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.

11 June 2012

Food Allergen Info at School Event AKA Finding a Needle in a Haystack

Have you run into this? You must have. I know I'm not the only one! I am trying to find out information about potential for cross-contamination for a particular food and I am having the most difficult time actually reaching the manufacturer. It's getting a little bizarre at this point. I mean, this is year 2 of trying to reach the manufacturer.

Humor me, will you? I'm going to gripe a bit. They're feeding slush to all the school children, as they do every year on field day. Wouldn't it be nice if the food allergic children could eat the same thing everyone else is? Sure! So, as I do every year, I am trying my best to find out what the story behind the slush is. I cannot for the life of me find out which of the top 8 allergens are present at the manufacturing facility for Ronnie's Slush. That's just a big 'ol alarm bell to me. If the info is that hard to find, I don't want my food allergic kid eating it. I don't think I would want to eat it. What's the big mystery? 

Slush doesn't sound like something that would contain peanuts or tree nuts, but you never know. After all, it seems Ronnie's makes ice cream and slush, and I have yet to find a peanut-free, nut-free ice cream manufacturer in the U.S. In the last year, for example, I discovered, that Hood makes flavors of ice cream with peanut oil that I never would have imagined. I now have the field day slush ingredient list--which is progress--but still no information about the manufacturing facility. Our allergist made it clear long ago--no food from a facility where peanuts or tree nuts are present. School friends have to adhere to the same rule, but also add dairy to that list. As food allergy parents, we have to do our due diligence.

And why do we have to scurry around asking and asking for information about what our children are being served at school? Why isn't that information readily available? It ought to be. So often I read comments and posts by other food allergy moms about the same problem--unannounced classroom parties, last minute notice of food being served at school, a food allergic child being excluded, or most disturbing and dangerous, a food allergic child being given food that is not safe for their allergies. Then there are the news stories of children who have horrifying allergic reactions at school or tragically die from an allergic reaction at school. 

We still have a ways to go. Getting the Epipens in schools is key. It needs to happen and it's overdue. The problem of food in school celebrations also needs to be addressed, but these things take time, I know. For now, if I cannot get answers about the manufacturing facility again this year, my backup plan is to bring a box of Philly Swirl to school so my child will have something safe to enjoy while his friends enjoy their slush. 

This brings up the issue of exclusion, which can begin to rear its head upon entry into school. I think food allergic children need to be considered at school-wide events during which food is being served. I think diabetic children need to be considered at those events, and celiac children, and children with other dietary restrictions. I prefer that food not be served at school functions, but if it is, then the school ought to include all the children. I don't think that is too much to ask. I'm pretty certain they have a right to be included, and after all, they are children. How can we forget any of them?


ChupieandJ'smama (Janeen) said...

Yea, rant away. We have the same problem. We constantly have announced parties and treats and they just leave my son out. This is one reason why we are changing schools next year. No matter how many times I asked to be notified in advance of what they are doing with food at school, they FAIL every time.
This field day they wouldn't allow my son to play tug o war because they said that the other kids ate hot dogs and didn't wash hands so it wouldn't be safe for my son. So he had to sit out part of field day. They also handed out ice cream to everyone BUT my son. Had I been notified on BOTH of these things I could have rectified them. Or better yet, how about the school be proactive and find a solution? Sorry, I think I ranted on your rant.
Finding out top 8 ingredients in a product or how they are used in a facility shouldn't be that hard. And why can't your school do Philly Swirl for everyone?

Dorothy-Life With Boys said...

I get so tired of all the food at school functions. It's ridiculous. Kids do not need all these parties, all that pizza, candy, etc, etc, etc!!! Why do kids NEED a slushie for last day of school? Why do we have to give them candy as a reward for turning in homework? Why do school art fairs have to serve snacks? It's out of control.

Anonymous said...

The ice cream truck made an unexpected appearance at my kids' field day. It was annoying for the kids with allergies but also for the kids who didn't happen to have money on them. To me it's not worth the small amount of happiness the treat brings to the kids who get it for the large amount of unhappiness it causes some of the kids who are excluded, but obviously not everyone thinks the way I do.

Jennifer Buteau said...

Thanks for the comments! I just can't help but wonder why the sheer liability angle isn't enough to get schools to stop with the food...