Food Allergy Living Blog

Ask the Nutritionist

What Do Allergen Advisory Labels Mean?

Posted 8.12.14 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

Have you ever picked up a packaged food item and seen one of the following statements?

  • Made on shared equipment with peanuts
  • Made in a facility that also processes wheat and dairy
  • May contain tree nuts
  • May contain traces of egg

Confusing, right? I always wonder if manufacturers use such statements just to cover their behinds. Any one of these statements is completely voluntary and unregulated. These types of precautionary labels cannot be used to assess the risk of an allergic reaction. In fact, research conducted in 2007 found that many individuals with peanut allergy ignore these advisory statements.(1) The researchers tested 200 products with a peanut advisory statement and found that most (90%) did not contain detectable peanut protein. Of the 10% that did contain detectable levels, 65% had a "clinically significant" amount of peanut protein. This translates to ~7% of the 200 tested products (all carried a peanut advisory label) being found to have a detectable amount of peanut protein that would likely pose a risk to most peanut-allergic individuals, and about 4% with a detectable level that was deemed "not clinically significant."

Because these advisory statements aren't regulated, an expert panel has recommended avoiding any foods labeled with a precautionary statement related to your food allergens.(2) If you or a family member has a food allergy, you should ask your healthcare team whether you need to rely on these advisory statements. When in doubt, it can help to contact the manufacturer to ask what they mean by the statement they use. It is also wise to err on the side of caution and contact the manufacturer even if the product doesn't have an advisory label related to your food allergen, just to be safe.

For an even more in-depth discussion, please turn to one of our trusted resources, Kids with Food Allergies. They have a great article here that does a better job of explaining this topic than we could! Sharon Wong also offers an explanation on a page of her website, geared toward peanut-free recipes.

What sort of food allergen statements have you seen during your recent grocery trips?


1. Hefle SL, et al. Consumer attitudes and risks associated with packaged foods having advisory labeling regarding the presence of peanutsJ Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007

2. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States. 2007.



Web-based Food Allergy Resources

Posted 8.7.14 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

This is a guest post from Leslie Stiles. Leslie Stiles received her BS in English Literature at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and obtained her Masters in Human Nutrition from University of Illinois in Chicago. She works as a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at a children’s hospital in Chicago, IL.

A diagnosis of a food allergy may come as a shock to your family, and that shock may continue when you go to the grocery store and start to look at nutrition labels. You might find yourself asking “What can my kid eat?!”, “Will they be able to eat typical kid food like birthday cake and pizza?”, or “What will I pack them for school lunches?” The list of questions can be endless and overwhelming to say the least. Luckily, thanks to the world wide web, there are some accessible resources that will both educate and inspire you about allergen-free cooking and shopping.

This blog post is intended to present some tried and true resources that I often share with families. I encourage you all, as readers and family members of children with food allergies, to share your own tried and true resources in the comments section. It’s important for us to share information and help each other stay informed.

For all things allergy-related, the Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) website is chock full of useful information. I recommend spending some time exploring all it has to offer and bookmarking it to refer to later.

Allergy Free Recipes

The Kids with Food Allergies website has created an easy-to-use, searchable recipe database. You can search for recipes that are free of the top 8 allergens and corn.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website has a lot of great information about food allergies, in addition to some tasty allergen-free recipes. Each recipe is marked with a key stating which allergens have been omitted.

Recipe Substitutions

If you think your child with a dairy and egg allergy has to miss out on your Great Aunt Mildred’s famous banana bread, think again… You may be able to substitute other ingredients for the butter and eggs. The Kids with Food Allergies website gives a good overview of the function of each allergen ingredient in a recipe and provides suggestions for good substitutions. Unfortunately, not all allergens have substitutions that will function in the same way, so the end product may not turn out exactly the same as the original, and you may want to find a new recipe.

Allergy Friendly Manufacturers

We are lucky to live in a time when there are more allergy-friendly manufacturers than ever before. Children’s Hospital of Orange County has created one of the best resources I’ve come across thus far listing all allergy-friendly food manufacturers. You can check it out here.

Eating out at Restaurants

Want to find allergy-friendly restaurants in your area? Then Allergy Eats is the place to go! You can simply select your food allergy, type in your address, and voila - you have restaurant options. Each restaurant receives a rating, both overall and per allergen. You can also rate a restaurant yourself. To make it even easier to use, Allergy Eats has created an app that can be downloaded onto your smartphone.

Again in the food allergy community, we rely on each other for information and to stay informed. Do you have a tried and true online resource that you’ve found helpful? If so, please share it in the comments section.

-Leslie Stiles, MS, RD, LDN

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Green is Glorious: Understanding baby poop and food allergies

Posted 1.14.14 | Nutrition Specialist

Baby DiaperOne of the most common questions we get from new Neocate Infant parents is “Is this normal?” Any difference from what they think a “normal" diaper should be can cause a lot of anxiety. So what exactly is a “normal” poop or bowel movement for a baby on Neocate? Every baby is different, so “normal” will vary from baby to baby. The color, consistency and frequency of bowel movements may differ. It can also be affected by the baby's medical condition and any solids she/he eats.

That said, we can give you some idea of what to expect. Below are some general guidelines to help you with your diaper expectations.

Color – Green is Glorious!

When a baby is on Neocate, the first stools tend to be green and can be dark - a lot of parents describe the color as hunter green (but contact your baby’s doctor if the stool looks black, which could be blood in the stool). Green is completely normal (Green is Glorious!) and is due to the special composition of Neocate and the way it is digested and absorbed in the body.

For most babies on Neocate, the green color will last for at least the first few days. It may fade after several weeks, but for some little ones stools will be green as long as they’re on Neocate. Often stools will change to a yellow/tan/khaki color if the green fades. This is normal, and is a result of the body adjusting to the way Neocate is digested and absorbed. Color can also change when solid foods are introduced into the diet.


The consistency of stools for babies on Neocate tends to be soft and somewhat pasty, though this can vary. For some babies the stools will be looser, and for others more solid or formed. Again, adding solid foods to the diet can affect consistency. Mucus in the stool is not typical so if you see this, you should let the physician know.


The frequency of bowel movements varies greatly from baby to baby. Some newborn babies may have a bowel movement after each feeding and others may have one daily or even once every two days. During the first weeks of life, before you have learned your baby’s stool pattern, the general advice is to call the doctor if the baby goes three or more days without a bowel movement.

Because Neocate is so broken down, it is very easily digested and there is very little waste leftover. Therefore it’s normal for bowel movements to be less frequent after a switch to Neocate. Most babies on Neocate have a bowel movement once every day or two, though again this varies. As long as stools aren’t overly hard and dry and the baby doesn’t seem to have trouble passing them, this is perfectly normal.


Regardless of whether your baby is on Neocate, hard or dry stools that are difficult to pass may indicate constipation. Talk with the doctor about what you can do to help. Sometimes the solution is as simple as providing extra fluid. Other times, the doctor may prescribe a laxative to make it easier for your baby to have bowel movements.


Because a newborn’s stools may be soft and slightly runny, it may be difficult to tell if they have diarrhea. A big increase in frequency or an extremely liquid bowel movement might indicate diarrhea. Severe diarrhea can cause dehydration so if you are concerned that your baby has diarrhea, contact the doctor.

With Baby Poop, Normal Depends on the Baby

The general message here is that every baby has their own “normal” poop and what’s normal for one Neocate baby may not be normal for another. The key is to look out for any sudden change in your baby’s normal bowel movements. Keep in mind that occasional variations are normal, especially once a baby begins taking solid foods.

Hopefully this gives you some idea of what to expect at diaper changing time. Keep in mind that you know your baby best, so if you’re ever concerned about your baby’s bowel movements, contact the doctor just in case.

What has your little one’s Neocate experience been like?


What is Halal?

Posted 10.15.13 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

Over the past few weeks we’ve posted several blogs related to features of new and improved Neocate Infant DHA/ARA, such as the addition of nucleotides and an increase in the amount of DHA. Some of you may have noticed a tiny symbol on the front of the new can label (see the picture to the right). This symbol indicates that this product is certified halal. So what is halal anyway?


Halal is an Arabic word meaning “lawful” or “permitted.” The basic explanation is that halal is a food which is considered “clean” by people who follow Islamic dietary laws. Halal foods are essentially any food that is not haram, which means “unlawful” or “prohibited” in Arabic. For Muslims, haram foods include:
   -swine/pork or pork byproducts
   -animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
   -animals killed in the name of anyone other than Allah
   -alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
   -carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
   -blood and blood byproducts
   -foods contaminated with any of the above

You can read more about halal and haram foods where we found the above information, here or here. After receiving many inquiries from customers around the world over the years about whether or not Neocate Infant is halal, Nutricia decided to have the new version certified halal by the Halal Food Council of Europe. While halal is similar to kosher, in that both are religious dietary laws, the two are not the same: halal certification does not equal kosher certification. You can read more about kosher and Jewish dietary laws here.

Hopefully this helps to clarify what halal means. What other questions do you have?


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Transitioning from Breast Milk to Neocate

Posted 8.22.13 | Nutrition Specialist

You have always enjoyed breast feeding your little one. What could be better than some quiet time bonding with a snuggly bundle of love as many as 8 times a day? What a bonus that it’s the best source of nutrition for your little one. Recently though, it seems that the thought of weaning has crossed your mind once or twice. Maybe you’re going back to work and the long commute, crazy schedule and pumping is just more than you can bear. Or perhaps you have a very faint memory of what a full night’s sleep used to feel like and you are desperate to experience it once more. In addition, your child may have been diagnosed with a cow’s milk or soy protein allergy and despite an elimination diet, your LO can not tolerate your breast milk. Will the transition from breast feeding to Neocate be difficult? Not necessarily. If your LO’s healthcare team has recommended Neocate and you are considering a transition from breast milk, read on. Included are our best tips for a successful transition.

• First of all relax and be patient. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your baby will be.

• Feeding time is more likely to be a success if it’s a pressure free zone. Your baby may need time to get used to the new formula and bottle. If he doesn’t take it in 10 minutes, try again in an hour.

• A baby may be more likely to refuse a bottle if he has a choice between breast feeding and the bottle. It might be best to eventually bottle feed exclusively.

• A gradual transition may be best. For instance, you can prepare Neocate Infant and mix it with expressed breast milk, gradually increasing the amount of Neocate.

• A baby may be more accepting of a bottle the first time from someone other than Mom.

• A baby may have a preference for a particular nipple size and temperature so consider different nipple size, shapes and warming the nipple prior to feeding time.

• Your LO may be more accepting of the formula if she gets a small taste of what’s to come. Try putting a small amount of formula on her lips prior to offering the bottle.

You can find some more transition tips in 'A Guide to Transitioning to Neocate' on this page, which includes tips from a Feeding Specialist.

Do you have any ideas that have helped make for a successful transition from breastfeeding to Neocate? Please feel free to share them here.



When should my baby start solids?

Posted 5.30.13 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

Infant baby foodA time of high anxiety for families of infants using Neocate Infant is the introduction of solids foods, since they’re concerned about possible allergic reactions. Some recently published research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has uncovered that many families may be introducing solids too early, regardless of allergies. Here are some of the latest guidelines and results of research.

The recommendations

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed their recommendations for introducing solid foods. Where they had previously recommended introducing solids no earlier than 4 months of age, they now recommend waiting until about 6 months. This is because the AAP recommends breast milk should be an infant’s sole source of nutrition through 6 months of age. (Many families that follow our blogs are aware that, for some infants, breast milk may not be an option, and Neocate Infant may be needed.) The AAP provides some other helpful information on introducing solids here. Starting solids too early can be dangerous, and the early introduction of solid foods has been linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, eczema and even celiac disease.

What researchers found

The CDC conducted surveys of 1,334 parents to see when they introduced solids foods and why. They published the results in the AAP journal, Pediatrics - you can find a summary of the results here. What the researchers found was that over 40% of the parents surveyed introduced solid foods before 4 months, earlier than the AAP recommends. Parents gave many reasons for introducing solids, including wanting to give something in addition to formula or breast milk. It’s important to note that infant formulas like Neocate Infant are nutritionally complete, and can meet an infant’s full nutritional needs until a member of the healthcare team recommends introducing solids.

What solid to introduce first

For infants using Neocate Infant, it’s normal for parents and caregivers to wonder what solid is “safest” to introduce first. The best thing to do is to check with your little one’s healthcare team to see what they recommend. Again, the AAP offers some great guidelines around introducing solids. For infants with severe allergies or who have trouble tolerating solid foods, the healthcare team may recommend Neocate Nutra. Neocate Nutra is the only amino acid-based semi-solid that can be given to infants 6 months and older.

- Rob

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How much should my baby eat?

Posted 12.12.12 | Nutrition Specialist


  How much Neocate does my child need?

  Q: After going through almost every formula, my baby’s allergist told me I should give him/her Neocate Infant DHA/ARA. I need to know how many cans to buy and how much   does my baby need to drink?

  A: Many parents of infants, toddlers and children new to Neocate have this question. There’s never an exact answer, so here’s what you need to know:

  We are always happy to help, but this important question about your little one’s health is best answered by the members of his/her healthcare team. They know your child’s medical history and needs, have lots of experience, and can give you the best guidance. With that in mind, we can offer some general guidelines.

  The volume of Neocate needed depends on calorie needs, which can vary a lot from person to person. Factors that affect calorie needs include age, weight, gender, height, and activity level. Another term you might hear is “catch-up growth,” which can come up if your little one has trouble gaining weight. It can mean he/she will need additional calories from Neocate in the beginning to catch up, especially if he/she is a little behind on the growth curve.

  Neocate Infant

  If your little one is bottle-fed, you can expect that he or she will probably consume about the same volume of Neocate InfantDHA/ARA as of the current formula. The amount of Neocate may increase or decrease a little bit, especially in the beginning. And over time, as your babies calorie needs grow, the amount of Neocate per day will also grow. Without being too specific, here are some general ranges for daily amounts of formula by age*. These ranges are for infants who are exclusively formula-fed:

            1 – 3 months……..20 to 30 ounces

            4 – 6 months……..24 to 34 ounces

            7 – 9 months……..29 to 39 ounces

            10 – 12 months….34 to 44 ounces

Neocate Nutra

As the only amino acid-based semi-solid that can be spoon-fed, Neocate Nutra has been a big help for many families dealing with severe allergies. Nutra has high levels of several key nutrients, but is not meant to supply all of a child’s nutrition. For infants six months and older, Nutra is used along with Neocate Infant. Follow your healthcare team’s recommendations for a serving size of Nutra to offer your little one and how many times a day to offer it. Many healthcare teams suggest starting with a small serving size (about four scoops) and offering it two or three times a day.

Neocate Junior and Neocate’s E028 Splash

While Neocate Junior and Neocate Junior with Prebiotics can meet a toddler or child’s full nutritional needs, it is often used along with solid foods or other beverages, such as with an elimination diet. This can make the Neocate serving amount per day a bit tricky. It often depends on the foods your child avoids and any nutrient gaps in their diet. For instance, many children with milk and soy allergies use Neocate Junior as their main source of protein, calcium, and other nutrients important for bone health. The same is true for Neocate’s E028 Splash.

Some children require an elemental formula to meet their full caloric needs. Some examples would be a child with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) that is on a strict elemental diet for six weeks, or a toddler with severe allergies who hasn’t yet found safe foods. The following are some general ranges for daily amounts of formula by age* for active children who are strictly on Neocate Junior and often drinking Neocate’s E028 Splash as well:

            1 to 3 years…….27 to 47 ounces

            4 to 8 years…….50 to 62 ounces

            9 to 13 years…..65 to 81 ounces

Again, these are general guidelines. Your little one’s healthcare team can take all of these relevant factors into account to provide you with a tailored recommendation. They will also monitor your child’s growth on Neocate and adjust the amount of formula as needed to meet thier calorie and nutrient needs.

*Ranges for formula are extrapolations based on “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy,” Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Hydrolyzed Formulas vs. Neocate: When to Change

Posted 10.6.12 | Nutrition Specialist

In order to understand the difference between hydrolyzed formulas and amino acid-based formulas like Neocate, it’s important to understand the basics of protein and the role that it plays in food allergies.

Proteins are made up of little particles called amino acids.  There are 20 different amino acids. All types of protein are by variations of linked amino acids. Protein is in the foods we eat and also in our bodies. Every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies is made up of protein. Our body proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced. The protein in the foods we eat is digested into amino acids that are later used to replace these proteins in our bodies, which is why it is so important for us to get enough protein from our diets.

Most people get plenty of protein in their diet from foods like dairy, meats/poultry/fish, legumes, nuts & seeds, tofu, eggs and grains.  But, for people with food protein allergies, it’s more difficult to get adequate protein because many forms of protein are restricted.  Babies who are allergic to milk or soy proteins often need a specialized infant formula in order to get their nutrition.  Sometimes the doctor may recommend a hydrolyzed formula. With hydrolyzed formulas, whole proteins (which are made of long chains of linked amino acids) have been broken down into shorter chains of amino acids to make them easier to digest.

Some babies improve with hydrolyzed formulas but others continue to have problems because their body’s still identify that the broken down protein comes from milk.  For these babies, an amino acid-based formula like Neocate is helpful.  As the name suggests, amino acid-based formulas are made up of free amino acids, not linked together but broken down into their simplest form. This allows babies to get all the nutrition they need in an elemental, hypoallergenic form that is easy for the body to digest and absorb.

If your baby is taking a hydrolyzed formula and continuing to have some symptoms of a food allergy, it may be a good idea to discuss an amino acid-based formula with their pediatrician. 

- Mallory

Sources: Nutrition for Everyone: Protein, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 31, 2011

Can Neocate products be used by adults?

Posted 6.15.12 | Nutrition Specialist

Q: I see that Nutricia only has amino-acid based products that are designed for children.  Can the Neocate products be used by teenagers or even adults?

A: We get questions about using Neocate for older children, teenagers, and adults pretty often.  This is especially common when folks are diagnosed eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) beyond childhood and an elemental diet is recommended.  Here’s what you need to know:

Neocate’s RightAge approach

The Neocate products are all designed and tailored for specific age ranges.  This helps ensure that growing children who need elemental formula get the right nutrients at the right age, especially when formula is their only source of nutrition.  For instance, Neocate Infant and Neocate Junior products have different levels of vitamins and minerals to meet the different nutrition needs of infants versus toddlers and children.  With this in mind, there are two ways that Neocate products, primarily Neocate Junior and Neocate’s E028 Splash, can be used beyond childhood.

Neocate products can be used for supplemental nutrition

For many people with severe food allergies or conditions like EoE, it can be difficult to get 100% of the essential nutrients from diet.  This is because many foods that have to be avoided are rich in important nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron, essential fats, and more.  For many folks who avoid these foods, Neocate Junior is a source of those nutrients.  For instance, many of them consume it with their meals in place of cow’s milk to ensure a more balanced diet.  Neocate Junior and Splash are often used this way with elimination diets, such as the six-food elimination diet.  Neocate products can be useful as supplemental nutrition for folks of all ages.                                                    

Can Neocate products be used “sole-source” beyond childhood?

Using a product “sole source” means that a person gets all of his/her calories from that product.  The product should be “nutritionally complete,” meaning that it provides 100% or more of all vitamins and minerals.  Neocate Junior products are commonly used as the only source of nutrition in children over 1 year.  Neocate Junior was formulated to provide all of the essential vitamins and minerals children need.

Whether or not Neocate Junior can meet 100% of nutrition needs beyond childhood depends on a few factors.  Our nutrient needs change as we age, and are also different for women who are pregnant or nursing.  Also, everyone has different calorie needs, and the number of calories you consume of Neocate Junior determines the amount of each nutrient you get.  Therefore, it’s important to check with your health care team to see if Neocate Junior can meet 100% of your nutrition needs.  They will consider the nutrient levels in Neocate Junior, your calorie needs, and your specific nutrient needs to make their decision.  Some teenagers or adults, especially those with high calorie needs, might be able to use Neocate Junior as their sole source of nutrition to meet 100% of their needs.  Other folks might need to take a vitamin or mineral supplement along with Neocate Junior to meet 100% of their needs.

The good news is that amino acid-based formulas have come a long way in the past 20 years.  Neocate Junior now comes in versions with or without prebiotic fiber (to help promote gut health and regularity), as well as Unflavored, Vanilla, Chocolate, and Tropical flavors.  Neocate’s E028 Splash comes in drink boxes in three great flavors: perfect for busy teens and to add variety.  Neocate Nutra can be mixed with the other products to provide some texture to an otherwise liquid elemental diet.  And don’t forget that our Flavor Packets offer even more options to help make an elemental diet just a bit easier to stick with: take our word for it!                                                             

What if I or my health care team have questions?

As always, families and health care providers are welcome to contact us with questions.  We are available through three routes:
-by email: we try to return emails within 1 business day
-by phone at 800.NEOCATE, option 2: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, EST, and
-by chat: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, EST

Neocate® Mixing Instructions – Household measurements

Posted 3.24.12 | Nutrition Specialist

We receive a fair amount of questions from parents and healthcare professionals on how to mix our Neocate products at specific concentrations and volumes. Unless you're asking about the standard mixing instructions, it's best to check with your healthcare team. If your healthcare team does not have the mixing instructions they want to provide you, they can contact our Nutrition Specialists, who can help with any Neocate mixing concentration they want you to use and at whatever size serving of Neocate they recommend. Please note that our Nutrition Specialists cannot provide mixing instructions at non-standard concentrations directly to consumers. You must get those instructions from your healthcare provider.

At times, especially when mixing larger volumes of Neocate, your healthcare team may feel that it would be easier to use household measures (dry measuring cups and sppons) to measure Neocate powder. As with non-standard concentration recipes, those measurements should be provided to you by your healthcare team. We can help healthcare professionals with these measures, but cannot provide that information directly to consumers. This is because household measures are not as accurate as a scale that weighs powder in grams or the scoop provided with Neocate powdered products.

If your healthcare provider is comfortable with you using household measures for Neocate powder, here are a few tips:

  • Use standard US, dry household measures, which are based on a cup volume of 237 or 240 mL. Some household measures may be based on a cup size of 250 mL, which would not be appropriate to use. Do not use liquid measuring cups, which are much les accurate when measuring dry ingredients.
  • Household measuring cups and spoons should be filled unpacked and leveled. Do not pack powder into measuring cups or spoons. You may tap the side of the cup or spoon to eliminate air pockets. Level the powder with the straight edge of a clean utensil, such as a knife or spatula.

For questions and instructions on how to mix Neocate products, please call us at 1-800-Neocate.

- Christine

*Including Neocate Infant DHA/ARA, Neocate Junior, Unflavored, Tropical or Chocolate flavored, Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, Unflavored, Strawberry or Vanilla flavored


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About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.