Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Food Allergy Awareness Week

Marked by the joyous celebration of Mother's Day, us food allergics rang in Food Allergy Awareness Week.  FAAW which is taking place right now (5/9-5/15), is an opportunity to examine your communities in a different light.  I'm guessing that some of you who already read my blog are allergics yourself.  But what if you're not an allergic?  Maybe an allergic-curious?  There's an angle for you!  The FAI's suggested giving up a food for the week.  This sacrifice is I believe, is the FAI's way of getting you to feel what it might be like to be an allergic for a small portion of time.  Maybe those who don't understand or can't imagine what it would be like without mentioned food will become more sympathetic to others.

I think that having people give up a food for a week in support of the allergic community is a good idea, but I would go one step further and suggest people give up one of the top 8 allergens instead.  The top 8 allergens are: Wheat, Milk, Fish, Shellfish, Eggs, Soy, Tree Nuts, and Peanuts.

As someone who is not able to eat 6 of the top 8 allergens, and is now having to limit my intake of eggs (thanks to the chickens pumped full of soy), I feel I can comprehend a great deal on the topic of sacrificing a common food.  Its not just the sacrifice of not eating a food though.  For me, eating one of my allergens quickly becomes a dangerous situation.  I've had horrifying allergic reactions, including losing consciousness.  Last year, someone accidentally put a pine nut in my salad and I was deathly ill for 3 days straight with my body doing some very unpleasant things which I will spare you from reading the details of.

I love the idea of someone trying to give up one of the 8 allergens for one week's time.  It encourages support and empathy and a special compassion for those suffering from food allergies.  But if one of the participants are accidentally fed the ingredient they are avoiding, what will happen to them?  Nothing.  So on top of asking you readers to give up a top 8 allergens, I ask you to really get to know your allergic family members, friends, teachers, community leaders, and bloggers.  Ask them what its really like to live with food allergies on a daily basis.  Read about food allergies and try eating out once while trying to avoid one of the top 8.  Educate yourselves and others and taper back from judging the mother of a peanut allergic child who is begging you not to pack a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for your child (a small inconvenience to you can save her child's life.)  If you work in the restaurant industry, learn about proper allergy safety, cross contamination, and sanitation.  Remember to be sensitive instead of snippy to those with special food needs.

As a very food allergic person, every day there's a sense of danger where there should be a sense of normalcy.  Please take a moment to think about how a food allergy can affect someone's life this week.  After all, awareness of each others' needs allows for the danger to turn into normalcy one day.

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