A while back, I saw a question posed in a food allergy forum about discipline. The person was asking if food allergy parents ever have a hard time disciplining their food-allergic child. She said “he already goes through so much that I have a hard time disciplining him.” My reply to this woman was that I had never seen the two as connected. I would discipline my child for inappropriate behaviors the same as I would any other child. The fact that he has it a little harder when it comes to food doesn’t seem to have any bearing on his behavior in other areas.
Since that time, my stance on discipline in general has not changed. However, I have encountered a handful of situations in which food allergies have undermined authority. I’m sure other food allergy parents can sympathize with one or more of these situations.
I’m a big fan of natural consequences. If you don’t get your homework done or forget to bring it with you to school, you get to suffer whatever consequence your teacher has for that missing homework. I’m not going to drive 20 minutes out of my way to make sure I bring it to you if you were the one who forgot it.
But this discipline tactic erodes when it comes to food. If my child had no food allergies and he forgot his lunch box, I would be the first one to jump in and say “I hope you like whatever the school has for hot lunch today!” But as a food allergy parent, I can’t use that tactic. That hot lunch hasn’t been scrutinized by me for ingredients and allergens, so I don’t know whether it is safe (or perhaps the reason I packed a lunch is because I know it isn’t safe.) And kids don’t function well on an empty stomach, so doing without isn’t a very good option either. Therefore as a food allergy parent I have no choice but to turn around, drive home, and bring back the dang lunch box.
Who amongst us has the rule that if you don’t finish dinner, you don’t get dessert? It’s fairly common and one that we employ in our house. In fact, we go a bit further. I don’t push my kids to eat more food than they can handle. My requirement if they want to finish dinner with food still on their plate is that they must finish their veggies. However, if they want dessert, they have to clean their plate unless they can make a compelling argument that we served them way too much (which does happen on occasion.)
But sometimes the food allergies get in the way of this tactic.
For one, we were in a somewhat unique situation when Zax was in a food allergy study where he had to consume baked egg every day. I tried to minimize using his egg dose in dessert–I preferred to serve it to him for breakfast or as a component of dinner–but sometimes the only way I could fit it into the day’s meal schedule was to have it be dessert. In those cases, I had no choice but to allow Zax to eat his dessert, even when dinner was largely untouched. I didn’t like having to do that, but eating baked egg was (and still is) an important food allergy therapy that has been steadily decreasing the severity of his egg allergy.
Even without the stringent requirements of a study, I’m sure other food allergy parents have encountered situations like this. Perhaps siblings or classmates were eating a special dessert that your child could not share, and you promised to make up for it at dessert time. When dessert finally rolls around, you’ll have to balance that promise with your normal dinnertime rules.
Not Punishing Risk Taking
I’ve blogged before about the importance of letting kids know that they won’t get into trouble for having an allergic reaction–even if it was their fault. This is an important trust to maintain, as the alternative could lead to kids hiding a dangerous reaction. We don’t want kids to hide reactions–while the odds are in their favor, the end result could still be death. So it’s important to stress that your child will not get in trouble for having a reaction, even if a risky behavior caused it.
This can send a mixed message though, as your kids probably expect to get in trouble for risky behaviors. Depending on how their brains are developing, they may see this as permission (or at least, the lack of a roadblock) to engage in risky behaviors.
Kids of an age to be tempted by this probably evaluate risk differently than you do. So as you assure them that they won’t get in trouble for having a reaction even if it was their fault (and honestly answer the question “even if I eat it on purpose?” with “yes, even then”), remind them also that intentionally eating something that causes a reaction will carry its own consequence–the reaction itself, and discomfort, medications, possible near-death experience, and/or a hospital stay. And remind them that even if their recent reactions have been mild, the next reaction could be way worse than any punishment you could dole out. In short, do your best to convince them that they need to report every reaction and get treatment, without encouraging the risks.
Most of us hand out rewards or consolation prizes for getting through difficult medical procedures. A child with food allergies will likely get poked and/or subjected to uncomfortable conditions far more often than a sibling without health conditions. When compared side-by-side, non-allergic siblings may feel this is unfair. They’re not paying attention to the scope of discomfort their sibling goes through, so they feel slighted. On the other hand, giving the same prize to the sibling who didn’t undergo any procedures can diminished the prize.
Parenting is hard no matter what, and there’s no doubt that having children with additional medical needs makes it harder. What discipline issues have you encountered regarding food allergies?
I was truly honored and amazed last month when I learned that I had been awarded the Love Remembers Trailblazer Advocate Award from Compassion for Anaphylaxis!
Quite honestly, this came as a happy, complete shock. We’d been promoting the nominations for this award on social media, but Dean didn’t even tell me he’d nominated me until I won. I had collapsed on my bed after a very rough evening with one of the kiddos, and there was the congratulatory email waiting for me. “Surprise!” said Dean. It was an unexpected, flattering pleasure!
One of the things that made this so nice was this note from Aleasa Word, the founder of Compassion for Anaphylaxis.
Though we typically do not like to pick businesses, your story is more than just about business. It is truly about a person taking challenges of life and making the best out of them while sharing knowledge with others.
I’ll admit this brought a tear to my eye, as this is an element I struggle with. Sometimes I feel like my work as an advocate is viewed with suspicion because of the fact that I own a food allergy business–I don’t get it much from individuals, but groups and organizations sometimes stand aloof based on the assumption that I’m only in this to make money. So it was a real blessing to have someone acknowledge all the work I (and Dean, and the boys too) put into this community. Like the many other bloggers and food allergy advocates out there, I put in many hours that will never be reimbursed monetarily. We do it to help, because it hurts us to see people struggle, and being acknowledged for that was the best feeling.
While this blog is largely mine (though Dean has been making inroads in his guest post count lately), Allergy Superheroes truly is a family venture. Dean and I work together on all elements, and the boys are true members of the team. Allergy Superheroes would not be what it is without the support of the whole family!
I’m also honored to stand beside Red Sneakers for Oakley, who received the Love Remembers Trailblazer Legacy Award. Over Thanksgiving break in 2016, the Debbs family suffered the worst possible outcome from a food allergy: 11-year-old Oakley Debbs passed away from an anaphylactic reaction to tree nuts. Since this horrific event, the Debbs family (Oakley’s parents Robert and Merrill, and Oakley’s twin sister Olivia) have worked tirelessly to spread awareness for food allergies to prevent other families from suffering the same fate. The sad truth is that a lot of people still don’t take food allergies seriously–including many food allergy sufferers and their doctors–and Red Sneakers for Oakley (named for Oakley’s love of his red sneakers) aims to remind food-allergic patients of how important it is to take anaphylaxis seriously and treat it promptly. They’ve taken their unimaginable loss and turned it into a powerful force, and it is an honor to stand beside them for this award!
There are so many worthy food allergy advocates out there, and I am proud to be among them. Thank you so much to Compassion for Anaphylaxis for this award. I am honored beyond words!
Here is the press release announcing the winners:
DULUTH, Ga. – April 26, 2018 – PRLog — The 5th Annual Love Remembers Day Virtual Awareness Event, hosted by the Compassion for Anaphylaxis Project which honors the lives of those lost to life-threatening food allergies concluded April 7, 2018. The grand finale of this US-based event that now spans the globe reaching as far as Dubai, ended with the tallying of votes for the Annual Trailblazer Awards
Taking the vote for the Trailblazer Legacy Family Award was “Red Sneakers for Oakley” aka The Debbs a family-based organization formed by the immediate and extended family of 11 year old Oakley Debbs. Their mission includes ensuring his memory is never forgotten as they push to raise awareness using Oakley’s signature red sneakers as a reminder for all to be safe. Oakley’s father, Robert Debbs said “We just don’t want this to happen to another family. We will do whatever we can to better educate and advocate for food allergy awareness and prevent anaphylaxis from occurring.” Robert, his wife Merrill and Oakley’s beautiful twin sister Olivia have taken this mission on full speed ahead with the help from those who love and support them. Their social media campaign programs are both informative and eye opening as they are able to reach the masses in a matter of seconds to help people see that dealing with any life-threatening allergy needs to be taken seriously. Just as important and impactful, the Trailblazer Advocate award went to Eileen Rhoadarmer. Eileen, who has lived with food allergies for more than 3 decades has taken her experience to social media via blogs and forums aimed at helping people conquer the fears that often times come with living the allergic life. With the support from her sons and husband who are equally as deserving of the award, Eileen took on a mission to help children become empowered. Together they developed the well-known “Allergy Superheroes” program which is a project helping children and their families take charge of their allergies via specialty products and awareness characters. Eileen can be seen all around wearing her own superhero clothes and her signature cape to show everyone that she not only believes in superheroes but she is one.
Aleasa Word, chair and founder of the Love Remembers Day committee said “We have great people nominated each year. The decision is not just mine but includes the help of a diverse, fair and knowledgeable group who helps me choose those that best represent the integrity of the award’s purpose Our selection process looks at how the work of the nominees aligns with the needs and desires of the community as a whole. We factor in the implementation of compassionate advocacy, research-based awareness, inclusivity of all without judgment or pressure and more. As I’ve stated before, it is not a popularity contest. It is about finding those who are making a real difference because our legacy families hard work matters and so does that of everyone still dealing with life-threatening allergies no matter what level of advocacy they provide. This is not easy work; however, many do it and they do it well.”
Nominees receive trophies each year and the committee has committed to adding a Junior Trailblazer Award to next year’s program for kids 13-17. For more information visit
We first discovered Don’t Go Nuts while on a family trip to Buffalo, New York. I was looking for Sunbutter and found a whole allergen-free section at my grandmother’s grocery store, which really made my day! I bought several bars for us to try, and then got a box of our favorite (Whitewater Chomp) for our visit to Niagara Falls. I find it slightly ironic that I had to go to Buffalo to find them, considering that Don’t Go Nuts is a fellow Colorado company!
But regardless, Don’t Go Nuts has been a boon to our family ever since! Despite the apparent explosion in allergy-friendly bars in the last few years (if you know where to look,) Don’t Go Nuts is still our family’s favorite. We offer bars as a quick breakfast on rushed mornings, and I have to ration out the Don’t Go Nuts bars so our kids don’t eat them all at once. Our boys really like them THAT much more than all the others!
So I was excited for the opportunity to be among the first to try the re-launched Don’t Go Nuts bars!
Don’t Go Nuts made several changes with their re-launch. The most exciting of which is that they now received a USDA Organic Certification! To get this, 95% or more of the ingredients must be organic. In a world with increasing concerns about GMO foods, this is always nice to see!
They also made adjustments to increase whole grains and reduce sugar. The size of the bars has also been reduced from 1.58oz to 1.26oz. While a size reduction may not seem like an improvement, they aren’t too much smaller and this aligns their bars to the “kids bar” category and allows them to meet the federal requirements for a “Smart Snacks in Schools” designation!
Don’t Go Nuts currently has three flavors of their bars (they eliminated a few others last year.)
Whitewater Chomp has been my favorite since the beginning. It’s also Zax’s favorite, and is liked by all members of the family. And it has genuine white chocolate in it! (It’s not officially white chocolate unless it contains cocoa butter. A lot of so-called commercial “white chocolate” is just oil, milk, and sugar. Yes, I’m a white chocolate snob!)
Gorilla Power does not contain coconut but has a distinctive coconut flavor. It also has chocolate chips. This bar is Dean and Kal’s favorite.
Finally, Blueberry Blast underwent the biggest change, as the recipe has been revamped to be entirely dairy free. Most Don’t Go Nuts products contain dairy and soy, so this is a nice option now for people with dairy allergies!
You may notice that the ingredient label for the Blueberry bars has a cross contact warning for dairy. I asked them to clarify what protocols they follow to reduce cross contact risk, because these warnings seldom tell the whole story. Their response:
We use Good Manufacturing Practices with thorough cleaning and inspections between each product.
Everyone’s comfort level with different amounts of cross contact risk is different, so use this information to make your own decision if you have a dairy allergy.
As it happens, we still had some Whitewater Chomp and Gorilla Power bars in the house, so we were able to do a direct comparison between the old and new formulations of those bars. We hadn’t had Blueberry Blast in a while so we couldn’t compare old and new, so we just did a general taste-test of those.
You can see from the pictures that the drizzle is gone, and the bars are a bit smaller.
We did a “family tasting” evening to get everyone’s opinions!
So what’s the verdict?
Our kids are funny. One stated “the old ones are better but they taste the same.”
What does that mean? Well, I think the kids miss the drizzle just a tad. Hubby and I both agreed that the drizzle imparted a little more intense of a chocolate/white chocolate flavor to the bars–but as the kids noted, they mainly taste the same. Without the drizzle, you can taste the underlying bar a bit better.
In the case of Gorilla Power, you can taste the (coconut-free) coconut flavoring a bit more–which Hubby thinks is a big plus! I’m not a fan of coconut, so this is still my least favorite bar, but I don’t think the flavoring is overpowering. Zax said he liked the new Gorilla Power bar 101% (and he usually doesn’t like coconut-flavored things.) Kal, for whom this is always his favorite, drew a smiley face with a big, toothy smile when I asked him to rate the new bar.
The kids aren’t usually fans of fruit-flavored bars, so their response to Blueberry Blast wasn’t quite as high. Kal drew a face with a flat line for a mouth–he neither liked it nor didn’t like it. Zax said he liked it 95%, which is pretty good for him with something fruit-flavored that isn’t fruit.
Hubby and I both thought the Blueberry Blast bar was really good! The blueberry flavor is present throughout (rather than just in little bursts), which we think is a big plus.
I don’t know why he’s so serious here. I guess taste-testing is serious business.
As for Whitewater Chomp, we miss the bigger bites of white chocolate throughout, but it still got raving reviews from everyone. Kal drew another giant smiley face, Zax said he loved it infinity percent, and Hubby and I both agree it tastes very good. Still my favorite flavor!
These new Don’t Go Nuts bars are starting to ship to retailers this month, so look for them as soon as your local stores run through their old stock. You can also order them through the Don’t Go Nuts website and on Amazon. (As of the time of posting, I’m only seeing the new Blueberry bars on Amazon, the other listings seem to still be the old bars.)
Disclosure: We received these (new) bars for free in exchange for our honest opinion, and some links in this article are affiliate links, meaning if you click them we may receive a commission. All opinions stated are our own.
We hope these changes help the Don’t Go Nuts brand in general, because we truly love their products!
Fairs. Most of the food allergy fairs, expos, and conferences are on the coasts. I understand that, they are huge population centers and it’s a numbers thing. A few more pop up around the country, but here in the Rocky Mountain Region there isn’t a whole lot.
A few years back we discovered a local gluten-free fair put on by the Denver Celiacs called the “Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Food Fair.” It’s more about celiac disease and gluten-free items, but there’s some cross over with food allergies and we do have some empowering products that cover wheat allergies and gluten-free needs.
We bought a booth space 3 years ago and we were hooked! It was our first fair and it was great to interact with so many people and hear how much they love the empowering aspect of our business.
The following year they had a sponsorship opportunity for their kid zone which would include kid oriented activities. We thought this was a perfect fit for us and we signed up. The kids had a great time with our coloring sheets, superhero themed crafts, and hourly story time with celiac themed books.
Our third year we sponsored the kid zone area again with crafts and stories. It was more centrally located this time and full of kids having fun. We loved meeting so many parents who understand the dietary restrictions we have to deal with on a daily basis. And we loved seeing the kids get excited for our superhero themed products and our different comic book characters.
We were looking forward to the next IEGFFF in 2018, but were saddened to learn that they canceled the event this year. The Gluten Free Allergy Friendly Expo decided to come to Denver this year (which we’re really excited about), so it seems the Denver Celiacs group decided to help with that expo instead of putting on their own this year.
It was disheartening, but it will always hold a special place for us since it was our first event!
The hall was full of gluten-free brands and samples (of course) with so many great finds. Here are a few that we enjoyed:
We can’t say enough good things about Don’t Go Nuts. We always look forward to meeting them at whatever event they go to. Our whole family loves their bars (and peanut free spreads) and it’s a great team behind the brand. You should try them out!
This was the first time we got to try anything from Bfree Foods. We thought their wraps were really good!
kinnikinnick foods is a gluten-free brand that’s popped up on our radar more recently. We were lucky enough to take home a nice sample of their products. I love how thick their products are (like their English muffins) and thought they were good. I’m looking forward to trying more, like their donuts!
This bowl of chocolate granola by purely elizabeth was the best I’ve ever had. Since I’m the only one in my family that is really fond of coconut, I got the whole bag! Purely delicious!
We will miss this great event, but we’re looking forward to the GF & AF Expo in April and connecting with more great food allergy friendly and gluten-free brands!
How many times have your kids returned from the park with a cold? A lot? How many times have they returned with an allergic reaction?
Don’t get me wrong, the point of this image/question isn’t to scare you, but rather to provide a bit of perspective.
After all, we’ve all been there. We take our kids out for an hour to run off their energy, and a few hours later the crankiness begins. It’s followed by sniffling or a cough, and within a day they’ve got a full-blown cold. We all know that kids share germs more readily than they’ll share anything else, and if your kids seem to spend at least half of the winter with one virus or another, you’re hardly alone.
Germs insidiously hide just about everywhere. You don’t have to see a snotty kid at the playground in order to be exposed. Germs can be deposited and linger on any surface that people touch, and popular kid havens (playgrounds, libraries, activity centers, pools, indoor play spaces, etc) are veritable breeding grounds for every virus known to man.
But as food allergy parents, when we look at these places we see an additional threat. We see the all the fingers covered in Cheetos dust, the hands smeared with peanut butter, the kids who climb on everything while munching from a bag of pistachios or sunflower seeds. We see the tuna fish and egg salad sandwiches, and all the other remnants of a culture that encourages parents to constantly keep food available to our kids in case of the slightest drop in blood sugar. I’ve seen parents who are downright afraid to take their kids to any play space because of these risks.
Think about the number of times your child has returned from playing with a cold.
Now think about the number of mystery allergic reactions they’ve had from the same places.
Chances are, the colds vastly outnumber any reactions. So while there is certainly a risk of picking up allergens from shared surfaces, we can temper the anxiety by taking a look at how likely that risk is.
After all, unless your child is extremely sensitive, any small traces of allergens they pick up from the monkey bars will need to enter the body through a mucous membrane (mouth, eyes, nose, ears) in order to cause problems. Little kids put their mouths on disgusting things and are fond of putting their hands in their mouths, of course–but even so, unless they are very sensitive or very unlucky, any reaction from this sort of small and casual contact is likely to be mild in nature.
Remember that your child’s chances of touching playground equipment in exactly the same spot as a child who just deposited their allergens is quite slim. There’s a lot of surface area to share.
While germs often die after a few minutes or hours outside of a body unless environmental conditions are perfect, allergens will also break down or be wiped away over time. At outdoor playgrounds, they are exposed to the elements, where any food residue is likely to be washed away by the weather or eaten by insects. At indoor play spaces, allergens will likely be cleaned off by periodic wipe-downs, and even diluted and wiped away by the hands of other little kids as they climb and play and slide.
While anaphylaxis is possible if you get a “Perfect Storm” of conditions, most reactions gotten in this manner are likely to be limited to redness, itchiness, and other localized symptoms, and probably don’t require epi or a trip to the hospital. Always take the precautions you feel are necessary for a reaction based on the symptoms and your doctor’s advice, of course.
So the next time you take your child out to play but are worried about cross contact, think about the ratio of colds to allergic reactions that your child has picked up from public spaces. More than likely, the colds vastly outnumber the reactions.
We can never say that the risk of an allergic reaction from a public surface is zero, but if we let the fear of that risk paralyze us, all we’re doing is robbing ourselves of joy. Robbing ourselves of living. There will always be some risk when one has anaphylactic food allergies. After living with this for more than 30 years, I’ve found the best tactic is to manage the risks that I can control, and be prepared for those that I can’t. This means reading food labels, not eating unlabeled foods, avoiding places where my allergens are rampant, keeping my hands off my face (and washing them regularly), and carrying medication in case of an exposure I didn’t see coming.
These graphics (and feel free to share) serve a dual purpose. They can demonstrate the risk to a non-allergic audience, but they also remind allergic parents that they’re far more likely to come home from the local jump house with another cold, not anaphylaxis.
Pancakes. If you’ve read my posts before, you’ll know that Sunday is Pancake Day around here. I’ve been making pancakes almost every Sunday for several years now. It’s become such a tradition that my two boys expect pancakes on Sunday, even on vacation.
It was a little tricky at first with my older son’s egg allergy. We had to find the right mix that didn’t already have egg in it. We use Bisquick with an Ener-G egg replacer. We’re lucky that we only have to avoid eggs and nuts in our household.
But what about those that have more than one food allergy and need to avoid wheat, eggs, milk or even the top 8 allergens? In rides Enjoy Life Foods to the rescue! We love that all of their products are top 8 free–in fact they go above that with making sure all their products are free of 14 top allergens. It’s a great company that our family loves knowing they can eat anything from them safely.
We got some of their mixes including the Pancake and Waffle mix (found on Amazon here) in our swag bag at FABlogCon (I can’t say enough great things about this FABulous conference!)
The mix has been out for a while now, so I’ll just get right into it.
It’s pretty simple to make, just add oil and water. So I mixed them up, put them on the griddle, and they stuck and I made a mess.
I don’t usually have to oil the griddle, but I had to this time. I got the pancakes to flip then.
They are pretty thin and they fall apart easily. Someone told us to use a ½ cup less of water, (I’ve read someone else say to skip the oil in the mix, just put it on the pan) so I’ll have to try that next time.
The consensus was mixed. Not surprisingly, our picky eater boys (they have some serious pickiness issues when they get a familiar food but it’s made differently, whether it’s oatmeal or mac and cheese) didn’t care for them.
Eileen thought they were so so, but didn’t want any more. I liked them the best so I got to finish them all up. Pancakes all week!
I’ll be honest here; we love Enjoy Life Foods and many of their products. This was not at the top of our list though. They do fall apart easily, and they have a bit of a grainy taste to them, probably from the ancient grains they use in the mix. It’s certainly a different flavor, but it is a top 8 (14) free mix made in a top 8 free facility. I think it’s worth a try for yourself. You can visit their website here. Let us know what you thought if you do!
This actual conversation transpired nearly 5 years ago, between my son and his best preschool buddy, as I approached from another room. Fortunately the cracker in question was free of Zax’s allergens–but this was an important wake-up call for me.
As a food allergy parent and food-allergy sufferer myself, I knew the importance of teaching my kids to self-advocate from as young as possible. Dean and I were always quick to point out foods that our children could not eat because of their allergies, and what great alternatives they had instead. We reminded them to ask about allergens every time someone offered food, and not eat if it contained their allergens OR if nobody could tell them for sure that a food was safe. And even though Zax’s preschool teachers were supposed to know his allergens, we trained him to ask them before snack time every day, to get him in the habit of asking and to give them the daily reminder.
But as it turned out, one thing we neglected to prepare Zax for was to make sure he was asking the right person. During the above incident, Zax was eating lunch with a buddy at a playdate when his friend offered a cracker. In his four-year-old mind, asking another four-year-old if the food contained his allergens satisfied the “ask first” requirement. It wasn’t until we discussed the incident later, when I asked him whether he would actually know the answer if someone asked if his own food contained dairy, for example, that he realized his friend didn’t really know the answer. Despite the confident reply he’d given.
From that moment forward, we adjusted our safety reminders to include “always ask a trusted adult.” Because food allergy kids need to recognize that you can’t just ask–it matters who you ask.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a radical shift towards the color teal in the food allergy community. I don’t know how long teal has been declared as the color for food allergy awareness, but I think that the rise of Teal Pumpkins has brought that color into greater focus.
I think this is a great shift–proudly showing off this color has created greater cohesiveness within the food allergy community. So I applaud Enjoy Life for incorporating the color into their new packaging. It shows their support of this community and (once grocery stores have exhausted their old stock) will make their products easier to spot on store shelves.
We received a special care package from Enjoy Life last month, to help them roll out their new look. So we had our boys help us unveil it!
I wish I’d had a video camera rolling when Kal noticed the chocolate chips–“YES! A WHOLE BAG OF MINI CHIPS!!!!!!!”
This shirt is extremely soft. While I may allow the children to claim the hat and sunglasses (though I like the hat, too), I think I’ll be keeping the shirt to myself.
This is the complete box of goodies we received. The boys aren’t super fond of the bars (but there really aren’t too many bars that they DO like.) We like them though–they feel very light, so they aren’t super sticky or hard to chew like some bars are.
I shop primarily at a grocery store that doesn’t have many free-from options, but it is the most convenient store for me for our staples. My secondary store, which I can hit after dropping my kids off at school, has a better selection. I was happy to swing by the cookie aisle and see that some of the new packaging has trickled in already! We can easily see which varieties of cookies are most popular in our area!
See? All mine!
Enjoy Life Foods is cool! Eat Free(zing)ly! Ha!
I first heard of Enjoy Life Foods when Zax was in preschool, and before we had formed Allergy Superheroes. The mom of one of Zax’s classmates showed me the box of cookies she’d brought for her son’s birthday, which were free of all allergens, and was that okay for Zax? Upon first hearing of everything they were free of, my initial reaction was, “what do they contain?!” But Zax enjoyed them, and soon thereafter I became more familiar with the brand and impressed by what they offer.
Enjoy Life Foods has brought things like chocolate, bars, and snack foods back into reach for many people with food allergies. Being always free of the U.S.’s Top 8 Allergens (and lately expanded to eliminate 14 common allergens), we always know that their foods are safe for us. They are especially helpful for people who navigate more than our three food allergens–there are plenty of products that are free of one or a few allergens, but the waters get increasingly difficult to navigate when you add more and more foods to the mix. It’s great to have a selection of foods that are not only free of common allergens, but that are from a company who is very cautious to eliminate any chance of cross contact with any major allergens. These companies don’t come along very often!
We received this box for free from Enjoy Life Foods. All opinions, adorable children, and cute stuffies are our own.
The Peter Rabbit movie wasn’t something I wanted to see anyway. I’d seen a few previews and it looked to be full of the sort of humor that I don’t find funny, so I wasn’t making plans to see it–but after hearing reviews and the response from the food allergy community, we will definitely not be seeing this movie.
According to online sources and friends, the rabbits (they ARE supposed to be the protagonists, right?) intentionally and maliciously throw allergens into someone’s mouth. He goes into anaphylaxis and has to use epinephrine. Earlier in the movie, upon learning of the allergy, Peter mocks it and says that allergies are made up for attention.
This treatment of food allergies is, unfortunately, pretty normal within the entertainment industry. Instead of using their massive platform to highlight the dangers of food allergies, Hollywood seems bent on placing us at the butt of sick joke after sick joke. It’s no wonder the general public is so slow to catch on to just how serious food allergies are.
Reactions to this movie, even within food allergy circles, have been widely varied, from those wishing to boycott the film to those who feel others are making way too big a deal out of it. And not remotely surprisingly, among those without food allergies (especially on opinionated Twitter) the second opinion is quite prevalent.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion of course, and my opinion is that this sort of treatment of food allergies in mainstream Children’s Entertainment is irresponsible and dangerous. Let’s look at a few counter arguments and we’ll talk about why.
We aren’t giving kids enough credit. They recognize that a battle between a man and a rabbit isn’t real.
Real or not, kids emulate what they see on film. My own boys have acted out bits of nearly every movie they’ve ever watched. And when a movie captivates the imaginations of large groups of children, complicated games with multiple players will spring up on the playground, with everybody playing a different part. Kids do copy what they see on film–the difference is that most cartoon violence is ridiculously impossible. The rotten things characters do to one another in children’s movies are things kids cannot emulate outside of their imaginations. Filmmakers seem to recognize that real weapons (and real death caused by real weapons) don’t have a place in light-hearted children’s entertainment.
Think about it. The most “real” fighting that characters do in children’s entertainment tends to be martial-arts-style punching and kicking. Beyond that, characters shoot each other with with freeze rays, lasers (or laser vision,) and other fancy weapons that don’t really exist. They attack each other with robots, trained animals, magic, and other ridiculously impossible contraptions. They catapult one another through the air, launch them into outer space, and inject them with drugs that make them go crazy. The only “real” weapons tend to be wielded by bad guys with horrible aim and who are completely unmatched against their superhero counterparts. When kids play out what they’ve seen on screen, they can use props or just their imaginations, but they can’t actually do any of these things to one another.
Except when food allergies enter the picture.
And this is the biggest problem with this sort of portrayal of food allergies. Allergens are not restricted substances. It’s ridiculously easy for children to get their hands on foods that can hurt a classmate, even if certain foods have been banned from the classroom or even the entire school. And it’s ridiculously easy for someone with malicious intent (or even a dumb kid who hasn’t thought things through) to bring someone with food allergies into contact with their allergen. And the sad reality is that the resulting reaction, if not treated promptly and properly (and rarely, even when it is) can result in death.
This use of food as a weapon is, perhaps, the only behavior children watching the movie could actually do to one another, and it is a behavior that could have very unfortunate results. Food allergy bullies have an inordinate amount of power over their victims, and their actions can have results far out of proportion to the the act. Most acts of bullying result in shame, fear, anxiety, and/or physical pain, but except for the bullies who sneak lethal weapons into school, death is seldom a possibility. But let’s not forget that a young man actually died in the U.K. last year, following a bullying incident in which someone either flicked cheese into his mouth or snuck it into his food (reports were not consistent the last I’d heard, but the bully was detained and was facing charges.)
Okay, but this just provides an example for our kids of What Not To Do
This argument may sound good at first, but let’s be honest–how many children will actually have that conversation with a trusted adult? Food allergy families will likely discuss this scene if they see the movie, but food-allergic children are not the ones who need to be told that this behavior is unacceptable. Certainly food-allergic children may bully other children, but in this case these kids are far more likely to relate to the victim. Lots of allergic kids have anxiety about their food allergies, and many have already experienced food allergy bullying of some kind. They’re going to be more worried that someone may do this to them, not thinking of this as an idea to use on someone else.
Food allergy families can and should discuss how to respond to food allergy bullying, of course.
Now, will non-allergic families discuss this scene and how to treat people with food allergies? Some will. There are absolutely people without food allergies who still get how serious they are, and who will want to make sure their children understand that this isn’t funny. However, the majority of folks who don’t deal with food allergies probably won’t be moved to discuss this unless their children ask.
And what’s more, the children who most need to have this conversation are the least likely to get it. These are the kids who may already be bullying kids regarding their food allergies, or who are considering doing so. They are the ones who don’t believe that anything bad will really happen, or who want to induce pain (though their understanding that it can cause death is usually not completely there.) And–this isn’t always the case, but–they are often the ones who hear their parents complain about allergic children being a major inconvenience. They don’t see their parents modeling compassion, they see their parents exhibit impatience and irritation (or worse) whenever someone else’s food allergies come up. These kids won’t hear their parents say “don’t do that,” in regard to this movie. Instead, they’ll hear their parents laugh, and will take that as tacit approval to belittle and bully those with food allergies in the future.
This wasn’t bullying it was a battle, and anyway, kids do experience bullying.
When bullying does happen in kids’ movies, it usually tends to be done by the antagonists to the protagonists. Many kids relate to being bullied, and this can provide the character with motivation to grow. In the rare event that the protagonist is doing the bullying, it is usually at the beginning of the movie, and is used as a marker for the personal growth they are about to undergo. The fact that the protagonists of Peter Rabbit are the ones using food as a weapon makes the scene even more disturbing, and increases the likelihood that children will think this is okay.
And as to this being a battle, see my first point.
It’s happened in movies before.
Really? Someone making a bad decision before is an adequate excuse for doing it again?
And yes, people were offended by previous movies with poor treatment of food allergies. Your ignorance of their response does not mean it didn’t happen.
I know someone with food allergies who thought it was funny, so stop whining.
As previously mentioned, reactions to the film have been varied from food-allergy families and the non-allergic alike. Some people have higher levels of anxiety about their allergies than others–so while some kids will be horrified, others will barely notice. But normalizing violence using food allergies will lead to more people accepting it, which can lead to more people doing it, regardless of whether or not everyone is bothered.
It’s ultimately up to parents to determine if they want their children to view this movie, or any movie. We all make different decisions on what content is or is not acceptable to us as parents, and at what age kids should be exposed to different kinds of movies. Based on what we’ve heard, we choose not to watch this movie. I don’t want to subject my kids to watching someone be attacked by their allergen, nor do I want to support this movie with our money.
Characters with glasses can appear in movies without having them be intentionally broken, stolen, or the character being ridiculed for needing them–it has been a plot device, but except for experiencing bullying (above) this sort of humor isn’t very common these days. Likewise, characters can appear in wheelchairs without any additional drama than showing their difficulties in getting around. The word “retard,” originating for people with mental disabilities and then being used as a derogatory for being stupid, has gone out of favor to the point that young kids often haven’t even heard it. I hope for the day that Hollywood and the general public treat food allergies with respect for the serious and dangerous issue that they are, and that using them as a cheap punchline is no longer acceptable.
For the second year in a row, I have been honored by being named one of the Top 40 Food Allergy Blogs from Feedspot! And I rose up 6 spots! I’m so happy to be in the company of so many amazing food allergy bloggers.
But I certainly can’t get here by myself, so Thank You All so very much for reading along and helping me to get here! I’m glad to know that people appreciate me using my experience as a food allergy mom and patient to help make your life a little easier.