This week has been filled with LOTS of food allergy related news, between the new guidelines of early introduction of peanuts, to FARE’s press release on a complaint filed against American Airlines for not allowing pre-boarding,to CVS offering generic Adrenalclick. The common factor in all these stories is how the media played this. The only allergy mentioned in all- the news stories was peanut allergy. Epi-pen is needed for peanut allergies, AA discriminating against people with peanut allergies. Peanut, peanut,peanut.
There are 170 foods that can cause anaphylaxis. In the United States we have 8 top foods that cause 90% of food allergies. Even if you have a top 8 though, unless it’s peanuts, odds are nobody knows the seriousness of the allergy or that it can be just as deadly as a peanut. Even tree nut allergies are often not taken as seriously. For example, most airlines have peanut policies but they do not have tree nut policies, and they don’t have any policy for any other allergen either.
While living with any food allergy sucks, life with an allergy outside nuts is much harder. Yes, I know this may anger some but let me explain. When someone has an allergy to milk, egg, soy, fish, wheat, shellfish all of which are part of the top 8 , you learn pretty fast that the world will not be free from your allergens. Nobody is making a milk free school. You walk around daily seeing people eating your allergen. People know nothing about your allergies and often tell you to take a lactaid pill to eat something with milk, or they say or “you’re lucky you don’t have a peanut allergy” , “people only die from peanut allergies”. FALSE! Sadly, this is not true. How quickly we all forget how Sabrina Shannon died not from peanuts, but from a utensil cross contaminated with dairy. Safe snack lists often are only nut free and people with other food allergies are forgotten and not included. Often schools are “nut free” but do not go to great lengths for other allergens.
The risk is equal for ALL allergens. Cooking or steaming or powdered milk can cause reactions, as can egg and fish. Powdered cheese products like Doritos and Pirate’s Booty can cause reactions. Even going to a local coffee shop can cause an issue. When looking for food, it’s much harder to eat out. Most fryers and grills are using milk, egg, soy, and fish. People with these allergies have very limited options.
There also people who are allergic to some popular foods that are not on the top 8. Sesame, corn or mustard for example. Not only are these allergies not taken as seriously by many, by law they also do not need to be declared on food labels. People sometimes have to go to great lengths to find out if the word “spices” means sesame or mustard. Some people even are allergic to carrots and apples and need epi pens for that as well.
I am angry. I am frustrated. As a mom of kids with milk, tree nuts, sesame, fish and beef allergies, I feel like I am batting my head against a brick wall. I know others feel this way also. Why does every food allergy story have to be about peanuts? I have seen my kids need an Epi-pen from a tiny bit of dairy, yet no one talks about the dangers of other foods. I blame many in the food allergy community for promoting the current message. Honestly, we need awareness now that other foods are just as allergic, not more stories adding peanut to the message. I can tell you even within the food allergy community, there is refusal to understand that ALL allergies are equal. We need to educate, and we also need to stop promoting false myths. The current thought process and message is putting MANY other allergic individuals at risk. All allergies matter! To the person who is allergic, it makes no difference if it’s a peanut, or a banana, the reaction will be the same. I am begging my fellow food allergy advocates, the media, and other food allergy sufferers to start making the conversation about ALL foods not just one.