Tag Archives: allergies

Walk for Food Allergy: Studio Edition

Today I joined hundreds of people at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles to raise money for Food Allergy Research and Education through the FARE Walk for Food Allergy.

We skipped last year and decided to join this year’s event at the last minute. Rather than walking along the shore at Long Beach, this year’s course ran through the CBS Studios lot. It started on what looked like a suburban New England street, and wound past production trailers, soundstages, prop storage, and even the Los Angeles river….

Walk for Food Allergy by the Los Angeles River

…such as it is. Other parts of the river are much nicer, even navigable at times, but this stretch is basically a concrete drainage ditch inside a bigger drainage ditch. It looks bleak now, but during flood years the channels fill completely, preventing the city’s streets from flooding instead.

Wait, Walk for What–Who–Why?

FARE funds studies to explore the causes of food allergy and develop new therapies. They run outreach programs to make it safer to visit restaurants, or just be at school or the workplace.

Food allergies can range from mild to life-threatening — yes, people die — and those of us on the far end of the range need to be constantly on the watch for hidden ingredients and cross-contact between foods we can eat and foods we can’t.

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Why would you risk eating out with a food allergy?

On every news story about someone who experienced a severe allergic reaction outside the home, there will be someone who says, “If it’s that dangerous, why would you even risk it? Keep your kid at home and make all their food yourself from scratch all the time!”*

Let’s think about this.

A car could kill your child. Today, tomorrow, years down the line. This is not a hypothetical. This is a fact, and it’s a risk that you live with.

Why on earth would you risk letting your child cross the street? Keep them at home! Don’t let them out of the house in case someone jumps the curb!

That’s…not exactly practical, is it?

You don’t keep your child inside 24/7 to avoid cars. You take them outside, with precautions. You teach them to stay on the sidewalk, cross at corners and crosswalks, and look for cars before crossing. You walk with them until they’re old enough to walk safely on their own.

You rely on drivers to follow the rules of the road…but you still look both ways in case someone’s distracted or feels entitled and plows through a red light anyway.

And then your children can live their lives out in the world instead of being frightened recluses who hide in the basement whenever a car goes by.

You can’t eliminate risk 100%, but you can manage it.

The exact balance is going to be different for each person with an allergy.** But it’s not unreasonable to expect the food industry to follow basic safety procedures to avoid cross-contact — and to not introduce a danger that wasn’t there to begin with.

*Even if you have the time to prepare every meal at home, there’s still the risk of mislabeling or cross-contamination in the supply chain. Right now, there’s an ongoing recall of baked goods produced with peanut-contaminated flour. A year ago, supplies of cumin were tainted with peanuts. That impacted everything from prepared foods down to bulk-bin spices. Everyone’s at risk with the massive listeria recall of vegetables, allergies or no.

**Heck, it’s different for each of my allergies, and I’m one person. I’ll cheerfully walk into a coffee shop that serves almond milk and soy milk, but won’t set foot in one of those burger places that plops a bin of peanuts on the table. Even with my Epi-Pen. That’s just playing live-action Frogger.

Peanuts in Thin Mints Nestle Crunch

Nestle Crunch Thin Mint (Now with Peanuts!)

I was at the store the other day and noticed that they had a limited edition Thin Mints-flavored Nestle Crunch, based on the classic Girl Scout cookie. I had to pick it up. But when I looked at the ingredients, I was in for a surprise:

Ground peanuts.

Why they put ground peanuts in the Crunch/Thin Mints mashup, I couldn’t say, because peanuts aren’t in either Nestle Crunch or Thin Mints. (Not on purpose, anyway, though they do list a cross-contact warning.) And nothing in the packaging except for the ingredients and allergy statement makes any mention of it. The candy bar isn’t labeled as Crunch + Thin Mints + Peanuty Goodness, it’s just labeled as Crunch + Thin Mints.

This is why clear labeling is important: I would never have expected to find peanuts in a combination of two things that don’t have peanuts in them.

Epi-pen How-To

epi-pen

A great visual explanation of how to administer an epi-pen to someone experiencing severe anaphylaxis as a result of a food allergy, bee sting, etc. Plus commentary from Tumblr.

I’ll add: Absolutely don’t be squeamish if someone needs you to do this for them. Once I accidentally bounced the epi-pen off my leg when I jabbed myself with it during a severe reaction. You need to jab and hold it. Basically none of the medicine actually went in. Fortunately I carry a two-pack and was able to use the second injector, and I’m still around to tell the story.

Fuzzy Memories of Duck Food Danger

When I was around four years old, I went on a field trip to a park with a pond, and we fed the ducks. Unfortunately the duck food included peanuts. I rubbed my eyes after handling it, and they swelled shut. Fortunately this was long before my food allergies got really bad, so I only had to go into the doctor’s office, not the emergency room.

It might be my oldest memory related to food allergies, though it was something my parents and I already knew about. (I’ve quite literally had this allergy as long as I remember.)

Last month I went with my four-year-old son’s preschool class on a field trip to a park with a pond, and they fed the ducks.

It was a little unnerving!

Nothing happened this time around.

It got me thinking, though. I tried to remember as much as I could about the incident. Since I was so young, I’m not entirely sure how much is first-hand and how much is just remembering the story as it’s been retold. Memory is a tricky thing, nowhere near as accurate or stable as we’d like to think.

I wrote down the fragments I do remember, then asked my parents to tell me what they remembered about it. It was interesting to see what did — and didn’t — line up.

I remember a wide, curved pond, encircled by a wide sidewalk, with dense trees on the far side. The day is overcast, possibly drizzling a bit. A red box sits on a post, a vending machine for the duck food.

My parents are pretty sure it was the Woodbridge neighborhood in Irvine, which has two artificial lakes. The breadth and curvature fit. I’m not so sure about the trees, and the distance across seems too far, but it’s a big enough area that some part of the lake might fit.

My dad also remembers duck food dispensers “like gumball machines” along the shore, so I didn’t make those up.

OTOH, it was a summer day camp, so I’m probably wrong about the jackets and weather…but then I spent most of this week in June gloom, so who knows?

I remember looking at my face in a mirror. Not what I looked like, though I’m told I laughed like it was the most hilarious thing I’d ever seen.

The odd thing is that I picture a wall-mounted mirror on a tile background, but my dad remembers a handheld mirror.

I vaguely recall a crowd of children walking around in jackets, with maybe two or three adults, and the feeling of itchy, swollen eyes.

I didn’t remember the paramedics or my dad taking me to the doctor. Though now I can dredge up a faint memory of a van and an EMT looking at me. I picture an awning connected to a building, like you’d find at the drop-off point of a hospital or entryway of a hotel, with yellowish or off-white walls and glass doors. I’m not sure that location makes sense, though.

And one mystery that had baffled me: Why were there peanuts in the duck food? Was it like trail mix? Was it some sort of pellets with peanut butter as the glue?

It turns out we ran out of food from the dispenser and started tossing in bits of another kid’s peanut butter sandwich.

That’s kind of weird, because this time around, when we stopped for a snack, the child who sat nearest to us had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It’s probably just as well that I made sure not to touch my eyes after helping feed the ducks.