may be eligible for reimbursement under your Health Care Flexible Spending Account.
  2. FARE is working with the Hyatt Regency food and beverage staff to provide allergy-friendly breakfasts and to help ensure attendees have safe options for other meals.
  3. Our conference hotel is conveniently located near O’Hare International Airport and has a free airport shuttle. Additionally, public transportation (the “L”) is across the street and there are many sightseeing options if you plan to make a long weekend out of your trip.
  4. FARE members receive a $25 discount on their conference registration. To obtain the discount code, members must log in to our website, click on “Membership,” and then go to the “Members Only” section.
  5. No matter what stage you are in life – a seasoned veteran of food allergy management or newly diagnosed – there is an educational conference track for you! Our tracks this year are organized into beginner, intermediate, advanced and teen categories.

We hope to see you there! Check out our online conference schedule and register today by visiting www.foodallergy.org/conference!

Advocacy Update: Momentum for the Food Allergy Agenda Builds

Legislative sessions are underway in Washington, D.C. and in state capitals across the country. That means there are many opportunities for food allergy advocates to push legislators on policies that will improve research, access and safety.

In Washington, D.C.
After several years of prodding by the food allergy community, Congress passed the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act last November, providing an incentive for states to require the availability of stock epinephrine in their schools. That success raised the sensitivity of lawmakers to the needs of families struggling with food allergies and improves the environment for progress on other fronts.

Building on that success, FARE is focusing on improved funding for food allergy research at the National Institutes of Health and other federal facilities, as well as funding to support the purchase of epinephrine and training programs in the nation’s schools. FARE’s federal agenda also includes initiatives to address surveillance of food allergies (i.e., comprehensive surveys to understand how many people are affected by the disease) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and greater clarity in labeling requirements by the Food & Drug Administration.

In States
Last year 18 states passed legislation addressing stock epinephrine in schools, and that momentum has continued in 2014; new states are providing for stock epinephrine in schools on an almost weekly basis.

The precedent established in the K-12 system is now being seen in higher education as well, with New Jersey becoming the first state in the nation to require its colleges and universities to establish policies to stock and train in the administration of epinephrine on their campuses. Similar legislation has also been signed into law in Indiana, and FARE is staging campaigns in additional states.

The Massachusetts restaurant food allergy awareness law has long been admired by members of the food allergy community and this year FARE is pursuing similar legislation in several states. Taking as its foundation the restaurant training program developed jointly by the National Restaurant Association and FARE, the initiative would require that restaurant staff with food allergy training be available during all hours of operation. Menus would have to advise customers to communicate their allergy and posters in the restaurant would educate staff about the severity of food allergies. Bills are currently pending in other states, and FARE is providing support to advocates pursuing the legislation.

The safety of those with food allergies has increasingly become a public health concern at the state level as well. Bills are being introduced around the country that would make epinephrine, and the training in its administration, widely available in public places, including day care centers, restaurants, theaters, health clubs, and sports arenas, among others. The most important component of these bills is broad liability protection for establishments and “Good Samaritans” using epinephrine on someone they believe is suffering from anaphylaxis.

Your Role
The success of these and other efforts is directly dependent on the involvement of food allergy advocates. In 2014, FARE will continue to speak out for the community and offer opportunities for advocates to make their voices heard. If you haven’t already, please join the FARE Advocates Network by visiting
www.foodallergyadvocacy.org!

This article was originally published in the Winter 2014 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.