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Food Finder Website Resource for Those With Food Allergies

By Linda Zukauskas, VOICES the newspaper
NEWTOWN — Those who struggle with food allergies have a new resource in Friendly Food Finder.

The website offers a way to identify safe foods and locate the stores that sell these products.

“Twenty years ago, we discovered our daughter Sadie was allergic to milk, rice and peanuts,” Deborra Zukowski told Voices. “Our goal was to have a normal life and not raise her with ‘you can’t.’”
Ms. Zukowski said that meeting the goal was difficult and challenges would appear in many unexpected ways.

Activities that most families take for granted would need extra planning because, even with vigilance, Sadie Zukowski has had six anaphylactic reactions in her lifetime.

“Some things we gave up,” Ms. Zukowski admits, naming amusement parks, because ice cream drips and gets on too many surfaces to monitor.

As Sadie was contact allergic, it wasn’t going to be a very amusing trip if she ended up with a set of hives.

Ms. Zukowski discovered foods that she could feed her daughter, and why many foods were a threat.

“Margarine contains milk,” she said. “We found one exception, which was Fleishman’s unsalted margarine. The salted version contains milk.”

With this discovery, she could make frosting for cupcakes.

Trips were very difficult and the family would bring cans of food so that Sadie could eat while away from home.

Today’s restrictions for air travel make that solution impossible.

Friendly Food Finder helps those who leave the familiarity of their own area by naming the stores that carry foods safe to eat.

The easy to use online tool is based on a combination of user need and good programming.

Those who want to recommend products can do so quickly and, once entered, anyone can look by type of product, name brand or just search for suggestions.

This is handy for anyone planning a party who is unsure of what to serve.

While legislation has made food labels more useful, there are sometimes dangers such as when a manufacturer produces more than one food product on the same set of machines, cross contaminating food.

Users can also search by food allergy to find out what products are safe to eat.

The next step in making Friendly Food Finder a better tool is to add more information on products and that requires the help of the community.

Ms. Zukowski and her husband enjoy traveling as high pointers — people who visit the highest point in every state. While out, they spend time looking in new stores to see if the safe foods they’ve identified are available.

Knowledge such as this has brought the family from a place where they couldn’t travel to the freedom of experiencing new places and meeting new people.

However, one or two people doing the legwork of identifying stores is a limited way of performing research.

Ms. Zukowski invites everyone to help add research to Friendly Food Finder.

“I can’t do it alone,” she reminded.

Even those without allergies can help by simply noting when items are available in a store, maybe because they are welcoming visitors with allergies or just want to participate in a way that takes little time but can literally mean life or death to someone.

Ms. Zukowski hopes the site gains popularity and, as information comes into it, becomes a more and more useful tool.

“With Friendly Food Finder, people won’t have to live what I lived through.”
Copied, with permission, from VOICES the newspaper. See link below for the original article.

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