Sadly, an article recently published in Harper's Magazine is vocalizing a scary opinion many parents share (Everybody's gone nuts: The exaggerated threat of food allergies, Meredith Broussard, January 2008). Seriously. She states:
“the rash of fatal food allergies is mostly myth, a cultural hysteria cooked up with a few key ingredients: fearful parents in an age of increased anxiety, sensationalist news coverage, and a coterie of well placed advocates whose dubious science has fed the frenzy.”
Well let's talk about what Ms. Broussard calls "supposed threat" for a second. We'll use an example, say something as simple as a finger food for toddlers. Kids walk around with it in their snack cups all day. But it's got sesame. And it just so happens that my kid is severely allergic to sesame. So one little "mighty bite" could kill her, literally, and it would only take minutes.
Let's say you cared. You'd have a hard time taking care of my kid. You could get rid of them and replace with cheerios. Maybe, but did you wash the container first? If not, she probably got enough sesame just from the dust in the container to get a reaction. What about the cheerios you bought? What if they were made by Kashi? Maybe they had no sesame but were made in the same factory. Maybe some sesame flour from the Mighty Bites line spilled over into the other line. And that is the package my kid happens to be eating. That could be enough to cause shock. Maybe you're giving her another food. You think it's safe, but aren't 100% sure. If you'd have done your homework, you'd know that product has trace amounts of sesame. But you might never know this because sesame is not listed as an "allergen" in the ingredient list. This is because sesame is the 9th most common food allergy in American children, and manufacturers are only required to list the top 8.
Maybe you've understood and taken all the proper precautions. But did you remember to wash your hands and face before watching my daughter? Because the oils from the seeds on that sesame bagel can cause a reaction on her skin. Did you check the lotion you just put on your hands? And finally, if you're secure after all that, do you know where the Epipen is in case it all wasn't enough? Do you know how to use it? Are you sure?
Scared yet? Welcome to my nightmare. It gets worse your kid starts going to school. What terrifies me is that there are people like Ms. Broussard out there. Parents, teachers, public opinion leaders. Not only do they make things more difficult (for what reason? Are you really just too lazy to take some precautions not to bring nuts to school?) but people with this lackadaisical attitude like this pose a huge danger to my child and the millions of others with food allergies.
Please send this to anyone you know who has children or spends time with them. I can tell you firsthand that the food allergy thing is not a crock. It's very real and the only way to prevent is to have grownups understand it and take precautions.
For more information on food allergies, and some real facts, click here.
*Poker chick has nothing against Kashi. It's a very healthy cereal. Just not for people who are allergic to any of its ingredients.