Musings and Morsels from an Allergic Foodie (1-22-15)

I photographed this morning’s shadows on the snow-covered mountains before I’d even had a cup of coffee. If I waited too long, the sun would shift and the view would change.

Musings and Morsels of an Allergic Foodie (!-22-15)

I’ve been reminded this week to appreciate life’s moments. Life as you know it can change in an instant.

A friend I met through blogging, Kathryn Chastain Treat, passed away a few days before Christmas. Her daughter posted this news on Kathryn’s blog.  Though I’d never met Kathryn in person, she was more of a friend than some people I see daily. We supported each other through emails and Tweets and Facebook posts. I got to know Kathryn and her family while reading  her book, Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope. She was a vibrant and healthy woman until toxic mold changed her life forever. Learning about how she was forced to live in physical isolation made my food allergies and celiac disease seem silly. However, she never made me feel that way. Kathryn always had a kind word to say. I will miss her.

Kathryn Treat, Author

Kathryn C. Treat, author of Allergic to Life

I encourage you to read Kathryn’s book. You can find it on Amazon.

Book trailer for Allergic to Life

My reviews: Part I and Part II.

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Last week I wrote about the hidden risks of vegetable oil and received many insightful comments. Several readers shared their horrific experiences of anaphylactic reactions when restaurants served them food prepared in the wrong cooking oil. Please don’t just ask what cooking oil the restaurant uses–ask to see the bottle. If the restaurant doesn’t want to show you, leave. Don’t take a chance.

In this same post, I shared my frustration with highly refined soybean oil and soy lecithin being excluded from the FDA’s allergen labeling requirements. Some of you only react to soybean protein, but others of you are highly sensitive like I am. Maya Trimner of Maya’s Happy Place sent me this petition asking the FDA to include all soy derivatives in food and drug allergen labeling.

Anyone with any food allergies understands the consequences of eating the wrong food. Please won’t you sign this petition and share with your followers?

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Enough musing . . . . time for a morsel!

I’ve been wanting to share this new product since our lunch was served in it at the Food Allergy and Celiac Convention last November.

Solvetta: Flat Box-Lunch Box

This lunch box unzips and lays flat, serving as a place mat. As an Allergic Foodie who travels a lot, I love that I can keep my eating surface clean and free of potential allergens. Think about those disgusting airplane trays and the tailgate of your car. I also take my allergen-free meal into fast-food restaurants where my husband eats. Now I don’t have to worry about asking the restaurant folks to wipe down the tables. They especially like doing this when they see I’ve brought my own food. These Flat Box-Lunch Box are great for students, too.

Visit Solvetta’s website to see all the sizes and colors and order yours. I got pink.

In closing, remember to appreciate the moments.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know

Near our home in Colorado Springs is a Mexican restaurant called Carlos Miguel’s that people rave about. So last Friday evening, when the streets were icy and my husband and I didn’t want to venture too far from home, I called the restaurant to discuss my food restrictions.

“What type of vegetable oil do you cook with?” I asked the man who answered the phone.

“Vegetable.”

“What type?  Soy? Corn? Canola?” I asked.

“Just vegetable.” He seemed a little perturbed.

I told the man I couldn’t eat at his restaurant without knowing exactly what was in the vegetable oil because I was allergic to soy and corn. He didn’t offer to check the ingredients label so I said goodbye.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a restaurant couldn’t tell me what was in their cooking oil. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.  How absurd it is for restaurants not to know what they are serving their guests!

 

 

I also have a hard time with processed foods containing soy and corn. In the United States, corn isn’t one of the top eight allergens required by law to be identified on labeling.  While soy is one of the top eight, the FDA exempts soybean oil and soy lecithin from being labeled.  The FDA and medical experts, such as Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, MD, author of Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It ( Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), say most soy oil is highly refined so there is little proteins left to trigger an allergic reaction. Cold pressed and expeller pressed soybean oil are not highly refined and may contain soy proteins. The experts also say soy lecithin, a derivative of soy used as a nonstick agent in baking, has minimal proteins and those with a soy allergy need not worry.

My body does not agree with these experts. I’ve learned the hard way that soy oil, soy lecithin and corn oil  will all cause a severe reaction, including eosinophilic esophagitis. Blend them together–use soy/corn oil in my salad dressing and spray the grill with cooking spray containing soy lecithin–and I’ll be in really bad shape.  Talking with the other soy-allergic folks at food allergy conferences and through social media, I know I am not alone. Of course,  if you react to soy (so far 15 allergenic proteins have been found in soy) but can tolerate soy oil and/or soy lecithin, I’m happy for you! And a bit jealous! But do watch and discuss any changes in your health with your doctor.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil

Soy oil, or a blend of oils including soy oil, is used in restaurants because it’s inexpensive. Soybean meal and vegetable oil consume around 85% of the world’s soybean crop. By the way, the soybean is not a vegetable–soybean is a legume–but soy oil is still  referred to as vegetable oil.  Other plant-based oils include:

  • Canola (rapeseed)
  • Coconut
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Flaxseed
  • Olive
  • Palm
  • Peanut (a legume, not a nut)
  • Safflower
  • Sunflower

Unless the label says the oil is 100 percent, it may a blend of other oils. Read my post The Olive Oil Controversy. People can be allergic to any of these plant-based oils.

So here’s what I do to avoid an allergic reaction because of a vegetable oil mishap:

  • I read the ingredients labels of all oils before I buy them, and I stick to companies I trust. For a cooking spray, I use Winona Pure which does not contain soy lecithin.
  • I avoid all restaurants that cook only with soy oil and offer no other options (even if I’m ordering a food that doesn’t require oil–it’s just too risky). If they cannot identify what is in their  “vegetable oil,” I leave. In my experience, most Mexican restaurants and many Asian restaurants use soybean oil.
  • If it’s a questionable restaurant, I ask if the olive oil or other oil is 100 percent. This doesn’t usually go over well, but it’s been a lifesaver on several occasions.
  • I read allergen menus with a magnifying glass. Because of the FDA exemption for soybean oil and soy  lecithin, restaurants do not have to list them under “soy allergy.” Some allergen menus note this exemption with an asterisk, but not all do.
  • I ask a lot of questions before I order. What oil do you use to cook with? Does your vegetable oil contain soy? Do any other foods contain soy lecithin? Do you use cooking spray?
  • If possible, I call the chef in advance and discuss my dietary needs. I have celiac disease and allergies to dairy, eggs and corn, but I always stress the soy allergy because it’s the one that gets missed by waitstaff the most. Untrained waitstaff think tofu and soy sauce.
  • When I make reservations on OpenTable, which I do a lot, I note I have a soy allergy including soy oil and soy lecithin. I also check out what people say on Urban Spoon and Food Allergy/Celiac Disease apps.
  • When I travel, I try to stick to chain restaurants that never use soy oil (these are usually higher-end chains).
  • When eating out in my hometown, I’m a regular at restaurants that don’t use any soy at all. I let them know how grateful I am to have a safe place to eat.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.