Snack Safely is one of the great resources I learned about recently at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas. I was at lunch when I overheard someone talking about how Snack Safely had recently downgraded Oreos, removing them from their list of snacks that are safe to eat.
This got my attention. Here we are at the Conference, with so many artisanal and allergy free brands represented, and someone is talking about something as mainstream as Oreos? I had to find out more. It was explained to me that beyond the ingredients listed on a snack’s box, there can sometimes be issues, such as cross-contamination, that make a product unsafe for us food allergic folks.
Also, I was a little shocked to hear that Oreos might be unsafe. Yes, back in the day when most mainstream snack companies routinely put whey or other milk products in their cookies, Nabisco’s Oreos were off-limits for me. Luckily, Nabisco’s rival cookie company, Sunshine had several cookie varieties that were dairy free, including Hydrox, which was somewhat similar to the Oreo (chocolate crunchy cookie outside, sugary creamy filling). But at some point, I read the ingredients on Oreos, and they had removed the whey, and yay, I could eat them!
So to hear that they were maybe not really safe was going to make me sad. But two items of clarification are necessary to conclude this story. The first is about Snack Safely. Louise uses them religiously, because their focus is on peanut allergy (which is the food allergy with which she is concerned). Luckily, the work they do revealing companies’ manufacturing processes can also be very helpful to us dairy-avoiding folks. But peanut allergy is what they are trying to address.
Second, in reading their report on Oreos, they do say that original and double stuff varieties are ok, but everything else is best avoided. Phew! I can live with a world where the only kind of Oreos I can safely eat are original and double stuff.
But let me tell you a little more about Snack Safely. They produce a Snack List, which is updated regularly, where they break down snacks into different categories (pretzels, chips, cookies, etc.) and then tell you in each category which brands and varieties are definitely safe for people with peanut allergies to eat. They also partner with manufacturers and have a list of those companies that work with them in making their ingredients as well as manufacturing processes clear to consumers. (An aside: many of the brands/companies on their list are companies I had not previously heard of, like Cybele’s and Enjoy Life, which I encountered for the first time at the conference).
To me, what Snack Safely is doing is pretty extraordinary! To be advocating for us food allergic folks and making connections with companies cannot be an easy job. I am sure there are some companies, especially the big conglomerates, who probably don’t want to be bothered with disclosing their manufacturing processes to the general public. The fact that Snack Safely gets so many companies to do this is an incredible service to us.
And again, I am including us (dairy allergic folks) in this conversation, even though Snack Safely is focused on peanut allergy. As I said earlier, I’m sure that a lot of the information they convey is also helpful to us. Also, the high degree of professionalism they have shown in advocating for the peanut allergic is an inspiration to us. We need a dairy free version of Snack Safely! Well, until we have that, Snack Safely is a wonderful tool for getting information on what’s safe to munch on.