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May 09, 2016
May 8 to 14 is Food Allergy Awareness Week. And May is Food Allergy Action Month.
I feel so very lucky. I don't have any food allergies. Nor does anyone in my family.
I think I really took notice of the impact of food allergies when my kids started going to school. But it really hit home when a friend and her daughter were diagnosed as celiac.
Going to their house, I quickly learned that there was another area in their kitchen to prepare their food safely (no cross contamination). I learned that double-dipping into jam jars was a huge no-no (you are spreading that jam across a piece of toast and then putting a utensil that has touched gluten back into the jam, which means they now can't eat the jam). I learned that despite a package saying gluten-free, it still may not be safe for them to eat because they had to do research on the facility it was made or packaged in because there was a chance it was actually not a gluten-free facility.
When I started making candy, I made it 100% gluten-free for them. I was happy to do it. They were VERY happy.
Once I started selling at farmers' markets, customers asked a lot of questions about ingredients and environment - "what do you mean by gluten free?", "does it contain corn?", "are there nuts and peanuts in anything?", "are there artificial colors in anything?"
The list of food allergies was/is mind blowing. But what was more mind blowing was that I could answer every single concern. And in the majority of cases I got a great reaction:
The kitchen facility is completely gluten-free. I don't share it with anyone. And I use only certified gluten-free ingredients like Giddy Yoyo raw cacao (instead of cocoa which contains gluten). - "Your marshmallows are celiac friendly! This is awesome!"
No, there is no corn or corn-syrup in any of my products except for the popcorn. - "OMG, I can actually eat these caramels!"
No, there are absolutely no nuts or peanuts anywhere in the kitchen, nor will there ever be. And the ingredients are also free of nuts and peanuts. - "WOW, my kids can eat your lollipops AND take them to school for birthday treats!"
No, no artificial flavours or colours. Organic, all natural that are made from fruit and plant materials. - "My daughter has never had cotton candy and now she can actually have it."
In some cases, I've actually sourced an ingredient alternative in order to eliminate yet another food allergy that has been brought to my attention.
I'm still learning about food allergies but it's something I'm happy to do. In fact, it's my commitment to making candy that has as minimal allergens as possible that brings me the greatest joy. The happiest moment in my job is when parents, in particular, say that they are so happy to find a treat that their kids can eat safely. Likely seriously happy (not something that one usually associates with food allergies).
Over 50% of my customers are those who have, or are buying for those with, major food allergies. This is my public declaration, my promise, that I will treat you and your allergies with respect.
If you have a food allergy or have ANY questions about what ingredients I use, please email me directly. I'm more than happy to answer any questions or concerns.
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