I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer, founder of Food Allergy Buzz and FAB Snacks. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
What is your food allergy background?
I have two sons. My eight year old has some environmental allergies. My five year old has a life threatening allergy to peanuts and we avoid tree nuts due to the risk of cross-contamination. He's had eczema since he was a baby and often experienced stomach upsets and mysterious hives.
We found out about his allergy when he was three after a visit to a Friendly's restaurant. As soon as he bit into one Reese's pieces in his sundae, he spit it out, became upset and began to cry. He spat up and hives began to spread all over. We weren't sure what to do, so I gave him Benadryl. The hives began to fade and the other symptoms did too. I watched him constantly for the next 24 hours. A skin test, done by an allergist, confirmed a peanut allergy. From that day on, we've been "peanut-avoiding purists". We eat out very rarely.
This is such a familiar story to many, Jennifer.
What are you passionate about in the food allergy field?
I love to discover and talk about food allergy friendly products, businesses and resources. As these succeed, the better life will be for my son and all people with food allergies. I try to be a voice for food allergic families and individuals as consumers.
I also like to get on my soap box about inadequate or misleading labeling and other similar oversights and "wrongs".
You've recently started a food allergy snack food company. What led you to create this company and what are your goals?
I had grown weary of the limited “safe” options at my local supermarket and the high prices there. Although I found more choices online, the prices were prohibitively high and it was not easy to get the kind of product information that I wanted.
I decided to create the missing shopping option myself and founded FAB Snacks, Inc., a food allergy friendly snack center. My goal is to provide affordable snacks and other convenience foods from food allergy conscious manufacturers and to be as transparent as possible with my customers.
As you know, when you're dealing with life threatening food allergies, you can’t just take someone’s word that a food is suitable or safe. You need to ask questions about ingredients, cross-contamination, the manufacturing facility, and get clear answers to those questions. I understand this because of my son’s allergy and I want to provide my customers with the same sort of information and reassurance I seek for my own family.
What else are you working on in the food allergy area?
I recently started another blog, Free to Enjoy Baseball, which is where I house all the information I collect on peanut-free and food-free seating at baseball games in the U.S. and Canada.
Jenny (The Nut-Free Mom Blog) and I founded a Facebook group to promote awareness of peanut allergies and other food allergies in airplanes.
I also am working with a few moms in my town to found a food allergy committee to help our schools become more food allergy friendly. There are a few other projects still "in the works."
What are some of your other interests/hobbies?
In the summer, I enjoy participating in our local community farm with my children and finding new ways to use and prepare vegetables. In the winter, I enjoy baking cookies and quick breads.
I've also discovered I enjoy photography. I'd like to tinker with that more in the coming months and years.
I don't do it as often as I'd like but I enjoy playing the violin. I started taking lessons at the age of five and have played for many years. I hope to join an orchestra or chamber group again.
I also know you have a presence on Twitter and at Peanut Allergy.com.
Thank you, Jennifer for all you do to make things safer for families dealing with food allergies. We wish you much success.
You can click over to Jennifer and say "Hello" at her site: www.foodallergybuzz.com and check out the snack offerings at FAB Snacks.
As always, the Food Allergy Assistant is available for recipes, information and resources.