With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life allergen-free.

17 May 2009

Beware Food Allergy Profiteers

With food allergies on the rise, and new food allergy friendly products and companies constantly under development, I have noticed--and you probably have too--there are more websites targeting the food allergic public. If you are online, you know what I mean. These people find you! The press writes constantly about the power of mom bloggers, and so these businesses seek me (and you!) out daily, weekly, in search of free publicity.

Now, I will admit to a soft spot for a food allergy mom or dad or family starting a business out of a perceived food allergy related need. Good for them! Heck, I'm doing it too! As a FA mom, however, I can't help but feel skeptical when a site suddenly appears out of the blue, attempting to be a food allergy authority or a center for discounts and coupons on food allergy products. I immediately wonder "Who is this person?", "What is their connection to food allergies", and "How are they profiting from this?" Maybe I am being unfair, but when there is no discernible connection to food allergies, I wonder if they are preying on us. Furthermore, giving the false impression of ties to the food allergy community is truly distasteful! We all would love to be unfamiliar with food allergies, but this is our lot in life for the time being. Please don't pretend to be part of the food allergy community so you can take advantage of us! There is a word for what they are trying to do, it is...INGRATIATE.

From Merriam-Webster Online:


2in- + Latin gratia grace
: to gain favor or favorable acceptance for by deliberate effort —usually used with with<ingratiate themselves with the community leaders — William Attwood>
— in·gra·ti·a·tion           Listen to the pronunciation of ingratiation \-ˌgrā-shē-ˈā-shən\ noun
— in·gra·tia·to·ry           Listen to the pronunciation of ingratiatory \-ˈgrā-sh(ē-)ə-ˌtȯr-ē\ adjective

Just as I feel driven to share news of cross-contamination risks or labeling changes, I feel some obligation to offer words of warning about food allergy profiteers. They are out there, and they are active! They are on Twitter, they are on Facebook, they blog, they are everywhere, and they're trying to pretend they're your friend! One easy way to spot them is their drive to collect "members" or "subscribers". Another sign is a commercial looking site with stock photos of happy smiling families from all different backgrounds. Resist the temptation to sign up for these friendly omniscient websites with all the answers. Ask yourself what their connection to food allergies is. Think of the junk mail you already receive!

Most of the helpful information about food allergies, food allergy friendly foods and other tips about living with food allergies can be very easily found on ordinary not-for-profit websites, such as www.foodallergy.org, www.faiusa.org, www.aafa.org, www.kidswithfoodallergies.org (sorry Lynda, I goofed and left KFA out originally!) and www.foodallergysupport.org and countless other support group sites. There are so many food allergy bloggers, making little or no money on their blogs, who share helpful tips, coupon codes and other helpful information out of the generosity of their hearts. Look to those non-profits and regular mom bloggers trying to share a helpful tip or too, just like they do in the pick-up/drop-off line at school or at the supermarket! You don't need to belong to a website or be a subscriber to get the scoop; most food allergy families want to help each other because we're all in it together.
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