Highlights from FAACT's Summits
by Caroline Moassessi
Bridging a desperately needed gap, five years ago FAACT launched the inaugural Food Industry and Research Summit. “This is the only meeting in the nation where everyone comes together, from the farmer, to the scientist and researcher, pharma, FDA, USDA, manufacturers, food service, the physician and the consumer,” explained Soheila Maleki, Ph.D. Lead Scientist, United States Department of Agriculture. Participants traveled from across the nation to continue their work to improve the food industry and to better understand the complexity of food allergies and food allergens. But, the power of this unique summit is providing each stake holder a seat at the food allergy table.
Meeting in Chicago, over 40 attendees explored the highly complex system of the food industry. Attendees shared data, learned and explored best practices, consumer thresholds and potential impacts, regulatory perspective, food safety and prevention controls. Analytical methodology and diagnostic versus environmental testing, consumer food allergen needs, quality of life and the latest food allergy research topics were presented to an engaged body of attendees.
Manufacturers heard about consumer frustrations with labels, company communication and confusing information. Researchers and scientists detailed their specialized work surrounding peanut, allergen cross-contact risk during manufacturing, regulatory work, the science behind food safety and good manufacturing procedures. Topics such as chemical modification, risk assessment, supply chain management, mass spectrometry, assays and peptides were heard throughout the summit.
In the spirit of improving food allergen management for all, presenters shared internal food allergen training and awareness programs. Representatives from pharmaceutical companies explained treatments in the works, clinical trials and supporting data. Attendees learned about the challenges of encouraging peanut early introduction and new campaigns designed to raise awareness with hopes of diminishing the prevalence of food allergies. “It is very important to carry on the collaboration between FAACT and industry, as we continue to partner on actionable projects in order to improve quality of life for the food allergy community,” stated Eleanor Garrow-Holding, FAACT President and CEO. FAACT is grateful for the Food Industry & Research Summit partners for their continued, generous support to make this annual summit possible.
FAACT's Teen Retreat
Inspired, empowered, life-changing, and FAMILY were just a few words used by parents evaluating the 2019 FAACT Teen Retreat. Almost one hundred parents and teens descended upon Oak Brook, Illinois for three days of learning, sharing and connecting as a community. Formerly the site of the McDonald’s Hamburger University, the Hyatt Lodge & Conference Center provided a soothing, woodsy backdrop for FAACT's Teen Retreat. But, the highlight of the weekend was stolen by the heartwarming conclusion of the retreat: the teen and parent anonymous question and answer session. There were tears, laughs, and heartfelt moments as FAACT provided a safe and comfortable environment for the hard questions to be asked, and solutions explored.
Acclaimed inspirational speaker, juggler and entertainer, Curtis Zimmerman, greeted parents and teens with a lively, interactive Welcome session Friday evening. Zimmerman, who understands allergies and lives with Celiac disease, entertained families, while challenging the group to step out of their comfort zone, open their minds, and to be ready to have their lives changed.
The next two days were packed full of presentations from renown board-certified allergists, researchers and experts. Topics included new food allergy treatments, deep dives into anaphylaxis and anxiety, plus sessions addressing prepping for high school and/or college. The retreat was divided into two tracts, one for parents and one for teens, setting the stage for open and honest conversations. Considering age appropriate discussions, a few teen sessions were divided by school grade levels - middle school and high school.
Learning how to prepare to head out to school functions, dating (yes, kissing was discussed with high schoolers), how to communicate and express emotions, Q&A with board-certified allergists, and more were addressed with eager-to-learn teens.
The goal was to empower parents and teens with knowledge and information to live healthy and successful lives while managing food allergies. The magic was not Zimmerman’s fire-eating or knife-juggling, but those wonderous moments when as a parent, you realize you are human, imperfect and perfect all at the same time. Sitting in a room full of peers who know the road you walk, understand your frustrations, and cheer on your success is a gift. Last weekend, that gift was enjoyed by many families like ours, as we all work hard to raise our children to thrive with food allergies and prepare them for the next stage of their lives. We love being a part of the FAACT Family!
If you have a pre-teen and/or teen, FAACT's Teen Retreat is a MUST! Stay tuned for 2020's date coming soon, but in the meantime, you can learn more by visiting FAACT's Teen Retreat page here.
About the Author:
Caroline Moassessi is the founder and author of Gratefulfoodie, an international food allergy, and asthma blog. She is also an advocate for school policy and laws to support stock epinephrine, food allergy management at school and clean air/asthma issues. Serving her community as co-founder of the Northern Nevada Asthma and Food Allergy Parent Education Group (and a FAACT-recognized support group leader) and local and regional American Lung Association boards, she is passionate about making change and raising awareness.
Caroline has a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and has traveled the world as a trainer in the hospitality industry. She lives in Reno with her husband and high school-aged daughter while her son attends college.