Monday, September 17, 2012

Dairy free sliced deli meat

Wow, I am impressed by our supermarket. For all the negative press there is in Australia about our big supermarkets dominating the market, I am grateful for the large systems they seem to have in place.

Our son is anaphylactic to milk, egg, peanuts and tree nuts. That means that although he can eat beef, lamb and chicken, it always has to be cooked by us. I am terribly thankful that he can eat wheat, so we can have sliced bread (although I am very particular about exactly which brand we get in order to avoid cross contamination). So far, our son can have Nuttelex (a dairy-free margarine), some jams and also vegemite on his sandwiches. But I am always a bit sad that he can't have a ham sandwich like the other kids... or more sad, that I can't just get some deli meat from the shops to save cooking.
I bought some prepackaged Coles Sliced Roast Beef (2x50g) the other day for my husband and noticed with surprise that the allergen list did not include milk, eggs or nuts. Normally pre-sliced meat from the deli is always at risk of being contaminated by cheese especially since they use the same machines to slice the meat. However, because this product is pre-sliced and pre-packaged, en mass, at some other location, there was a chance it could be safe for our son to eat. There are labels and then there are labels. This product is made in Australia, so that does give me some assurance. However, there's nothing like contacting the company directly to find out. Any company that does not get back to me is off my list. If they can't take the effort to answer my question about allergens, then it's likely they can't take the effort to do a lot of other things too, like making sure there is no cross contamination.

I sent an email off, and got a message on my phone a few days later stating that the sliced meat was most likely contaminated with dairy products. This was what I would have expected, so I sent off another email suggesting they fix the labeling of their packaging to reflect this. A few days later, I get another phone message stating that they were unsure of the accuracy of their previous comments and would launch an investigation to address my question. (You'll notice that there's a lot of phone messages... that's my fault since I can never put baby down in time to actually answer the phone). Anyway, two weeks later, the phone rings again and this time I answer it. The lady confirms that after a full investigation, there should be no risk of milk, egg or nut contamination, and in fact their initial customer information was incorrect. Wow, that's customer service. All that effort for one customer (although probably also to ensure there's no risk of litigation). Still, I'm impressed, and I'll be even more impressed if my son actually decides he likes it :-)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Allergy free alternatives

This is a special post for a mum who's daughter has had a recent diagnosis of allergies and interolerances to multiple foods.

When our eldest son was first diagnosed with anaphylaxis to milk, egg, peanuts, all nuts, oats, shellfish, wheat and sesame, at the age of 9 months, we had to dramatically change his diet to exclude traces of all these ingredients. I also had to dramatically change my diet so that I could continue breastfeeding but I was able to have small amounts of most foods. This is a list of ideas for others who have to make such a switch. It's not all bad but does take some getting used to. Hopefully, by providing a list of alternatives, you don't have to reinvent the wheel with your cooking, but just use alternatives.

Milk - we use So Good Regular Soy since it has the highest nutritional content of all the soy milks available in Australia. It is also fortified with calcium, so provides minerals in that sense. Rice milk is another alternative, but apparently the calcium in that milk is not absorbed very well by the body. Using Rice milk is fine if you just want to have cereal, as long as you can obtain your calcium from other sources. We also use Nuttelex, a sunflower oil spread instead of margarine or butter.

Egg - The Allergy Menu website has a Sweet Treats recipe book you can download for free. Page 45 has a great list of alternatives you can use when replacing eggs in recipes. You can't really replace fried eggs I'm afraid, but you can use alternatives for cakes, pancakes, cookies etc.

Peanut - well just avoid that one!

Other nuts - depending on the allergies, sometimes, you can use soy nuts, sunflower seeds or other seeds... but try this carefully since other allergies might exist that hasn't been tested for.

Wheat - I'm afraid I never really found a good alternative bread. If you know one, please do let me know. Corn products are great - corn flakes, corn chips for nachos, corn crackers and rice and corn pasta. Rice products are great - natural rice of course, fried rice, rice crackers, rice noodles. Potatoe products are great - chips, gnocchi, mashed potatoe, roast potatoe etc.

So there you have it - a super quick list of alternatives to use in your cooking - if you have more specific questions or ideas, please let me know. I love hearing from everyone out there who is reading this blog.