SnackSafely.com: Your Guide to Allergy-Safe Foods
If necessity is the mother of invention, we can thank the Bloom family for bringing us SnackSafely.com. Their daughter is allergic to both eggs and peanuts, so to help her stay safe at school, Debra Bloom created a list of allergy-friendly snacks to give to the school and other parents. To the family’s surprise, in the first three months the site was downloaded by thousands of people and last year over a million visitors found the frequently updated list to be very helpful. Dave Bloom now provides content for the site full-time, which includes a blog on the latest research discoveries and treatment options. Please read the full article here.
Interview with Dave Bloom, founder of SnackSafely
By Kristen Stewart
May 1, 2018
When her daughter, who was allergic to both eggs and peanuts, started school in 2006, Debra Bloom created a list of allergy-friendly snacks to give to the school and other parents in an effort to prevent cross-contact in the classroom. She and her husband Dave thought they were making efforts to keep their daughter safe. Little did they realize they were in the early stages of starting SnackSafely.com, a site that last year had over a million unique visitors.
Initially challenged by the logistics of continuously updating and distributing the list, Dave put it on his business website for district parents to access. To his surprise, within a few months it had been downloaded by thousands of people throughout the country.
"In essence, that's when the Safe Snack Guide was born," says Dave.
By 2011, it was clear keeping the list up-to-date had become a full-time job. Around that time, Dave also realized he was ready for a career change and wanted to expand the offerings on the website beyond just safe snacks.
The Snack Safe Guide
Organized into more than 40 food categories including pretzels, cookies, dried fruit, and baking ingredients, this Guide offers an extensive list of foods that are all free of peanuts and tree nuts along with hundreds of which are free of the "Top 8" allergens (eggs, milk, soy, wheat, fish, and crustacean shellfish as well as peanuts and tree nuts). Last year over 190,000 copies of the Safe Snack Guide were downloaded by families, school personnel, sports teams, scout troops, and others with tens of thousands more distributed by email.
Determining what foods are truly safe for those with allergies can be a challenge. That's where Allergence comes in.
"Few realize that 'may contain' type advisories are entirely voluntary and left up to the company to decide when to include them and how to word them," says Dave. "That means a company could decide to place a warning for wheat but not for soy, leading consumers to believe that the product is safe for soy when it isn't."
Additionally, while the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 requires packaging to indicate when any "Top 8" allergens are ingredients, it does not dictate that companies must disclose when cross-contact could occur such as on shared lines or in shared facilities.
"With this in mind, we decided that we only wanted to work with companies that we could trust to describe how they process 11 allergens during their manufacturing, including the disclosure of shared lines and facilities for the "Top 8" allergens as well as sesame, mustard, and gluten," says Dave. "So we built a platform for that disclosure and invited companies to join us in exchange for listings in the Safe Snack Guide. We now have over 80 companies that are part of our Manufacturer Partnership with new companies joining each month."
Using Allergence, families can create profiles describing each person's allergen restrictions and then receive information about which products meet dietary restrictions for every member of the family, some members or no one.
The SnackSafely.com Blog
In addition to helping parents navigate the world of safe snacks, the site's blog offers everything from the latest news on research discoveries and treatment options to parenting strategies and labeling information.
"We wanted to gain more insight into what was affecting the food allergy community--such as what was underlying the costs of epinephrine auto-injectors--and the state of affairs regarding research into treatments and a cure," he says. "So, we built a site that would serve as both a news source for all things food allergy as well as a resource for food product information."
Like everyone, Dave hopes for a food allergy cure soon. In the meantime, look for an app combining all of SnackSafely.com's services coming later this spring/early summer. Visit the website for news and food product manufacturing information that isn't available anywhere else.
© Copyright Allergy Advocacy Association 2018.