In the past, we’ve introduced you to different members of our community who are amazing advocates for special dietary needs and our gluten-free and food allergy communities. This month, we want to introduce you to our very own Quality Assurance Manager, Chris DeVore, who makes sure that our products adhere to our allergen and quality standards! Just in time for Halloween, Chris is here to tell you a bit about the work he does, and how his work can help you pick out your Halloween candy and stay safe this year.
Enjoy Life: Hi Chris! What is your favorite part about working at Enjoy Life?
Chris: My favorite part about working at Enjoy Life is the staff and our mission.Every day, we make products that help consumers with their peace of mind, so that they don’t have to worry about getting sick or something worse from eating something they will react to. As a person with an anaphylactic food allergy, and the parent of a child with a food allergy, I am especially grateful for the purpose Enjoy Life serves, and greatly appreciate the opportunity to assist in fulfilling it.
Enjoy Life: What is your role, and what can you tell us about the work you do?
Chris: As the primary individual responsible for food safety and quality, I am directly responsible for all programs related to those two goals. The allergen program, certification programs, product quality, regulatory labeling and many others related to Quality & Food Safety all fall under my lead. I also am the individual that answers most, if not all, of the questions from consumers related to food safety or quality concerns that we receive. The work I do is varied, and I wear many hats. At any time throughout the work day, I am either auditing, responding to questions or concerns, or fulfilling aspects of our food safety and quality programs. I have direct responsibility to all parts of our process, from receiving ingredients and making sure they are safe, to making sure the trailers we ship products on are safe to use. Every part of the business involves something I need to take part in.
Enjoy Life:Any special advice for people with food allergies now that Halloween is coming up?
Chris: I love Halloween! In fact, it is my favorite holiday! The changing weather, the Autumn colors, the Jack-O’Lanterns, Trick-or-Treating! Going house to house to get free candy is something most every child looks forward to. And when they fear that the candy they eat may harm them, those experiences aren’t as vibrant and exciting. Try not to exclude them from the experience! If you know your neighbors well, provide safe treats to them ahead of time to give to your child. Parents know they will need to sort candy and that their children shouldn’t open any until they are with their parents. Include them in this activity…explain to your child what exactly is in the product you are pulling out and why they need to avoid it. But, be ready to replace it with something safe! If they are like me, they are counting every piece! Make a game out of it.
Enjoy Life: What are some important things to look for when picking out Halloween candy?
Chris: When it comes to Halloween candy, there are many candies and products in the marketplace that are allergy-friendly like our Halloween Minis. They are becoming more common and easy to find in any available supermarket. As parents of children with allergies, you have to be especially vigilant. If a product label says “May contain…” an allergen, then treat it as if it does contain the allergen and avoid it. When trick-or-treating, find out what other candies are being handed out, and ensure none of those contain allergens as well. Finally, know your ingredients. If you are unsure about an ingredient containing or potentially containing an allergen, ask the company that made it. Each company will have a person just like me that can answer your question and put your mind at ease that you are being safe.
Enjoy Life: How can our community increase awareness and education of reading ingredients?
Chris: It’s important to read all ingredients and educate your friends and family about how important this step is. Word of mouth is always important. If someone has experienced an issue or concern with a product, let others in the community know about it. Many companies now post information about their ingredients online, and knowing which companies do this would be greatly helpful, either through publications or a list on a community website or social page. If there are ingredients that a lot of people have concerns about, informational pages about those ingredients on common allergen community sites is key. Provide information, not just about what allergens the item may contain, but where it comes from, what it’s made of, and what are some other names for the ingredient. The law allows many ingredients to be known by several common names; knowing everything about them is essential. And, if you can’t find the information, contact your local or state health department or the FDA. They will be able to tell you, or they will point you in the right direction. If something is unusually named, make every effort to find out what it is. Most importantly, teach the kids! If a child with a food allergy knows what ingredients to look out for, then he or she will be safer when away from the parents, such as when they are at school. A lot of schools and businesses have made great strides in allergen awareness, but many have not. And arming your child with that knowledge may prevent catastrophe. They are eager to learn and want to be involved with their own protection. Empower them!