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WowButter Is Not Exactly Peanut Butter, But It Has an Advantage

WowButter Is Not Exactly Peanut Butter, But It Has an Advantage

Wowbutter, a soy-based "nut" butter, touts itself as a peanut butter substitute with similar taste and texture but better nutrition. As peanut butter nuts (we eat through a good-sized jar every week), my daughter and I can attest to its similarity to peanut butter.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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It's similar but not exact. The butter has a slightly smokey flavor—over nutty is probably a better description—and the viscosity reminded us of store-brand butters. We've been eating natural peanut butters for the last year, so the uniform smoothness of Wowbutter may have thrown us off.

As for the nutrition, Wowbutter has the same amount protein as peanut butter but twice the dietary fiber at 4 grams. That's not really much fiber—women need 25 grams and men, 38, every day. The soy butter also has omega-3 fatty acids, which peanut butter does not, but the fatty acids in soy are different from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish and may not have the same heart-healthy benefits.

There is one guaranteed benefit to Wowbutter: If your child goes to a peanut-free school or, like my daughter, goes to a school where the peanut butter eaters are grouped together at a single table, Wowbutter may be an acceptable substitute—provided your child can prove to the peanut monitor that they're eating soy butter.

Keep Reading:


Don't Get Conned by 'Plant-Based Butter'

Dietitians weigh in on a weird new trend in "healthy" marketing.

As if the supermarket weren&rsquot already confusing enough, there&rsquos now something strange afoot in the butter section.

Last year Country Crock announced the release of Country Crock Plant-Butter, joining a slew of other products such as Miyoko&rsquos Cultured Vegan Butter, Melt Vegan Butter, and I Can&rsquot Believe It&rsquos Not Butter! It&rsquos Vegan (whew).

Oooooooooohhhh, &ldquoplant-based&rdquo is a thing now and it&rsquos so healthy and butter is so yuck, your friend who buys things from the Goop Shop for men might say.

You, on the other hand, have a fairly accurate bullshit detector.

Maybe you&rsquove also been on this planet long enough that you survived the Snackwells-filled hell that was the late-80s-early-90s low-fat &ldquocraze,&rdquo and you continue to look askance at that Country Crock Plant-Butter, scratch your chin, and wonder, &ldquoUhhhhhhhhh, isn&rsquot that margarine?&rdquo

And, margarine, as you well know, tastes pretty crummy, isn&rsquot what you would call &ldquowonderful&rdquo to cook with, and is a processed food with way more ingredients than actual butter (more on that later).

But marketing can be convincing, even if it is misleading, so before you head out to the grocery decide, consider first the advice of actual dietitians, of whom we consulted to get to the bottom of this butter tub conundrum.

Their insights are helpful in deciding which butter is healthier, plant-based (i.e. vegan) or the traditional kind. The answer is somewhat complex, but luckily the bottom line is a straightforward one.

Let's get out our butter knives and dig in a little deeper.


Canadian Companies that will Mail You Coupons

How to get coupons mailed to you in Canada. Most of my high value and FREE product coupons (FPC) come directly from the manufacturers themselves. I simply call or email them, explaining how my family enjoys their products, and I ask them if they have any coupons that they are able to send me. Some companies will send you some, and others won’t.

Whether or not you receive the same coupons as the ones on this list will vary by which representative you reach. I have tried to order coupons from certain companies after hearing that someone else had received them, and the representative would tell me that they do not send coupons in the mail. It’s hit or miss.

The following is a list of companies that have sent coupons to consumers. Please do not take advantage of the kindness of these companies. Only ask for coupons from companies that you truly do enjoy.

Arthur’s Smoothies: Was sent 2x $1 coupons
Email: Click here

Aveeno: Was sent 1x $3 coupon
Email: Click here

Barbara’s: Was sent 2x $1 coupons
Email: click here

Biore: Was sent 2x $1 coupons for any product
Email: click here

Blue Dragon: Was sent 1x $1.50 WUB2 AND 2x $1 WUB2
Email: Click here

Blue Buffalo Dog and Cat Food: Was sent 1x $5 coupon
Email: Click here

Chapmans: Was sent 1x $4 coupon. You can email yearly to request coupons.
Email: click here

Clover Leaf: Was sent 1x .50 WUB2 flavoured tuna coupon and 1x $1 WUB3 flavoured tuna coupon
Email: click here

Danone: Was sent 2x $3 gift certificates
Email: Click here

Daiya: Was sent 3x .50 coupons
Email: Click here

Driscoll’s Berries: Was sent 1x $1 coupon
Email: Click here

Duncan Hines: Was sent 1x .35 coupon for cake mix, brownie mix or frosting
Email: click here

Earth Balance: Was sent 2x $1 coupons
Email: Click here

Eden’s Organics: Was sent 3x $1 coupons
Email: click here

El Monterey: Was sent 4x $1 coupons
Email: Click here

Fresh Express: Sent 2x FPC for packaged salad
Email: click here

Gain: Sent 2x $1 coupons for fabric softener or laundry detergent
Email: click here

Gay Lea, Nordica, Ivanhoe, Lacteeze: Was sent 1x $2 coupon, 2x $1 coupons, 1x $1 Ivanhoe coupon
Email: Click here

Glutino: Sent 2x FPC, 1x $1 and 1x B1G1 FREE coupons
Email: click here

Haan-Celestial: Sent 2x $1 coupons
Email: click here

Haagen-dazs Received 10x $1 stackable coupons
Email: click here

Hills/Science Diet Pet Food: Was sent 1x $10 coupon
Email: Click here

Iams: Sent 4x $2 coupons for dog food and cat food.
Email: click here

John Frieda: Sent 2x $1 coupons
Email: click here

Johnson & Johnson: Sent 2x $2 Stayfree/K-Y/etc. product, 2x $2 Tylenol/Reach/etc. product, 2x $3 Aveeno/Neutrogena/etc. product. Note: You can call/email monthly to request coupons. Quantities are limited as they are trying to switch over completely to printable coupons.
Email: click here
Phone Number: 1-866-565-2229

Johnsonville Sausage Will mail out coupons upon request every 3 months if you email them

Marc Angelo Meats: Sent 1x $1 coupon
Email: Visit their Facebook page

Melitta: various coupons
Email/phone: Click here

Michelina’s: Was sent 1x $1 coupon
Email: [email protected]

Natura: Was sent 14x .75, .50 and $1 coupons for soy and rice beverages.
Email: Click Here

Organic Meadow: Sent 4x $1 coupons + fridge magnet, Sent 3x .75 coupons
Email: click here

Pita Break: Sent 1x $5 WUB2 coupon for any Pita Break products
Email: click here (join coupon club)

Purina: Sent 3x $2 Maxx Scoop Litter, 3x $1 Dry Cat Chow, 3x $3 Dry Dog Chow
Email: click here

Rice Works: Sent 1x $1 coupon
Email: click here

Revlon: Was sent 2x $1 coupons
Email: Click here

Rogers: Sent 2x .50 coupons for cereal, 2x .50 coupons for granola and 2x .50 coupons for flour
Email: click here

Schick: Sent 1x $2 coupon for Schick razor
Email: click here

Tetley: Sent 1x $1 coupon and 1x FPC for any product
Email: click here

Uncle Bens: Was sent 1x $1 coupon
Email: Click here

Vlasic Pickles: Was sent 1x .35 coupon
Email: Click here

Are there any companies that you have received coupons from?

If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends and family by clicking one of the social share buttons below (or at the top-right of this post)!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Celebrating a 40th Birthday!

No, not mine. At least not yet. This weekend, we celebrated my husband's 40th birthday. Actually, we celebrated it last weekend too. After Thanksgiving, we spent several nights in the NC mountains. One afternoon while there, Abigail and her brother helped me surprise their daddy with a party complete with cake, 40 candles, a banner they made and party hats. And, this weekend, the kids stayed with my parents (thanks mom and dad!) so that we could have a kid free weekend.

Purchasing bakery cakes is pretty much out of the question when you have an allergic family member. I make all of our family's birthday cakes. For my husband's birthday, I traditionally pick up a box cake mix (Pillsbury or Betty Crocker because of their good allergen labeling practices), a can of frosting and a jar of sprinkles. This year, I'm making a serious effort to try to eliminate the additives and other junk ingredients from our diet, so I thought I'd bake a cake from scratch. It turned out so good and was so easy to make that I wanted to share.

I found a recipe for an Old Fashioned Gingerbread cake on www.allrecipes.com. After reading through many of the reviews and recipe suggestions, I found a version that sounded fabulous. Here's the recipe:

I used organic butter, flour and pumpkin puree. Because we were heading out of town, I made the cake in advance and froze it which made it easy to transport in the cooler. I thawed it in the refrigerator and then heated it for a few seconds so that I served it warm. For an extra treat, I even made the whipped cream topping. I will continue to make our own now that I know how easy it is. It's so much better for you than the frozen whipped topping and canned whipped cream at the grocery store.

My husband and kids loved the gingerbread cake. I even let Abigail eat a piece several mornings for breakfast thinking that it was better for her than a frozen waffle or bagel. I'll definitely make this cake again. maybe even for Christmas morning!

Enough about the cake. I want to wish a Happy 40th Birthday to my wonderful husband! Here's to another 40! Thanks for being such a fabulous guys! Love you!


Dealing with allergies in the restaurant kitchen October 25, 2015 8:40 AM Subscribe

I've had servers ask diners to mention allergies in their introduction.

And whether the server asks or not in my experience if one mentions what they're avoiding, an allergy, or intolerance there are often a lot of questions to clarify what is meant.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:00 AM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

To some extent, the restaurants brought this on themselves in the "no substitutions" era when they wouldn't accommodate preferences unless someone mentioned allergies.

The best approach I've seen recently is servers who ask questions to clarify whether it's a 'leave it out' or a 'biohazard level 1, cross contamination protocol 3' kind of scenario. It gives the fake allergy people a chance to express that they don't need the cross contamination protocols, just no green peppers in their dish, please, without forcing them into admitting they lied about the allergy itself.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2015 [18 favorites]

I'm lactose intolerant, which is truly not a big deal as food issues go and is never going to endanger my life or long-term health, but accidentally eating lactose can ruin my night, and I don't think it's unreasonable to ask servers to tell me if there's hidden lactose in something. I don't need anyone to alter recipes for me, but I will order something else if you're making the french fries crispy by dumping lactose on them. It annoys me a little bit that some restaurants seem to think this is unreasonable. Chances are that your food is not so delicious that it's worth 8 hours of gas and diarrhea. I mean, very occasionally it is, but I think that should be my choice to make. Also, lactose intolerance is extremely common among people of African, Asian and Native American descent, so if your restaurant isn't accommodating people who can't eat lactose, then I think it's worth asking who is welcome there and who you're unintentionally excluding.

But yeah, lying about food allergies is scummy.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:26 AM on October 25, 2015 [55 favorites]

so many Americans believe they have a food allergy and act on it without ever going to the doctor to confirm the hunch.

This is me, because my allergy is to kiwi. I don't intend to waste anyone's time with testing for a very, very easily avoided food (but I have the weird tingling in my mouth and throat and slight swelling). Mostly it's an issue in smoothies or breakfasts, occasionally a dessert is served with kiwi. I admit I forget to ask occasionally because it's rarely served, and really all I need is "no food that has touched kiwi on my plate" (because honestly what kind of cross-contamination does kiwi get? I'm not lying if I say I don't actually need biohazard-level concern) so it's solvable if there was kiwi on the plate.

I do wish servers wouldn't look so disdainful when I mention kiwi, though. I know it's rare and a weird question, but it's not that vanishingly rare.
posted by jeather at 9:31 AM on October 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

We eat out fairly often and I've never once had a server mention anything about food allergies. What kind of restaurants do this?

My wife and just moved to the Bay Area and we've been dining out a lot, as one does, and the staff at about half of the trendier, featured on Eater spots have asked about allergies. ("Nope, none. What's the best thing here?")
posted by notyou at 9:47 AM on October 25, 2015

I get the annoyance with diners who claim an allergy, then order dessert with the allergen. But people are going to be fussy about their food, and the restaurants that accommodate those diners will profit.

I'm also lactose-intolerant, and the lactase enzyme doesn't help much. Over time, I've learned that dairy aggravates my inflammatory arthritis. If there's dairy in my food, I'll be uncomfortable in the short-term, and in pain in the long term. So I do appreciate honesty from restaurants, and I'm not going to sample my tablemate's pizza, no matter how much I miss gooey, delicious cheeeese.
posted by theora55 at 9:58 AM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

It gives the fake allergy people a chance to express that they don't need the cross contamination protocols, just no green peppers in their dish, please, without forcing them into admitting they lied about the allergy itself.

It's a good protocol not just for "fakers," but for people who have more mild allergies as well. My husband can't have avocados and certain tropical fruits. A small exposure (a bite of something) will just cause some itchiness. When ordering, he doesn't like to say that it's an allergy, because he's seen them break out separate equipment just for his dish when for him it just needs to be left out. He obviously appreciated the effort, but felt bad that he'd created extra work.

So now he just asks for it to be left out, if possible (and orders something else if it can't). But one time he asked for the avocado in a dish to be left off without realizing that avocado oil had been used in the dish as well. He had welts all over his back and his breathing was slightly impacted.

And he still doesn't like saying it's an allergy, because he still feels bad about generating extra work. Most places are very accommodating, so it's only been the one time that he's had a real problem. But yeah, encouraging an open dialogue and recognizing that theres varying levels of food intolerance/allergies would be beneficial for both patrons and restaurants.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:01 AM on October 25, 2015 [18 favorites]

Don't tell me that restaurants can't accommodate these things. Disney is HUGE, and they do this all the time.

Wouldn't being huge give them an enormous advantage in their level of flexibility? You say this like it's more impressive because they're huge, but of course Disney is more able to spare a chef to come out and chat with customers and then spend the time making something tailored to a specific allergy profile than a normal non-chain restaurant would be.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:05 AM on October 25, 2015 [35 favorites]

Wouldn't being huge give them an enormous advantage in their level of flexibility? You say this like it's more impressive because they're huge, but of course Disney is more able to spare a chef to come out and chat with customers and then spend the time making something tailored to a specific allergy profile than a normal non-chain restaurant would be.

I guess there are two sides to it. Maybe more staff, but also a much higher turnover rate of tables, and seeing hundreds/thousands more people every day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:11 AM on October 25, 2015

I deal with this at work all the time, and most people are reasonable about their allergies, but there are some who are clearly using it to go way, way off menu so they can feel special. These people also ask for "half a glass of wine," for example. We don't sell half a glass of anything. They insist on changing things around, then complain when it doesn't turn out how they expected. Restaurants make menus for a reason, in order to produce yummy, quality food quickly and uniformly. A good place will alter that to keep people happy, within reason. One chef I worked with has a policy, a good guide line I think: If your allergy is so severe that you'll end up in the ER, don't risk it. I always triple check that a particular dish is safe, but that takes time, and if we are busy, it can disrupt everyone, guests, BOH, and FOH.

Don't get me started on the "experts" who question our ingredients, like the ass who insisted lump crab meant fake crab, or the young lady who was shocked that we had Chilean sea bass because it was an endangered species. It isn't.

The best approach I've seen recently is servers who ask questions to clarify whether it's a 'leave it out' or a 'biohazard level 1, cross contamination protocol 3' kind of scenario. It gives the fake allergy people a chance to express that they don't need the cross contamination protocols, just no green peppers in their dish, please, without forcing them into admitting they lied about the allergy itself.

Where I work we do fried chicken in a rice flour dredge (so gluten free, right?) but fryers are shared so there's cross contamination. Finding out if this is going to kill them or not is priority #1. And I confess, I ask in a way that slants a little toward "If you're really serious about how serious your allergy is, then this isn't the place for you to dine." I'd rather loose a couple of covers then call 911.

Aside: it's remarkable how many people think there's gluten in distilled spirits and ask for gluten free options. I am always happy to point this out though I also point out, again, since there's a possibility of cross contamination ("Hey, I just handed a plate of hushpuppies before pouring your whiskey.") that if we're talking about life threatening, maybe this isn't the best place for you.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:41 AM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Disney is HUGE, and they do this all the time.
Wouldn't being huge give them an enormous advantage in their level of flexibility?

Disney is able to survive the ramifications of a lawsuit if they fail and someone sues. Taking that food allergy liability for them translates to tons of good will and business across all their properties (cruise line, Aulani, parks, etc). The more reassurance a restaurant gives when they attempt to feed someone, the more risk they run of a lawsuit when they fail (example). As much as a restaurant may talk about wanting to provide the best food and best service possible, their food allergy policy or lack thereof is based on their attitude towards handling potential legal ramifications.

My son has multiple anaphylactic allergies and the only consistent place we eat out at is Chipotle where I know exactly what ingredients are in the kitchen and the staff happily changes their gloves. I plan our vacations around Chipotle, Disney, and accommodations w/kitchens.
posted by girlhacker at 10:43 AM on October 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

you don't always know what rando ingredients are being put in things that you would not expect.

But you know what you are allergic to. So ask about it, and if I tell you it is in the dish do not insist it be made safe. If you are allergic to shallots we'll take those off, but we are not there to be re-working dishes from the ground up, especially if the worst that might happen is a mild reaction. On preview Insert Clever Name has it. The responsibility for saftey, for what one puts in one's body, rests ultimately with the diner.
posted by vrakatar at 10:46 AM on October 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

My son has a life-threatening peanut allergy and I can tell you that "So don't order the stir fry with peanut sauce then" doesn't nearly cover it when it comes to keeping him safe at restaurants. Secret peanuts show up all over the place. Peanut butter is used to thicken chili or mole sauce, or to seal egg rolls. Peanut flour is used to boost the protein content in granola or crackers or bread. And of course all manner of things are fried in peanut oil (which is not always refined enough to remove all the allergenic protein despite what some restaurants will tell you). And those are just cases where peanuts are an intentional ingredient-- then you have to think about how most ice cream and chocolate and cookies and pastries are made on shared equipment with peanut-flavored versions, and that equipment might not always be cleaned between flavors. And that sort of contamination doesn't just happen at restaurants-- it also happens at food factories. So even if a restaurant takes precautions its own kitchen to prevent cross contamination, some of their ingredients might have been contaminated before they ever arrived. And where we live in the midwestern United States, there is very little general public awareness about the seriousness of food allergies and restaurant staff are often very uneducated.

So yeah, we DON'T eat out much. For my son's own safety. But let me explain to you just what that choice means:

We miss birthday parties. All the time. Not just the birthday parties of my son's school friends, but the birthday parties of family members. Oh, Uncle Frank, you want to have your birthday at the Chinese restaurant down the street where literally everything is fried in peanut oil? Sorry, we are unable to attend. Or, we go to a birthday party, but we only order drinks, and my 11-year-old sits for three hours at dinner time nursing a cup of water, watching everyone else eat, and then we dodge out early because none of our relatives can ever seem to remember not to hug and kiss him after they've just eaten a Snickers Delight Double Peanut Butter ice cream sundae for dessert and he doesn't want to break out in hives.

We miss Easter Brunch with the grandparents. We miss ice cream after swim practice. We leave early from the field trip, before all the other kids have lunch at the Dairy Queen.

Restaurants aren't just places where people eat. They're places where people socialize. If you avoid restaurants, you lose out on an amazing amount of time with friends and family. If you don't live with the reality of managing a food allergy yourself it sounds so easy to tell someone with a severe allergy "Well don't go to restaurants then." But when you tell someone that what you are really telling them is "Don't meet up with your friends after school. Don't go to your cousin's fifth birthday party. Don't go on any dates where eating out happens. Don't go to the office holiday party."

That's what restaurant staff are telling my son when they say, "If you have a life-threatening allergy, don't eat at our restaurant." Hey, if you really can't make accommodations because of what you serve or how your kitchen is structured, then thanks for telling us-- I appreciate the honesty. Like, Five Guys, I get that barrels full of peanuts are your thing I am totally down with those DO NOT ENTER IF YOU HAVE A PEANUT ALLERGY signs on your door. But if you have the ability to accommodate, and you just don't WANT to make accommodations because you think it's a pain in the ass to put some clean foil over your griddle or wash out a pan, or because you that my family is crazy to ever take the risk of eating out in the first place, please realize that we're not coming into your restaurant and taking that risk just to annoy you personally, or to experience your amazing macaroni-and-cheese production skills: we are taking that risk because if we don't occasionally take a risk on eating out with other people, my really kind, funny, sociable 11-year-old boy has to basically live like a hermit.

(And yeah, allergy fakers make it much worse for us because they make everyone without allergies suspect that everyone with a real allergy is faking, too. So please stop.)
posted by BlueJae at 11:10 AM on October 25, 2015 [105 favorites]

t bluejae: It's not just "put foil over a griddle or clean out a pan" The problem is that kitchens are crowded busy places that are geared by having everything prepared in advance. Asking to make a change like that in the middle of dinner can bring the whole system to a grinding halt. For example, lots of places cook meat on flat grills, if you want a modified item and it can't touch that griddle without being cleaned you'd have to wait until everything else was off, then clean it, then cook it alone, then proceed. That sort of thing can break your workflow (which really does matter! Slow kitchen=bad tips for servers and bad yelp reviews which can be brutal). Whenever I get people who have severe allergies like that at busy times I tell the servers to let them know we can't safely accommodate them. It sucks but it's a lot better than causing anaphylaxis.

That said, if you do want to try and get accommodations made, come at a very late lunch or a very early dinner hour. That way the kitchen probably isn't very busy and has much more flexibility to work with you.
posted by Ferreous at 11:36 AM on October 25, 2015 [17 favorites]

I used to host a huge Thanksgiving dinner every year, multiple courses, up to about 30 people. I'd have someone else donate the space because my house was always too small, but I'd buy all the ingredients and do all the cooking, and I'd always provide a vegetarian option for the main dish and ensure that non-meat eaters could have a nice Thanksgivingey meal with lots of things to choose from. And then, one year, a woman I didn't really know invited herself, which was totally cool with me, and informed me that she was vegetarian and allergic to tomatoes. The main vegetarian option I'd always make, and which people really looked forward to, was heavily tomato-based, so my whole planning process went SCREEEECH. And I'm desperately trying to figure out how to handle this. Do I try some new main vegetarian option and disappoint everyone who was looking forward to my usual one, or do I come up with a third, meat AND tomato free main dish?

I'm still trying to figure this out maybe a couple of days later, when it comes up in conversation and her boyfriend says, "But you put ketchup on everything," and she replies, "Oh, ketchup is fine. I don't like the little seeds."

And some time after that, I discover she's not actually vegetarian, either. She just liked to think of herself as vegetarian, but she ate meat pretty much every day.

On the other hand, I currently have a friend who comes to other, smaller group dinners I host regularly, who has reactions to a whole bunch of different things. She currently has shitty health insurance, which is better than the none she had pre-ACA. She does have some known autoimmune disorder, and she also clearly has various food sensitivities that she's pretty much on her own with. She is gluten, soy, and dairy free right now, but the specifics change a lot because she honestly doesn't know what's making her sick. I've seen it, though. I've seen her bust out in a rash after eating something and have no idea what did it. I've been fortunate not to see the gastro effects firsthand. So she is self-diagnosing, but it's not just recreational. She's not just looking for attention or buying into some silly trend. She just can't afford the multiple doctor visits she needs to get someone to take her seriously and then do the extensive testing and such to get official diagnoses.

It does complicate my meal planning, especially when I try to figure out something that will accommodate her diet as well as all the others', but I can't imagine begrudging her or trying to trick her or dismissing whatever she's trying to cut out at any given time. It really sucks for her. She's also single and very very social, so just staying home and totally controlling her own diet would be an enormous lifestyle hit for her.

Obviously, I'm just a home cook, and I would be very uncomfortable trying to accommodate a potentially fatal allergy, but a lot of people are on elimination diets of various types, and not always for stupid reasons.

It really would be ideal if there were some commonly understood social proscription where lying about serious allergies were on par with lying about terminal illnesses or military service, but there would also need to be some commonly understood social convention where less-serious sensitivities and dietary limitations were taken seriously. The dangers may be less imminent and less likely to require ambulances, but they're real.

Picky eaters, though, just need to cop to being picky eaters. I mean, I feel bad for them and all, and I even accommodate certain limited pickinesses in people I cook for, but be a fucking grownup about it. Don't lie.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:39 AM on October 25, 2015 [33 favorites]

Please, please take mild allergies seriously. I have treated a lot of people in anaphylaxis who only had mild reactions up to that point.

Poe, does this mean that cross-contamination protocols should be used even for mild allergies, or just that people with mild allergies shouldn't gamble (i.e. just have one bite of the allergen)? I know repeated exposure isn't good, but if, for example, my husband doesn't react as long as you don't directly touch his food with an avocado, would he really need to have sterilized utensils etc.

If you are allergic to shallots we'll take those off, but we are not there to be re-working dishes from the ground up, especially if the worst that might happen is a mild reaction

That's another reason why my husband doesn't want to say allergy: he'd rather be told, no, it's integral to the dish if it is. He's afraid that if he says allergy, people would be more likely to try to work around it, resulting in more work for them with less payoff. Usually if he sees avocado listed he'll just order something else anyways. But sometimes he really wants tacos, and if the guacamole can just be left off with no fuss, cool. If not, he'll just order something else.
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2015

Here's a fact though, Ferreous: 1 in 13 American children has a food allergy.

That means something like 1 in 6 families with children may have a child with a food allergy.

That is not even counting adults with food allergies, or people who have celiac disease or lactose intolerance (which are not technically allergies and are therefore not included in allergy stats).

That means you are turning away a LOT of customers.

There are a number of restaurants that have realized this and have made a deliberate choice to structure their business in such a way that they can accommodate people with food allergies and intolerances, even during busy times. Chipotle, Red Robin, and P.F. Chang's are some good examples. It is possible to provide a lot of people with food allergies and intolerances good options in a fast-paced restaurant environment, even if you can't reasonably offer to modify everything on your menu. Most people with real food allergies and intolerances (not the fakers) understand that they can't have everything on offer at a restaurant and will be grateful and happy if you can even just give them a list of four or five things you know you can safely make for them.
posted by BlueJae at 11:48 AM on October 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

I had to delay the thousand things that needed doing ever so slightly to go bug chef about it.

Uh, not really. I mean, the woman on the phone was your potential customer, too. It was part of your job to ask.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:53 AM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Rock Steady in an ideal world that would work, but in the real world we have been harassed and asked to leave restaurants over bringing in outside food, even after telling the staff about the allergy. (That probably has to do with our living in Missouri aka the last refuge of 20th century thinking.) And as far as reheating goes . . . well, think about it: if the kitchen can't safely cook my son a plain steak or some white rice or even offer him a bowl of fruit, then can I trust them to safely reheat the pasta I brought with us in that same unsafe kitchen space? Um, no.

We do sometimes bring nonperishable or cold foods in to restaurants but it's not always a solution.
posted by BlueJae at 11:53 AM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

in the real world we have been harassed and asked to leave restaurants over bringing in outside food, even after telling the staff about the allergy.

Ugh. Sorry.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

> my allergy is to kiwi. I don't intend to waste anyone's time with testing for a very, very easily avoided food (but I have the weird tingling in my mouth and throat and slight swelling

I am not alone! Also mango peel but not the good part, as far as I can tell. I haven't bothered to test for them, either.

> This is one reason that I really like Disney. If someone in your party has any allergies at all, the chef will either come out and talk to you, or even call you before your reservation. Don't tell me that restaurants can't accommodate these things. Disney is HUGE, and they do this all the time

A friend took her daughter to Disney lately (the one in California, I believe). They'd called ahead and everything, but her daughter was still given a meal that had one of the items she's allergic to in it -- which resulted in her having an embarrassing accident in the hotel lobby while they raced back to the hotel room.

This friend of mine is super-duper on top of allergies, because her son has the most serious ones I've ever seen. He's had a reaction to the school bus, because the driver didn't clean the seat off sufficiently before the boy sat there. Her son can't drink from water fountains.

That my "ooh my mouth is tingly" reaction to kiwi and that kid's "off to the hospital because you shared pencils with a classmate" thing are both called allergies is part of the problem.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:45 PM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Disney is HUGE, and they do this all the time.

Well, sure, but Disney's brand is making children/parents happy, not haute cuisine. At best, you're getting food that is "basically just as good" as what you would get in a typical nice restaurant, generally aimed at people who don't eat in nice restaurants often and are somewhat a captive audience. Nobody doesn't go back to Disney World because the risotto was a little bit al dente.

Not that it isn't good for restaurants to cater to people with (actual) allergies, but citing Disney seems like a non sequitur here.

(Also, if you have an allergy, it is somewhat on you to figure out what that means for you, what ingredients are in food, etc. and choose restaurants and cuisines accordingly. The vast majority of haute cuisine restaurants have their entire menu online. Sure, there could be a weird food additive you weren't anticipating -- this can be especially hard for soy allergies -- but by and large, if you're allergic to something, just don't order it/don't go to a restaurant where every item on the menu has that.)
posted by Sara C. at 1:44 PM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Remember, more and more people are becoming allergic, and while no one really knows why, one reason could be pollution: it seems that more people have allergies in urban and suburban environments than in the countryside, and more and more people grow up and live in cities.

I have had hay fever since I was 12, but a terrible unexplained rash from I was an infant (terrible in the sense that I have several times been close to hospitalization). Theories abounded, including that it was somehow psychological, because it always went away when I was at my gran's house.

Then one day I ate something and had my first asthma-attack. My then boyfriend identified the culprit: MSG I went to the allergist, and lo-behold that was it. At the time, doctors didn't test for MSG because they didn't think it could be an allergen because it is a salt, and they found the people who claimed to get head-aches annoying. Today, it is well-known that hay fever can have cross-allergies with sun-dried tomatoes and soy-sauce, natural sources of MSG. And the diagnosis explained the granny-cure: she was too conservative and country-style a cook to use stock-cubes or other forms of artificial flavoring, she made everything from scratch and had no interest in Asian food or pasta with tomato and parmesan.

While I might understand the resentment towards the people who have pretend allergies, the widespread anti-MSG sentiment has led to far more available products without MSG, and far more restaurants who serve dishes with no MSG content. So even though I completely understand the irritation of some restaurant staff towards picky eaters, their effort has meant that I have far more choices today than I did when I was first diagnosed, 27 years ago. There are even several Chinese restaurants who offer MSG-free food, so I can still eat out with the stubborn uncle who thinks I'm picky. I can't really hate that.

I can see the same is happening with gluten-free products and lactose-free products now. Already some interesting new tastes have come out of it.

And cutting off all natural and artificial MSG for something like a decade means that today I can eat a teaspoonful of thin soy sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese with no problems. Such a luxury.
posted by mumimor at 1:45 PM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've suffered from severe debilitating stomach problems, what was originally called IBS, however once I made a range of dietary changes including restricting gluten, and learning I have reactions to corn (pain, diarrhea and weird feverish sore throaty symptoms) and also mild reactions to dairy, especially straight milk I have not had such problems. I can eat cheese and cream ok without problems, the big issue is really drinking a full glass of straight milk. So maybe I will order something with soy and also something with cheese. People might think I'm an asshole, but I also don't give servers a hard time about understanding my condition and needs. I might ask for flour rather than corn because corn is the one thing I have a pretty bad reaction do but I won't freak them out about how it's an allergy and they need to do it perfectly. The same if I am trying not to eat much gluten I might order something gluten free if it's on the menu, or ask for an item without the bread but I won't tell them it's an allergy or make a big deal of it.

I don't expect servers to get this. I've worked in food service a lot, and we never made an offering that food would be safe for people. Requests can be made, they can also be refused. That should be ok.

A server should be able to say "We can not accommodate that"

Food service is hard and if you have a request that is not on the menu and you're drilling the server over it it sucks. I feel like when restaurants offer gluten free or allergen free options they are going to deal with a range of people who have severe to mild allergies- and also assholes who just want to make servers lives miserable (or at least don't give a shit if they do.)

I feel like there is not reason to assume all people who are lessening certain food allergens but sometimes eat them are fakers. My grandmother (we are all allergic and have a lot of health problems) was told after doing extensive testing on what foods she was allergic to, that she could do a rotation diet where she mostly eliminated all the allergen foods, but occasionally ate one or two of them here and there.

Another relative has a severe auto-immune problem where they recommend her avoided many common allergens especially gluten but they actually tell her to eat a little bit sometimes so she won't entirely loose the ability to digest it.

This is advice some people are getting from doctors, so it's not just fakey fakers.
posted by xarnop at 1:52 PM on October 25, 2015 [12 favorites]

1. Order something on the menu that you actually like/doesn't have items you specifically dislike.

2. Learn a little bit about food and try to use some logic about what is likely to be in a particular dish (garlic will turn up in pasta sauces, curries often are garnished with cilantro, etc) so that you can ask informed questions. Example, I really dislike raisins, and will always ask if the carrot cake has raisins before ordering it. Because I know from experience that a lot of carrot cake recipes include raisins.

3. Frame special requests as preferences, not allergies.

4. If all else fails, pick it out.
posted by Sara C. at 2:03 PM on October 25, 2015 [14 favorites]

I don't know. I sort of feel that if someone says they want/need a menu item to be made in a sort of way, they should be accommodated if at all possible, allergy or not. As a picky eater, I return food all the time that has ingredients that I simply won't eat, if I wasn't aware (see: it wasn't on the menu) that they were included. It shouldn't matter if I have an allergy or not. If you serve something I'm not going to eat, I'm not going to pay for it. If you can't accommodate requests, you need to say so.

But the article is making the point that the "allergy or not" is a huge difference. It's one thing to leave out an ingredient or two but otherwise proceed with the recipe. It's another to do this:

In other words, the accommodation for a preference is far less difficult than the accommodation of a life-threatening allergy. So the preference-people are creating an enormous amount of extra work by claiming an allergy, to the detriment of people with actual allergies.

One chef in the article calls diners' bluff by offering a substitution for a higher price. That weeds out a lot of people who are faking, and probably compensates the restaurant somewhat for the extra effort of avoiding contamination. But it sucks for the actually allergic who now need to pay extra because others are dishonest.
posted by mama casserole at 2:08 PM on October 25, 2015 [21 favorites]

If I Only Had A Penguin, that's a nice idea, but given that we don't have universal health care and that most doctors won't definitively say 'yes, it's an allergy to [x]' without having you actually do the tests, that would go. not well?

I'm a person with multiple fatal allergies. There's not a year in my life that I've not come close to dying because of an unmentioned ingredient or cross contamination or someone's thoughtlessness about not putting their mouth on me after eating things that could kill me. But I also haven't had health insurance consistently--of the last fifteen years, I've had insurance for maybe six of them. I was diagnosed with the first couple allergies as an infant, but some of them have developed as I've gotten older. For example, pineapples used to be my favorite fruit, right until I was about twenty-three. Now, pineapple is the kind of allergy where I can take an epipen literally a minute after exposure, and still end up needing another epipen fifteen minutes later because I'm slumped against a wall and gasping for air. But I've never seen a doctor about it, because going in and paying with money I don't have to get someone to run a test to tell me that I'm allergic to something that's nearly killed me, multiple times, is not a thing I can afford to do in my life.

You're meant to go to the emergency room after every allergic reaction, and I've never been able to do that, because I'm not a millionaire who goes to see doctors. When I'm lucky, I have someone who can hang out with me for eight or twelve hours after a reaction to make sure that it doesn't recur when I'm not, I try to stay up for that time, just in case. When I do end up in the ER, I get someone to write me a scrip for epipens, and hope that I can find one of those free epipen coupons when I don't end up in the ER, I ask friends in Australia, where you can buy epipens over the counter, buy them and mail them to me. This is how people without adequate health care deal with their allergies--with our fingers crossed, and an intimate knowledge of exactly how much diphenhydramine you can take and still wake up for work the next day, and the constant awareness that it's likely that our deaths will by both premature and preventable, if only we had the resources to prevent it.

I completely understand the irritation of some restaurant staff towards picky eaters, their effort has meant that I have far more choices today than I did when I was first diagnosed [. ] I can see the same is happening with gluten-free products and lactose-free products now. Already some interesting new tastes have come out of it.

I feel like the gluten-free thing is an especially touchy thing, though, because often making things gluten free means that they're now unsafe for people with, say, nut allergies, or egg allergies. For many of us, it's not an improvement.
posted by MeghanC at 2:12 PM on October 25, 2015 [22 favorites]

often making things gluten free means that they're now unsafe for people with, say, nut allergies, or egg allergies.

MeghanC, I wasn't aware of this, thanks for the information. I always try to anticipate allergies when I entertain, and while I can easily work around it, I needed to be more aware of cross-contamination.
posted by mumimor at 2:19 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gluten is weird. I know people with genuine doctor-diagnosed celiacs that will sometimes eat gluten either because it is not severe for them yet, or they want the trade off of something now with the agony coming later. Both cases don't eat it often, but sometimes they make exceptions. Evidence for gluten intolerance is less certain, but as someone who has a crab intolerance - I'm sure some of it is at least genuine. And some of it seems to be people thriving in the low carb diet that a gluten intolerance inevitably pushes them into.

Then there are intolerances like my weird ass crab intolerance. I vomit when I eat crab. About 1-2 hours after eating it. Sometimes a little longer if I make a conscious effort not to, take some benedryl and rub my neck. It's usually easier to just let myself vomit because that's the inevitable outcome. But I could eat it as a kid, and a brief while as an adult. And then one day, I couldn't. I thought maybe I had a bad crab. Nope, happened the next time. And then I tried some at home, and like clockwork, my body noped it out of me. (- I really like crab, so I wanted to try anything.) I tried it in Seattle, hoping the issue was something like maybe being in the Midwest it is just not as good. Nope, Seattle crab came back up.

But! I can eat dishes with a small amount of crab. I don't know where the line is. Sometimes it's fine, sometime there is a little bit of nausea that passes, and sometimes it's a hard no. To a server or acquaintance, if I said I had a crab allergy I'm not lying, but I might look like it if I have a bite of that cheesy crab biscuit.

I think you should be more forgiving of behind-the-times diners who aren't up on the reversal of fortune lately enjoyed by the Patagonian toothfish when the fisheries-dying-out controversy became common knowledge, Chilean seabass were like the main ones we were all told to avoid.

Yes. This. And people frequently miss use the term "endangered" to mean anything that they are aware has a conservation-based concerned. People often claim seahorses are endangered because their trade is regulated and populations at risk in some places. Only one species actually is *grumble grumble grumble*

Remember, more and more people are becoming allergic . . .
And yes this! If allergies keep increasing, as they seem likely to do, we've only guesses to the cause, then somehow restaurants are going to have to accommodate to. While some, like peanut allergies, seem to be pretty extensive, and might do with a blanket ban, there also seems to be more variety in food allergies.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:24 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's actually really not obvious at all what foods contain what allergens. People who think that only think that because they've never tried that particular guessing game.

Oh yes, this. I had a food allergy I couldn't pin down. It lasted for a couple years and went away (also kind of what the fuck). Fortunately it wasn't severe, but my mouth would get tingly, and my neck itchy. But itchy inside. I thought it was peanuts, because it seemed to occur when I ate food containing peanuts. Then I at a candy bar that didn't have peanuts. The label indicated it was peanut and soy free. It happened a few more times with non-peanut foods. I tried all sorts of single ingredients to trigger. And weirdly, sometimes straight peanuts would, sometimes they would not.

Then it just went away. No kids or pregnancy scares, so I can't even blame the major hormone shift that are known for changing allergies.

And that was a mild allergy, unlike the "you're going to die from this" ones many people face.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:38 PM on October 25, 2015

But! I can eat dishes with a small amount of crab.

The restaurant probably used imitation crab.

Also, yeah, dude, you have a crab allergy and you should proceed as if you have a crab allergy going forward. A lot of allergies can be adult-onset or become more severe over time. Just because sometimes it's maybe OK, for values of OK meaning "I just get nauseous but don't go into full on anaphylaxis", that doesn't mean it's not an allergy.

Shellfish allergies aren't a joke. Stop ordering stuff with crab in it! I'd also probably avoid mixed-seafood stuff, while you're at it, and clarify with servers things like what's in the stock, etc. when you eat fish or seafood adjacent dishes.
posted by Sara C. at 2:38 PM on October 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have food allergies, to peanuts, walnuts, and strawberries. I also have food intolerances, to lactose and sulfites.

The sulfites I'll refer to as an 'allergy', because I cannot have any added sulfites at all in my food. At all. While technically my reaction isn't a histamine-induced allergic one, it is potentially deadly, as i have persistent asthma, and sulfites cause a severe asthma attack. In my history, if I say 'intolerance' to servers and restaurant staff, they think it's something not life threatening - like my lactose intolerance. I drink milk, I squirt out the poops for a couple of days and have incredible gas - but it won't endanger my life. If I say 'allergy', though, they get it.

My pet peeve is also places that have 'secret ingredients' in their food, and they can't/won't tell me if there's any sort of baddie I may hit in it. I've walked out of places like that. I'm not trying to reverse engineer your chili recipe here, I want to make sure it won't kill me.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:45 PM on October 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Honestly I think that part of the deal of getting your needs taken seriously is that you don't indulge in the one bite even if you can. It just confuses the issue.

You are right for the issue of a server. Mine was just an example and perhaps a poor one- I don't think I've ever had the need to tell a server, I just avoid those dishes. But what about the acquaintance who saw you pass on one meal due to an allergy or intolerance, and then some time down the road eat food with ingredient? Say a coworker at a company with food events? Only close friends who I have lamented about the awfulness of one of your favorite foods being a non-option know the whole story of my crab intolerance. And who doesn't know someone who is lactose intolerant that may be willing to have a bit, but they're doing the careful math of what the rest of their day is? To the casual observer, those people look like liars. Yet this is frequently what informs people's decision about the falseness of allergies.

Or do we only draw the line at life threatening allergies and intolerances?

I also, perhaps incorrectly, refer to my crab intolerance on the rare occasion I need to convey it to someone outside my circle of close friends*. I started doing this when intolerance confused people and drew more questions. This was back before people were talking about gluten intolerances, and has just been a habit. So perhaps I can rethink and go back to the other way.

*A surprisingly large number of friends and acquaintances have bonded over our mutual love of crab and going to dinner just for crab, down to silly I jokes, so there is a surprising number of times I've had to explain something that I'm not sure would be the case for most people.

Shellfish allergies aren't a joke. Stop ordering stuff with crab in it.

I don't disagree with you in theory. But in practice, you can pry crab from my cold, dead, puffy, hive-covered hands.

(Also, I carry an epipen.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:02 PM on October 25, 2015

[insert clever name here]: Then there are intolerances like my weird ass crab intolerance.

I don't think that's weird at all. Nobody should be expected to just put up with ass crabs.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:15 PM on October 25, 2015 [21 favorites]

Also, I thought even in the US the ER had to treat you if it was something life threatening. Isn't that the law conservatives are always using to imply poor people never suffer from lack of healthcare?

They generally do have to treat you, but they will also bill you, and ER care is expensive. (Unless you're officially below the Federal Poverty Level, in which case you might qualify for either no-cost-to-you medical insurance or discounted care.) Not being able to pay medical bills are a huge reason for people declaring bankruptcy in the US.
posted by jaguar at 3:25 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I feel so bad for people with allergies. I was listening to this podcast earlier today and they were talking to an industrial spice supplier who talked about problems with peanut contamination appearing in things like ground cumin.

I googled that, and look: it's horrific. I know it from my own allergy - you end up having to make everything from scratch. In a way it's OK, when you get into the habit. But easy it is not
posted by mumimor at 3:29 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would have thought that every anaphalactic episode would result in an ER visit and no idea it was even possible to skip that and survive, nevermind that there might be people forced to do that.

In theory, they should. In practice--or, at least, in my personal experience--jabbing yourself with an epipen and taking a megadose of diphenhydramine will usually arrest the reaction. In the event that it doesn't, you can take a second epipen fifteen minutes after the first. It's not pleasant, and you have to be very aware of what you're doing, and alert for signs that the reaction is recurring (which some do, a secondary flare of whatever in the 8-12 hours after the initial reaction) and also able to track that the reaction is subsiding. The epipen is often not enough to make you normal again, but it's enough to stabilize so you're not going to lose your ability to breathe, even if it means you spend a few hours wheezing. Reactions will abate over time, if you can keep yourself alive long enough to let your body chill out.

As a datapoint, the over the counter price for epipens (as I buy them, anyhow) is about $100 each. Last time I had health insurance, my ER copay was $200, plus the deductible, plus the co-insurance.

Also, I thought even in the US the ER had to treat you if it was something life threatening. Isn't that the law conservatives are always using to imply poor people never suffer from lack of healthcare?

That's the law, yes. But the bills as astronomical and can be life ruining, and besides that, for many people, if you use an epipen, you reach the hospital and you're no longer in active crisis. Maybe you're wheezing, but you're not about to die, and you're showing up for what amounts to observation as a safety/preventative thing. It's not really life threatening, at that point. unless your reaction recurs, which may or may not happen. Best practice is definitely being observed in case of crisis, but. well, ER bills are a lot to shoulder for something that's just a best practice and not a matter of life and death.
posted by MeghanC at 3:51 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's actually really not obvious at all what foods contain what allergens.

In all of those AskMe can-I-eat-this posts, I think, "give it to me I'll eat it." I'll eat anything, and I don't know if it makes me stronger , but it's never killed me, nor even made me sick.

But I had a guy sit in my office for about ten minutes, and he turned red and stated wheezing. It turned out to be that it was due to an open can of peanuts on the top shelf of a cabinet in the room. The same guy had to be hospitalized when he ate a chicken satay that the server told him had no peanuts.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:39 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a Class 2 peanut allergy, which is pretty mild. I know it can still be dangerous, so I inform and never eat (also because allergies can get worse). I don't seem to be impacted by inhalation or small traces (I can eat somewhere which serves peanuts in other form). Most restaurants are pretty good about peanut allergies.

One of my good friends regularly lies about allergies-- claims an allergy to peppers and garlic. Really, she's never been diagnosed with anything, but she claims that both make her feel bloated.

I asked her why she didn't just tell the restaurant she doesn't want any garlic or peppers, and what she said was "then they often tell me they can't make the dish without the garlic or pepper, but when I say I'm allergic, they usually do it. Besides, I think I probably am allergic, just never diagnosed."

I won't eat out with her anymore because she doesn't seem to understand that she's really making it much harder for those of us with real allergies to go to restaurants, especially small restaurants. These little places are on very thin margins and are very tightly staffed-- they really can't cater to every preference. They really don't want to punish those of us with allergies, but if everyone claims an allergy or an intolerance then they can't handle any of it in a cost effective way. So then they just tell people they can't accommodate anyone. Which I get. And it means my friend eats out and grumbles, but for me it means I honestly can't eat there anymore.

There's nothing wrong with telling a restaurant-- "I don't like xxx. Can you make it without it?" or "xxx makes me feel a little sick when I eat it-- what do you serve which doesn't have it?". But please please please don't call it an allergy.

(btw to the poster with the Kiwi allergy-- this is totally a thing and can be really severe. I'd get it tested.)
posted by frumiousb at 4:43 PM on October 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

I have one of the highly unusual allergies and it is one reason that I very rarely go out to eat.

I grew up eating onions. Never liked them, but my family was one where you were not permitted to nope out of things you did not like. As a young adult, I got tired of 'sounding like a child' in restaurants, asking for onions to be left out of my food, and so decided to train myself to like them. I started adding more and more onion to the food I ate, hoping to learn to at least not hate the taste anymore.

Welp - that ended with me in the hospital with anaphylaxis. Until that point, I had never heard of anyone being allergic to onions of all things, and even twenty years later I have only met one other person with a true onion allergy.

But when I go to restaurants, it is clear that the servers hear about onion allergies way more often than is statistically likely to be true. And then I have to make the judgement call - is the kitchen going to roll their eyes at another lying picky eater? I never ever order anything that has onions integral to the dish, but so many places garnish with onions, or slice all their vegetables on the same surface with the onions, with the same unwashed knives.

Usually, I just don't bother. I take a cooler with sandwich fixins on road trips, I make dishes I can fill myself up on easily for potlucks, and I am the boring one who just doesn't go out to eat with the group.
posted by Vigilant at 4:53 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

The only time I ever claimed my lactose intolerance was a dairy allergy was when I was dining at a fancy western-style restaurant in Japan and the menu wasn't clear on what was in the sauces. Our server's English was stilted, so when the word "intolerance" wasn't understood I decided the word "allergy" would get the point across effectively. It did, and I didn't get any dairy on my plate! But he also ran over to us in a panic later in the meal and said "The bread was made with milk!" and I sheepishly thanked him and said that it was OK. The level of concern they showed was excellent, though -- we were there for a special occasion, and they replaced their surprise ice cream dessert with a mango sorbet to accommodate me (we saw other tables getting the ice cream).

Still, I felt terrible about using the allergy shortcut, especially with the red alert about the bread, but it's so easy to avoid dairy in traditional Japanese food that I didn't even think about how to handle the language barrier for the one non-Japanese meal we had.
posted by phatkitten at 5:04 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I usually eat depressing protein bars and then sit and watch everyone else eat. I sometimes dislike it when people try to cook for me--because I really have to take things to asshole level to make sure that they're not going to make me sick. Like, if I'm not there watching you literally put every ingredient in, it's really nerve-wracking for me to just trust that you know what you're doing. (With the exception of people like grobstein who know what to look for and some of my friends who I know are extra conscientious and experienced.) Better just to avoid going through a whole thing where you try really hard to accommodate me despite it being a pain, and then I don't enjoy the food anyway. And then if I have a reaction you feel terrible so I sometimes lie and say it's fine even when it's not and you then go on to think that ingredient was fine. it's way better if I just feed myself.

I had people who I repeatedly told about my dairy allergy (like about 900 times) make me cookies with butter in them as a gift. Knowingly and on purpose. And then when I lied and told them I didn't react so they didn't feel guilty (I had hives and asthma) they told me that see, I actually could eat dairy!

Anyway, yes, food allergies can be pretty terrible and sometimes they get to the point where they are disabling.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:11 PM on October 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I had people who I repeatedly told about my dairy allergy (like about 900 times) make me cookies with butter in them as a gift. Knowingly and on purpose. And then when I lied and told them I didn't react so they didn't feel guilty (I had hives and asthma) they told me that see, I actually could eat dairy!

That's some serious commitment to being an asshole, right there.
posted by jaguar at 5:28 PM on October 25, 2015 [23 favorites]

The converse of don't like that you have an allergy really is "Tell people you have allergies and call them allergies." though. It's just as important.

I attended a pot-luck dinner party once where I was bringing the soup. the invitation, sent out weeks before the event said "Don't bring fish." Which I promptly forgot because I was bringing the soup, not a main dish, and I would think fish is a main dish. So fast forward several weeks to the day of the party and my soup recipe has the option to add some fish sauce, and I happen to have some fish sauce, and I think umami-licious and add it. The soup was a big hit. So much so in fact that one guest asked what was in it, and when I got to "fish sauce" another guest dropped her spoon and said "That's why my throat is itching!"

So yeah, she has a fish allergy of the real anaphylaxis variety. Fortunately, it was 2 tbs of fish sauce in two gallons of soup and she only had a little of the soup before realizing, so she guzzled as much water as she could and was fine.

But the invitation didn't say "Someone is deathly allergic to fish. Don't bring anything with any fish-containing ingredients in it." it just said "Don't bring fish." I assumed it meant literally, don't bring any actual fish. I had no idea it was an allergy issue. And since there was no risk I was going to bring actual fish, I didn't even file it away as a thing to remember. I just forgot all about it.

So yeah, please don't keep allergies to yourself if people are cooking for you. Please use the words "allergy" and "anaphylaxis." Please.
posted by If only I had a penguin. at 5:38 PM on October 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

Really, she's never been diagnosed with anything, but she claims that both make her feel bloated.

Not to nitpick your example (I trust your judgement, your description just got me thinking), but at what point is it OK to say you have an allergy/intolerance? How severe do your symptoms need to be before it's okay to ask for an accommodation? Someone who feels bloated, and can be accommodated by just leaving out the offending ingredient can more easily and more safely be accommodated than someone who can't have any cross-contamination without a trip to the ER.

I'm also sort of bothered by the attitude that "fakers" are ruining it. As a lot people have mentioned here and in the article, they have to emphasize their allergy in order to be taken seriously (and sometimes not even then). Even sticking to "safe food" can be risky when a well-meaning chef tries to be nice (adding something to rice to make it interesting for the kid). This problem has been around longer than gluten free has been front and center, so it's not like everything was running smoothly for everyone.

And how are we determining who is a faker? If someone has a milder allergy or intolerance decides one dish isn't worth the discomfort, but another is, they haven't betrayed or lied to anyone, they're just an adult who has made a personal cost benefit analysis and not told everyone in the world about it in detail (because who really wants to hear about it?).

And what about the people who have a reaction short of death and then don't make a huge fuss about it after and accidental exposure because they don't want people to feel bad (on preview internet fraud detective squad, station number 9, you are a saint), they now look like "fakers."

It's why I like the idea of having an open (judgement free) conversation: it lets kitchens know when extreme measures need to be taken vs just don't throw X in at the end. The staff can steer clients towards other dishes when appropriate (X really makes the dish), or direct them to another restaurant if they can't be safely accommodated. It's giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and treating them like competent adults.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:52 PM on October 25, 2015 [12 favorites]

Not to nitpick your example (I trust your judgement, your description just got me thinking), but at what point is it OK to say you have an allergy/intolerance? How severe do your symptoms need to be before it's okay to ask for an accommodation?

I think it's always okay to ask for an accommodation, but I think that allergy is a really specific word with a medical meaning and triggers an appropriately extreme response. I think it's not okay to claim an allergy because of discomfort because you think the people hearing it won't take it seriously enough otherwise (which I view as lying, not faking). Which I think is the point of the article.

(I also think restaurants can decide they won't handle special requests if it isn't potentially serious in consequence. My friend in question would expect them to (for instance) make a stir fry for her without peppers-- not just order something without it. Given that usually they prep all that stuff before the evening starts, it's a big ask. Steering, however (dish xx has yy) is not doing anything special-- that's just the restaurant's job.)
posted by frumiousb at 6:38 PM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

you don't always know what rando ingredients are being put in things that you would not expect.

But you know what you are allergic to. So ask about it, and if I tell you it is in the dish do not insist it be made safe.

Unfortunately my experience is that servers are really hit and miss on knowing ingredients and preparations. I'm not allergic to anything, but if I'm with someone who is we will usually ask someone in the kitchen, not the server. I've seen too many times where a server is trying hard to be helpful but just doesn't understand, or doesn't know.

This is also why we will almost always eat at small places where the person in charge of the kitchen is present and controls every stage of the food prep, rather than chains or large, popular places. The menu will usually say something like "modifications politely declined" which is fine -- it's being able to find out the trace ingredients that matters, not making the kitchen modify their dishes.

4. If all else fails, pick it out.

This is extremely useless advice for allergies, though great for things someone just doesn't like eating.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:17 PM on October 25, 2015

"faker" here, complete with confusion over which words to choose when describing it, mild guilt over where to place myself on an imaginary "scale" with other people's problems, etc.

Like [insert clever name here]'s cheesy crab biscuit, I can sometimes tolerate small amounts, and will sometimes risk it (and then some of those times suffer) if I'm tempted enough by something special, or just wanting to not create a big deal or make people feel awkward (including in a group at a restaurant).
posted by spbmp at 7:32 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't tell me that restaurants can't accommodate these things. Disney is HUGE, and they do this all the time.

The reason Disney can and does do this is because they're huge. Disney restaurants tend to have very high usage rates, which means very high backline staffing, which means they can afford to have a line cook redo a dish from scratch to avoid X without making everybody else wait. That's the can. The does part is that by doing that, they get more guests.

But yes, my standard answer is "Just mention allergies when you make the res. There's even a checkbox on the form. Disney can work with it." Seriously, if it'll kill you, if it bothers you, or if you just don't want it, let them know, the chef *who will be working on your food* will come out and talk to you about it, and will either be able to make X without Y, or tell you to try Z, A or B instead.

(Aside: Disney restaurants tend to have more limited menus -- even the very top ones -- than typical restaurants. This is the land/world of the one page menu. By making a few things, they can do them better than making a lot. Also, all Disney menus at the higher end have the Emergency Steak Option if you've found yourself in a place that has all that foreign füd. Disney wants you to be happy because lots of reasons, but money is a big one.)

Disney, BTW, has also pretty much set the standard on food preparation hygine, because they don't want to deal with things like camphobacter or norovirus outbresk on the scale of a couple of thousand cases.

The truly life-threating allergic people tend to be easy to spot -- if they or their parents have an epi-pen on them, you simply do not fuck around will the allergy question. Matter of fact, if you want to make sure the servers and chefs are paying attention, just have the epi-pen out when you're talking to them about the allergy.
posted by eriko at 7:34 PM on October 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is extremely useless advice for allergies

It was not advice for allergies. It was advice for picky eaters who defend lying about having allergies.

When I was a picky child, my parents made me pick out or eat around the stuff I didn't like in restaurant dishes. If a seven year old can do it, you can too.

(I think there's space for people who didn't like a particular food as children realizing as adults that they have a minor allergy to same, and telling waitstaff in restaurants about that allergy.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:22 PM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

It really would be ideal if there were some commonly understood social proscription where lying about serious allergies were on par with lying about terminal illnesses or military service, but there would also need to be some commonly understood social convention where less-serious sensitivities and dietary limitations were taken seriously.

The reason why they're not always taken seriously is because of the utter assholes who fucking lie and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie about having allergies.

I have anaphylactic allergies to all tree nuts. Every single one. And I am a chef. When I see an allergy alert, or the server tells me there's an allergy, I treat it every single time as though the guest will die right there at the table if they get a molecule of their allergen in their bloodstream.

And you know what? Most of them are fucking lying because they're picky special snowflakes who want to be special and they make life harder for me, both professionally as a chef and personally as someone who really needs kitchen staff to understand that yeah, you can't guarantee, and you really need to make sure there are no nuts in what I eat because I'd like to keep my unbroken streak of unused epi-pens, thanks.

my allergy is to kiwi. I don't intend to waste anyone's time with testing for a very, very easily avoided food (but I have the weird tingling in my mouth and throat and slight swelling

Actually it's a really good idea to go get tested. Two reasons:

1) Kiwi allergies often come bundled with other allergies (strawberries e.g., if memory serves), so a good idea to know what else might cause you problems.

2) Prescription for an epi-pen, just in case.

I sort of feel that if someone says they want/need a menu item to be made in a sort of way, they should be accommodated if at all possible, allergy or not

Yeah, no. Any restaurant above roughly the level of Olive Garden is trying to do something specific, trying to do a Thing. Sometimes accommodations are reasonable and fit within the general idea of what we do, and sometimes they are not. If you want a trained professional to make you something exactly the way you want it, pay the cost of hiring a private chef.

At the end of the day, as someone with actual allergies, if you (that is the general 'you' of anyone reading this) do not have such allergies--STOP fucking lying about it. You are making the world more dangerous for me because of your special snowflake selfish stupidity.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:42 PM on October 25, 2015 [19 favorites]

I used to have dinner parties all the time, but in the last ten or so years, so many people have developed allergies or intolerances, that I don't feel safe doing them any more. My traditions are middle eastern, so there is wheat and nuts everywhere in my pantry and kitchen. One of my friends is has become deathly allergic to even smelling cinnamon, and I have enough weapons grade spices, that she gets an itchy throat just walking in the door.

I have tried, but the most people I can seem to accommodate has become about 5, instead of twelve, because any more than that and the menu requirements become more than I could manage without a sous chef and a walk-in.

Which is not to bitch about people's dietary needs, but more to wonder what has changed so much in such a short amount of time that we are seeing these reactions to common foods?
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:03 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is an all sorts of tough subject in my house.

See, on one hand, my husband has a life threatening peanut allergy. And he's been treated with eye rolls and "well will it REALLY hurt you"s and "yeah there's no peanuts in that! Oh wait yes there is!" More times than I can count. One whole foods type place had unlabeled local bakery items. He grabbed one under the caramel label and it turned out to be peanut butter. I marched over there to complain because they could have killed my husband and I was met with, "well we encourage them to label them but they are made offsite." Uh. Right. In the same place where everything must be labeled as vegan or not you can't be bothered to put a "contains nuts" sticker on something. I mean a kid with an allergy could literally die that way. We now have a hard rule that he won't eat anything that's not individually labed.

On the other hand, I don't eat gluten or milk. I don't have celiac but I can tell you that the last times I had a large amount of gluten was complete hell. And now there's research linking gluten problems with a syndrome I have. So fries made in a shared frier or soy sauce seems ok but anything past that I'm not willing to chance.

But. I order things without gluten already or don't get cheese on a salad and ask about the dressing. Truth is I just end up not eating out at a variety of places because they don't have good substitutions. I think at a bare minimum there should be some options that don't include those so-called fad items already.

I get that people abuse this but I would really not want to rush to an ER or end up on horrible pain because someone doesn't take it seriously. People who are assholes will be assholes no matter what but that shouldn't mean you take allergens or intolerances lightly because of it.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:41 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

SecretAgentSockPuppet, that's a really interesting question, and I don't think anybody knows the answer. But there is some evidence that the rise in allergies may be linked to the growing use of antibiotics. The theory is that, in addition to killing off the bad bacteria, the antibiotics are also killing off beneficial bacteria. Perhaps these good bacteria help the body fight off molds that might cause allergen sensitivity, or perhaps there is some other mechanism.

Another theory is that increased hygiene has resulted in fewer intestinal worms, and those worms may have had beneficial side effects we are only now beginning to understand.

On a hopeful note: a very promising study at Cambridge University showed that feeding people very small doses of peanut, and then gradually increasing that amount over the course of months, cured peanut allergies in 84 to 91 per cent of participants.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. The treatment involved giving very carefully controlled doses, in the presence of medical experts who were qualified to intervene if anything went wrong. (I know you all know that, but I'm worried that one of the assholes that Internet Fraud Detective mentioned is going to see this study and think it's a licence to sneak allergens into food they give to allergy sufferers.)

My young son has a number of allergies (including peanut and kiwi). I'm pretty hopeful that by the time he's a teenager, they'll have figured out a cure-- whether it's the Cambridge protocol or something else.
posted by yankeefog at 2:13 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

PS: "The Cambridge Protocol" would be a great title for a thriller in which James Bond discovers he has severe food allergies.

BOND: I don't care how many guns you point at me. Bullets don't frighten me.
BAD GUY: But Mr. Bond. These guns aren't loaded with bullets.
[He flips open the chamber, revealing it is filled with peanuts. Bond turns pale.]
posted by yankeefog at 2:16 AM on October 26, 2015 [20 favorites]

I have a very serious allergy to tree nuts though thankfully can eat almonds and cashews which makes life easier and I'm generally quite pleased at how much more knowledgable restaurants in the UK and US have become in recent years. It's gone from 'no idea' to let me check' in basic places which is a start.

Not eating out is not an option for me - I travel extensively for my job all over the world. And, I like food. Of course information in some countries varies greatly so I have to be extremely careful on the road. On the few times I have eaten something containing nuts, it's usually been the most innocuous seeming thing where I forgot to ask - some lettuce leaves in Ukraine, a shortbread in Prague, waffle in Chicago. And most recently, a beer that neglected to mention it has pecans added at the last stage.

Despite this my usual strategy, if in a country with questionable healthcare, or at home, is to never ever ask for a dish that has nuts to have the nuts taken off (to avoid inconveniencing the kitchen). I choose something else. I avoid nut heavy cuisines like Georgian and Persian altogether, and to skew towards Japanese, Chinese, Thai where there are few dishes I must avoid. No desert at a restaurant, ever. Non-ethnic, gastropub type meals tend to be more problematic. Fearing your food may kill you does kind of suck.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:52 AM on October 26, 2015

"Sometimes accommodations are reasonable and fit within the general idea of what we do, and sometimes they are not. If you want a trained professional to make you something exactly the way you want it, pay the cost of hiring a private chef."

As someone who has worked food service for most of my jobs I completely agree with this. However I feel like it's a little confusing if it's assumed that the word allergy is and can only be something with life threatening risks. I have been allergic to so many things my whole life, the most obvious being pollens, molds and dusts, and dogs. there has never been a risk of death from these reactions but they are very much real allergies and I was the kid who had to sit in class with a box of tissues and a trash can next to me for months, I would get sinus infection after sinus infection, take shots for years at a time with no improvement, take all the pills you can take with no improvement.

Dietary changes actually helped a LOT with my seasonal allergies. And I'm not sure there AREN'T a lot of mild allergies people are having to food that do result in symptoms that will not be life threatening but that people will feel better overall if they understand. My food allergies tests have always been very mild and they said other than corn I shouldn't have to worry too much about them. I used to try to eat corn sometimes because I thought maybe I would stop being allergic, I have found that if it's a trace amount it seems to be ok, but if I eat a bunch of popcorn or corn chips or a big plate of corn tortilla enchiladas I will be sick within the day, now I know why I always got sick after Mexican food, I thought it was just the spices!

I do feel like we NEED to develop sane language and practice around this because most restaurants that are not very high end are not paying staff enough to make personalized meals for every person or have essentially a medical grade knowledge and quality of food that meets every mild or severe allergy, intolerance or preference.

I NEVER mention allergy, but I will ask if they can do a burrito without the tortilla or something of this nature, and I assume they can say yes or no to that request. And if they say no and I order with the tortilla and eat around it, it's fine. And yes on some occasions I will eat a tortilla and I will be ok. A lot of restaurants are doing gluten free menu's now and if I order off that menu I have had some ask "is it a preference or an allergy"

This would be a useful way to clarify, I will say preference since I do not want them to take extreme measures and I will be ok. But if it's on the menu I don't think you even need to have an allergy to order it, or to assume that people who don't have a life threatening allergy are therefore beings fakes ordering off it. I eat out very rarely and since I eat pretty carefully at home I usually assume going out will mean some variation from my diet. But yeah that does mean deciding how much discomfort I will deal with and sometimes I'm fine with that. Sometimes as I deal with chronic pain and regular sickness at some times more than others, I'm already in a lot of pain and I'd like to avoid things that might add to that if I can.

I also specifically avoid using the term allergy in restaurants not because I don't think there are allergies there, I am a seriously allergic person, but because the real, not fake, term allergy means a lot of things and in a restaurant context it should largely be brought up when the accommodations do need to be taken seriously.
posted by xarnop at 4:49 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm both lactose intolerant and gluten intolerant. No real food allergies to speak of. I did like this one burger joint that would let me order just the patty. I occasionally had mild gut troubles afters, but I didn't think much of it. until I went in at a different time and got a different server who told me that they use bread as a bonding agent (can't think of the word) in the meat.

Nowadays, I flat-out don't go to restaurants unless they are specifically gluten-free places. Sucks that socialising with folk at a restaurant isn't an option, but the 24 hours of dire gut misery is worse.
posted by XtinaS at 5:18 AM on October 26, 2015

Just a factual note: recent barrage of misleading media headlines to the contrary, there is unfortunately no major "cure" in the works for peanut allergies. Even though the "Cambridge protocol" yankeefog mentions above does exist-- it's more commonly called oral immunotherapy, or OIT for short, and there have been several promising studies on it over the past few years-- that process is a treatment, not a cure.

OIT has been shown to be successful in about 80% of patients. However, what qualifies as "success" in OIT is not a cure of the allergy, as in bye bye EpiPen, hello giant pile of Reese's, but increased tolerance to the allergen, as in, someone who formerly reacted with anaphylaxis to 1/10th of one peanut can now eat four peanuts before experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. And hey, that's actually hugely helpful-- it makes you what my friends who've successfully put their children through it call "bite-proof"-- as in if your child accidentally takes one bite of a peanut butter cookie instead of a sugar cookie, he or she will probably not go into full anaphylaxis over that single wrong bite. Which opens up a lot of options at restaurants, because it seriously reduces the need to worry about trace amounts of peanuts in your food. But it's not a cure. It's a treatment

When you see those "80% of kids in this OIT trial were CURED!" headlines, if you click through or Google to read the actual study abstract you'll find that maybe 20% of kids in the study seem to have lost their allergy completely, and another 60% developed the ability to eat a few peanuts before reacting, and another 20% dropped out because they couldn't handle the regimen or the side effects or were kicked out by the researchers for their own safety because they reacted with allergic symptoms to every updose. I know a mom whose daughter experienced anaphylaxis repeatedly during an OIT study and it was pretty rough. Remember: to do this treatment you literally have to eat the thing that's trying to kill you. It's dangerous to try this at home. It should only be done under strict medical supervision by experts who actually know what they're doing. And it's definitely not a walk in the park.

About 20% of kids will outgrow a peanut allergy at some point even with no intervention, so it's not even entirely clear whether the kids who are "cured" in OIT trials, in the sense that they can actually eat peanut butter sandwiches every day, rather than just have a better chance of surviving an accidental bite of the wrong cookie, were actually cured our just outgrew their allergy.

Also, since OIT is a new treatment there has not been time to do long-term trials yet, so no one knows for certain whether the tolerance people build during OIT lasts, or how long you have to keep up with the treatment to make it "permanent." Right now the generally recommended protocol to maintain tolerance is to keep taking small doses of your allergen daily for the rest of your life. If you miss a few doses for a week because you're sick or stuck in a natural disaster or camping in the jungle doing field work on endangered monkeys or something, your tolerance level could drop back to traces-can-hurt level (and this has actually happened to the kids of a couple of people I know who got sick during treatment, and had to start it over from scratch). Also, some people undergoing OIT with seeming initial success have developed a really nasty side effect called eosinophilic esophagitis, which is a chronic allergic inflammation of the espophagus that makes it very hard to eat anything at all because your esophagus is constantly swollen. People who develop EoE have to stop OIT and lose their tolerance.

tl:dr, OIT is not a food allergy cure that makes your allergy go away it's a treatment designed to increase allergen tolerance. It does not work for every patient it involves a lifelong commitment to taking your meds every day, and it is risky and may have side effects and should only be done with the supervision of a competent doctor.

A similar treatment in the works that may prove to be a bit less risky (but sadly also in trials so far seems somewhat less effective than OIT) is the Viaskin peanut patch, which delivers microdoses of peanut through the skin.
posted by BlueJae at 6:03 AM on October 26, 2015 [8 favorites]

I have this. I actually have a huge list of raw fruits, vegetables and nuts I can't eat because of it and this combined with my wheat allergies causes frustration in restaurants, but more for me than any one else. "Yes, cooked is fine though, yeah really, no, not gluten free, just allergic to wheat. "

And yeah I don't usually ask for things cooked separately (But it's better when it is) but that doesn't mean it's not an allergy.

Also, most people who get tingly mouths from kiwi or blueberries or apples or carrots (or or or) probably have Oral Allergy Syndrome. I know so many people who are like "I don't have allergies, but get weird tingly mouth when I eat x" and it's so puzzling they want to insist it's not an allergy. You have Oral Allergy Syndrome! Probably! Go to an allergist and confirm!

(this is not addressed to any person here)
posted by zutalors! at 7:33 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was headed out on a work-related road trip and my coworker, knowing that we had a long stretch of gas stations-only highway in front of us, suggested stopping at Panera in the morning to pick up salads for lunch.

I asked for a salad minus the almonds because of my nut allergies. STOP the presses! The cashier asked me more about it, noted it on my order ticket, and called the manager over to talk to me. The manager asked me some more questions, then walked my ticket over to the food preparers and told them "this one is a nut allergy, as you can see on the ticket."

Wow. I was seriously impressed.

Got about 4 hours into the trip and opened the salad. Out in the middle of no-man's land.

It was covered in almonds.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:40 AM on October 26, 2015 [10 favorites]

Wow, vitabellosi, that takes work.

Did you call them back and say "hey you assholes, wtf"?
posted by KathrynT at 11:07 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

until I went in at a different time and got a different server who told me that they use bread as a bonding agent (can't think of the word) in the meat.

This is why understanding food and what ingredients are usually in what is pretty valuable. I don't know that bread crumbs are typical for burgers, but almost all meatball and meatloaf recipes use them, and it's not crazy to think of a burger place doing so. Especially if their burgers are particularly large or the texture seems meatloaf/meatball-adjacent.
posted by Sara C. at 11:13 AM on October 26, 2015

Also, I have to say I find it hard to understand why people want to draw all these lines around who gets to claim food allergies and who doesn't. The whole idea that you must be deathly allergic to any small amount of the food to ever speak up goes against anything any allergist has ever told me, as well as the idea that if you ever eat the thing voluntarily you must not be allergic, or allergic enough or something.

To me it's a level of anxiety inducing food scrutiny that I equate with "do you really NEED that dessert?" (pointed eyes on stomach).
posted by zutalors! at 11:20 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

To those of you who are allergic to kiwi (jeather and The corpse in the library): please consider you might have cross-reactivity with and might should avoid eating a fairly big list of things that contain the same (birch pollen) proteins including avocado, banana, rye, hazelnuts, and a big list of others.

I bring this up because kiwi is how I started about 13 years ago, out of nowhere. I ate two (TWO. WHY DID I EAT TWO) while stranded on a small island off the coast of nowhere and was probably borderline needing to go to a hospital, but you know. 13 years later I start feeling generally terrible and itching when eating things ranging from avacado, apples, pears, carrots. . The thing is, these range in severity from mild discomfort to hives to my throat swelling and major gastrointestinal issues. But I haven't always brought them up in restaurants because, like others have said, I don't want to bother people. And I never know just how sick it's gonna make me. Like the roulette Meeks Ormand talked about, I'm class 3 with peanuts and other things are just a question of how bad am I gonna feel rather than how dangerous is it. I haven't given restaurants the red alert (I make sure they're not directly in the food but I don't talk about cross contamination) on so many of them because my reactions haven't been that worrying so far and honestly I don't want to inconvenience people, like the attitude prevalent in most of this thread. But I'm worried one day it's going to be made abundantly clear to me that that is A Bad Choice.

Also, as someone else mentioned, this can be incredibly expensive to test for. I don't regret it because I was miserable all the time but it's money I didn't have to spend.

Allergies are a weird, weird thing that we still don't really have a sufficient understanding of. So yeah the 'fakers' suck but like. please don't let the possibility of fakers jade you against people's food choices because they may very well not be technically diagnosed, but still completely legitimate.

all this being said I ate a cookie this morning with icing that may have been made with almond powder because I'm itching all over my mouth and face. I'm still getting used to a huge list of foods I can't eat, and like some people have mentioned, there are 'hidden allergies' all over the place where I wouldn't have even thought about before
posted by nogoodverybad at 11:20 AM on October 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, as someone else mentioned, this can be incredibly expensive to test for. I don't regret it because I was miserable all the time but it's money I didn't have to spend.

I didn't have a special test, I went to an allergist and got a prick test that was like YES YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO TREES AND GRASS with the redness and itchy and swelling and then I asked the allergist "oh also I have an itchiness in my mouth when I eat certain things, especially carrots and kiwi" and she started smiling and I started smiling and I was like "why are we smiling" and she gave me a paper on Oral Allergy Syndrome with the tree pollens mapped to related to foods and nearly every single fruit nut vegetable thing mapped to birch pollen.
posted by zutalors! at 11:24 AM on October 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

nearly every single fruit nut vegetable thing* mapped to birch pollen.

*nearly every single fruit nut vegetable thing that I have had issues with. And that I had had issues with as long as I could remember - my mom had always thought I was being difficult as a child about fruits and vegetables because I would complain about eating most raw.
posted by zutalors! at 11:34 AM on October 26, 2015

It's also worth noting (and this is not to cast aspersions IN ANY WAY on people with food allergies) that getting a test, or even just talking to your regular doctor and/or learning more about this stuff, is useful to rule out allergies as well.

For a long time I thought I might have Oral Allergy Syndrome because pre-cut fruit, especially pineapple, makes my mouth itch. I recently found out that pineapple has a chemical in it that is known to irritate the mouth (not just for people who are allergic), and that a lot of pre-cut fruit is sprayed down with citric acid to keep it from going brown.
posted by Sara C. at 11:39 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I didn't have a special test, I went to an allergist and got a prick test

They ran the whole gamut of that on me and at best it's come out to something like

210 bucks because it was 30 some pricks at $7 a pop if you have good insurance. which I couldn't get an answer on whether or not I had. The bill is apparently still in the mail.

My insurance had already ruled my peanut allergy testing (blood and prick test) wasn't a 'necessary' test even though my doc tried to vouch for me. Thanks, insurance.

On the plus side tho it elucidated a lot of things. It took up the entirety of both of my forearms. They were a mess.
posted by nogoodverybad at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2015

This is why understanding food and what ingredients are usually in what is pretty valuable.

Yeah. we have a place downstairs from my office that's pretty good about allergens - they even have gluten free bread for sandwiches, which is heaven.

But I will be forever thankful for the 16-year-old server from whom I ordered a tuna sandwich on gluten free bread. She thought about it, walked away, then turned around and came back and said, "Did you know we make the tuna salad with breadcrumbs?"

I have a tendency to be a tiny bit cavalier about my gluten intolerance, because it just causes causes digestive issues. not rashes or you know, instant death. A little bit of gluten isn't going to kill me, so I don't worry much about cross-contamination I just don't eat foods where gluten is an actual ingredient.

Gluten will make my life severely annoying for the next little while after I eat it. I had a meeting scheduled for right after lunch, and switched to chicken salad (no crumbs!) right on the spot, and the meeting was saved.

But it had never once in my life occurred to me that anyone would put bread crumbs in tuna salad on purpose, as an ingredient.
posted by kythuen at 11:54 AM on October 26, 2015

please consider you might have cross-reactivity with and might should avoid eating a fairly big list of things that contain the same (birch pollen) proteins including avocado, banana, rye, hazelnuts, and a big list of others.

I have considered it, but I do not. I eat rye and carrots and apples and bananas and hazelnuts regularly, I do not have a response to anything at all in the world (that I have eaten) except for kiwi. I have seen the OAS lists and I have exactly zero reaction to everything on the list with kiwi. I don't have asthma. I don't have hayfever. I am fine around birch trees. I am just allergic to kiwi. Among the time I don't want to waste is my own. If I start reacting to other things I will reconsider this stance.

If I die of an allergic reaction you're all welcome to say I told you so in my obit thread, though.
posted by jeather at 1:09 PM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

Having cooked in restaurants, who the fuck cares why someone doesn't want something in their dish, make it without it. I've had people - a fellow chef's own brother - who were allergic to garlic before. If you can walk into a restaurant and order something, then it can be made to at least that portion of your specifications. Now, with that said, it may taste like crap - but you'd better believe, if I were cooking for you - as the chef, I'd be transplanting my palate from normally tasting with the executive chef's taste buds, to tasting with the executive chef's taste buds as if he were making the dish without garlic (or whatever).

You are a chef. You bust your ass. Drop your ego at the door, pick up a knife and cook.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:56 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have a shellfish allergy. While restaurants are more aware of cross-contamination and ingredients than they once were, not all of them are. And I suspect wait staff are not always aware of kitchen handling practices.

I no longer eat tempura in a restaurant that serves any kind of shellfish anymore. Even if the servers assure me that the oil/batter would never be used, (perish the thought!) as a batter for shrimp, etc. I'm also incredibly picky about sushi and fish restaurants.

Throwing up violently while praying for death more than one time in one's life is enough of a deterrent to be super cautious.

Please don't mess with potential shellfish allergies, [insert clever name here]. Get tested if you can. Most insurance plans will cover it. Or hey, just swear off the stuff. It ain't worth it.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on October 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hell, one of my instructors in school had an allergy to scallops that was so bad she couldn't even touch shellfish. During a demo on scallops she mistakenly touched one and her whole hand started swelling up, in the 0.0003 seconds between touching it and sprinting for the sink to scrub.

So yeah, definitely not something to fuck around with.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:52 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

My kid's preschool is nut-free, which is totally fine and great. She has one kid in her class (of 16) who, according to her mother, has allergies that are very, very hard to deal with and understand:

- she's allergic to sesame seeds but not sesame oil (?)
- she's allergic to pumpkin seed but not pumpkin (?)
- she's allergic to sunflower oil but not sunflower seeds (. )

They carry an epi-pen but they cost $400 each (!) and luckily they've never had to bust it out b/c the worst reaction the kid has had to anything listed was itchy skin or rash.

Also, she can't eat dairy or eggs because she gets a rash. So, ALL the kids basically snack on veg and fruit and whatever snack we can find that doesn't have the above but is filling and caloric, which is tough.

What is my point? I guess (besides that I am just venting), I appreciate the lot of you who have allergies/intolerances who are just cool and straightforward and tell people exactly what you can deal with, and I am *highly* annoyed at this kid's mom for not just bringing this ONE kid her own, tolerable snack, but makes 15 other families scramble for snack food that's filling and not gonna kill anyone. (Sorry, maybe I'm also just an asshole. Actually, yeah, I'm an asshole.)
posted by tristeza at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

- she's allergic to sesame seeds but not sesame oil (?)
- she's allergic to pumpkin seed but not pumpkin (?)
- she's allergic to sunflower oil but not sunflower seeds (. )

Totally can work this way. My son loves peanut butter. Loves it. Leave it on his skin and he breaks out in hives his allergy is only contact and only the oils. It doesn't affect his breathing. As long as he washes his hands and face real well - he's fine. We did all the nutty (ha!) stuff required by his alergist and GP, and finally they greenlit us for Peanut butter again - which we were ecstatic for because he hated sunflower butter.

In kindergarten though, one of his best friends hated peanut butter. So, while he was allowed to bring it, he had to sit at the 'Peanut Butter Table' which meant he couldn't sit with his friend. so. goodbye peanut butter.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:27 PM on October 26, 2015

$400 for the package ($200 a pen). My understanding (from NPR a few weeks ago) is you generally want 2 on hand just in case it's a bad reaction, but frequently you only need to use one at a time. So when you use one you have to either gamble one will be enough, or buy a package of 2 at $400 and have 3 on hand. It's not just creating bigger out of pocket costs (and increasing the number of people gambling that one will be enough), but it's also increasing the chance that an EpiPen will expire, again increasing waste/and cost.

I think one patient they interviewed couldn't pay for a replacement package, so only had an expired one on hand until she could drive to Canada to get a fresh one (and kept the expired one as backup).

I was in traffic, so my recollection may be off, but I think there was talk of having an unbundled option again, but the drug company wasn't saying when that would happen.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:53 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Most peanut allergy sufferers don't react to refined peanut oil, since it is the peanut protein that triggers the allergies. That explains the oil/seed difference for other seeds and nuts, I guess.

ps there's a product called Wowbutter that's derived from soy, and it's close enough to peanut that even this hardcore PBJ person loves it on toast.

feckless fecal fear mongering, if this turns out to be anywhere close to true I will love you forever. I miss peanut butter more than I can tell you.
posted by frumiousb at 5:03 PM on October 26, 2015

I have several food allergies, none of which are super severe, but restaurants that take allergies seriously make me want to cry happy tears. I love to go to Hibachi restaurants, but it never occurred to me until recently that I got so sick afterwards because of cross-contamination. My old favorite Japanese restaurant had great-tasting food, but I would be running for the restroom immediately afterwards. My new favorite Japanese restaurant keeps egg completely away from my food or cleans the grill immediately after cooking egg, lo and behold, I have no problem!

But it's a weird allergy, so I worry sometimes that people don't take it seriously (like one babysitter I had as a kid, who decided I was "too picky" and made me eat eggs anyway). I can eat dried egg pastas and most breads, but not cakes/cookies, sauces, etc. So I may be asking to not have that eggy sauce, but still eat the bread. (This link has more detail on egg allergies)

TLDR - Even the person who seems to be contradicting themselves can have a legitimate allergy. Best to err on the side of caution for the benefit of the actually allergic, even if some people are jerks who abuse the system.
posted by jet_pack_in_a_can at 6:04 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am just allergic to kiwi. Among the time I don't want to waste is my own. If I start reacting to other things I will reconsider this stance.

ok. sorry if suggesting it was out of line, I just had no idea when I encountered allergy issues related to it so I wanted to just call attention to it as a possibility?

if it was already addressed in the thread sorry. it's a huge thread
posted by nogoodverybad at 8:09 AM on October 27, 2015

I have several food allergies, none of which are super severe, but restaurants that take allergies seriously make me want to cry happy tears. I love to go to Hibachi restaurants, but it never occurred to me until recently that I got so sick afterwards because of cross-contamination.

Yes! Our local hibachi place is fantastic at prevent cross contamination with shellfish. They cook the non-shellfish stuff first, use a cooktop screen if needed and even swap out for clean knives whenever necessary. They're hyper-aware, and it's awesome.

I ate a plain salmon filet at a Red Lobster once and became deathly ill, despite their assurances that there was no danger of cross contamination. It happens. I imagine that dealing with a shellfish allergy can't be easy in a seafood restaurant kitchen. Still. no more Red Lobster for me!
posted by zarq at 12:47 PM on October 27, 2015

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Precautionary Labelling and Health Canada

Health Canada is working to improve the current approach to precautionary labelling of priority allergens in prepackaged foods sold in Canada. Those looking to add their two cents can take advantage of two different options: a web-based consultation that includes a discussion document and a brief survey, or participation in regional workshops.

It's great that Health Canada is taking the initiative to improve precautionary labelling. For me, though, I'm not sure I understand how certain proposed changes would help, simply because 'may contain' still means there is a risk associated with the product and has therefore, become strictly off-limits for consumption in our household. I guess it might reduce the number of precautionary labels that are included on packaging where no real risk exists. Eliminating those would be definitely increase food choices in our house.

Here's the official blurb from the website with the links included. There's also more info there on the regional workshops.

We invite you or another member of your organization to participate in the web-based consultation by reading the discussion document, Precautionary Labelling of Priority Allergens in Prepackaged Foods http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/consultation/_allergen2009/index-eng.php available on Health Canadas Food Allergen Labelling Webpage http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/index-eng.php and answering the accompanying questions.


We’ve All Gone Nuts

Last year at Annabel’s Pre-K orientation, a dad asked if kids would be allowed to have peanut butter in their lunches. I watched a mom in front of me stiffen as the teachers replied, “We’re asking you not to. We have a child in one of the pre-k classes with a severe nut allergy.”

As the dad made a face, the mom in front of me stood up. “My daughter is in the Tuesday/Thursday class, and she has the nut allergy. Even peanut dust could kill her. She’s only four. Please, I’m begging you, don’t send peanut butter to school. It’s only two-and-a-half hours. Please.”

She sat back down, and the dad said, “My child is in the Monday/Wednesday/Friday class, does that mean I can send peanut butter?”

I will never forget the look on that mom’s face.

I see similar conversations play out again and again. Scared moms and dads beg their fellow parents to leave the peanut butter at home, while other parents refuse, saying, “It’s my right to feed my child what I want – your child’s health is not more important than mine.” As if the risk of hunger-induced crankiness is the same as the risk of death.

Of course, there are a lot of airborne food allergies, and it isn’t realistic to ban everything. But I just don’t understand the parent who, upon hearing about an allergy in their child’s class, continues to send the allergen to school. Why would you willingly risk a child’s life? Why would you risk your child being the reason a classmate gets sick or dies?

My kids don’t have allergies, but Annabel is a picky enough eater that her packed lunch is exactly the same every single day. But if there were a kid in her class with a milk or strawberry allergy, we’d figure out some new foods to put in her lunchbox. There are thousands of options at all different price points for dairy-free, nut-free, and allergen-free snacks (and protein alternatives) just on Pinterest. And – she could still eat yogurt and strawberries at home!

Last week, Annabel came home and told me about the peanut-free table at her school. “I can sit at it, because I don’t have peanut butter!” When I explained to her that the table was started for kids who are allergic to peanuts, she asked, “Why does anyone bring peanuts, then?” When I told her it’s because some parents still want their kids to eat peanut butter, she was appalled. “But grown ups are supposed to keep kids safe!”

And that’s the rub. Kids should know that the adults in their schools will keep them safe. I shouldn’t have to worry that you’ll speed through a crosswalk while we’re in it (because your child has the right to be on time to school just like mine, right?), and another mom shouldn’t have to worry that your child might accidentally kill hers at lunch. What has happened to empathy? What has happened to our village?


Excited about her nut-free lunch.

A sandwich is not more important than a child’s life. It’s just not.

220 Comments

Heather says:

I agree with Annie! Grown ups are supposed to keep kids safe, and it’s dispicable that some grown ups aren’t on board with that. How would they feel if their kid had a food allergy?

Jonelle says:

Thank you. It really is that simple. I’m an adult with severe peanut allergies. I flew Southwest this weekend. They don’t serve peanuts when someone is allergic (and allow you to preboard to wipe down your seat area). I had to listen to some jerk yell at the flight attendant because he couldn’t get his little pack of peanuts in a 90 minute flight.

Mary says:

Why do they even still serve peanuts? Why not just switch to pretzels for every flight? I don’t really understand why they continue to serve them.

Heather says:

It’s probably a cost thing, but I agree.

Heather says:

I’m sure he’d have been REALLY understanding if you’d been exposed and the plane needed to make an emergency landing. Ugh, I’m sorry you have to deal with that!

Glenda says:

I was on a SW flight with this same situation. I was afraid for the person with the allergies. Some people are just so inconsiderate.

Heather B. says:

Exactly! I always worry about the person with the allergies.

Skye says:

Another peanut-allergic adult here. I have been told by other airlines that they can’t stop serving peanuts on a flight or make an announcement. If someone near me on a flight eats peanuts, I take some Benadryl and am fine (I don’t have a severe allergy to airborne peanuts), but it really bothers me that they wouldn’t stop serving them for a flight. Maybe the other airlines’ policies have changed because I haven’t checked in a while but that’s awesome of Southwest!

Ashley M says:

My daughter’s best friend (I believe there are other students as well) has a peanut allergy and our school is too relaxed about it. There’s a peanut-free table at lunch, but my daughter tells me she sees peanut butter foods and candies all the time. Including their classroom! I find it frustrating even when it’s not my own kid. Keep EVERYONE safe. There are so many options when it comes to nut butters these days.

Cris says:

In my daughters kindergarten, the class next door had a kid with severe peanut allergies. And because they shared a play yard, her class banned it. I did not hesitate or question it at all. One day her dad was on a time crunch and asked if he could make her a peanut butter sandwich and she fought him tooth and nail against it.
If I 5 year old can understand how severe this problem is, then every parent should be able to, too! No excuses.

Heather says:

Exactly. Little kids are so compassionate, they want their friends to be happy and healthy.

Kathy C says:

Thank you for this. As the mother of two peanut allergic children (now adults) it’s nice to see that some people “get it.” I teach kindergarten and see responses from parents that are unbelievable. It would be different if it was your child – look at it that way.

Tracey says:

Well said! I am a teacher and last year we had a child with a SEVERE sesame allergy so we asked parents not to pack any sesame products including hummus made with tahini. Imagine my surprise when a parent emailed back with some crazy statistics about how so very few allergys are actually “severe” and “life threatening” and how our society overreacts. She then implied this child did not have a SEVERE allergy and stated we were being over-cautious. Well, this child had been taken out of our school in an ambulance when he was 2 when he was served hummus and crackers for a snack because his airway did, in fact, begin to close after ingesting sesame. My director handled the doubting parent beautifully and I got over my initial shock as I feel the same as you. Shouldn’t we all stand together to keep our children safe.

Kate says:

This point is pretty much the one I wanted to make: I think there are a lot of parents who don’t believe that these allergies are that serious. They imagine it like lactose intolerance or something, when that’s a million miles from the case. (Or worse, they just assume it’s some attempt to fit in with this fad or the next, and not an actual, serious allergy.)

Annalien says:

And even if the allergy is not that severe or life-threatening, why would you want to make a small child miserable with tummy ache or an itchy rash by exposing him to something that he is allergic to?

Lee says:

I hope Annie still sits at the peanut-free table if she wants to. One of my friends was just saying that her son is the only child with a severe peanut allergy this year, and he was sitting alone at the peanut-free table during lunch. The school was going to find other families to commit to a nut-free lunch so he could have companions at his table. Since Annie already has nut-free lunches, there’s no hardship there! (Or is there already a full table of children with the allergy?)

Heather says:

I’m not sure how many kids sit at the table, good question! That’s so sad for your friend’s son, my heart breaks.

Christine says:

Our school allows the kids that sit at the allergy free table to pick a friend to sit with but the friend’s lunch must also not contain anything that contains an allergy. So it isn’t just limited to nuts but also milk, soy etc. It isn’t just a nut free table.

Kelly says:

Ours too! As long as you don’t have any nut products, you can sit at the allergy table with a friend. A few kids in the class make that choice so that they can sit with a certain friend (or keep someone company who’s lonely over at the otherwise empty allergy table).

Sara says:

My son has a PN allergy and his school started a PN free table after we asked (his class is PN free too). He has classmates that will ask their parents to pack PN free lunches so they can sit with him, and they get upset when they don’t. I’m so relieved that he has such understanding friends. I fear the day when others will start to bully him because of his allergy:(

Lissa says:

Don’t assume he will be bullied. I have heard of it, but we have not experienced that at all. I smiled inside just the other day when my now 14 yo son went out with a friend and the friend asked on the way out the door “Do you have your epi?” As long as your son continues to attract the same kind of caring friends he will have more than his family looking out for him – and standing up for him should he encounter a bully.

Chris says:

I don’t even understand this. I am a Canadian teacher and our entire board is ‘nut aware’. There are too many students with potential life-threatening peanut allergies, and so peanut butter – and products with nuts – are simply banned from the get go. Inconvenient for some, but if necessary for even one, then so be it. It is appalling to me that some parents react in such a way and ignore the health of other children. My kids love peanut butter, too, but we find other things to send. I think a firmer stance needs to be taken by the school board.

Rebecca says:

I had a student who had a peanut allergy last year. The parents and fellow teachers gave me more grief about it than my students. They did their part wonderfully and really cared about her to be vigilant about not bringing peanuts into the school. Twice, there were instances of forgetting (Reese Cups!) and they immediately told me and kept it closed until after school.

One fellow co-worker was the worst and complained about it as often as she could to me. It was ridiculous because, as a vegetarian, I included nuts in most of my lunches/snacks and was fine with not bringing them to school. I don’t know why it was such a big deal for those who didn’t eat them so regularly.

That being said, the student actually told me of several instances where she was served peanuts/peanut butter at home and nothing even happened. I contacted the parent several times but she was never taken back to the doctor to actually confirm the allergy. I think that’s where a lot of second guessing comes from. In addition, I think people just like to complain about things. Especially when they don’t have any first-hand experience with the situation. It’s ridiculous. Better to be safe than sorry. It is a child vs. food, after all.

Miranda says:

Heather,
As the mother of a 4 year old with severe peanut and tree nut allergies, I want to THANK YOU for this post. I wish all parents were this empathetic and understanding. It really is shocking the number of people who seemingly refuse to believe you when you try to explain that the smallest amount of nuts or nut products could kill your child. Again, thank you for bringing awareness to this issue!

DefendUSA says:

My best friend had a hissy fit about this very issue. She was going to be THAT mom who sent PB with her kid even though there was an allergy.
I asked her two questions. Do you think that mother loved her son less than you? If the shoe were on the other foot, what would YOU do? She shut her mouth and found alternative lunches.

Deirdre says:

Both of my children (a 3rd grader and kindergartener) have severe peanut allergies, requiring that they have an epi-pen on site at all times. I’m “lucky” in that my kids’ allergies seem to be consumption-based only (for now anyway) and not air-born. I’ve had to work with the school on strengthen policies a bit regarding peanut products, but it’s definitely not a peanut-free school. Peanut butter is still served as a lunch option and kids can bring in whatever snack they want. In a way, I’m okay with this, because my kids do need to learn to navigate a world that includes peanuts. That’s something they will likely have to do the rest of their lives. That said, I’m always completely dumb-founded when parents actively protest any requests regarding peanuts (or whatever allergen) for all the reasons you mention, Heather. I understand that some people may not have a clear idea of what a peanut allergy involves. But they ones who get outright angry about their kids’ rights to peanut-products really blow my mind. If peanut butter is the only thing your kid will eat, maybe it’s time to actively work on expanding their palate. I know it’s possible because my kids had no choice but to do without peanut butter. (Also, there are lots of peanut-free substitutes. My son often eats SunButter, which is a sunflower seed spread. It looks like peanut butter but tastes, not surprisingly, like sunflower seeds. While it doesn’t taste exactly like peanut butter, it is good–I’ve eaten it myself).

Christine says:

My son is also allergic to peanuts and I have taken somewhat the same approach. It is up to him to say “no thank” when he if offered something he is unsure about. What bothers me is when adults don’t accept his “no thank you” and continue to ask him if he is sure. He knows not to trade his lunch/snacks and not to eat anything that is given to him that he is unsure about. It does bother me when teachers hand out candy as a reward because he knows that until we read the label he can not have it.

Danielle says:

I agree it is wonderful to have other parents and students that are considerate of peanut and other allergies. However, I think it becomes frustrating when parents of allergic kids do not take the time to teach their children to manage their allergies at all and only expect everyone else around them to make changes. If people would be considerate of others AND people would teach their kids to be responsible regarding their exposure and consumption of what they are allergic to, that would make the safest circumstances. Even young school-aged kids can start to learn this, and they will at some point in life need to take full responsibility for managing their exposure to their allergens, even if it is communicating it in advance to airlines or potential employers.

Deirdre says:

I’m not a position to speak for all allergy parents, but I can speak for myself and all the allergy parents I personally know. We do, from the time they are diagnosed (depending on age, some are diagnosed as infants), have lengthy and exhaustive conversations with our children about their food allergies. I can’t imagine an allergy parent who does not do this. We train our children from the time they can talk to ask whether something has nuts, to say “I am allergic to nuts” or “I have a peanut allergy”, to basically refuse food that is offered to them, to NEVER share food with anyone, even their friends. Our children are often very used to skipping out on the birthday cake at a party, or handing over any homemade cookies to their parent, or bringing their own food to playdates or parties. The children are often just as knowledgeable as the parents regarding their allergies. BUT, some kids are also incredibly shy or bashful by nature. If an adult offers them something, they may take it because they don’t want to be rude (they may not eat it, but they may take it). It takes a certain amount of courage to stand up for yourself as a small kid and some children aren’t really programmed that way. It’s an imperfect system and it always will be. My children go to a school that is not nut-free and I am constantly working with them, because as I mentioned in an earlier comment, they have to learn to navigate a world with nuts in it. That will always be their reality and I strongly believe in teaching them personal responsibility. I have said, too many times to count, “I cannot rely on the rest of the world to keep my children safe.” The chances are extremely high that at some point in their childhood, they will eat something with peanuts in it. I know that. They know that. Accidents happen. Actually, my daughter (who was almost 3 at the time and we were restricting peanuts, at the advice of her allergist, because her brother was already allergic) was diagnosed with her allergy when her grandmother (who is very vigilant about allergies) gave her a donut from a bakery we frequent. She asked for one with vanilla icing at the bakery but was given one with peanut butter icing (white icing, although perhaps not as white as the vanilla). We spent the night in the ER because she couldn’t breathe and had hives all over her body. So, mistakes happen. There is no perfect system. But don’t think for one minute–unless there are some completely irresponsible allergy parents out there–that we don’t educate our children from the time they can talk what they can and can’t have.

Jenny says:

Thank you for caring. And thank you for calling out the jerks that don’t. After all of these years, assume that all schools, all classrooms, all sports and all birthday parties with my son’s peers need to be nut-free. It isn’t that hard. He has nuts at home but not at school. Got it!

While the parents have lost their empathy (and minds), I find most kids are like Annie. They care more about their peers than lunch. Maybe we all need those reminders of lessons learned in kindergarten.

Margie says:

So true, so very true. Thank you for the reminders.

Anna says:

My nephew has only a mild peanut allergy, and we still make it a point to not bring peanut products around him. It’s not that hard, in fact, I’m sure it’s much more difficult to be the kid/parent who has to deal with the allergy daily.

Mel says:

Our primary schools in Ontario, Canada where we live are “Nut free schools”. From the time my kids started kindergarten until they were in Grade 8, we were not allowed to send anything with nuts. My kids are alive and well and have infact graduated high school and the fact that they couldn’t eat peanut butter at school did not hurt them one bit. They understood why and accepted the fact that they were lucky that they didn’t have to worry about getting sick and that their friend and his parents had to worry about him every day. Good for Annie to care and shame on any parent that doesn’t understand.

Laura says:

I have a 17 year old with a life threatening peanut allergy. The peanut free table can be a lonely place. My son hated being isolated from his friends in elementary and middle school, so it was always fantastic when his friends/friends’ parents made the decision to make their lunches peanut free so they could all sit together! As an aside, the peanut allergy game totally changes in high school. The kids are expected to manage their epi pens, benadryl, where and what they eat all by themselves (epic pens stay with the kid instead of in the office so they can give themselves the shot if needed) — so it is a good thing if you can train your peanut allergy kid to live in a hostile world as early as possible. In some ways it gets both easier and harder as they grow up. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue. It’s a tough one.

Erica says:

I am in Ontario, Canada and our schools have not only banned peanuts but also nut-free substitutes like WowButter. We have parents frustrated because there are alternatives that cannot be used.

Christine says:

Why are the substitutes banned? I can get behind banning peanut butter (and per a friend with an allergic child we stopped sending tree nut butters due to potential cross-reactivity) but we still use seed butters, which we were told were safe. I’d be irked if those were banned for no valid reason.

Lisa says:

Many times they are banned because they look no different than the real thing. How do you tell quickly if it’s peanut butter or an alternative when the sandwich looks the same.

Christine says:

Got it. I slapped a note on the sandwich if we sent sunflower butter (we’re vegetarians so the seed butters are a nice protein alternative for us). However, our cafeteria served PB&J daily so talk about mixed messages.

Erica says:

Exactly correct. The additional frustration is that schools are not willing to provide refrigeration (assumption that meat is the only safe lunch to bring). Schools are unwilling to budge.

Heather says:

I sent meat in containers with ice packs.

Michelle says:

Thank you for this post. I really appreciate the parents who make an effort and don’t complain. It is so much harder being the allergy parent than the parent who can’t send nuts to school. (I have one daughter who has a peanut allergy and one who does not.)

My daughter has had an allergic reaction from sprinkles. There were no peanuts in them, but they were processed on the same equipment as something with peanuts. Sprinkles are tiny, and peanuts weren’t an ingredient. But even that minuscule speck of peanut dust was enough to trigger a reaction. It’s a very scary thing as a parent. It happened at school. The teacher and the parent who brought the treat in thought it was peanut-free, but they forgot to read the sprinkles label. I have to read every label every single time I buy anything.

Thanks again for “getting it” (and encouraging other adults to have some empathy).

Auntie_M says:

How very scary for you! And your child! (And the parent & teacher who had tried to do the right thing–those labels are tricky things. ) Glad your child made it through ok!

Lisa says:

None of my children have food allergies, thank goodness. It would have to be horrifying every time your kid left he house. It seems to me foregoing peanut products during the day is a very very small “sacrifice”.

Heather says:

That’s what gets me – the fear these parents must have, sending their kids out there every day. And it’s a fear we could help them with, so easily, and so many just don’t CARE.

Auntie_M says:

Alimartell says:

Our schools and camps in Canada (or at least in Ontario) have been tree nut- and peanut-free for years. It’s interesting to me that they seem to just be catching on south of us.

I think, truly, and sadly, that people have no idea what life-threatening actually means. That it means that a child’s throat could close up and that a child could DIE. It’s not a preference, it’s not a sensitivity, it’s an allergy, one that’s severe enough that you have to read every label on every food you eat, one that’s severe enough that cross-contamination could cause an allergic reaction that requires an epipen.

I think if people truly understood this … and they still selfishly “need” to send nut products to school for their children … they are just assholes.

Kelly says:

Are the children rubbing the peanut butter on each other? Or on the table? If they wash their hands after lunch, wouldn’t that solve it? Sorry, but when I was a kid, you were responsible for you and your kid. If my mother told me to stay away from peanuts, I would. I applaud the peanut free lunch table, but banning all nuts from the entire school is unfair and over the top. They banned Halloween from our local school a few years ago so kids who don’t celebrate Halloween won’t be offended.

Pretty soon we’ll all be going to school naked with no food so no one is harmed or upset in any way.

Auntie_M says:

I think you are failing to understand the case in point included airborne allergen–even the dust or particles could close an airway quickly,perhaps quicker than a nurse could arrive with the child’s epi pen, and the child could die. My grandfather was horribly allergic to raspberries, so if the juice of a raspberry even touched something he were to eat his airway would close in under 30 seconds. Terrify as a child who loved raspberries to observe, but you’d better believe, I NEVER put raspberries near anything he would eat after observing that mistake when I was just a young girl (someone put them in a fruit salad & they thought removing a portion for him & rinsing the fruit off would take care of the matter–it didn’t!).
AND to answer your probable sarcastic question, if they are very young, then yes, there is a very good chance that those sandwiches may get rubbed on the lunch tables or each other or that hands won’t get washed until right before returning to class ’cause kids are kids and they are often wonderfully rambunctious, messy, and joyfully rough-housing during lunch/breaks because that is what those breaks are for, in part: to let of steam in the middle of the school day. So, yes, peanut butter, jelly, cream cheese, tuna, lunch meat, you name it can be on their hands and therefore each other. If your child could DIE because of an ingredient of someone else’s lunch, I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be quite so cavalier about the matter.

Peggy says:

As for your Halloween analogy, that’s an entirely separate issue that has no place in this discussion. These kids are not “offended” by peanuts. Peanuts can kill them. That’s kind of different, don’t you think?

Ldoo says:

Rachel says:

Okay, the Halloween thing is stupid. But not comparable to the peanut issue.

Do you understand that being exposed to peanuts, their residue, or their dust can kill people? Kill them. Dead. All because you couldn’t just reach 12″ to the right at the grocery store to pick up some almond or sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter.

Also, you’re totally right. 3, 4, 5 year olds are known for always staying away from stuff their parents told them is off-limits. Oh, wait…

Kelly says:

If the child can’t stand peanut dust in the air, how are they going to go anywhere EVER? Are peanuts to be banned at the movie theater, the restaurants, the mall? Any of those places could have a seat or table where someone sat eating peanuts and left dust or residue. Why are peanuts only the anti-Christ at school?

And Halloween is relevant, because we’re becoming a society that must accommodate every single person ALL THE TIME. How long before peanuts are banned in the workplace as well? And at Target? They still sell Peanut Butter sandwiches at Panera too.

Heather says:

A lot of people I know with these allergies DON’T go to movie theaters. And they don’t go to baseball games, or restaurants that serve peanuts, or peanut products. They have to go to school. They are learning how to take care of themselves, and sometimes they need a little extra help and protection – help that other parents should be happy to provide because it’s EASY. Celebrating Halloween isn’t life or death, bringing some allergens to school ARE. Why does this offend you so much? It’s a child’s LIFE?

Jen says:

Plus the difference in some of the places you just mentioned, is that a parent would likely be right next to them and could respond immediately with an epi-pen as opposed to waiting for a nurse to respond.

Are you really that lazy that you can’t be a little bit more creative with your kids lunches?

Deirdre says:

Lucky for you, YOU don’t need to figure out how to manage a child with air-borne allergies. Congratulations. But children with that type of allergy–frankly–don’t go a variety of places. These kids and their parents rearrange their entire lives to be able to live with this allergy. They don’t expect everyone to accomodate them all the time. But they do expect to be able to go to school. Peanuts have become the anti-Christ, as you say, because 1) peanut happens to be an allergy that effects a lot of people 2) it causes anaphylaxis, which can cause death, unlike other allergens 3) peanut traces can become airborne, unlike other allergens and 4) keeping them out of school should and can be a relatively easy thing to do.

Kelly says:

Our MLB ballpark has a peanut free suite– and even allow a special pathway to get there, so as to lessen the possibility of coming across nuts. In the suite they serve nut-free food options. Isn’t that cool?!
As someone who has a son who has both a love of baseball and a nut allergy, I think that’s pretty awesome. THANKFULLY his allergy is not so severe that he can’t be near someone eating peanuts or peanut butter. But I can tell you I have literally been on the edge of my seat at a game where others were cracking peanuts a couple seats away from him. It is 100% within their right to do so, but it still made me nervous. So this time, we’ll take advantage of the nut-free option.
There are lots of nut-free options. Sometimes they’re tastier and less expensive. Even to bratty adults who are ignorantly set in their ways.

Heather says:

Wow really? What ballpark is that?

Kelly says:

Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. I didn’t look into other parks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar was offered. I should say that it’s not offered for every game, but it’s a good option nonetheless.
(Just realized the person I was responding to was also Kelly. We’re different people )

Heather says:

That’s so great. HUGE props to the Phillies organization for that!

Heather says:

I would happily send my kids to school naked without food if it meant EVERYONE CAME HOME ALIVE.

Kristen says:

Deirdre says:

Do you not have children? My guess is no, or you would understand that sometimes kids are messy eaters. They do get peanut butter on their hands. They do sprinkle crumbs everywhere. My own children have a consumption-based allergy, which means they can be near peanuts/peanut butter, but eating it would cause an anaphylatic shock and possibly death. But that’s not the case for every child. Some are so allergic that it’s an airborne allergy–they can’t even be in the same room as it. Trace amounts can cause a reaction. Are you not familiar with anaphylaxis? Here’s a link:http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/anaphylaxis I’ve been to the ER with my daughter after an accidental exposure so I know this isn’t a made-up thing. Both of my children are aware of what they can and cannot have. Both are very responsible, considering their ages (5 and 80, about their allergies. But, let me tell you, we’ve had kids try to wipe their peanut butter sandwiches on my son “to see what would happen”. So no, you can’t rely on your own kids or other kids to do the right thing all the time.

Heather says:

And *kids* shouldn’t have to worry about scrubbing their hands thoroughly lest they accidentally KILL one of their classmates.

Deirdre, how you didn’t murder those kids who tried to wipe peanut butter on your son, I’ll never know.

Deirdre says:

Contrary to the opinions of some who believe our goal is to trump the rights of others, we allergy parents are usually pretty reasonable. The incident I mentioned above happened when my son was in kindergarten and the other boy was only 5. While I was upset, I didn’t expect a 5 year old to fully comprehend how dangerous a food allergy can be. While teasing of any nature isn’t cool, this boy just thought he was teasing my son in an almost joking way…except of course, it wasn’t funny.

Kelly says:

Most experts and studies agree that Peanut hysteria is completely unwarranted:

Heather says:

Nope. First of all, these were written in 2008 and 2009 and at least one of them is an opinion piece (I can’t tell about the others, I’m looking on my phone). Have you ever had an anaphylactic reaction to something? It’s terrifying. Why are you so against keeping kids safe at school? I almost hesitated to approve this comment because it’s so ridiculous.

Sco says:

Publish the dumb comments so they can be called out. Seriously, anyone who is on the fence about this needs to see how incredibly stupid these people are who don’t believe peanut allergy and anaphylaxis are real things.

Heather says:

My only reason for hesitating was I didn’t want a mom or dad with a peanut allergy to see that and feel demoralized. It’s already hard enough for them, ya know?

Jayme says:

Little confused as to how you can scroll through comment after comment after comment from parents telling us about their kid’s severe nut allergy, then swoop in here with this little bon mot. FYI, three articles (seven years old, and one an opinion piece to boot) do not represent MOST EXPERTS. And, in case you’d failed to read the bunk ass links you posted, every single one contends that yes, for some kids, EVEN IF IT IS JUST ONE KID, nuts can indeed be life-threatening. They are not exaggerating their allergy. It can literally kill a child in certain circumstances. But yes! Let’s play Russian Roulette with our kid’s health and see just how “severe” can be! You are callous and ignorant, and not very good at the google. Go have some peanut butter. A big ol’ spoonful, enough to shut you up for a bit.

Ldoo says:

“You are callous and ignorant, and not very good at the google.”

This is the best insult I’ve ever heard (and I completely agree with you)!

Jackson says:

There has got to be a kinder way to educate someone who relied on dated “research” and opinion. I am sorry to say this but you sound like a bully. Allergies are a big issue and can be life threatening. People who rely on Google — and I do as a researcher — can be taught how to do a reliable search.

Jayme says:

If not being willing to tolerate someone’s CLEAR disregard for the safety and well-being of other children makes me a bully, then yes, I am a bully. I don’t suffer fools and their ignorance, and I’m not a member of the “Teach the Assholes of the Internet” how to use it. But THANK YOU for your totally necessary and topical reply to my comment. HAVE A GREAT DAY!

Katie says:

On the one hand, I’m really, really glad you don’t understand how severe these allergies are, because that means you haven’t experience it firsthand. On the other hand, your refusal to listen and learn is frustrating. It’s not about “staying away from peanuts” in many cases. There are some kids whose allergies are so severe that if someone is eating peanuts in the same air space as them, they will go into anaphylaxis. In case you are not familiar with that term, it is an allergic cascade that results in swelling of the major airways and will, if untreated, result in death. Death. Not a little itching or a runny nose. This is life or death. So how do we deal with this? Do we make these kids stay home so that other kids can have their preferred sandwich spread? Doesn’t that seem insane? You are saying that having peanut butter on a child’s sandwich is MORE IMPORTANT than another child’s LIFE. That’s literally the point you’re making. That a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is worth more than another child’s life. Do you really believe that? Because that’s what you’re arguing every time you continue to push forward with this position.

Deirdre says:

Heather B. says:

Auntie_M says:

Heather Spohr, do you ever just shake your head after reading comments presented by (the original) Kelly and think, “Really? THIS person, THIS person who cares more about a sandwich than a child’s life, is choosing to follow MY blog?” Thanks again for highlighting this important issue!

To all you brave parents out there who let your child with a severe allergen even out of your sight in order to go to school, I salute you!

To all those parents who don’t have kids with these allergies but get how hard it must be and go out of your way to make even “just” lunch or snack time safer for someone else’s kid, I applaud you. And likewise those teachers, administrators, aides, cleaning staff, etc.

And bless the sweet, tender hearted kids who want to make their school safe for all their friends!

Heather says:

Yeah…These are people who’ve seen what my family has gone through with Madeline’s death, and they act like this. It makes me sad. I never want another family to go through the loss of a child.

Meg says:

Auntie_M says:

Oh. And good for Annie for “getting it” at such a young age!

Stephanie says:

My daughter has a severe sesame seed allergy. It’s pretty easy to avoid, so it hasn’t been an issue at school. However, I will never forget when she had the tiniest bite of hummus and her lips and tongue started swelling up. It was terrifying. Thank you for helping other kids.

Mary says:

This is so crazy. Who does this? It’s a minor inconvenience to so save someone’s life. Not a tough decision.

Kristen says:

I don’t have children, but I have nieces and nephews. One has a strawberry allergy it seems, although she is still under 2, so that may go away. However, I do have a comment about parents not thinking outside of themselves. Either of the ways I leave my house for work in the morning, I pass a school where there is of course a 15 mile an hour zone. Each day, even if I am late, I go the 15 miles an hour. Why? Because if I did have a child and because I am a decent human, I want to make sure that children are safe where I am driving. HOWEVER….every single day I have one or more cars that fly up the middle turn lane to pass me and turn into the school. That means that a parent or other guardian is driving over the speed limit to fly past me and get their child to school. I have been very tempted to contact the schools and ask them to remind their parents that the law applies to them as well. That they should be looking out for the safety of other children. That I do it despite not knowing a single child that attends the schools. Then I keep thinking that it wouldn’t do any good….but now that schools are back in session and it’s happening again, I might just have to make it a point to take it up with the schools.

Mommy says:

Bravo! My kids have no allergies that we know of, but in preschool we were nut free and we dealt with it. I don’t see what the big deal is!

In elementary, they allow peanut butter, at least for now, but have a peanut free table and no known air-borne allergies in the school. For my picky eater, this was good news. However, it still makes me nervous to pack PBJ or peanut butter for his apples. So, we save those foods for after school. And guess what? We are all ok! We send the other 5 things he will eat and he gets his PBJ as soon as he gets home. No one gets sick and he doesn’t starve! Yay!!

You and Annie have it all figured out. Love you guys!!

Wan says:

Well, you got one. I wonder who else will pipe up.

Amy G. says:

I agree that it’s common courtesy to avoid sending in the allergen to school, but on the other side of the coin, my school aged nephew is type 1 diabetic. Peanut butter crackers are a huge “go to” for him if his blood sugar drops, and they were completely banned at his school for allergen reasons.

Annalisa says:

You can find other alternatives. You can always find other alternatives.

Jen says:

I’m not saying that there aren’t other alternatives to peanut butter and crackers for the above child, but your response was entirely lacking in sensitivity to that child’s medical needs.

For kids who are type 1, diabetic, the daily effort required to monitor food intake is pretty extensive. I can see how it could be frustrating for a parent with a kid medically fragile in that way, to have a convenient and pre-packaged food that is often used during a medical situation to be taken away.

Amy, maybe your nephew’s parents can talk to the school about the nurse in his school keeping foods like that on hand kept air tight in her office so that when a problem arises, he can be brought to the nurse quickly to get something.

Amy G. says:

My sister did request that he be allowed to have the crackers in the nurses office, but that idea was not allowed, and in the end she had to find alternative things to send. It was just a little scary for her at first because it meant trying to find something else that worked just as fast and as well for him to use in a setting where she could not be with him to monitor him.

Kris says:

My heart goes out to your sister and nephew. I’m the one with T1, and I often think how much harder this would be in one of my kids. (I was a teen when diagnosed). How the school handles hypoglycemia would be at the top of my list, for sure.

Kris says:

Thank you for your reply. It does seem that all other medical conditions related to food often get overlooked in these discussions. I have a friend who told me once that she couldn’t eat the PB & J sandwich she brought on a cross-country flight because of a person with peanut allergy…and then I wondered, what if it had been me? PB & J travels well, and as a T1 diabetic who might have relying on that for lunch, to be prohibited from eating it, might cause me possibly life-threatening problems as well. Not an inconvenience, but life threatening in a different way.

Heather says:

Does he have glucose tablets? I carried them when I had gestational diabetes (I often became hypoglycemic because of my hyperemesis) and they are great: http://amzn.to/1PZ8EXG

Amy G. says:

My sister says that he uses them only in emergencies, but he thinks they are “extremely gross.” Typical kid.

Heather says:

LOL. They’re definitely not as tasty as peanut butter crackers.

Kris says:

And they don’t have quite the same effect. Not trying to cause a fight, but the protein and fat in the peanut butter causes blood sugars to stay elevated for longer periods of time, which helps the person even out the hypoglycemic reaction. It’s not just getting the sugar up some days, but it’s getting it back up and having it stay up, which is what you are often trying to do.

But yeah, there are pre-packaged containers of cheese and crackers that I like, too.

Kris says:

How about cheese sticks? I know they need to be refrigerated, but they can have the same long-lasting effect that the peanut butter might have had. Gogurt or some other form of yogurt?

Amy G. says:

He doesn’t need to eat his emergency snack every single day, but he has to keep something at school just in case. I never said I wanted any child with a peanut allergy to be put at risk, but rather wanted to point out that some parents might heavily rely on peanut butter as much more than just a tasty treat.

Marie says:

Ok, so the answer to the dads question is. I, too, would like to know if the peanut butter “dust” would stay in the cafeteria or room till the next day when the allergic child came.
I am 62, grew up on homemade school lunches. The cooks fed about 400 students every day with made from scratch food and we were always ready for it. We worked hard, played hard and by noon we were starving. Every day the cooks made a big dinner and served with that dinner were either Peanut butter and honey sandwiches or egg salad. Every day. No one back then had a peanut allergy. You have to wonder why so many kids nowadays do have that allergy. Would anyone have an answer to either of my questions?
Thank you,
Hugs from Minnesota
Marie

Ldoo says:

Yah, it’s definitely odd that there are SO many deadly peanut allergies these days. Something about how peanuts are processed now…kids not having immunity to them because they were withheld at a young age…who knows. But it exists, so we have to deal with it. We can complain that life isn’t as it used to be, or we can face the truth. Peanut allergies are here now – so let’s all be considerate to that fact. Do unto others.

Heather says:

I also think that these allergies still existed back then, but they weren’t diagnosed, or we didn’t hear about them because there was no internet.

Katie says:

Or, the kids died and the cause was not understood.

Christine says:

https://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
50% increase in food allergies in children. That is staggering. Anaphylaxis is hard to miss so I doubt this is a case of missing or not understanding the diagnosis even if the cause of the reaction was unclear. I would think the anti-bacterial craze plays a role in it. A busy immune system is a happy immune system.

Ldoo says:

Very true. So much these days seems new when, in fact, we just hear about it more.

Michelle says:

To answer your question about the dad’s question, no he should not send peanut butter even on days the allergic child is not there. Yes, peanut residue can remain. Peanut butter is sticky. Even when wiped up, it can leave a residue. Just touching it can be enough to trigger a reaction in some people. And little kids touch stuff and put their hands in their mouth. That could kill an allergic child.

Marie says:

Thank you Michelle, your answer was the most helpful. It really is strange that there are so many children with peanut allergies. And Katie, in our school no one died from allergies. So that probably proves that no one actually had a peanut allergy back then. And I don’t remember any of my kids having a classmate with an allergy either. My kids are 43, 39 and 33. So this could be something that is fairly recent, in the last 20-30 years. I find it so very strange that it’s now a deadly or possibly deadly allergy. It must have something to do with modern peanut butter or something. I am sure research is being done, but that won’t help the ones who are allergic now. Thanks for all the responses.
Hugs from Minnesota,
Marie

Heather says:

I am 36 and can remember at least two kids in my elementary school with peanut allergies.

Jen R. says:

I think that these types of food (and other) allergies have definitely been around for a long time AND ALSO are more common now. Maybe more often life-threatening now too?
Christine above mentioned the antibacterial craze and “A busy immune system is a happy immune system.”
That’s the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests something along the lines that peoples’ immune systems don’t have enough to do these days, so the immune systems find other (really unhelpful) things to do, giving rise to allergies, asthma, and other immune diseases. That’s probably oversimplifying it, but it’s the basic idea as I understand it.
I find this really interesting because I have (non-food) allergies and asthma myself, and I also would like to know how people can start to prevent these issues, since they have been more common and can be so terrible.
Recently there was a study that showed that kids who live in households that hand-wash dishes, as opposed to using a dishwasher, have fewer allergies.
A while ago there was a study that showed that kids who were raised with animals had fewer allergies than kids who were not.
I also believe there have been epidemiological studies showing that kids who are exposed to peanuts earlier in life developed an allergy significantly less often than kids who are not exposed. I also COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY AGREE that it should be kept out of schools for the sake of those who already have an allergy, and some kids are going to develop that allergy no matter what. But for a lot of kids I think they can actually be helped by eating peanut products at a young age at home, so that is something to keep in mind, as a lot of parents may be fearful now.
Also along those lines – someone else on this thread (Kelly, I think) linked to an opinion piece that was outrageous and offensive, and said something to the effect that these problems aren’t found in “places like Ecuador, etc.” but are only found in rich, “lefty” communities. OMG, I can’t even… but the argument to that is that they really AREN’T found as often in developing countries, but it has NOTHING to do with politics or people imagining allergies where there are none. It, again, has to do with kids’ immune systems/bodies having so much else to worry about in these other places in the world.
I remember seeing Anderson Cooper report on a product called Plumpynut, which was developed to combat malnutrition in really poor areas. Did anyone else see that? If I remember correctly, the product is mostly made of peanut butter, with some dry milk, vitamins, and sugar to help the kids put on some weight, and it was really helping so much where it was being used. It was being used by Doctors without Borders and at one point Anderson asked a doctor “What about peanut allergies?” and she basically was like “Ummm…yeah, we don’t have that here.” It was somewhere in Africa.

Jenny says:

Thank you for the comment. I’ve noticed the same thing and made the same attribution. It’s certainly interesting that PB is the preferred food to bulk up nutrition in developing countries but can have the opposite effect here. I’m not even going to click on an opinion article that attributes that to politics. The internet certainly brings to light the depths of stupidity.

I have a middle schooler. We do not have a nut-free school but we have nut-free tables. At this point, through various school, actiivity, social club and church functions, we have concluded that extreme allergies are a common occurence in his generation. It doesn’t matter whether they were common in my generation. This is what happens in his world. I’ve seen it, experienced it and I respect it. Therefore, we don’t send nut lunches or nut snacks to anything. We just don’t. My son doesn’t complain. This is his world, and he realizes that his lunch does not mean more than someone else’s life. Unlike some of these crazy adults, he doesn’t argue over his “right” to eat PB at school.

Laura says:

The first time I ever “met” a peanut allergy person was in 1999. It was my one year old son, we were at the emergency department and he was in anaphylaxis from the ice cream we fed him at his birthday party. Thankfully, they were able to stop the reaction before it was too late (we had no idea what was happening with him/no idea he had the allergy). He was the only peanut allergy kid that I personally knew for 10 years. Now, there are six little ones in our neighborhood with a confirmed peanut allergy. This problem is growing and it is terrifying. What is going on with our food supply?

Lisa says:

There was a lovely little girl in my daughter’s first preschool who had a number of food allergies, including severe peanut allergies. Our school was nut-free (and dairy-free, egg-free, mango-free, and strawberry-free), and it was not a big deal. Like you said, it’s a few hours a day, though we also agreed not to feed our kids nuts or eggs for breakfast before school to make extra-sure that nothing would be on their skin or clothing. Fortunately, there were no issues for that girl at our school, but she nearly died after picking up a snack some other child had dropped at the library (where NO snacks are supposed to be in the first place).

Seriously. This beautiful, sweet, vibrant girl nearly DIED. She has been hospitalized at least three times that I’m aware of, for multiple days at a time. It’s not a joke, it’s not about being offended, it’s not about convenience. Her poor parents (a doctor and an engineer) are so stressed by the fact that their only child could DIE that they ended up choosing to home school after preschool. The parents never cared much about cooking before, and now they make EVERYTHING from scratch because the tiniest bit of cross-contamination could kill their child. They’re scared to go to the library, to parks, to other people’s houses, anywhere that an allergen could have been smeared or dropped. It SUCKS.

I cannot imagine, on top of that stress, dealing with idiots who think that allergies are no big deal or worry about the hassle it might create for THEM. It’s only through pure luck that I’m not in their shoes, so I have no problem whatsoever doing my part to not kill their child.

Beth says:

Deirdre says:

For anyone who is interested in learning more about food allergies or anaphylaxis, FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is a wonderful resource available at http://www.foodallergy.org . There’s lots of information for schools (what the laws are, protocol plans, tips on how to help teachers keep kids safe, etc) and for parents (the laws, new legislation, allergy action plans, working with your school, ADA, how to advocate for your child, etc).

Elise says:

I went to elementary school in the 1970s and did have kids in my class who had food allergies. There were no banned foods, the kids just didn’t eat the foods they knew they couldn’t have, eggs, milk and peanuts being the ones I remember about.

On a personal note, I’ve been gluten-free for medical reasons for 18 years and understand first hand how difficult it is to navigate a world that is full of things that make you sick. My household is not gluten-free, but my kids get it and always ask if food are “gluten or gluten-free” and are happy when I can eat things with them. I also have friends with food-allergic kids who choose to continue to have the foods that their kids are allergic to in their homes, and their kids are very aware of what they can/cannot eat at a very early age. If in doubt, don’t eat it is my motto.

We cannot create a world without risk, we just can’t. But we can empower our kids to educate themselves, speak up and advocate for their needs.

Make no mistake, the peanut-free tables at school exist soley so that the schools are protected. And I bet that no parent with an allergic kid is spared all worry about their child eating lunch at school because of them.

Annalisa says:

I like you people *sarcasm*. The “slippery slope people”. You eventually get to a point where you exclaim “Life is risk! What are you gonna do, put your kid in a bubble?” (not you, personally, just people who pull the “risk” card).

Let me put it to you another way.

“We cannot create a world without risk *of being hit by a car*, we just can’t. But we can empower our kids to educate themselves *about crossing the street on their own*, speak up and advocate for their needs *not to be hit by a car*”

Yes, nothing in life is without risk. Accidents happen. But the logical conclusion is to do nothing whatsoever to minimize that risk? Have fun telling that to the parent whose kid might be hit by a car. “Oh,we could have put a crossing light there, or a stop sign. It sure would slow the cars down. But hey, accidents happen. What’s important is that I can speed down main street whenever and however I want.”

So the peanut free people is the school covering their bases on liability. So what? It’s better than the alternative, and it really does not affect the kids who choose not to sit there.


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