Allergy group forming to help area residents

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2001

I always try to count my blessings for the good health I've been granted. Recently my eyes have been opened to the challenges of families and individuals dealing with food allergies.

I cannot begin to imagine going to a restaurant and needing to ask the ingredient list of every food item I plan to order because my life might depend on the food being egg-free, milk-free, wheat-free, peanut-free, soy-free or nut-free.

There must be many people in our community who have had to learn to cope with food allergies and many more just embarking on this challenge.

Deb Nyquist and Ruth Lewis are two people in our community who have and are facing this challenge. Better yet, they want to help others. Nyquist and Lewis are forming a group called the Peninsula Allergy Network.

The purpose of the Peninsula Allergy Network is to provide a forum for people to discuss how they cope with food allergies. They want people to share their stories, resources and recipes. Eventually they would like to invite guest speakers to talk on specific topics related to food allergies.

The public is invited to participate in this newly forming group. Their first meeting is July 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Bridges in Soldotna. For more information, contact Deb Nyquist at 283-1683 or Ruth Lewis at 260-3320.

Over the past several months, I have been in awe listening to the research Lewis has done regarding her son's allergies. Looking over just the few resources she left me shows me the importance of people getting together to discuss the subject of food allergies and related topics.

For example, Lewis provided me with a pamphlet entitled, "Managing Food Allergies," from The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN.)

Going to the FAAN Web site was what I would call a mouth-gaping experience for me, especially the section on special allergy alerts. One company was reportedly voluntarily recalling 161,000 pounds of pork loin chops because they "contain undeclared allergens (corn flour, eggs, non-fat milk) and undeclared ingredient (corn starch and monosodium glutamate or MSG.)"

Other companies were recalling products because of undeclared almonds, peanuts, egg whites and nonfat milk. Some of these ingredients were in products nonallergic people probably don't even think about questioning.

The Web site also included information on research studies, frequently asked questions and managing food allergies in schools. Visit the site at http:/www.foodallergy.org.

This is just one resource Lewis shared with me, think about how much more a person will learn from the collective experience of people such as Nyquist and Lewis, who have been doing all of this research legwork for years.

If at all possible, plan to attend the Peninsula Allergy Network meeting.

Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.



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