Open Letter

This week, I read about Snack Safely’s  new program with  Enjoy Life Foods, WOW Butter and Skeeter Snacks. As with your Safe Snack Guide, I believe you have only the best of intentions, albeit misguided, but feel it potentially creates more problems.

This new program is promoted as being helpful in raising awareness of food allergies and offering alternatives.  It’s not though, really.  I am actually disappointed by the new program for a few reasons. Snack Safely has never been known for educating schools about any allergens other than peanuts and nuts. This is a serious problem that cannot be overlooked.  In addition, Snack Safely recently announced that ” many” of the items in their guide are also free from the top 8 allergens. Let’s be clear–no products have been added to the Guide for the other allergens . The Safe Snack Guide fundamentally is still a peanut and nut free list. The only difference is that now the Guide points out nut free items that also are top 8 free. No new top 8 free foods have been included, so it just does not seem plausible that Snack Safely has begun to consider top 8 free snacks the same way it considers peanut and nut free snacks.

I love Enjoy Life Foods, and am a bit disappointed in their participation in this new program.  I use Enjoy Life as my go-to snack for the 100 kids with food allergies I manage at camp. Yet, while Enjoy Life covers most kids with food allergies, it does not cover all my allergy kids. I have kids that are allergic to even Enjoy Life products.  Skeeter Snacks is particularly limited, as it is only peanut and nut free.  They contain  wheat, soy, eggs and milk. That’s 4 of top 8 allergens–not safe for many kids with food allergies.  Wowbutter is made of soy; what about the soy allergy kids?  And that is where my problem with all this starts.  Nothing is truly safe for everyone, and while Snack Safely bears this disclaimer all over, it means nothing!

 “Note: These products may not be suitable for every child with food allergies. Always consult with the parent or caregiver before giving any food to a child with food allergies.”

All too often school staff and nurses look for “safe snack” lists to make their job a bit easier. These are  people who are not always educated in food allergies, and may think as long as nuts are not present, then they are in the clear.  I myself have had to educate not 1, but 3 school nurses that the “Safe Snack Guide” is not safe for all children with top 8 food allergies. Many believed it covered all top 8, and were using it to create safe snack lists for their school based on this! Imagine their surprise when I pointed it out.  Safe snack lists in general forget about kids with other food allergies outside of nuts.  This only adds to the misconception. For your information, 90% of the Snack Safely guide is not safe for my kids, and if their school went by this list, they would be excluded.

Let’s be honest, this program is not benefitting the allergy kids. It’s a marketing tool, plain and simple. Parents of allergic kids already know what products to buy and what their kids like to eat. Moreover, I don’t think kids with other food allergies are truly even on your radar. It seems more like your focus is on nut allergies since that is what your own kids have, and if a snack happens to also be top 8 free then great! But if not, oh well! You even say as much  on your web site.

Look at these quotes directly from your site

“We publish the Safe Snack Guide, the de facto standard snack list used by thousands of schools and tens of thousands of parents nationwide to help keep common allergens such as peanuts and tree nuts out of the classroom and the home.”
“The Safe Snack Guide is intended as an aid for parents, teachers, school nurses and administrators, club organizers… anyone responsible for people with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, or eggs in an environment where food may be consumed in their presence”

“Everything a teacher, school nurse, principal or PTA group needs to implement a successful nut-free classroom policy”

“Many schools are implementing allergen exclusion policies to accommodate their children with food allergies and help protect them from anaphylaxis. Here is a summary of resources for teachers, school nurses, principals and PTA associations to help ease the way:Safe Snack Guide – Our extensive list of commonly available snacks free of peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. Well researched and frequently updated, the Guide provides parents many snack options that comply with a nut-free policy”

So I ask you this, as a mom of  two and as someone who oversees over 100 kids with food allergies, many of them with food allergies other than nuts. How are you helping them? How are you advocating for them?  As someone who works with kids, teachers, school nurses and PTA groups and being on one myself, I can say you don’t. And your “education” efforts have made my life–as a mom of kids with non-peanut allergies–and the lives of many other parents of kids with multiple food allergies more difficult.

As one parent to another, and in the spirit of trying to help our children, I would like offer some suggestions how we can help ALL children with food allergies, even non top 8. I hope you will incorporate these suggestions into Snack Safely’s work.

  • Let’s educate about hand washing. Hand washing has been found more effective than bans in preventing allergic reactions.
  • Let’s educate on NEVER sharing food.
  • Let’s educate that ANY food allergy can cause anaphylaxis and as such, all food allergies should be considered equally dangerous, even non-peanut and nut allergies.
  • Let’s educate schools that there is no such thing as a “safe snack guide”, and that lists should be made based on the need of the class and all the allergens present in the class, and be made by the PARENTS in that class of the allergic children.
  • Let’s educate on the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and when to administer epinephrine.

It is my hope that one day, Snack Safely and others will understand that peanut and nut allergies are not the only life threatening food allergies in American classrooms today. This misperception is endangering children every day. We owe it to those children to get our facts right. We need to take all food allergies seriously, recognize all can cause anaphylaxis,  and create food allergy education programs and policies that keep all our children safe and included.

Thanks,

 

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