According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That’s roughly two students in every classroom. The economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year.
Though there are many theories as to why this is, no one knows for sure. I believe it is because of our degraded food supply. It’s not only happening with children but adults including me! This is why I am on a personal crusade as a Certified Chef to have an impact on safer foods.
I developed a severe soy allergy in 2003, and it has been a long and tough journey for me to find foods in the grocery store and restaurants to accommodate my needs. Consumers don’t realize that the label doesn’t necessarily contain the word “soy.” Soy can be found in other ingredients such as vegetable oil, MSG, and natural flavorings to name a few. For example, I can only buy the item that states exactly what the natural flavor is. Many people don’t know that. The kicker for me is when I read the entire label and everything looks good until I get to the end of the label and it reads, “May have been processed on equipment that also processes soy, wheat, and nuts, etc….
There are allergic reactions can range from mild – with symptoms like redness and itchiness – to anaphylaxis, a life threatening reaction that can include vomiting, difficulty breathing, and in extreme cases, death (The latter is me!).
With children, it’s complicated. No one can predict with 100% certainty which children are at risk for anaphylaxis, and worse, a child doesn’t need to eat a food they are allergic to have an anaphylactic reaction; contact with another child or an item that has been exposed to the allergen can sometimes be enough to trigger onset. That is why airlines have banned peanuts on their flights and schools are prohibited to serve any foods containing peanuts.
Keep in mind that there are eight allergens: wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, shellfish, and fish. If your child isn’t allergic to peanuts, they may suffer from one of the other allergens. As parents, I know it can be difficult to be so vigilant about it, but make sure your child brings their own lunch and snack to school. Don’t rely on the school cafeteria to safely feed your child.
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