Tag Archives: conference

#FFFA18: The Shortlist

It’s really only been a couple of weeks since I was a third-time judge at this year’s FFFA and the exciting news is that the shortlist for the Awards has already been published. I absolutely love scanning through the shortlist, even for those categories where I’ve been involved in the judging, because I find it so encouraging to discover a plethora of products, many of which I’ve never heard of before, which will make such a difference to those living with a variety of food allergies. As well as those I’ve already identified as particular highlights for me on the day, I was excited to see La Crèmerie’s rice yoghurt detailed on the Milk Product Alternatives list. I actually discovered this rice yoghurt during my visit to the Foodmatters Live conference back in November and whilst I have yet to try this with M, I know it’s something that could be a real game-changer for him and I’d love to see this do well in the overall Awards.

What has been even better for me this year than list after list of amazing foods, is the final named category: the FreeFrom Hero Award. Back in December I was asked if there was anyone I would like to nominate for this special category and it’s been really encouraging to us as a family to see our 2 nominees appear on the final shortlist. You can only imagine my delight this week as I received copies of the emails that have been sent to tell our very own heroes of their success. When you look at the list I’ve no doubt that you’ll immediately be able to identify one of the nominations I made, that of Steve Whitaker and Jason Conners, the cooks at Over The Wall. Ultimately I don’t know whether either of our suggestions will be the winners of the category, but I wanted to share my reasons for nominating this fantastic pair for special recognition at FFFA18:

Your reason for nominating them: M’s rare gastro condition, complex food allergies, restricted diet and associated problems has meant that he has never been able to stay away from home except with his Grandma. At nearly 12, he has never stayed away on a school camp or even had a sleepover with friends. In 2016, he was offered a place on the South Health Challenges Camp run by charity, Over The Wall, which meant he would be able to stay away from home for a week, fully looked after by an amazing group of volunteers who cheerfully give their time to support these children, who suffer with life-changing illnesses.

In preparation for the week, I spoke to OTW several times to discuss M’s dietary needs and at least 2 months before camp, I was sent a sample menu of the food that the chefs were planning to cook for him based on his extremely limited diet (just 5 foods plus 1 oil and sugar), which was truly amazing and that M loved the sound of. We touched base the week before camp to just check whether there were any changes and when we arrived at camp, the staff took time to meet with me to discuss all of his needs.

M ate like a king the entire week he was away and reluctantly told me that “Sorry Mummy, but their food was even better than yours!”. He was kept safe, had no allergic reactions because of their incredible awareness of the care that needed to be taken, was able to make friends with others facing similar health challenges, tried out so many experiences he’d never been able to have before and just felt like a child as his health problems firmly took a back seat to the more important job of him just having fun. As Mum, I felt confident that they knew what they needed to do to support him and have subsequently seen just how amazing their care can be when they called whilst G was away on sibling camp because they were concerned that she wasn’t eating the GF/DF food they were preparing for her.

We are hoping that he will be able to go to OTW camp again this year, but are just so grateful that he even had that opportunity to experience it once. These chefs (and all staff to be honest!) really deserve recognition for making M’s first experience of being away from home such a positive one.

The results will be announced on Twitter, on the evening of April 17th (@FFFoodAwards) and I’m hoping that we might once again be able to be there to recognise the hard work and incredible dedication of all those shortlisted finalists as well as celebrating the success stories of the worthy winners.

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Allergy UK Annual Conference

20140428_150922To say that mornings and I do not get along is something of an understatement, and early mornings are the worst.  I am, without a shadow of a doubt, a genuine, bona fide, card-carrying night owl and so anyone who saw me out and about at 6.30am last Saturday, was probably left checking their watches and convinced that something extraordinary was going on. The occasion was Allergy UK‘s first annual conference, being held at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.  I first heard about the event at the start of this year and had been excited about the prospect of finding out more about allergies from the experts attending and presenting at the conference.  The day had been designed to address the needs of individuals and families dealing with allergies on a daily basis and consisted of speeches and workshops as well as open Q&A sessions held during the afternoon.

Professor Peter Howarth of Southampton General Hospital was the keynote speaker for the day.  He opened the conference with a fascinating insight into the on-going and future research that is currently being carried out in the area of allergies and allergic responses. He talked about the recently well-discussed research into peanut allergies, which is looking at whether it is possible to “switch off” the allergic response through regular exposure to peanuts in known sufferers, and whether this approach could be applied to other allergies too.

I was also fascinated to learn from Professor Howarth about the link that appears to exist between Vitamin D and the allergic response.  Studies carried out suggest that Vitamin D can help to reduce the allergic response, particularly in individuals suffering from asthma or urticaria and it is evident that much more research into this area could be extremely beneficial, although there is no funding available for this at the moment.  This is definitely an area I will be keeping an eye on to see if it could be of benefit to M in the future.

Mike and I then attended 2 afternoon sessions, the first of which was a child allergy workshop and proved invaluable, not least because Dr Jo Walsh, who ran the session, explained clearly and concisely the difference between intolerances, IgE allergies and non-IgE allergies.  Her excellent explanation simplified what is a complex and much-misunderstood area and would be an amazingly useful tool when trying to explain M’s food allergies to anyone who comes into contact with him.  She also touched briefly on how to manage the risks to an allergic child out of the home and brought to our attention the NICE guidelines drawn up in 2011, that cover the diagnosis of food allergies and intolerances in children.

The second workshop was run by Dr Helen Brough and was aimed at looking at dealing with allergies with teenagers.  Although this workshop promised a lot, I felt that it didn’t really deliver on our expectations.  The time allowed was just too limited to even begin to touch on what is a complex situation and certainly didn’t really offer any practical tips on how to deal with your teenager and their approach to life with their allergies.  She focussed a lot on the Adolescent allergy clinics they are beginning to introduce, but the time was spent discussing what the parents and teens in the room would like from such clinics, rather than on what is actually provided.

All in all, we were impressed with the day and would be keen to attend another one should Allergy UK decide to hold it again.  There was lots of information available on the day, but I would recommend that the workshop sessions be extended in length as 45 minutes was just not long enough to spend in discussion on such an involving subject.  I will be keeping my ear to the ground to see if Allergy UK run another conference next year and will let you know the minute I hear anything about it.