Having a child is hard. Having a child with a food allergy is really hard. Having a young child with multiple, life-threatening food allergies is next level. 

I am one of millions of food-allergy parents attempting to navigate this world. Happy occasions like birthday parties and family get-togethers are a minefield of potential danger. Every time my daughter leaves the house, we bring an EpiPen, Benadryl, and all of the snacks and other food that she'll be eating — or have researched exactly where we can find "safe food" while we're out. 

Reading basic food labels usually requires numerous Google searches (what's "Methyl cellulose?") and follow-up emails to the manufacturer to find out if my daughter's allergens are included in generic terms like "spices" or "natural flavors." I have a master's degree, can read and write Arabic, and genuinely cannot make heads or tails of most of the ingredient lists on simple food items like crackers or salad dressing. 

Finding a "safe food" aka a bread or cheese or anything else that is safe for my daughter (and that she'll actually eat) is like, "Eureka!" I will pay anything for it, and buy it over and over again. 

No surprise then, that sales for allergy-friendly foods are exploding. Roughly 62 million Americans have a food allergy or food intolerance. By some estimates, that's up 82 percent in just the past decade. And all those people (or their parents) are looking for safe food to eat. 

Checking Out Abe's Vegan Muffins

I recently took a tour of Abe's Vegan Muffins factory in West Nyack, N.Y. They make cakes, cupcakes, and muffins without common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, eggs, and milk. (And they're delicious.) 

Joseph Koffman co-founded the company, named for his son Abe, who was born anaphylactic to all those ingredients and then some. He says when Abe was younger, he'd "go to the class birthday parties and he was the only one who was sitting all by himself at another table, and he'd end up crying. And my wife — this was killing us — so she decided that she was going to learn how to make all kinds of vegan cakes and cookies." 

Koffman and his brother took those recipes and created Abe's, the first nationally-branded, vegan, and school-friendly muffin.  

Joseph's brother Marty runs the sales side of the business. He said they literally cannot keep up with demand. He says sales in the allergy-friendly and vegan space are up by about 25 percent year-over-year, and Abe's sales are growing even faster than that. 

I went behind the scenes and witnessed what goes into ensuring the products are actually allergy-free. It starts with sourcing; making sure the chocolate in the chocolate chip muffins doesn't come from a factory that also processes peanuts. Workers go through special allergy training. And then each day, before the equipment is even turned on, it's tested to make sure those allergens do not exist.

Importance of Ingredient Labels

On the consumer end, the labels on the packaging are clear and easy to understand. 

Michelle Isban is another allergy mom. She runs the Instagram account "Allergy Mom With a Mission" where she connects with other allergy families and spreads the word about new safe foods and products, like Abe's. She says without these safe foods, she'd be in the kitchen cooking all day. Not only that, but her 11-year-old daughter Lexi can feel included in parties, without bringing homemade cookies that look "mommy-made." 

Her biggest message to food manufacturers: make clear labels. She says she'd rather know that a food is not safe or made in a factory with peanuts, etc. than have to roll the dice with her daughter's safety and find out the hard way. 

Koffman says Abe's is all about transparency and safety. They cater to allergy families and also customers who voluntarily eliminate certain foods from their diet: "We never expected the business to be more than just a localized little niche business. We never thought that both the allergen side and, because it's vegan — we just did not see it coming. And it's just in the past few years it's been a wild ride and it will continue being. This is not a fad. It's a determined trend." 

And for that, this allergy mom says "thank you." 

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