When Lucy Gibney, MD, discovered that her infant son had several severe food allergies, it changed her life. Even as an emergency physician, she was rattled by his reactions. Learning to shop for and cook allergy-friendly foods led Dr. Lucy and her husband on a new path in life.
Find out how they created a unique business for families facing severe food allergies.
In 2004, Lucy Gibney’s 4-month-old son had a life-threatening reaction to formula. As time went on, he was diagnosed with several severe food allergies. Even with careful avoidance of allergens, Lucy’s son continued to suffer from serious reactions. In a struggle to find safe foods for her son to eat, Lucy found inspiration to start her own business.
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Food allergies are serious business
“My son has had several reactions over the years, and all have been severe anaphylaxis,” says Lucy. “Anaphylaxis refers to the most dangerous end of the reaction spectrum.” While some people may experience a mild allergic reaction, those reactions could become severe in the future. As Lucy’s son’s allergies were identified, she fought hard to avoid exposing him to the foods that triggered his reactions. She was always prepared for the worst. With any serious allergy, it’s important to carry an epinephrine auto-injector. “Even in the scariest situation, using epi early is life-saving,” says Lucy.
The challenge to find allergy-safe food
Every day, Lucy and her husband were consumed by food challenges as they tried to keep their young son safe from serious reactions. “Were the ingredients and food products in our home really safe? The ingredient list might have looked fine, but we weren’t sure about cross contact with allergens,” Lucy says. “Also, we couldn’t find many food options and many of them didn’t taste very good.” Lucy already loved baking and altering recipes that had been passed down through her family. She applied that practice toward baking delicious foods her son could eat. “I’m a very determined person so I forged ahead until I got it right.”
Baking on a very big scale
“Baking without wheat, milk or eggs is pretty challenging,” says Lucy, who eventually came up with her own recipes for baked goods like cookies. “When my husband couldn’t stop eating the cookies, he began to push the idea of sharing my delicious results with others, and at the same time making a difference in allergen safety.” A little under six years from her son’s diagnosis, Lucy and her husband founded Lucy’s gluten-free and allergen-friendly cookies. They focused on safe ingredient sourcing and allergen testing to create a dedicated bakery safe from gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. Lucy’s treats are made to taste just as good as “normal” baked goods.
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Sharing resources for kids with severe food allergies
When it comes to food allergies, it’s important to get support however you can. Life-threatening allergies are scary and it takes a great deal of research and vigilance to stay on top of problem ingredients. Lucy recommends getting started with Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) and Kids With Food Allergies (KFA). “There are local groups all around the country,” she says. “I helped start a group in my area, and we continue to grow, evolve and serve. Groups like ours are doing great things all over the country.”