Well, considering that this is food allergy awareness week; I was even more horrified to see this clip from the Today Show. Matt and Al not only make fun of food allergies in this clip, they go so far as to bring in the Epi-Pen. I can’t help but wonder why they decided to make light of nut allergies and Epi-Pens. They easily could have made fun of sugary or high carbohydrate items and then made light of the insulin that a diabetic needs. Why is this happening? At the end of this post, I have symptoms and a great photo you can use to raise awareness. See video clip below:
Quite frankly, I think this is happening because food allergies are not taken seriously and the same goes for Celiac Disease. This is seen all the time when people make fun of the gluten free diet. This is the first time where I saw two grown men literally make fun of nut allergies and epi-pens. Everyone is entitled to free speech…and I defend that right, therefore, I don’t take this personally. What Matt and Al said in this segment says more about them then it ever will about those with food allergies. However, that being said, it is a bad example to set for others and I am worried that food allergies will continue to be marginalized. Is it because there was no sign on the buffet that said “contains gluten” and that is why they did not go after the gluten free diet? I have some insight into why I think this is happening.
In our gluten and allergen free cafe, I see people coming in every day claiming a gluten allergy and claiming food allergies. It is work to try to figure out what we are really dealing with. There are people who don’t like mustard so they declare it an allergy and have us shut down a kitchen line and keep everyone else waiting longer to be served. We serve them their meal without a pickle and we get an angry customer. It turns out that they just “don’t like” mustard and they wanted the pickle that is made with whole mustard seeds! The difference is that we are equipped to deal with many allergies…mainstream restaurants are not. When I talk with other mainstream restaurant owners they say that just about every 5 tickets they are having an “allergy” flagged. They don’t know which is an allergy and which is a sensitivity, so it causes many problems for them because they are not set up to deal with this on a regular basis.
The problem is that we have customers who come in for the first time who have minor food sensitivities or who are on an elimination diet and they claim an “allergy” too. We have to determine what is what. Our kitchen would need to be shut down and cleaned on every other order if we were not detectives at the front counter. Trust me, we can usually tell the difference between food allergies and someone new with food sensitivities; but we still have to ask many questions to be sure what we are dealing with. Then, if needed, we educate the customer about what we do and what is an allergy and what is a sensitivity. Nothing makes us happier than when a customer comes in and says: “I may have food sensitivities and I am on an elimination diet and I need to avoid these foods right now”. My thought bubble is : “great, and thank you for not faking a serious food allergy”.
On Mother’s Day I was talking to a nice couple from New Jersey and they said, “we knew nothing about food allergies until our child had a serious food reaction”. The awareness and the seriousness of food allergies is just not out there in the mainstream. My biggest fear is that this type of marginalization of food allergies will continue; making it harder for those with legitimate food allergies to be taken seriously.
We all have to do our part to raise awareness about the serious nature of food allergies. We need to start in our own personal circles of influence via our facebook pages, twitter pages, schools, workplaces, etc. Please join me and start spreading awareness today; let’s change the tide together! Below are signs and symptoms from FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) for mild and severe symptoms. Also, it describes how a child might describe what they are feeling.
- Hives or welts.
- Flushed skin or rash.
- Face, tongue, or lip swelling.
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea.
- Coughing or wheezing.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Mild symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
- Eczema (a persistent dry, itchy rash)
- Redness of the skin or around the eyes
- Itchy mouth or ear canal
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Slight, dry cough
- Odd taste in mouth
- Uterine contractions
Severe symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Turning blue
- Drop in blood pressure (feeling faint, confused, weak, passing out)
- Loss of consciousness
- Chest pain
- A weak or “thread” pulse
- Sense of “impending doom”
Severe symptoms, alone or in combination with milder symptoms, may be signs of anaphylaxis and require immediate treatment.