FOOD ALLERGY DRAMA
No, I'm not dead. Just busy. I have considered leaving a message saying there will be no more posts until I publish my next book, but I can't quite commit to that yet. First, Miss Roben's is sending me some fabulous new allergen-free, gluten-free product samples to review, so look back for that soon. Second, I'll be attending Expo West next month, so expect some breaking news on upcoming allergen-free products to be expected on store shelves in the coming year. Speaking of which, does ANYBODY like the GF mixes from Whole Foods? I think they are awful!!!!! They ought to be ashamed of their supposed "Whole Foods" selves. Made with WHITE RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, and POTATO STARCH (ummm, hello, WHITE, NON-WHOLE FOOD STARCH!!) these mixes are closer to a twinkie than a whole food (and nowhere near as good, I might add).
But on to the drama....
There has been A LOT OF DRAMA in the world of Food Allergies in the past few months. First, FAAN founders are stepping down, which is kind of a huge deal. Kind of like a whole new administration is coming in to rule our allergy country. Second, The NY TIMES ran an inflammatory article about Robyn O'Brien (founder of AllergyKids) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/dining/09alle.html?emc=eta1
and the community has responded with furor.
Additionally, Meredith Broussard wrote a flippant article, which has stirred up a commotion. The best response I've seen so far is posted below.
Published January 19, 2008 09:37 pm
GUERILLA MOTHERING: I'm allergic to semi-humorist attacking serious subject
By LESLEA HARMON
Someone is attacking my kid, saying his food allergies are exaggerated. My first response is to fire back, and I do, in my own way — I write about it on my blog. I write about it also in a letter — the most scathing, insightful, soul-piercing prose ever composed by a sentient being on the topic of food allergies. I don’t finish the letter, though. I know there’s something more important I have to do first: take stock.
1.) There’s my son. I look at my boy, one of three children I would give my very life to defend. At age 6, he’s impudent, spunky, serious, and goofy in equal parts-but he’s a kid, so get off his back, already and let him be, right? Don’t go after his medical frailties, or any other weaknesses. He’s not ready.
2.) There’s the trouble-maker. I recently read an article implying that food allergies don’t exist. That the “few people” who do have them will easily outgrow them, and that all the hysteria surrounding food allergies is a marketing ploy put together by the corporate cronies who make drugs and fund research.
3.) There’s my quandary. Now I’m at odds. I fear the sinister manipulation of The Man, but I love my peanut-allergic kidlet with all my heart and don’t want to play Russian Roulette with his health.
4.) There’s no easy answer. Do I fight for my kids health, sanity, and safety by rejecting the corporate brainwashing some magazine article is telling me that I’ve been eating all these years? Or do I stick by what I know is true: I have seen my son — with my own eyes — swell up, develop hives, rashes, experience intestinal problems, and a lot of other disturbing symptoms that together are known as anaphylaxis.
Some writers enjoy just shooting from the hip, blathering out their opinions and being humbly corrected later by the powers that be — if anyone cares enough to respond. It allows them to go way out onto the fringe, to elicit powerful responses from sensational verbal imagery. It’s powerful, I know. I used to be that kind of writer. It’s thrilling.
Nowadays, I prefer to research my arguments before I make them. I like the power and weight of a solid argument before I slam it down on the table for discussion. I’m not afraid of being a drama mama when the need arises, but more than that, I just like to be right. So I started my research by looking up the author of this inciting bit of news. Was this article even written by a credible authority?
What I found was telling. The author of the article, Meredith Broussard, is a semi-humorist with a history of failed relationships. I’m not saying that to be mean — she has actually built a writing career on the topic of failed relationships, even publishing a presumably witty book on their unique lexicon. I’m sure it’s hilarious, just the kind of thing I would have loved back when I was a single chick who valued a snark above all else. Since I’ve become a mom, I feel differently about that kind of thing, but that’s just me going soft, I’m sure.
On her blog (entitled “The Blog of Failed Relationships,” naturally), Broussard mentions the torture of growing up with food allergies, and the diet of strict avoidance her mother put her on. In her own words “no sugar, no white flour, no peanut butter, no artificial coloring of any kind, no chocolate, no fish, no shellfish, no dairy.” Ouch. Strict avoidance. The diet evidently worked — Broussard outgrew her food allergies — but she still sounds so angry about it.
I hate it, but it’s the same kind of diet we have our kid on, though admittedly Broussard had it worse. Sam doesn’t have to avoid such a long list of things, but he really has trouble with what he has to manage. And now I feel sorry for her. I can’t help but see her as having so much in common with our own witty, impudent, wacky kid. How hard her life must have been, and at the same tender age our child is now.
I wonder if I can do any better than this woman’s mother did — not just in making my child avoid his allergic foods, but in communicating that I am doing so in hopes that he will outgrow his food allergies. Can I somehow impart kindness and caring to my son, who is denied so many treats and experiences that his friends and classmates get to have? Is it part of life for allergic children to be resentful of their parents? Must this baseline frustration hinder him for life?
I wonder if, in the history of another woman’s failed relationships, I can find inspiration to make my own family a success.
Ultimately, as I have advised the participants in my journaling classes so many times, I decide to keep my scathing letter unsent. I do not wish to add more hurt and trouble to the world. I use it to release, to voice important emotions, and now I choose to roll forward in an attitude of acceptance, focusing on the long-term solutions to food allergies instead of wasting time in the present arguing with a woman who’s already been deluged by angry letters from allergy parents and doctors all over the nation.
With my own eyes, I have seen the truth of food allergies. I know that there is a food allergy epidemic, and the fact that 10 percent of my son’s class has peanut allergy, alone, is illustrative of what is going on with one particular food. There are similar widespread cases of milk allergy, tree nuts, wheat, and many other foods. That’s just how it is. I have seen my son react and I have seen photos and videos of other people reacting, mostly children. No magazine article can change that.
With my choices, today and everyday, the people in my life, and in my son’s life — including my boy — I speak volumes about what I believe. My actions must stand up to the end result I wish to see. I must be the change I wish to see in the world — and my wish is for a world that works together to protect all its children, regardless of whether they have allergies or not.
AND THE ARTICLE TO WHICH MS. HARMON SO ELOQUENTLY RESPONDED
Everyone's gone nuts: The exaggerated threat of food allergies
by Meredith Broussard
from the January 2008
(sorry, you'll have to cut and paste this into your browser, the link is being as uncooperative as Ms. Broussard)
Check back soon for a review of GF Allergen-free Soft Pretzels from The Allergy Grocer/Miss Roben's and Allergen-free Marshmallow Peeps (just in time for EASTER!!!)