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The Allergy & Free From Show 2014

A few days ago, I took my eldest (5 years 11 months) and my youngest (three weeks) across the city to London Olympia for the Allergy and Free From show.

I am not going to play it cool. I was ridiculously excited about going. My toddler (1 year 8 months) suffers from eczema as well as a wide range of allergies (wheat, cow’s milk protein, eggs, tree nuts and seeds) and it can be tricky to feed her when we are out and about. I found out about the Allergy Show a few months ago and the thought we would be able to find dozens of brands dedicated to allergies and exclusion diets under one roof was making me giddy.

The hall was spacious, bright and colourful. It was nothing like the boring shows I got dragged to as a child in dull, grey warehouses that were either freezing cold or stuffy. As soon as we went in, we found the Allergy UK stand and I was booked in an hour later for a private conversation with Maureen Jenkins, the Director of Clinical Services for the charity.

In the meantime, Crevette was drawn towards Allergy Adventures, which was providing a free craft workshop for children. Everyone helping Hailey in the bright yellow area was chatty, friendly and had more enthusiasm than Mister Maker! Crevette would have stayed there all day on the comfortable bean bags if I had let him. He had a brilliant time making a paper plate cupcake and as he was being entertained, I leafed through Hailey’s children books and we bought the ‘egg-free’ one for Jumpy.

Allergy Show - Allergy Adventures

Shortly afterwards, we met with the bubbly Vicki, otherwise known as the Free From Fairy. She had organised for like-minded people blogging or tweeting about allergies and coeliac disease to get together at the café. I wish we could have stayed there for longer, but we had to go back to Allergy UK for our appointment.

Maureen is one in a million; a truly inspiring woman. She is a proactive campaigner who goes out of her way to help people living with allergies. She is determined to spread the word about allergies, educate people, and get more allergy dieticians out there. After listening to Jumpy’s story, she gave me advice on food I could give her, mentioned a new adrenaline auto injector we could ask Jumpy’s paediatrician to prescribe when hers is out of date. She also advised reading Tanya Wright’s books. She even gave me a one ingredient ‘ice cream’ I could make in minutes. For the length of our conversation, Maureen shared her seat with Crevette and she had a little cuddle with Wriggly. When we left after chatting for over an hour, I felt lighter. More dedicated people like Maureen are needed to guide and reassure parents when they have just found out their little ones have life-threatening allergies.

After a great start to the day, I have to admit I was rather disheartened by the fact most food stands had nothing to offer for multiple allergy sufferers. A minority of the exhibitors were catering for my toddler’s range of allergies and overall, it was more of a ‘gluten free’ show than a ‘free from’ show as far as the food was concerned.

Had my little girl been with me, I am not entirely sure I would have managed to find lunch for her. We are not alone with this predicament and I read a couple of posts with similar feelings on the Intolerant Gourmand and Carrots and Maple Syrup’s blogs.

Nonetheless, a number of the familiar brands we use and buy regularly were there: DS-gluten free, WaterWipes, Plamil Foods, TIANA, Alpro UK, Koko Dairy Free, HayMax, Sainsbury’s freefrom and Tesco Free From range.

I did not buy that much as I had two of my children with me, had to go home by public transport and some of the products I had my eyes on were either bulky or needed to be kept in the fridge.

Here is a little list of new brands I discovered, sampled and fell in love with: Pip Organic, COYO, the Coconut Collaborative, debbie&andrew’s, incognito anti-mosquito, PERK!ER Foods, Goody Good Stuff, Pudology and Smooze UK.

Allergy Show - Shopping

We ran out of time, but these are the stands I would have liked to get to: ilumi, Allergy Lifestyle, Angelic Gluten Free, Freedom Mallows, Fun Foods 4 All, GoodnessDirect, Smart Eats & Treats, Vitamix Europe and Vegusto UK. Tell me what you think if you have tried any of their products.

I wish these had been there: as I wrote at length before, we are huge fans of Lazy Day Foods at home and I would have loved to see them there, as well as Sticky Mix which I discovered through Twitter recently but have not tried yet.

Am I going to the Allergy Show again next year? Yes, yes, 10 times yes!

Have you got a favourite ‘free from’ product? If so, leave a comment to let me know as I always struggle to find nice-tasting ‘free from’ food my little girl can have.

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  1. Coombe Mill
    21/07/2014 / 12:20 pm

    Sounds like a very worthwhile day out #MagicMoments

    • Mel
      22/07/2014 / 11:09 pm

      It was Fiona!

  2. 21/07/2014 / 12:28 pm

    how fab to discover such a fantastic resource! it so difficult sometimes to find things so to have so many under one roof is fab 🙂

    thanks for linking up with #MagicMoments x

    • Mel
      21/07/2014 / 10:04 pm

      It really was brilliant knowing everything at that show would be dedicated to allergies, eczema etc. It was a really positive experience and I already have my tickets for July 2015!

  3. Kim Carberry
    21/07/2014 / 12:51 pm

    It sounds like you had a fab time…..It does sound disappointing that at an event like that they don’t have a wider range of food stands…

    • Mel
      22/07/2014 / 11:00 pm

      We had a great time. I was not surprised not all brands would cater for all her allergies, but the issue to me was that it was more a gluten free show than an allergy show. Oh well… I am still going next year!

  4. 21/07/2014 / 6:29 pm

    Sounds like a great day, I suffer with a a wheat intolerance and something else I have not quite narrowed down yet! It’s not nice and I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a child with it, eczema is just horrid so I am glad you found the day useful and lots of goodies too 🙂 #magicmoments

    • Mel
      22/07/2014 / 10:49 pm

      It can e really difficult to pinpoint what could be causing the intolerance, isn’t it? The problem is if it is wheat or dairy, because they happen to be in so many things, it is not the easiest to cut them out of your diet to see if there is an improvement. Good luck finding out what it is. Have you tried keeping a food diary? That might help. Here is the one from Allergy UK: http://www.allergyuk.org/downloads/diary-examples/food-symptoms-diary.pdf

  5. lystramaisey
    22/07/2014 / 10:36 pm

    Hiya what an interesting post-and so helpful. My little boy has eczema and is allergic to a couple of things that we know of but we have yet to identify the main trigger-I am not getting very far and his eczema is getting worse, so I think we will give some free from products a go and see if it makes any difference. It’s a miserable thing to suffer from so would be good to make a difference-might even go along myself next year! xxx #magicmoments

    • Mel
      22/07/2014 / 10:43 pm

      Have you read my post about eczema? It sounds like your little boy and my girl are experiencing similar things. When Jumpy’s eczema was getting really angry, I told her dermatologist I thought it was food-related, but that was dismissed and we found out the hard way (a visit to A&E) when she reacted to wheat. It is very difficult to pinpoint what they might be allergic to and keeping a food diary helps. There is a template on the Allergy UK website.

      • lystramaisey
        23/07/2014 / 10:49 pm

        Thanks Mel that’s really helpful and yes it really does sound similar-we’ve also been dismissed when it comes to the subject of food/environmental allergy causing his eczema-I just get told that they see it all the time. Which isn’t hugely helpful when he’s awake scratching half the night! He’s currently on his third course of hydrocortisone cream in as many weeks so will see what happens next, but the food diary is proving useful and the template is great-thank you! xxx

        • Mel
          23/07/2014 / 10:56 pm

          I hope it gets better for him, poor little man. The mild steroid creams do not have any effect whatsoever on our daughters’ skin. One of them is better with the heat whilst the other one is getting worse (you cannot win, can you?). When I give them Piriton before bed, it helps them sleep and therefore scratch less during the night.

  6. Hi Mel, great to see a blog post with customer feedback on the Allergy Show. Its nice to know how it caters for visitors handling multiple allergies. Love the show but it is very expensive to exhibit when you are starting out as a small business. I worry because it seems very much tipped towards gluten free if its meeting your needs as well and if allergy customers will make the effort to attend. Having said that it is great to get out there and meet the customers face to face, my favourite bit 🙂

    • Mel
      23/07/2014 / 10:05 pm

      I saw that you were at the show after the show, what a shame! I wish I had known you were there as we could do with a few of the products you sell. The multi allergy wristbands look great, so does your allergy jewellery, Epipen cases, allergy stories… I will stop there as there is too much I would have liked to look at and buy. Next year, I will be a lot more organised and will come to your stand.

  7. 25/07/2014 / 11:04 am

    What a clear and concise review. I can’t imagine the “fun” you must have trying to find suitable foods every day. Hubs is/was allergic to prawns and just dealing with that one allergy in an adult is bad enough for me! Hats off lady xx

    • Mel
      26/07/2014 / 9:39 am

      Allergies are always tricky, whether it be one or a range of them. It was brilliant finding out about new brands to try.

  8. 27/07/2014 / 7:26 am

    It must be so hard feeding your daughter at times. The Preschooler was dairy free then lactose free for a while and that was hard enough. But multiple allergies must be really difficult. I’ve never heard of this show before but I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 x x x

    • Mel
      27/07/2014 / 12:37 pm

      You just get used to it but I wish she could try all the things we eat and love. Such is life…

  9. 29/07/2014 / 11:48 pm

    This looks fabulous-sorry you are dealing with multiple allergies. Specialist told us Oliver has urticaria so not food allergies (according to him)-he takes cetirizine daily-hoping he outgrows it and it isn’t specific foods at the root cause. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

    • Mel
      30/07/2014 / 12:03 am

      I am sure she will grow out of at least some of them sooner or later and it looks good for her milk protein allergy, fingers crossed! Urticaria is a pain. I hope Oliver outgrows it at some point. My GP prescribes the same thing for my hay fever and it helps a lot I have to say.

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