Before I get started, does anyone know how to read Japanese? Brendan's cousin, who is living in Japan (her husband is in the USAF), helped out with the Flat Ryan Project (an update on that soon, promise). She sent us lots of information about Okinawa, some real shisa (who now hold a place of honor on our mantelpiece with our other gargoyles), and lots and lots of yummy-looking treats! And we have no way of reading the labels. :( I have an idea that peanut usage in Japan is much less than in other areas of Asia, but I don't really know that for certain. Anyway, if you have a lead, let me know!
Now on to my rant . . .
A couple of weeks ago, Free Range Kids ran a story about one school's ridiculous (I think) food rule outlawing apples and pears with peels intact, due to the possible choking hazard that apparently exists. I don't know . . . isn't all food kind of a choking hazard? My toddler is still has trouble with yogurt sometimes. I suppose it's a risk you need to take, in order to get, you know, nourishment for your body.
The conversation in the comments touched on some food allergy issues (which were mentioned in the post), and I was moved to actually write a comment. Somebody wrote, in part:
As long as you don’t smear it [peanut butter] across the allergy kid’s face or shove it down their throat there is no actual hazard to protect them from.
This is not strictly true, as those who live with food allergies know (and hopefully those who have read about this stuff here on my blog). I had to think about whether to respond or not, because sometimes people get all riled up and want to argue. I decided to leave one, and only one comment, and not to get engaged in a pointless debate. So I said:
That is not true. Some kids (not all) are contact sensitive and will have a reaction if they touch the allergen.
Apart from that, though, residue is a big concern. You know how kids (even responsible kids who ought to know better) spread germs around like crazy? When they touch a germ-contaminated surface and then touch their faces or mouths, they can contract the illness.
Kids with severe allergies can accidentally ingest trace amounts of allergens in precisely the same manner. Only instead of a cold, the consequences can be life-threatening.
All I'm interested in doing is educating people--there's a lot of misinformation out there, so I feel like I should do my part in correcting some of that. It's a way in which I can support my son.
I only checked back once (okay, twice, including today). Most of the comments have to do with the ridiculous ban on peels. Some remarks about food allergies (not necessarily directed at my comment) include [my emphasis]:
I mean, doesn’t this kid bring his or her own food? Isn’t it taught to watch out for him/herself?
@Rational Jenn: While people might be so allergic that even contact can cause a severe reaction, it’s still not a good reason to ban the offending foodstuff altogether. Just teach the kids in the school to handle them responsibly. The increase in allergies has, by some scientists, been linked to the constantly increasing fear of germs. Because kids are less and less exposed to germs early on in their life, their immune system doesn’t evolve as it should. [Obviously this one was directed at my comment.]
One of my three children has strange reactions to pretty much anything with food coloring in it. What have we done – teach him to decline such things when offered! I understand the peanut thing, but pretty much everything else doesn’t cause life-or-death situations, and can be fixed by teaching the child to refuse.
If your child is allergic to something, they should be taught to avoid that allergen and if very young, the teachers should certainly know about it. But it shouldn’t affect the entire school’s eating habits.
But he has come home with the chocolate in his lunch because the lunch monitor wouldn’t “let” eat it. Also they are constantly telling the kids not to trade food. I just tell me boys “not to get caught”. I loved trading lunch items. I think grade school kids can figure out what they can’t eat.
Okay then. The general idea of these posters is that we food allergy parents "just" need to teach our kids how to avoid their allergen, and then everything will be hunky-dory, and nobody else's meal choices need to be affected.
Well why didn't I think of that? Starting right now, I'm going to teach Ryan about peanuts:
- how to read the word,
- how to find the word on a label,
- how to ask grownups for help,
- how to question each and every food item that he is offered,
- how to question a manufacturer's labeling practices and make a decision based on the level of confidence he has with the manufacturer based on their previous labeling practices,
- how to know that just because something is labeled doesn't mean that the food inside the package matches that label,
- how to avoid "may contains" or "processed in a facility" items because of the severity of his allergy and the real risk to his LIFE that those items pose,
- how to pay attention to what other kids at co-op or the playground may have been eating and where they might have wiped their hands so he can avoid it,
- how to hold his arms down by his side at a grocery store with open bins of peanuts,
- how to call a restaurant and find out whether or not they use peanuts in their food,
- how to call an airline and find out if they are still handing out peanuts to the passengers and whether or not they'll forego the peanuts if he's on that flight,
- how to say 'no' to grandma and our neighbor and friends who may very kindly and with good intentions offer him something that he's not sure about--possibly hurting their feelings (because people get their feelings hurt when you say 'no' to food for some reason),
- how to say 'thank you' graciously to someone who has gone out of their way to be thoughtful and pick out a treat that is peanut-safe--only to go home and give it away or throw it away, because we don't really know if that treat is safe or not--yet feel happy that someone cared enough to try, because not everyone does,
- how to use an Epi-pen, which has a scary, thick, inch-long needle that must be used within minutes of a serious reaction in order to give him a fighting chance for life.
What a wonderful idea! Why didn't I think of . . . wait a minute . . . I HAVE BEEN TEACHING HIM THESE THINGS! From the second we left the hospital when he was only 25 months old. First I'd educate myself, then Brendan, then Ryan--and now his siblings are undergoing an education of their own. And his friends. And his family. He understands all of this, and he understands what's at stake.
So I have "just" taught him. But here is another point--he is seven-and-a-half years old. Old Enough to Know Better, perhaps?
Let me paint a picture for you here. Imagine if you will, a health scare, such as, oh I don't know . . . let's call it "swine flu." It's spreading like wildfire among the kids at the local elementary school, and making kids (and adults) really, really sick.
Well I say, send your kid to school anyway! Yup! Just teach him to avoid germs! Teach him how to sneeze into a tissue and throw the tissue away. Teach him how to cough into his elbow. Teach him not to touch his eyes or mouth or nose. Teach him how to wash his hands thoroughly. Teach him when to wash his hands--after touching doorknobs or the lunch table or his desk or fellow classmates. Teach him not to borrow a pencil from the kid at the desk next to him. Teach him not to share his food or drink at lunch time.
He'll be fine right? Oh wait a minute . . . he's in second grade? About seven or eight years old? Hmmm . . . . And yes, you've taught him well, sure, and he's ALWAYS perfect in following these rules--especially the 'no touching your eyes and nose and mouth' rule. Uh-huh.
But what about those other kids? You know, the ones who manage to sneeze a hot mess of snot across the lunchroom? The ones who lick drinking fountains? The ones who like to give big friendly hugs to their buddies?
So you'd really be comfortable sending your seven or eight year old into a swine flu (or regular flu or pertussis or ebola or what-have-you) infested school, because you've "just" taught him right?
Yeah. THAT'S all I'm sayin'.