Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More on Precautionary Labelling

One of the questions in the Health Canada questionnaire on labelling has really got me thinking.

It asks how you view food in the absence of one of the various precautionary warnings, like "may contain." That is, do you consider them safe?

Both my husband and I do. We read the ingredients label first, and then any additional precautionary statements before deciding if a packaged food is safe for DJ. We've always assumed that if an offending ingredient - in DJ's case, peanuts and all tree nuts - is not listed and there is no precautionary warning, that the item is okay. We've never required an item to have a peanut-free symbol on it, although it certainly makes shopping easier.

I'm wondering how other parents of PA kids, or PA sufferers themselves, handle the lack of a precautionary warning. Do you consider that item safe, or not?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Precautionary Labelling and Health Canada

Health Canada is working to improve the current approach to precautionary labelling of priority allergens in prepackaged foods sold in Canada. Those looking to add their two cents can take advantage of two different options: a web-based consultation that includes a discussion document and a brief survey, or participation in regional workshops.

It's great that Health Canada is taking the initiative to improve precautionary labelling. For me, though, I'm not sure I understand how certain proposed changes would help, simply because 'may contain' still means there is a risk associated with the product and has therefore, become strictly off-limits for consumption in our household. I guess it might reduce the number of precautionary labels that are included on packaging where no real risk exists. Eliminating those would be definitely increase food choices in our house.

Here's the official blurb from the website with the links included. There's also more info there on the regional workshops.

We invite you or another member of your organization to participate in the web-based consultation by reading the discussion document, Precautionary Labelling of Priority Allergens in Prepackaged Foods http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/consultation/_allergen2009/index-eng.php available on Health Canadas Food Allergen Labelling Webpage http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/index-eng.php and answering the accompanying questions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Allergic Living Responds to Chatelaine's article

Gwen Smith, editor of Allergic Living wrote an article in response to Chatelaine's now much-discussed article "It's just Nuts."

The article is well informed; of course, it should be since it's written by someone with an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter, unlike Patricia Pearson's.

What really blows me away though, are the comments to the articles. I'm saddened by how uncaring and self-centred some people seem to be.

Really, I get that not being able to send your kid to lunch with a peanut butter sandwich may be a pain in the ass.

I'm well aware the over-riding majority of the responsibility to keep him safe falls squarely on myself and my husband and of course, DJ himself. Based on this belief, we do everything we can to educate our boy about his allergy in the hopes that the lessons will stick: that he won't ever share food with friends, take food from others that hasn't been approved by mom and dad, eat something without reading a label, by-pass food without labels altogether...you get the idea. Education about his condition is what is going to save him - not a peanut ban at school.

Still, wouldn't a little compassion from other parents be nice? The comments on the board are so derisive and extreme, from suggestions to segregate kids with PA to different schools to comments about natural selection and how these kids wouldn't have survived in a different era.

WTF? Yes, WTF? WTF is wrong with people that they believe a peanut butter sandwich is more important than my child's life. Because that's what they're essentially saying. And, while I'm not sure I even believe a peanut ban will guarantee my own son's safety once he is old enough to go to school, that some people consider peanut bans such an assault and affront to their personal freedom at the sake of my son's safety galls me.

Again, I get it. Some kids are picky eaters and they miss their PBJ at lunchtime. That's unfortunate. Too bad some parents don't use it to instill a little compassion in their kids and teach them what some would consider a valuable life lesson; you can't always get what you want. Especially if it means potentially endangering someone elses life. '

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween - Not So Scary After All!

Halloween was one of those holidays that I was worried about, concerned that it would be potential dangerous for DJ, and that he wouldn’t be able to participate as fully as other kids. I’m happy to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong. After debating different strategies, my husband and I decided that we would let DJ Trick-or-Treat and would simply go through his candy stash and eliminate any potentially dangerous treats. Since he’s not quite old enough to understand why some of his candy would be taken away, we would do it while keeping him distracted. Sounds simple enough since that’s something we would be doing even if he didn’t have PA. Still, we were both a bit leery. Of course, we carried both his epi-pens and didn’t let him eat candy until we got home.

We’ve been in our neighborhood for about ten years now, and are well acquainted with our neighbors. We’ve been diligent about telling them about DJ’s allergy, asking them to never offer him food without our consent so we could clear it for safety. I couldn’t have been more grateful that more than 95% of those that knew about his allergy made a specific point of purchasing peanut free candy so that he could safely partake; nearly everyone showed me what went into his bag before dropping it in, and told me about its contents. One neighbor was even kind enough to buy him a Halloween book in the event we were too nervous to let him have any candy at all. Of course, we thoroughly checked everything out at home.

Out of 60 pieces collected, 47 were safe. Of the 13 remaining pieces, five were no-brand name sugary candies with no labels, and three were chocolate bars with the ‘may contain’ warning. Only three contained actual nuts. The other five were brand-name candies with no ingredients label. And for that I say shame on you Skittles and Starburst; if you’re selling candies in Halloween size format get on board with your peers and start labeling your candy properly!

Anyways, it was really a relief to see that DJ’s Halloween fun was not hampered in any way and neither was his safety. While he may resent having to hand over 20% of his candy when the night becomes more about a candy grab, we’ll develop some sort of trade-off strategy to deal with that when the time comes.

In the meantime, a shout out to our neighbors who helped make the evening a great one by keeping his allergy in mind when buying their candy.