Thursday, September 30, 2010

Food Allergy Bullying

As parents of peanut allergic children, worrying about an accidental exposure is not our only concern.  We also need to be aware of the potential for possible malicious exposure.  According to a recent study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 1 in 4 children, teens and young adults are teased, bullied or harassed about their allergy.  JoNel Aleccia, a health writer for, reports the details of the new study in her article, "Peanut menance? Allergy bullies use food to torment allergic kids." She begins her article with a horrifying tale of a high school student in Washington State who purposely smeared peanut butter on the face of a student with a serious peanut allergy.

As to be expected, the percentage of reports of bullying rises according to age.  Remove children 5 and under from the study of 353 families and the percentage of instances increased to 35%.  That number jumped to 50% for children in grades 6th through 12th.  The study also indicated that most of the bullying came in a verbal form of teasing and harassment, but 35% of the bullying involved actually take on a physical form.

I'm not surprised, and preparing Abigail to deal with possible physical threats from her own peers is something that I intend to address as she gets older.  I've already had to soothe tears over a verbal taunt.  Last year in 1st grade one of her friends was in a grumpy mood and told Abigail that she would wave her peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her face if she didn't play what she wanted.  Right or wrong, at the time, I didn't report the incident to either the teacher or the friend's parents.  The little girl was 6, and giving her the benefit of the doubt, she probably had no idea of the implications of her taunt.  I did explain to Abigail that had she actually put the sandwich up to her face, that would have been a different matter entirely.  We also talked about how in general she should stand up to her peers and not do something she feels uncomfortable doing because of a threat.  We're still working on that lesson.

Most of the the bullying does come from other students, but the study reported that 20% of those families asked had experienced teasing and/or harassment from teachers or other school staff.  We can relate to that also.  In Kindergarten, Abigail's teacher made a very insensitive remark that left Abigail feeling betrayed by a really important role model, and me just downright angry.  I'm sure the teacher never gave the remark a second thought, but it was a topic of discussion for quite a while in our house.

I haven't figured out the best time to inform Abigail that someone might actually purposely try to harm her by using her food allergy against her.  I'd like to keep that innocence a little while longer.  I'd love to hear how some of you handled that discussion.

So, what happened to the teenager in Washington that wiped peanut butter on the peanut allergic student?  He was suspended from school, faced an assault charge and spent 4 days in jail.  When asked why, it was reported that he didn't understand the seriousness of the allergy.  Do we all find that hard to believe??  Because food allergies are a daily part of our existence, I'd immediately say yes!  But, how many people do we run across on a daily basis that just don't get it??

I started out writing about food allergy bullying, but am ending by stating that if there was more food allergy education, and if kids, their parents and the community as a whole better understood the potential life-threatening results of waving a sandwich or smearing peanut butter on the face of someone who has a serious food allergy, then society would have to stop using the term "bullying" and start using verbage like physical abuse, cruelty and assault.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not your normal product recall!

Recalls of products due to undeclared food allergens are usually no laughing matter, but I must admit that this recall listed on the US Food and Drug Administration website had me laughing out loud.  It was a rare moment of being able to see humor in the all too serious nature of food allergies. 

Suzipoo Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Allergen in Lobster Poo

Sue Pollard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 22, 2010 - Suzipoo Ogunquit, Maine is voluntarily recalling Suzipoo Lobster Poo, 4 oz bags, because it may contain undeclared peanuts. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The product is in a small plastic bag with a red bow on the bag and the label on the front reads. "Lobster Poo" – Slogan – I went to Maine and here's the scoop I came back home with Lobster Poop.

Product was distributed to three retail stores in Maine from August 1-August 18, 2010. Each store has been visited and product labeling has been corrected. Ten- 4 oz. bags may be incorrectly labeled.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that product (burnt red peanuts) was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of peanuts.

Consumers who have purchased the product are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-207-251-0523.

So, if you've been to Maine recently and purchased a sachet of lobster poo...please handle with care!

Sorry, Suzipoo, that I'm so easily amused.  Hopefully all of the additional publicity has been a blessing in disguise.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Changes are Coming!

Sorry, I'm not writing an exciting post about new allergen labeling regulation requirement changes or new policies mandating companies segregate their manufacturing processes for nut products or that there's been a huge change and a new trend is emerging and food allergies are on the decline.  Nope, nothing as exited as news of any of those changes would be, but changes are definitely coming for my family.  My husband has a wonderful new job, and we're moving.

After several weeks of keeping secrets, talking behind closed doors or in code, we finally broke the news to Abigail and now to our friends.  As sad as it's going to be to leave behind a house that has been our home for 12 years, a wonderful church, fabulous friends and neighbors, a nice community and great schools, we're looking forward to a new house, new opportunities, new adventures and a new town.  The move keeps us within our home state but puts us closer to both sets of parents/grandparents, closer to Duke and in a really nice region.

Actually, Abigail took it much better than I expected.  She's been asking to paint her room pink for a while now, and she'll be able to in the new house.  She also is envisioning a decor of peace signs, hearts and stars.  If that's all it takes, I'll happily accommodate!  It's going to be very hard to leave school mid-year, but I remind her repeatedly, that she's fabulous at making new friends, and that she's lucky because she'll have her friends here to e-mail and Skype and have a bunch of new friends there.  The move only takes us about an hour drive away from where we are now so visits aren't out of the question either.

What the move means for me, is that I'm busy every waking minute of the day.  We've accumulated a lot of stuff in the last 12 years of living in this house.  I'm in mass purge mode.  So, while taking large loads to Goodwill, I'm still packing up boxes to take to a storage unit in an effort to better "stage" the house....and be able to park a car in the garage!  Then there is the painting, cleaning, flooring, landscaping...ugh!!  It's all a bit much.  I'm anxious to get a "For Sale" sign up so we can start house shopping!  That's the exciting part for me.

Big changes are in store for us. While I can't quite report that yet in regards to food allergies, changes are in the works.  We've got to believe that doctors and scientist aren't too far away from determining why there is such an increase in the number of kids and even adults who have food allergies, and then determining what changes need to be made in our diet/lifestyle to avoid new allergies.  While it doesn't sound like a cure for food allergies is close by, at least with all of the clinical trials taking place, it does sound like a change will happen soon to allow us to better manage our food allergies, particularly life-threatening food allergies.  So, yes, changes are coming!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cool offer from Annie's

One of our favorite brands is Annie's Homegrown.  When I decided to eliminate Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers from our diet because of the artificial colors and ingredients, we switched to Annie's Bunny crackers and cookies.  We love all of the flavors: cheddar, white cheddar, whole wheat, graham, chocolate and chocolate chip.  The macaroni and cheese products are also a favorite at our house.  I like their canned pasta, but don't purchase them often.  Annie's admits that they're still using cans with a BPA lining, but are in the process of exploring alternative packaging.

While not 100% organic, I do feel that Annie's is a good compromise.  There are so many organic products that are manufactured using the same equipment or in the same facility with peanuts/tree nuts, that we are quite limited in our selection of healthy snacks.  Annie's has a great allergen labeling policy, and I feel good about letting Abigail eat their products.  Here's what their website states: 

While there has been no product reformulation or change in manufacturing facilities, Annie's Homegrown has recently decided to go above and beyond FDA requirements and include an allergen statement on all of our products that are manufactured on shared equipment with any of the top eight allergens. Our manufacturing facilities meet with the highest standards of cleanliness, and we maintain all allergen cleaning, and Quality Control protocol on file. We recognize the needs of our customers who have allergies or sensitivities to nuts, gluten, certain spices, etc. Annie's always fully discloses all ingredients on the ingredient statement and will answer any questions that will help consumers decide what products they can safely consume. At Annie's, we take every precaution to ensure that cross contamination of ingredients does not occur in our production facility. We run the products in a particular order to reduce the risk of cross contamination, take the equipment apart and thoroughly clean it in between runs of product. However, we want you to know that some products are produced in a plant that processes foods containing wheat, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustaceans/shellfish, and egg. This is why we voluntarily chose to update our packaging to include this allergen information.

Right now, they have a cool offer.  You can go to their webite at and with 2 UPC codes from any of their products, receive a reusable and waste-free lunch sack.  It's probably not cool enough for Abigail to take to school, but it's still fun to receive free products, especially when there are no hidden obligations.  And, I'm not too cool to use it for snacks for my son and me.


If you're like me and always looking out for the best price, then you might be interested in knowing that Target has the lowest price in my area.  Super Target has the best selection.  They also put them on sale from time to time, and then I really stock up.  Just last week, all of the crackers were $2.00 a box, the pasta was $2.00 a can, and the mac 'n cheese was $1.00 a box.

Just an obligatory note...while it would be great if Annie's was sending me a bunch of free product or some type of compensation, they're not.  I just like to highlight products that I feel meet my high standards and that are safe for people with peanut/tree nut allergies.  Like always, be sure to check the food allergen statements on the box.