Birthday Parties and Allergies

Birthday Parties.  These are the immediate thoughts of a parent with a peanut and tree nut allergic child.  What kind of cake will there be?  Who made it?  Will there be candy?  Ice cream?  What brands?  What if it is not safe for my child?  Will she feel embarrassed if she can’t have the cake and ice cream while everyone else is eating it?

These are the questions (and others) that run through every allergic child’s parent.  Our standard solution for years was that we would bring a cupcake that we made for our child to eat at the party while everyone ate the birthday cake.  There were several problems with this alternative for us.

First, it is hard to make just one cupcake.  (We never did.)  Second, if we made a dozen cupcakes what did we do with the rest?  (We sometimes froze them for future parties.)  Third, this alternative might help with the embarrassment factor when the child is young but when the child is older and she sees the pretty decorated Barbie or princess cake with all of the fancy icing, her defrosted cupcake is not so appealing.

We decided in the last couple of years to have a long discussion with our local grocery store bakery.  Publix is a grocery store chain located primarily in the southeastern United States.  All of the cakes that they produce have a label that has the normal statement regarding peanuts and tree nuts – made in a facility with peanuts and nuts, etc.  These were computer-generated labels that also contain the price, ingredients, etc.  A scan of the ingredients revealed nothing offensive.

A long discussion with the Publix Store manager (who coincidentally has a child with a peanut allergy) about their baking process and ingredients was very enlightening.  The main concern for us related to cross contamination.  Specifically, were the mixing bowls, cake pans, etc washed and sanitized after a peanut or tree nut item had been made?

The store manager told us that all of the batter for the cupcakes and cakes were made at the Publix central bakery in Jacksonville, FL but were baked and decorated at the individual store.  The specific store bakery does make items that contain nuts; however, the cooking utensils are cleaned and sanitized after each item is made.  In other words, they do not make a carrot cake in a pan and then immediately make a birthday cake in the same pan.  There is an intermediate step where they clean and sanitize the pan in between each cake being made.  We confirm this process every few months with the store.

For us, this information alleviated our concerns and opened up a whole new way of living for us.  Our friends know that if they get a cake at Publix (in our city it is the main store where cakes are purchased) that our child will be able to eat and enjoy it with the rest of the kids.  At the same time, our child feels normal.  After many birthday parties and many Publix cakes, we have never had a problem.  Do we always have Benadryl and Epipens with us?  Absolutely.  The take away here should not be that the Publix Bakery is completely safe.  It should be that some simple investigation could open up a new safe option for you and return something normal to your life.  Have you had any similar experiences?  Leave us a comment!

Our First Safe Food List is Posted

Late last night I posted our first of hopefully many safe food lists for people with peanut and tree nut allergies.  The list can be found here

The idea for this website really came about in the last week or so when my wife (Cindy) was in the middle of compiling a list of peanut and tree nut safe foods to give to a Summer Camp that we wanted to send our daughter to this summer.  The camp director was open to the idea but understandably little overwhelmed at the thought.  My wife and her friend, who also has a daughter with a peanut allergy, spent many hours creating a list of snacks, candy, ice cream, cereals that were peanut and tree nut free and that were not processed in a facility with peanuts and tree nuts.  The list was derived from current online sources and hours spent in a grocery store reading labels.

Cindy and her friend then created two massive gift baskets filled with some of these items mainly candy and snacks along with a binder with the food lists and labels from some of these.  My wife delivered the baskets to the camp director who just happened to be in town for a food distributor show and was planning the food for the camp this year.  The director was astounded at the selection of foods available and the effort that my wife and friend put into it.  The camp director was speechless.  We are still in the process of helping create a peanut and tree nut free camp, but we are VERY encouraged by the attitude, willingness, and kindness of the camp director.

After my wife delivered the food, she said that she wanted to create a website that would share the information she had gathered.  I agreed and here we are today less than a week after she stated her desire.

We will never charge for the lists on this website that we produce.  We want to be a free resource for parents, friends, schools, camps or any other organization that is trying to find a peanut and tree nut safe food whether it is for a Birthday Party or a Summer Camp.  We will try to offset some of our costs through affiliate links and Google ads.

Please let us know if you have any questions about any of the lists or if you question any item on the list.  Please remember that labels change as do product recipes and ingredients.  You must read the label on you own for everything you buy no matter how many times you have bought it.  We want these lists to show you the number of options you may have to find peanut and tree nut safe foods and think it is a great starting point for your own due diligence.  If you have any foods or categories of foods that you would like for us to create a list, please send an email, leave a comment, or tweet!

Waffle House and Dining Out

Kids love waffle house. Heck, I love Waffle House.  The first time we went there with our allergic child we assumed that the waffles would be safe for her.  We asked the waitress about the batter ingredients and felt pretty good about things until we noticed the pecan waffle on the menu.  Now we had to think about cross contamination issues. Unfortunately, Waffle House does not have a waffle iron dedicated solely for pecan waffles or for plain waffles. As a result, we did not feel safe ordering her a waffle.  That is the way it goes sometimes but the issue of cross contamination is something we should all consider when eating out.  At Waffle House the main concern is the waffle irons. At another restaurant, it could be the flat top grill or the counter top where they make sandwiches.  If you have any concerns always ask your server or the restaurant manager, most restaurants are more than happy to answers your questions and many times they can suggest a solution that makes everyone happy.  What are some things that you worry or concern you when you eat out?

Safe Food List

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Welcome to Peanut Free Life

Welcome to!  As the parent of a child with a life threatening peanut and tree nut allergy, we know how difficult it can be for someone with this allergy to feel normal as it relates to grocery shopping, eating out at restaurants and any other activities where food might be involved.  We decided to create a blog that would be a resource for people with food allergies and the family to help them find foods that are safe for them to have.  You might be surprised by the number of options available to you.  In the next few days we will be posting a list of foods that we know are safe for our allergic child.  In the meantime please feel free to send us any foods that you know of or have questions about.