"Make The World Revolve Around My Peanut - Free Kid..."
- From: Gregory Morrow <gregorymorrow@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 20 Apr 2008 15:38:29 -0700 (PDT)
[thanks to 'Latreen Washington' on alt.support.childfree for posting
Food industry 'nuts' need to act, not merely be aware
April 20, 2008
"WE TOOK a wonderful spring- break vacation to Arizona that of course
included a round-trip plane flight and lots of eating out--not to
mention seeing some of America's greatest natural wonders. Such a trip
takes a family with a peanut-allergic child outside of its comfort
zone of home-cooked foods and known allergy-friendly restaurants.
Peanut-allergy awareness has risen over the past decade along with the
number of people affected, but it's unfortunate that so many hurdles
remain for these and other food-allergic people. The hurdles are
erected by everyone from the server who comes to your restaurant
table, to the largest national food-producing conglomerates.
Some restaurant servers are very understanding, for which we are
always appreciative. One national chain we know, Chili's (and maybe
others we're not aware of), has a menu supplement listing the
ingredients in each menu item. That's good PR.
On the other extreme is the occasional server whose reaction to "I
have a peanut allergy and need to be sure what I'm ordering will be
free of nuts, peanuts, or peanut oil" is a blank stare and a delayed
After visiting with a superior of some sort, the server returns to
say, "We don't offer any guarantees about anything on the menu."
This information is unresponsive and irrelevant. Would you prefer that
we leave? We simply want to know the prevalence of peanuts and nuts in
the menu items and if care is or can be taken to prevent cross-
contamination, such as avoiding unwashed cooking utensils that were
used to prepare any nut-containing dishes.
I submit that this is not too much to ask, assuming that utensils do
Current statistics show that about 12 million, or 4 percent of
Americans, are allergic to one or more foods. Peanut allergy affects
1.3 percent of Americans, which may not seem like a lot. But if four
of 100 diners who come to a restaurant have food allergy issues, why
not be prepared to deal with it intelligently? They'll be more likely
to come back.
On our return flight, the attendant came through with snacks. You
could get a bag of peanuts, or you could get a bag of pretzels. On the
pretzels there is the warning: "Manufactured on equipment that
processes peanuts and tree nuts."
"Do you have an alternative for someone with a peanut allergy?" we
"No, you would have to notify the airline in advance about that," she
Thanks for being so helpful and accommodating.
By my quick calculation, there were 23 rows of six seats each on our
Boeing 737. That's 138 passengers.
The odds are that at least one passenger on the plane, as well as on
each the hundreds of other flights the airline flies day after day,
has a peanut allergy.
Dealing with that reality, however, would require corporate thinking
on the individual customer level, and we all know that corporations
pretty much view the customer base as a herd of cattle--or planeload
of suitcases with heads.
It was over a year ago that the Food and Drug Administration's new
food labeling guidelines went into effect. It's a good idea to let
people know in detail what they're eating. In addition to providing
key dietary information, manufacturers are required to identify any of
the eight primary food allergens--milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree
nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans--that are contained in a product.
Most of them do this in a variety of vague and unhelpful ways. The
wording announces "May contain traces of tree nuts or peanuts," or
"Manufactured on equipment that processes peanuts," or even "Made in a
plant that also manufactures products with peanuts."
While we appreciate that information, all it does is tell a peanut-
allergic child like my daughter that she can't enjoy all the packaged
cookies or Easter candy that her friends eat routinely. Go ahead, try
to find a chocolate candy or cookie that doesn't have a peanut warning
or, better yet, has "peanut-free" on the label.
At age 11, my daughter is and must be her own best protection against
an allergic reaction that could range anywhere from an itchy tongue to
deadly anaphylactic shock. She either carries her Epipen with her, or
knows where one is nearby.
Many of her friends are sympathetic to the situation and help her
remain vigilant. On Valentine's Day, a classmate brought her a package
of yogurt-covered raisins for her to check. It said: "May contain an
occasional peanut or tree nut."
Gee, I wonder what else could have gotten in there. I generally avoid
using brand names in derogatory fashion, but Sun-Maid, please go buy a
clue and I'll reimburse you. Perhaps the statement also applies to
your board of directors: "May contain an occasional nut."
ARE THERE NUTS IN HERE?
Not only did someone write that, but the writer was no doubt
instructed to write that. Maybe the conversation went like this:
Supervisor: Does that candy have nuts in it? The feds require us to
tell people about that.
Label writer: No, boss, no nuts in that.
Supervisor: I don't know I saw Billy Bob over there flick something
into a batch last week. Coulda been a nut--coulda been something else.
Label writer: OK, boss, how about this--"May contain an occasional
I refuse to believe that major food manufacturers with plants across
the country are unable to produce foods that do not come into contact
with nuts. In fact, I don't think that's the issue at all.
With all the reports of food contamination in recent years and stepped-
up government inspection efforts, companies could remove many of their
nut warnings. But the brilliant legal department probably warns that
just to be safe, the statement on the label ought to cover their short-
sighted, lazy corporate butts.
Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 11-17. Awareness is good, but an
industry acknowledgment of the need to produce allergen-free foods
would be better..."
Richard Amrhine is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.
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