Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's In It?

I am the product of parents with allergies. Not weird allergies, just your run-of -the-mill allergies like hay fever and minor food allergies. Their combination, however, manifested in all three of us children allergies of the most serious kind - anaphylactic reactions. All three of us have adverse reactions to nuts. And also other things, but primarily nuts. Now, I can eat some things that my siblings can't and they can eat things I can't and the sisters can eat things my brother can't, and he can eat things we can't. All-in-all, we are an allergists dream case study! What are the odds? Well, 1.3% of the American population has this type of allergy to nuts and when one sibling has it, then the other siblings are 7% more likely to have it too.

photo by franky242
This food allergy battle is one we've fought our whole lives. Both my sister and I carry Epi Pens in case of an emergency and all of us have gone to the hospital at one time or another because we inadvertently ingested something we shouldn't have. We've also endured the comments from the non-allergic people about our being odd or even people making fun of the nut allergy. I get it, they don't understand and don't care. The kind side of me shrugs it off. The bad side of me envisions putting a plastic bag over their heads and watching them struggle to breathe. That's what an anaphylactic reaction feels like. Maybe then they wouldn't joke about it and they'd take it more seriously.

In 2004 a federal law was pass (the Food Allergen Labeling Law) that requires packaged foods to disclose ingredients that are food allergens such as nuts,  soy, eggs, wheat, etc. This was expanded to restaurant menus too. Personally, I'm grateful for the notices on the restaurant doors that tell me they use peanut oil. Thank you Five Guys, Chick-Fil-A, Maryland Fried Chicken. I will never eat at your establishment - not because I dislike you, but because I can't. I am, however, forever grateful for the life-saving warning.

There have been a number of deaths due to the unknowing ingesting of allergens. Most notably was the 1986 case in Providence, RI. A restaurant used peanut butter in the chili as a thickener. A girl ate the chili, had an anaphylactic reaction and died before she could receive treatment. There are countless other stories, just Google it. Most recently there was a blog post from Christina’s Cucina  circulating on Facebook about a girl who had a reaction to a spice that was used in her food. The 2004 law eliminated the requirement for labeling spices since they are used in such small amounts as to not be troublesome. I disagree with that since I get tingling from nutmeg. Not enough to make me stab myself with the Epi Pen, but still I tingle unpleasantly. Anyway, this girl reacted to pink peppercorns in the pepper blend the restaurant used. Apparently, pink peppercorns are not peppercorns but a cousin of cashews. I’m glad I saw this post. I had just purchased a new bottle of peppercorn blend and wouldn’t you know it – pink peppercorns. Yup, I tossed it. No reason to poison myself in my own home.

Now that I’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, this is what I’m trying to say. Yes, I know it’s my problem. Yes, I know it’s my responsibility to stay away from the things that will hurt me. Yes, I know it’s my responsibility to ask what’s in the food. So, here it is. Ready? When I ask, it’s your responsibility to know what’s in the food and tell me. What? Yes. When I ask, “Are there nuts in that?” you must to be able to tell me yes or no. My life depends on it.

In case anyone is confused about what constitutes a “nut” or you were too busy rolling your eyes to read how serious this issue is; below is a list to clarify my question, “Are there nuts in that?” this is what I mean by “nut.”

Almond paste (marzipan)
Nutella (hazelnut/chocolate spread)
Pine nuts (watch for in pesto)
Almond extract
Pink Peppercorns
Macadamia nuts
Peanut butter
Brazil nuts
Peanut oil
Walnut extract

 Please don’t invite me over for fried turkey you fried in peanut oil. Please don’t offer me hazelnut coffee. Please don’t put ground walnuts in the crust of your pie or cheese cake and offer me a piece. Please don’t put nutmeg on my cappuccino. Please don’t put almond extract in your fruit pie. I do not want an amaretto sour or an Alabama Slammer. No, I’d rather not have pesto sauce. No Pad Thai noodles made with peanut flour or Mexican molĂ© sauce with the peanut butter either. Please don’t offer me anything to eat unless, of course, you can tell me what’s in it.

No comments:

Post a Comment