Posts tagged ‘food allergy’

December 16, 2011

A really big little announcement!

I didn’t want to announce it too soon in case anything changed, but I can’t wait any longer to tell you all about….this really cool…..really big deal…..that Phro*Zen gets to be a part of….and you can be a part of too….do you want to know what it is? Are you sure? Do you really want to know?

It’s Cincinnati’s first FAAN Walk for Food Allergies!!!!!

 As made obvious by the excessive use of exclamation points above, I am pretty excited about the walk. It’s a great way to show support for members of your community affected by food allergies, plus it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. I hope you’ll consider creating a team and joining all of us on April 28, 2012 at Friendship Park for a beautiful walk by the river, as well as a few other fun things we’ve got planned. I’ll be keeping everyone up to date on what our board is working on here, but you can also follow @FAANwalkCinci on Twitter, “Like” the Facebook page, and check out the website for more info or to donate. If you have any questions that you’d like answered about the walk, feel free to email me at Love, Meg


September 1, 2011

Food allergy post: August 2011

Well, the end of the month is here and so is this month’s food allergy post. We have some really REALLY exciting news about a food allergy event we’re working on, but we’ll save that for it’s very own post.

This post has a few tips for those families sending kids with food allergies back to school (it’s that time of year again already). Not having a little one myself, I asked a few friends what they were doing to prepare, and here are the best tips I got about that big backpack-toting day:

1) Plan ahead- If your child has food allergies, it is always, ALWAYS best to take preventative measures against a reaction. So, if possible, setup meetings with teachers, administrators, anyone that would be supervising your child at any point during the day. Obviously the nurse should also be directed as to how best to handle your child’s allergies.

2) Provide information- There are a whole lot of people that have no idea what or how severe allergies can be. And those people are adults. Children? Probably don’t have a clue. Ask your child’s teacher if they can perhaps take a little time to discuss respecting each other’s space, and differences, without alienating your child. There tend to be class rules set in lower grades, so it might be something that they can incorporate fairly easily.

3) Create a dialogue- Your child is going to school and taking on new responsibilities. It might help ease the transition if they have a set of questions to ask or a set answer if food is offered to them. Try practicing a conversation at home with them before they leave for school everyday.

4) Repeat, repeat, repeat- It’s not a bad idea to print out a list of dangerous triggers for teachers to remind them, as well as any “room parents” that plan parties, etc. which foods are dangerous. Reminders are important.

5) Make it fun- It’s hard to be different in school. Or, well, at all…ever. But you know what makes being different better? Having fun with it and embracing it. Take a look at some of the products on They’ll help keep your child safe while they get to show their style.

So that’s a little bit of what I have learned. Well, that, and taking deep breaths and one step at a time. How about you moms out there? What helps you send your little one back safely? love, Meg

August 1, 2011

Food Allergy Post: July 2011

This month I had the privilege of getting a more in-depth look at the food allergy program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Whether you love Cincinnati or not (yes, that’s a shout to all of you with the “Cincinnati’s just ok” bumper stickers), the city is lucky to have such an innovative clinic available to those that need it. 

I shadowed Dr. Assa’ad for her morning rounds, which were hectic to say the least. Between the tests and the evaluations, plus the time spent discussing patient status and possible solutions with colleagues, she has her work cut out for her. 

The day started with an evaluation of a patient who was previously tolerating soy milk, but began having stomach upset after strenuous exercise which might have correlated with his breakfast that included soy milk. Confused? Me too. How do you know if it was the soy milk, or another part of his diet, or  the allergens in the air at his activity? Eight hours of testing, that’s how.

That testing began with blind sampling of either soy milk or rice milk, only one of the nurses knew which was which. A few milliliters were taken in specific intervals to determine if he was in fact allergic to soy. The patient came prepared with a movie, used to the long wait associated with the test. 

Another patient came in for a skin test, which involved pricking her skin with a sharp that had been dipped in an allergen extract. If it was a positive reaction, the skin would raise into a bump reminiscent of a mosquito bite or worse. Negative would just look like a little red dot. 

I followed and took notes and tried to absorb every bit of knowledge from all of the staff that I could. What I learned was this: every family that comes through that clinic is worried. Everyone has questions and they all need answers because their well-being depends on them. And as far as our product goes? I need to do everything I can to make it safe for all of those kids and adults alike that come through testing and trials to find out what they can’t have, so that they can find out that they can still have ice cream.

June 27, 2011

Food allergy post: June 2011

Before you read this month’s post, please either click over or scroll down to my last post titled, “Two Phro*Zen fans that will make your heart melt.”

Ok. Back? Alright, so those two little cuties with the cones are frequent customers, reason being that Kai (the little dude giving a thumbs up) has some food allergies. When I was approached waaay back last year about creating a safe dessert for him, I was a little confused. I knew that lactose allergies were fairly common and I had heard a little bit about gluten-free foods, but when I got a list of what making a safe batch would require I felt fenced in to say the least. There were so many “no” foods, and even the ones that were ok were only ok if they were made a certain way or had a certain label! I’ll admit that at some point during the experimentation phase, I had a small fit.

Spoon-throwing aside, when all was said and done I felt I was much more knowledgeable not only about allergies, but about ingredients and food in general, too. And you know what? All of that work, mostly on the part of the incredibly helpful and informative parents, has allowed us to create a more allergy-friendly ice cream (“Kai’s Good Karma”) for kids to enjoy…and there are probably a whole lot more kids out there with food allergies than we previously knew.

A recent study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that eight percent of children in the U.S. are affected by food allergies. Of the 5.9 million children with food allegies, nearly one-third have multiple allergies, and 39 percent have a history of severe reactions. It’s the largest study of its kind, and those findings are pretty startling. Considering the care it takes to ensure the safety of any food, and the number of items recalled every year (you’ll find a link below to the most recent list of recalls), there are some real strides to be made in the ways we process, label, and consume our food.

But enough preaching. The point I’m trying to make is that I was completely unaware of how severe these allergies could be. I had no idea how extensive the lists of unsafe foods were. I didn’t realize that even allergen to skin contact would create a reaction. But now I do, and I really hope that more people will help to get the word out about what food allergies are, and how reactions can be prevented. For some really helpful information, head over to FAAN’s website:

We’re working on some allergy-friendly ice cream sandwiches and other goodies, so watch for another update soon!

List of recent recalls and alerts:

June 20, 2011

Two Phro*Zen fans that will make your heart melt.

It’s a very lucky person that finds a job that they not only love, but that they find rewarding as well, and on days when I get to see people enjoying Phro*Zen I feel like there’s no one in the world as lucky as myself. Why do I say that? Because of smiles like this:

Say, "Vegan soft serve!"

Phro*Zen is now available as soft serve at Meals To Go on Winton Rd., and I’ve had the most adorable customers (and their lovely parents!) come in for a cone.

Gluten-free goodness. Yum!

 Kai, of “Kai’s Good Karma” fame, and his little sister had an allergy-friendly, totally vegan summer treat, and they gave us pretty good reviews!

A thumbs-up from Kai! Good karma does come around.

Making ice cream is a fantastic job as it is, but I couldn’t be more grateful for our Phro*Zen fan club. Thank you all for the support, and if you’ve got Phro*Zen photos you’d like to share, send them to us at! Love, Meg

May 30, 2011

Food allergy post: May 2011

It’s hard to believe, but the end of May is here, and so is my promised allergy-related post of the month. I thought I’d start with a few of the more basic things I had to learn related to food allergies, and it all started with labels.

So for those of you out there that don’t follow any particular diet or have any restrictions as far as nutrition, reading the label is probably not high on your list of priorities when you hit the grocery. Of course, packaging plays our purchasing habits whether you read the back of the box or not, but for the most part that’s due to buzz words like “whole grain” or “no trans fat” plastered all over the front panel. What concerns those affected by food allergies or on a restricted diet, however, is usually in smaller print than the “calcium enriched” splash across the label.

Reading ingredient lists is extremely important for those on special diets, because even if there are big words on the front, or claims that the product is free of certain allergens, the ingredient list may tell a different story. There have been any number of recalls due to what is essentially false advertising when a product identifies itself as allergen-free on the front, but lists an allergen in the ingredients list. Cloudy, confusing, overwhelming stuff, huh?

It’s not all so bad, though. To tell you the truth, I’ve found a lot of comfort in looking more carefully at the ingredients of products, because it allows me to understand so much better what it is that I’m eating. Yes, there have been some disturbing moments in the various aisles as well as brief moments of disbelief as I deciphered all of those mono- tri- cyclo- glyceride- gum things. Finding out what stuff is really made of can be frightening. Overall, though, knowing what you’re getting so that you can make a more educated decision is more positive than negative, and if you’ve got a food allergy, it’s an absolute imperative.

That said, I’ve made a list of some common terms I’ve seen on allergy-friendly and not-so-allergy-friendly food packages.

  • “May contain”: This is a safeguard for both the company and the consumer. It is a voluntary admission that lets the consumer know that if they’ve got allergies, this product probably isn’t safe, but to me that puts a big X on that food because who wants to take a chance?
  • “Processed in a shared facility / shared equipment”: This is another common labeling technique that warns food allergic consumers that the food may contain trace amounts of whatever allergen is listed after it.
  • “Gluten-free”: This is also a voluntary term used to identify foods that are free of any wheat, barley, or rye. A lot of foods are naturally gluten-free, so reading the label can actually help you discover some options that don’t come right out and put that term on their labels.

That’s my short list of important terms on food packaging to look out for. I’ll write again with more food allergy info next month!

And before I finish this up, I’d like to share my appreciation for all of the hard work and sacrifices made by our military men and women. Without the brave sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers that volunteer to protect us, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we so enjoy. Thank you to every active duty, veteran, and family member of military personnel out there. Love, Meg

March 16, 2011

Stick with us…

I love getting mail. You know what I love even more than getting mail? Getting stuff in the mail, packages, and boxes of stuff, and today was one of those glorious days when I arrived home to a brown box at the door. It was addressed to Phro*Zen LLC, which still makes me smile like a geek, so I opened it. What was inside? Samples of soymilk? A golden ice cream scoop? That “As Seen On TV” shake weight I’d accidentally ordered at 3a.m. last weekend? No. Better. Here’s a photo:

I haven't felt such an affinity for stickers since elementary school when I wouldn't have known the word "affinity."

Well, that’s a really small photo, but I promise they’re really cool, and I’ll get a better photo up when I figure out what went wrong with this one. Dern technology. Anyway, you may have noticed that they’re not all our signature green shade you’re  used to. That is because we’re starting a gourmet line (the purple sticker will be on the front) and an allergy-friendly line (the blue sticker{inspired by one little dude named Kai} will be on the front, with “allergy-friendly” written in the white ring arounf the logo). We’re expanding, and it’s so exciting. We hope you’re all excited too! These new pints will be rolling out soon, but you can watch for updates here, and everywhere else we post on the web (Facebook, Twitter).

I’ll write again soon! Have a wonderful day all! Love.

March 2, 2011

“A journey of a thousand miles . . .

. . . begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu said that so many centuries ago, and it’s what I’ve been repeating to myself through this whole process of building a business. It hasn’t been easy – from the legal stuff to the seemingly endless experimenting – but that little thought has kept me focused on the bigger picture.

The quote hasn’t been the only source of inspiration along the way, though. Anyone close to me and many of you on Facebook with us have heard about our allergy-friendly line of ice creams (made on separate equipment to avoid contamination from tree nuts, peanuts, and gluten) because it means so much to me. That whole line started when a lovely lady asked me if we made anything that would be safe for people with allergies. Up until that one message, I hadn’t thought about creating anything like that, but her son’s story inspired “Kai’s Good Karma” (vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate chips).

It’s a fairly simple pleasure, sitting down with a bowl of your favorite flavor of ice cream. For most people, the hardest part is choosing one scoop or two . . . or three . . . and what movie they might watch along with it. But for one in 25 of us, the decision means so much more.

Food allergies are a reality for more than 12 million Americans, and that’s just the figure for the U.S. population. That means that about 12 million individuals and their families work every day to ensure that every bite of food is safe, because if it isn’t, it could mean a trip to the emergency room. And I want to make our products something just about anyone could eat and enjoy together, so I had to solve this problem of how to make it safer.

To find out more about how to take on this project, I thought I should get a little information from a source I could trust, so off to the hospital I went. I should have printed out directions, and I should have looked more carefully at the map (below), but I got there . . . 15 minutes late.

Note to self: Read map, then go.

I talked with Dr. Amal Assa’ad at the food allergy clinic in the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (where we donate a portion of profits from “Kai’s Good Karma” to go toward studies and research) about some of the issues associated with food allergies. She and a few other physicians at the clinic see a steady stream of patients every day, most of them new. “We see a lot of people who have just discovered their allergy because they’re having a reaction for the first time,” said Assa’ad. “It could be a baby having their first cake, and they’re allergic to an ingredient, so they spend their birthday in the hospital. Or a child who has had dairy or fish for the first time, and they get hives or rashes.”

I asked her what the most common reactions are, and it ranges from an itching sensation, rashes, and hives, to anaphylaxis in severe cases. Anaphylaxis can cause swelling of the airways, difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, fainting, and could result in death.

People with allergies face the possibility of suffering these symptoms every time they sit down to a meal, and it’s not always easy to tell when something might be dangerous. There is still no dependable labeling system for products, and it’s often very confusing. Some products include allergen warnings, others don’t. Some include shared equipment (made on equipment that also processes nuts, ever noticed that? it’s everywhere!) and others don’t.

There is some good news in all of this, though. Dr. Assa’ad explained that some children can grow out of their allergies, and that she’s working on finding the funding to do more efficient testing for allergies (right now it consists mainly of a whole lot of skin tests to see what makes the patient react). While we aren’t quite at that level of support, we’re working to promote our allergen-friendly line, as well as promoting the awareness via everyone who reads this (thank you by the way!).

So, that was my first little project for this blog. I won’t always write about food allergies – I may not always write about anything relevant or coherent at all – but I will always try to make the focus of the blog the bigger picture of the community (Cincinnati and beyond to everyone reading this) and the people in it.

Getting lost is worth it when you find a gift shop full of Hello Kitty merchandise. Unless of course it's closed.