Questions from FARE’s Mail Bag

Every day we receive dozens of phone calls, emails, and letters from individuals and families who have questions about food allergies. Below are answers to just a handful of these questions that we have received recently and thought others may benefit from knowing as well.

Can a person with a peanut and/or tree nut allergy eat nutmeg?

Although the word “nutmeg” contains the word “nut,” it is actually a seed, not a nut. Used as a spice in baking and many ethnic cuisines, nutmeg is safe for everyone who does not have an allergy to nutmeg itself.

Can having a blood transfusion cause an allergic reaction because of allergens in the donated blood?

Dr. Scott Sicherer addresses this question in his book “Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It.” He says, “When blood transfusions are processed, the liquid (serum) is washed away, so even if trace food proteins had been in the blood donation, the amount left in the material that is transfused would be negligible. There have not been reports of reactions in this situation, although it may be reasonable for a donor providing a directed donation to a person with a food allergy to avoid the allergen for several hours prior to the donation. There is one report of a platelet donation causing a reaction in a child with a peanut allergy (platelets are the blood-clotting component transfused without being separated from the serum). The report is not completely verified, but there may be risk.”

If a product is labeled “Kosher Pareve,” is it safe for someone with a milk allergy?

Kosher pareve is a kosher classification for a food that contains neither dairy nor meat, generally speaking. Kosher classifications do not address cross-contact, however, so a product can still be considered pareve if the product is made in the same facility as or has come in contact with milk. We advise you to not use Kosher labeling as a guide for if a product is safe for those with milk allergies.

I’ve heard some cities are using cheese brine mixed with ice salt as a de-icing agent for roadways. Does this pose a threat to those with milk allergies?

FARE investigated this question with the City of Milwaukee Health Department. Information provided by the Health Department and reviewed by allergists indicates this is a very low risk practice. There is an extremely small amount of protein content in the salt brine, roughly equivalent to three drops of milk per square yard of roadway. This amount is further diluted by mixing with melting snow and ice. It is very unlikely that a reaction could occur from this practice, and any reactions would likely be localized to the skin contact area.

Father’s Day Guest Post: Pete and Dave, Founders of Skeeter Snacks

Dave & RemyIn this special Father’s Day guest post, food allergy dad Dave Leyrer discusses why all dads need to be educated about food allergies. Dave partnered with another food allergy dad, Pete Najarian, to start Skeeter Snacks, a line of cookies and snacks made specifically for those with tree nut and peanut allergies.

Tell us about your family and the food allergies affecting your family.

My wife and I have two children, and our 4-year-old son Remy is allergic to tree nuts and peanuts. Pete and his wife have two kids as well and his 12-year-old daughter Abby is also allergic to tree nuts and peanuts.

How do you manage food allergies in your family? What have been your biggest challenges?

At different ages you employ different strategies. With Remy we teach his older sister to be his advocate and protector as he learns what to avoid. Abby is older so the challenges are different—with pre-teens the job seems to be more about getting her to slow down and remember her allergies and to avoid peer pressure.

What advice would you give to other dads with kids with food allergies?

This is a team effort, and dads have to be as involved as moms. For example, dads who coach sports are often responsible for snack decisions for an entire team, and on most teams there are a variety of different allergies that need to be addressed. We think that all dads need to know about food allergies because whether their kids are allergic or not they are probably going to be tasked with providing snacks for allergic kids at one point or another.

Studies have shown that moms and dads react differently to food allergies in their families. In your experience, is that the case?  

There’s a perception that guys are a bit lazier on the margin, so some might think that dads don’t take it as seriously as we should. But in our experience dads are really on top of things. Pete and I probably take it more seriously than some dads considering we started a company that makes the kind of products we couldn’t find for our kids! Remy and Abby are the reasons we started Skeeter Snacks. We were frustrated consumers; we couldn’t believe that a brand didn’t exist that made it easy to be safe.

From all of us at FARE, we’d like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to Pete, Dave, and all food allergy dads!

EDITOR’s NOTE:  Skeeter Snacks is a FARE Corporate Partner and their products can be found at many of our FARE Walks for Food Allergy.