The past few weeks have been quite disturbing news stories on the topic of food allergies. In one story, a man is on trial for lying to customers about the ingredients in his bread. Many of his customers had become ill after digesting what they thought was a glutten-free product. In another story, research from Brighton and Sussex Medical School reports that a large percentage of restaurant staff are not only unaware about food allergies but that almost 33% of the kitchens they investigated did not separate common food allergans, such as eggs, peanuts, wheat, fish and milk, from other foods.
In Colorado, a former wait and chef, Damian Cardone, publicly posted on his Facebook profile that he had purposely ignored requests by customers for "glutten-free" meals because he felt that customers claiming a gluten intolerance was just a mental condition formed in their "disturbed little heads." And lastly, there was the story of the group of parents in Florida protesting a first grader with food allergies, with some even threatening to spread peanut butter on the child's backpack.
The truth is that for the child with food allergies there are dangers everywhere.
Is there good news here?
Of course. About a year ago, just before we began the Saddleback Church Parents of Children with Food Allergies Support Group, I was fortunate to have a lengthy conversation with Linda Coss, author of several well known food allergy cookbooks, a support group leader and speaker, on the topic of food allergies. What I found fasicinating is that when Linda Coss began her food allergy support group almost 15 years ago….she and the other support group members were pioneers in trying to understand this foreign disease. There was no papers on the subject. No cookbooks on food allergies. No healthfood stores with alternative foods. No books. No experts. No Internet to quickly Google an answer. Labels were uninformative and information was passed….mother to mother.
Fast forward to 2011. Food labels are much more informative and clear. We have organizations dedicated to educating people about food allergies. Food are marked and labeled. You can go to the grocery store, spend time doing label research and leave the store with food products that can be safe for your children to consume. There are many ways to educate yourself on what ingredients to avoid. There are allergy conferences. There are books. (Of course, if you are like most parents of kids with food allergies, you are probably a bit on the paranoid side and probably still cart the majority of your kid meals with youl…but things are definitely easier than they were 15 years ago.)
The point is that as a society it is clear that food allergies are probably going to get worse before they improve. For instance, a study done by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that the number of food-induced allergic reaction cases treated at Children's Hospital Boston, doubled between the period of 2001 and 2006.
Food Allergy Education is Key
The simple answer is that education and understanding is key. Educating our friends, family, neighbors and especially our doctors. Educating anyone that watches, teaches or is responsible for our children. This includes elementary school classroom teachers, babysitters and the friendly volunteers at morning Sunday Church. You know us. We are often labeled as the "Crazy" parents that want to wash every pair of kid hands after every meal. But at the end of the day…we just want our kids to be safe and healthy…like every other parent and we do this through education.
But education is just one half of the equation…let's also remember the power of prayer. The Lord loves us and wants to protect us in all things and this includes our children. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11).
As parents le's agree on these two simple things. Let's continue to educate others on food allergies and let's continue to pray for the safety for our kids.