RALEIGH, N.C. — Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. Food allergies are a silent medical condition, and they impact more than 32 million people in the U.S.
What You Need To Know
May 8 - 14 is Food Allergy Awareness Week
More than 32 million people in the U.S. are living with food allergies
Without A Trace is a snack food line that is free of the top nine allergens
For some people, food allergies are so severe that taking a single bite of a food they're allergic to can be deadly.
Brooke Navarro's allergy-free snack food line is carefully crafted to be tasty, but safe for allergy-sufferers.
"I was really frustrated all the time when you pick up, particularly granola bars, and they have the may contain traces on the back of it, and I thought how hard is it to make a granola bar that doesn’t say may contain traces of nuts, and I really wanted to solve that problem because when you’re away from home, you’re on the road, you’re in an airport, a convenience store, and you have a food allergy, and it's really hard for you to know if you’re going to have something safe to eat," Navarro said.
Food allergies run in Navarro's family.
"I was diagnosed when I was 3, and it's all I've ever known," she said.
When her daughter was diagnosed with the same food allergies at 1 year old, she decided it was time to make a difference.
"I could see the lack of snacks were out there, I could see people becoming more aware of food allergies and figured, you don’t know if you don’t try," Navarro said.
She left her full-time job working in New York City to launch Without a Trace, which launched in 2020. She worked with a chef and food scientist to come up with the recipes for granola bars, soft baked chocolate chip cookies, power bites and recently launched savory crisps, which is a mix between chips and crackers.
All of the snacks are free of the top nine allergens, which include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, fish, sesame, wheat and soybeans.
"Our granola bars have two types. They’re gluten free, oat-based. We use a lot of seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, this is cinnamon swirl. We use a lot of cinnamon, you can smell it in here. I always say it smells like a Cinnabon when we’re making these," said Navarro.
Her parents help in the kitchen, and her mom also suffers from food allergies.
“My moms is the worst. She almost lost her life when she was 19 due to a reaction. I’ve been in ambulances, hospitalized, people don’t grasp the severity of a potential allergic reaction and understand that it really is something that can take your life, and it's something where just the smallest amount of food can be deadly," Navarro said.
She said most of her allergic reactions have happened in restaurants, even when she is not eating the food that causes her reactions.
"Where we think it's cross-contamination, maybe not even eating something, but a shared utensil or something," Navarro said.
This is not uncommon. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, one in three people report having allergic reactions in restaurants.
Navarro always has two EpiPens on hand in case of an emergency.
As food allergies become more common, Navarro hopes people will take the time to learn about the severity of them.
"Just try to be a really good advocate for people with food allergies, if you have a child in a classroom, always think about if there are other children in there with food allergies. It goes along way for other food allergy families when people think about them, about what may make them feel included, even if it might not affect your family, there are people that will certainly appreciate the consideration," Navarro said.
The FDA recommends always reading food labels, avoiding foods you are allergic to, learn to recognize the early symptoms of an allergic reaction and have an emergency safety plan in place in case an allergic reaction happens.