The schools-imposed ban on bringing in peanuts and other common food allergens is, of course, controversial, especially if you’re a parent of a whiny kid who wants PBJ’s for lunch every day. To get a sense of the current consumer sentiment on the issue, Supermarket Guru recently conducted a poll to expose the feelings of parents on the matter.
A whopping 58% say it’s not fair to restrict the top eight sever food allergens in what kids bring to school to eat. Another 31% said it depends on the ingredient, and accurately noted peanuts as the biggest culprit. Of those, 18% named tree nuts, and 14% named shellfish as ingredients worth banning. Parents, are you nuts?
When my daughter was nine months old, she blew up instantly after she ate her first scrambled egg. When she was ten, we had our first “911” food allergy visit by the paramedics, and a massive incident while at the allergist for skin tests that required too much adrenaline for comfort. Today, at almost 24, she’s out of fingers and toes to keep count of the scary incidents she’s had, most significantly well-managed by super-quick intervention with OTC drugs and the ever-present EPI Pens. Her most significant allergies are tree nuts, peanuts and shellfish. This “triple-threat” of a young woman now wants a tattoo of a lobster riding a peanut into a pecan tree on her wrist instead of a medical alert bracelet. A survivor badge of honor is what she deserves.
To all the parents who don’t want to bother altering their behavior when packing lunches and treats for school, I invite you to feel for seven minutes the heart-stopping fear I have had many times with my child. I want you to get a bad case of the cold sweats like I do even now as she recounts events where disaster was averted by quick, decisive action on her part. I want you to feel like I feel so you can think about what you’re voting for.
Fifty eight percent of us are voting for the chance my child could die, perhaps in front of your child, during every day she is at school. Say that out loud to feel the impact. Would you put that on your shirt? “I voted that your kid might die so my kid can eat a PBJ at the same lunch table.”
I know part of the problem is food labeling and retail merchandising. And since only 11 million Americans (three million school-kids) have truly life-threatening allergies, the “industry” is not moving quickly to make it easier for all Americans to shop with certainty that hidden ingredients aren’t lurking in the foods we purchase for in-school consumption.
It takes a lot of time to stop and examine all those labels, especially if it’s not your kid who could die. Interestingly, the poll showed that 68% of respondents would take time to read labels to comply with rules if need be. So there’s hope for change to happen.
We can perhaps think about all of our children as humans whom we need to protect and nourish well. Most of our kids are in local, community schools. Community means sharing and helping everyone flourish. Why aren’t we teaching our kids to be caring toward other kids with disabilities, allergies and other significant issue? Why aren’t we vocally asking our local food market managers to fix the shopping problem we have with allergens so we can comply with protective standards for our children? Remember, 58% of parents don’t really want to be bothered, but 68% know they can and would comply. The insight is this:
We’re willing and likely to shop to comply with food safety standards if it’s easier to accomplish and doesn’t suck hours and hours of extra time in the stores.
I’m advocating that retailers can and should take a proactive step to fix the problem. Get involved with your local school. Retailers can take some shopping trips with parents whose kids have life-threatening allergies, and learn from them how to fix the store so it’s easier to shop and buy allergen free foods. Retailers can help with the time barrier shoppers have thru better merchandising – quickly eliminating the extra hour it takes to have to scavenger hunt the products across the aisle and scour every detail of the packaging.
58% is a very scary number. It’s our opportunity to raise bright, successful and caring kids in communities that work together to care enough about this issue so as not to put my child at risk of dying in front of your child at school, at a party, in a restaurant or anywhere else on the planet. My child has become a self-protecting adult with ever-present life-threatening food allergies. I want all three million kids in American schools to have that same opportunity.