Just what is a 'special diet?'

Just what is a 'special diet?'

When I was growing up, I was a somewhat picky eater. You know: ketchup, not tomatoes. What child isn't?

But what if that child doesn't have a choice? Today, 6 million children have food allergies in the U.S. according to Pediatrics Journal. And 90 percent of those are caused by eight major culprits: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

I realized just last year that I could count "milk" as one of my allergies, after discovering the link between dairy and my then cystic acne problem. I went from omnivore to vegan, and I became known in the eyes of my friends and my natural products retailer as someone with a "special diet."

But my diet is my choice and is not life threatening. For 150-200 kids each year food allergies are fatal. Is being allergic to peanuts also, then, a "special diet" or simply survival? And where are these allergies coming from? Some hypothesize that the steady rise over recent years is linked with the rise of genetically modified food crops.

In a session at Natural Products Expo East called "Allergies, Additives and Special Diets" today at 4 p.m., room 323, we'll dig into the definition of special diet. On the panel are Sloane Miller, founder and president of Allergic Girl Resources, and Max Goldberg, founder of LivingMaxwell.com and organic food proponent.

We'll be dissecting the current state of the market and share how natural products retailers can help customers with everything from gluten intolerance to Celiac disease to how to go organic.

Ultimately, it's up to each natural retailer to decide how they want to handle "special diets" in their store. One hint: Having a special section for us doesn't always make us feel so special. After all, I'm just like you. But I'll pass on the glass of milk.

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