My story, energy bars, confusion, & questions

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 4:16am
Cyclist's picture
Joined: 05/15/2003 - 09:00

I was diagnosed with PA 6 years ago at age 37. I am a long distance bicyclist and at that time was eating peanut butter and energy bars containing peanuts every day while riding a 2 week bike trip. I kept having reactions (hot red skin, diff breathing, hives)while on the trip but did not realize it was from the peanuts because I was not eating anything different than I had when I was riding at home. After the trip, I was eating a chocolate chip cookie and had the same reaction. This time I knew for sure it was something in the cookie- it was the only thing I had eaten for hours. I went to an allergist with the ingredients and the blood test showed a mild allergy to peanuts. The allergist told me never to eat peanut ingredients and beware of cross reactions etc. so I began reading labels and I have not had a reaction since.

Recently I went to a different allergist who told me that it doesn't matter what the actual numbers were on the blood test and that it was ok to eat things that are "manufactured on the same equipment as peanuts" or that "may conatin traces of peanuts" just don't eat actual peanuts.

As a bicylcist I have not been able to eat any energy bars- they all say -"may contain traces of peanuts" But I found one called Odwalla Bar and when I e-mailed the company they said that the non-peanut flavors are made on the same equipment as the peanut ones but that it was safe to eat because they thoroughly clean the equipment in between. Should I trust this?? Would you eat the Odwalla Bar? Could it be that I had the reactions while on the trip because I was overloading my system with peanuts? Should I be re-tested?

I know now that it was a miracle I survived the trip having those reactions without any treatment and since I have not had any reactions in all these years I feel very fotunate. But I also feel that even though I am careful about what I eat, somewhere somehow over the last 6 years I would have been exposed to a trace of peanut and yet didn't have a reaction. Anyone have any insight, comments, suggestions? Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 4:48am
cynde's picture
Joined: 12/10/2002 - 09:00

Cyclist, I know it can be confusing getting conflicting information from doctors. It's very difficult to make informed decisions. I would say it's up to you, do you trust the company and what they say? I have never had any dealing with them so I can't help you.
Our family policy for our 8 year old son is "may contains" are off limits, but as he gets older he will have to decide for himself.
I would suggest you do a search in the Manufacturers part of the board. If you don'f find anything post your question about this specific company and see if you get any responses.
Sorry, I know I didn't help, I just didn't want to ignore your question.

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 4:55am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Cyclist.
I'm an adult who also kept eating foods that were harmful to me. It took a very scary trip to the ER for me to fully realize how serious this was.
I have two foods I have to avoid. Peanuts and sesame seeds.
At first my reactions were only if I ate the actual food - not trace amounts. Now if I eat a few crackers that ran on the same line as crackers with sesame seeds my tongue and throat swell up.
So far trace amounts of peanuts only cause hives or itching. I'd like to keep it that way, so I try to avoid all trace amounts.
Since my reactions started small and progressed I do believe the more often I am exposed to those foods the worse my reactions will become. From reading these boards it appears a lot of people feel that way.
As for eating something that runs on the same machinery after it is cleaned, well, that's a *personal comfort zone*. Some people feel safe, and others don't.
Is the doctor that told you not to worry about trace amounts a food allergy specialist?

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 11:23am
Cyclist's picture
Joined: 05/15/2003 - 09:00

Cynde & AnnaMarie-
thank you for your help.
To this point I have avoided all products that say "may contain" & also "maunfactured in a facility that uses peanuts" and I will continue to do so because I haven't had a reaction in all this time.
But this new energy bar- "Odwalla" does not have any warning on the package and they claim it is safe because they clean the equipment in between the peanut runs- so I am very tempted. But, I am curious if it is possible to actually remove all trace of peanuts.
The 2 allergists I saw were for general allergies - I am not sure if they are specialists in food allergy.
Thank you again for your information

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 12:01pm
becca's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Cyclist, you may not know(I didn't when I first discovered my dd's allergy) that no warning on a label does not mean greater safety. There is no required labeling for foods manufactured on the same equipment, and all facilities using allergens are supposed to follow certain "safe manufacturing guidelines."
So, you just don't know by reading the labels, here in the US, that is. Start calling your favorite brandproducts and see what their policies are. That is really the best way to decide. Then there is the personal choice of how much risk you want to take on products that are less certain. becca

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 1:29pm
Driving Me Nutty's picture
Joined: 05/01/2003 - 09:00

I wouldn't feel safe trying the Odwalla bar. You might want to call them back and get more specifics on the cleaning process that takes place after the peanut runs. But from what I've read, it is difficult to remove ALL traces of peanut unless it is a VERY thorough cleaning. It would be safer to try bars that are produced on dedicated lines.

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 9:46pm
becca's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Check manufacturer's topic area. I will raise a nut free company someone recently posted. I thought they had an energy bar product.
I was just watching the Boston Marathon, and observed so many runners with energy snacks and this very problem crossed my mind! becca

Posted on: Thu, 05/15/2003 - 9:59pm
KayMarks's picture
Joined: 01/10/2000 - 09:00

Hi- not sure how you are in the kitchen, but I found this recipe doing a quick web search.
"This recipe appeared in Bicycling magazine 2-3 years ago. It's a good alternative to buying energy bars- these are cheap, easy to make, don't melt in hot weather, and actually taste pretty good."
24 dried figs
1/3 cup honey
4 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 egg whites (I use egg substitute)
1 cup oat bran
Instructions: mix figs, honey, OJ and lemon juice in a food processor. Mix all other ingredients seperately (except oat bran). Combine 2 mixtures, roll into golf ball sized balls (makes 20-24), coat with oat bran, and bake at 350 deg for 10-15 minutes. Store finished product in the refrigerator.
Tom Roehr's recipe for a home made 40/30/30 bar.

Posted on: Fri, 05/16/2003 - 2:12am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Also, you might want to add where you are from. Even between (or should I say especially between) Canada and the USA there are big differences in the same product.
For example Kellogg's Canada is trusted for their labeling. But I don't think Kellogg's in the US is.

Posted on: Fri, 05/16/2003 - 4:22am
Sarahfran's picture
Joined: 06/08/2000 - 09:00

Personally, I wouldn't try an Odwalla bar because they taste like crap!
I don't know about your situation. With my DD, we avoid everything with a "may contain" or "processed in a facility" label because she's very sensitive and quick to react. In your case, you don't really know how bad a reaction you could have. In the situation you described with long-distance cycling, your body was under a lot of physical stress, which can certainly make reactions worse. But anyone with this allergy knows that you can have a "mild" allergy that suddenly blooms into something serious and life threatening with no warning. But it sounds like the Odwalla manufacturer was pretty confident about the safety of the product; with that in mind, I'd probably actually risk it in your case, but ONLY if I were close to home/medical treatment and with another person just in case. You'd hate to be on a long solo trek in Wyoming and have a reaction!
Good luck!

Posted on: Fri, 05/16/2003 - 4:29am
marina_twinmom's picture
Joined: 09/06/2001 - 09:00

Even if it's not labeled with a "may contain" warning, I'd consider that energy bar to potentially contain traces of peanuts if it's manufactured on the same line with peanut-containing bars. I wouldn't feed it to my PA/TNA son.
BTW, the story they gave you is similar to the one that Kraft/Nabisco gave me when I called ... they can't tell me what items were processed on lines containing nuts, but they sanitize everything between batches, so it should be safe. (When I told the Kraft/Nabisco rep that my son has a life-threatening allergy, and that his allergist told us not to feed him anything manufactured on shared lines with items containing nuts, she changed her tune and told me to consider ALL of their products unsafe. I asked to talk with a manager, and she told me the same thing.) [img][/img]
[This message has been edited by marina_twinmom (edited May 16, 2003).]

Posted on: Tue, 05/20/2003 - 10:51pm
Cyclist's picture
Joined: 05/15/2003 - 09:00

thanks again for all your input- and to KayMarks for the recipe!! I have a question about the recipe- it calls for honey. Should one who has allergies to tree pollen avoid honey??
I live in the US.- are the Canada labels more accurate?
I contacted Odwalla again for more details but have not heard back yet.
On another note, I contacted Johnson & Johnson about Shower to Shower powder and they replied that it does not contain peanut oil in the fragrance/powder.
[This message has been edited by Cyclist (edited May 21, 2003).]

Posted on: Tue, 05/20/2003 - 11:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

A lot of companies in Canada do seem to have more accurate labelling. Kellogg's, Cadbury, Nestle, all come to mind. Kraft is the same in US and Canada. Some people here trust it, others (myself included) do not.
As for energy bars, I'm not familiar with any of the companies, so I don't know if they label better up here or not. If they do, are you close enough to the border to actually come up for shopping? I may be able to get some names from my niece, then check out the companies, but only if you could actually get up here to buy them.

Posted on: Tue, 05/20/2003 - 11:59pm
Peg541's picture
Joined: 12/29/2002 - 09:00

I cannot quote my source because it was awhile ago but I remember reading that your chances of dying increase tremendously if exposed to peanut during or immediately after exercise.
This might be something to think about.

Posted on: Wed, 05/21/2003 - 12:07am
erik's picture
Joined: 05/15/2001 - 09:00

Hi Peggy,
I believe this is due to the fact that after (and during) exercise, your heart pumps the blood much faster so the reaction will also progress more rapidly as the allergen will move through the circulatory system faster or something of that nature.
There is also a condition in which exercise can be a trigger for an allergic reaction itself (often due to celery allergy).

Posted on: Wed, 05/21/2003 - 4:04am
Peg541's picture
Joined: 12/29/2002 - 09:00

Thanks Erik,
Celery? You mean the green stuff?
I react when I get an injury. If I get a big scrape on my arm or leg I get hives all along the scrape. My allergist said my mast cells were very active and that was why that happened.
I imagine that stressful exercise could itself bring on a reaction just to the exercise, like people talk about in another thread here and cold water hives.

Posted on: Wed, 05/21/2003 - 10:52am
erik's picture
Joined: 05/15/2001 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by Peg541:
[b]Thanks Erik,
Celery? You mean the green stuff?
Yes, I read several times about celery causes exercise induced allergic reactions. Here is more info:
[i]Exercise-Induced Urticaria and Anaphylaxis
First described by Sheffer and Austen in 1980, exercise-induced anaphylaxis typically affects young adults. Manifestations include itch (92 %), urticaria (83 %), angioedema (78 %), bronchospasm (59 %), sweating (43 %), syncope (32 %), gut upset (30 %) or nasal congestion (rare).
Some experience symptoms with exercise alone; others will only do so if allergenic foods are ingested around the same time. Foods implicated in this syndrome include wheat and other cereals, celery, seafood, nuts, fruit and some vegetables. The severity of symptoms is generally influenced by the amount of food ingested, the vigor of exercise and the time between the two. Thus severe symptoms are usually due to food eaten only a few hours earlier.[/i]
article at: [url=""][/url]

Posted on: Wed, 05/21/2003 - 11:35am
shelleo1's picture
Joined: 03/12/2003 - 09:00

I just read your message and I must tell you that you are lucky indeed to have not died from your reaction. I have had severe food allergies my entire life. My own parents went through absolute hell trying to sort out my various reactions over the years. And, like you, my tolerance levels fluctuated causing me to react more or less severe at differnt times in my life. Some doctors have suggested that stress can effect your tolerance to different allergens, thus changing the reaction. Now as a mom and with a new career as a teacher, I would have to agree with stress being a definite factor.
My recommendation to you is to avoid your peanut allergy when it is a certain ingredient in the food you ingest. In other words, stay away from Mr. Big chocolate bars. As for the foods that say may contain, well that will have to be a choice you make. Most companies now say may contain to protect themselves from lawsuits. It's a chance we take. We take chances driving our vehicles each day or cycling on busy streets but we try to avoid driving without a seatbelt or cycling without a helmet.
Take Care.

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