New changes to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans were just announced and with the new guidelines come new steps parents can take to help their young kids NOT TO develop allergies later in life to products such as peanut butter and eggs.

And with these new guidelines comes an opportunity for a company that has been preaching these changes for years. Ready, Set, Food!, a start-up that recently raised over $3 million and has the backing and support of Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, has a simple solution on how parents can put these new guidelines in place very easily.

The Levity Ball spoke to the CEO of the company, Daniel Zakowski, to learn more…

1. When did the idea of Ready, Set, Food! come to mind?

We had the idea after my nephew developed multiple severe food allergies, to peanut, egg, dairy, sesame, and a number of tree nuts.  His father is a doctor and had read about the multiple clinical trials that had shown food allergies could be prevented through early and sustained feeding of food allergens.  The clinical trials started early allergen introduction as early as 4 months of age, but since my nephew was not a reliable eater they delayed introduction and by the time they introduced peanut he’d already developed food allergies.  It seemed crazy to us that the science was so clear about how to prevent 80% of food allergies, but the process depended on infants eating a consistent amount of multiple different food allergens.  From feeding our children we knew that the only reliable way to get a baby to eat anything was to put it in a bottle, so we made a guided system to make it easy for parents to follow the process from the studies by dissolving those foods in a bottle of breastmilk or formula.  My brother-in-law Dr. Andy Leitner and I worked on it initially, and then we recruited our Chief Allergist Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan to help in product design and in outreach to the allergy and pediatric communities.  Our goal is to make it easy for all families to follow the process from the clinical trials and to give their babies the best chance at an allergy free life. 

2. What was going through your mind when you were pitching on Shark Tank, to ultimately landing Mark Cuban as an investor?

Our Shark Tank journey started with an audition tape and a commitment to leveraging the opportunity to raise awareness for food allergy prevention. We admittedly were excited to partner with any of the Sharks, but we always had our sights set on making a deal with Mark Cuban. Not only does Mark personally understand the impact of food allergies with his daughter’s severe peanut allergy, but he also has unparalleled industry connections and experience. Even after months of maintaining laser focus on securing a deal in the Tank, our actual filming day felt like organized chaos. After our pitch and what felt like a lightning round of questions from the sharks, we received offers from 3 of the 5 sharks. Fast forward and we found ourselves shaking hands with Mark Cuban and feeling shell shocked from the success of our experience with Shark Tank. After months of preparation, we’re so grateful for the opportunity to gain the trust and partnership of Mark Cuban and promote the important research on food allergy prevention.

3. You just raised another $3 million! Congrats! How does that money help your company advance even more?

We are thrilled to be partnering with Danone Manifesto Ventures and Mark Cuban to bring critically needed attention to food allergies.  Danone is one of the world’s top infant nutrition companies and we look forward to leveraging our strong relationship with the Danone Manifesto Ventures team and Mark Cuban to further our work towards helping to prevent babies from developing most severe food allergies.

4. What about the new USDA/FDA allergy-related health guidelines should people know and concentrate on?

The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a vital resource for millions of Americans and it’s incredibly exciting that there are new guidelines designed for infants and children 0-24 months of age. We know this is a critical window for early development and long-term health, including food allergy prevention. There are two critical takeaways for parents from the recent report published:

  • “Introducing peanut and egg…(after age 4 months) may reduce the risk of food allergy.”  
    • Early introduction for every baby at 4+ months: Based on the landmark clinical trials and similar guidelines from medical organizations, the guidelines recommend allergen introduction starting at 4 months of age to help prevent food allergies. 
  • “Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars during the first 2 years of life”
    • No added sugar under age 2: Based on these recommendations, parents should eliminate foods or products with added sugar because of the strong relationship to childhood obesity and other chronic health conditions.

Ready, Set, Food! Is the only early introduction system that aligns with the new USDA guidelines with our evidence-based, all-natural solution to preventing up to 80% of food allergies that is not only 100% organic but free from artificial additives and added sugar. We’re excited that Ready, Set, Food! aligns with the AAP, NIAID and now USDA guidelines on food allergy prevention, but it’s our commitment to our families and our mission that drives our high standards and transparency.  We created Ready, Set, Food! for our children, and that’s why we always have and always will take the formulation and quality of our product so seriously.

5. How does your product help overall?

Ready, Set, Food! is a daily supplement that gently introduces your baby to peanut, egg, and milk, the three most common childhood food allergens. Studies have shown that this approach helps reduce the risk of developing allergies by up to 80%, and our system makes it easy. Simply add a packet of Ready, Set, Food! to your baby’s breast milk, formula, or food starting between 4-11 months of age, and continue for 6 months or until your baby is eating these foods regularly in their diet. 

6. With COVID-19 obviously huge globally, especially here in New York, how can parents buy your product without having to go out and shop? And here in New York directly, where can people go to if they wanted?

Now more than ever, parents need the tools to avoid a food allergy because that can mean a significant improvement to their child’s quality of life and health. Ready, Set, Food! Is truly the safest and gentlest way parents can introduce the most common allergy-causing foods (peanut, egg, and milk). Ready, Set, Food! Is available via our website (readysetfood.com) and Amazon and our all-natural and gentle system is conveniently delivered right to your door, giving parents peace of mind when they need it most. 

We’ve also recently launched our giving program in partnership with Mark Cuban: for every subscription sold, one is donated to a family in need. Qualifying families include families who have lost their income due to COVID-19. Ready, Set, Food! was founded to provide the peace of mind all parents need when their babies begin the introduction of solid food, which is why we are committed to launching this donation program in partnership with Mark Cuban in order to make our product accessible to those in need especially in these uncertain times.

7. And final question: What do you want Ready, Set, Food overall to be remembered for when people look back at 2020?

In the coming months, we’d like to help 20,000 babies get the best chance at a life free from severe food allergies, and we’re excited to leverage our new partnership and investment from Danone Manifesto Ventures. Danone is one of the world’s top infant nutrition companies and we look forward to a strong relationship with the Danone Manifesto Ventures team to further our work towards helping to prevent babies from developing most severe food allergies.

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