Food Allergies: What You Need to Know

With food allergies on the rise I think it’s important to be aware of your own allergies as well as loved ones in your home. I remember growing up my mother refused to go out to eat often due to her food allergy to shelled fish. Eateries haven’t always practiced the proper techniques and one time my mom got sick, good thing she always travels with Benadryl! Shandee Chernow is the Founder & CEO of CertiStar, her mission is to protect and improve the safety and dining experiences of men, women or children vulnerable to food allergies and intolerances. Helping people like my mom when dining out the company has created a patent-pending MenuStar™ restaurant software that allows you to identify food allergy threats..

Shandee herself is a single Mother of two and personally suffers from food allergies. She wanted to create a solution to the restaurant industry that would allow for those dining out, like her, to dine with safety and ease and not have to worry about having a reaction at the table. Continue reading my interview with Shandee to learn more about her company and how she is helping people across the nation.


NMFIT: Why is raising food allergy awareness so important to you? 

Shandee Chernow (SC): There are so many misconceptions around food allergies and, I think, that people don’t really understand how severe reactions can be to very small amounts of food. Raising awareness that food allergies are real, and they are serious and we aren’t making them up is really important. With food allergies, it’s a challenge literally every day and with every meal, drink or snack you sit down for.


NMFIT: Why did you start CertiStar

SC: I started CertiStar to try to help out other people, like me, who go out to eat frequently, but for whom the experience is challenging because of their food allergies. It can be a real challenge not only the diner but also for the restaurants. We aim to simplify the entire conversation for both sides, taking away everyone’s stress and taking a lot less time to figure out what a guest can order the most safely.

NMFIT: For those that are busy with either family or career what is the best option for putting together an allergy free meal at home?

SC: I don’t have anything in my house that includes any of my allergens, so when I’m putting together a meal, it’s pretty easy since everything is safe. There are plenty of households who have more complicated combinations across family members, so there can be some real challenges. The biggest thing is to really read labels and pay attention to cross contamination. In other words, make sure to really clean countertops, cooking surfaces and utensils before preparing the next portion of the meal.

 NMFIT: Why do you think food allergies have increased over the years?

SC: There’s not really a good statistic to support any reasoning behind it. There are many theories for the increase. I think there is something to be said for people feeling the increase is bigger than it really is because food allergic people are more willing to talk about it more; it’s become more socially acceptable and less stigmatized. There’s theories about the increase around pesticides and GMOs, but I haven’t seen anyone take a definite stance on this one. 

NMFIT:  What is the most common food allergy?  Why do you think this is?

SC: The most common allergy in the US is dairy. That’s different than lactose intolerant, although a lot of people may confuse them. The one we hear about the most often is peanut or tree nut, but dairy actually takes first place. I’m not sure why it is so common, but it is certainly found in many, many packaged foods and menu items, so it can be a challenging one.

NMFIT: What are your favorite allergy free foods?

SC: There are no allergy free foods, or it wouldn’t be food! It’s so important to remember that people can be allergic to literally anything (there’s over 170 different foods that have caused food allergic reactions). There are a lot of brands that claim to be allergen free, but they’re really referring to the top 8 (peanut, tree nut, egg, soy, dairy, wheat, fish and shellfish).

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