When Kellogg’s announced it was adding peanut flour to some of its snack crackers, a boy with a passion for activism and an allergy to peanuts decided he needed to help spread the word.
Even though Kellogg’s had announced the change, Marcus, like many allergy-conscious citizens, was concerned someone might unknowingly feed this once popular peanut-free snack to a peanut-allergic kid.
Marcus’s mom explained on Facebook that he was “advocating for Food Allergy Awareness all month long (and beyond)” as part of a “student activist project” at his Sacramento-area school. So, he shared the issue with his aunt (a KPIX news producer), who then passed it on to me.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to include Marcus in this story, but I think it’s safe to say he successfully achieved his goal of spreading awareness.
Kellogg’s is changing the ingredients in some popular products. But some parents who have children with peanut allergies are worried that it could be a recipe for disaster.
Source: Parents Worried About Kellogg’s Adding Peanut Flour To Cracker Brands • CBS San Francisco
Incidentally, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) takes effect in a few days. Among other things, the new rules require food companies to do more to ensure allergens, like peanuts, are not in products that are supposed to be allergen-free.
Critics of Kellogg’s decision to add peanuts to some products initially tied the change to the new law. They believed Kellogg’s was purposely adding peanuts to more easily comply with the new rules.
Kellogg’s called the assertion “completely false.” It told KPIX that the company already complied with the new rules and the change was due to the fact that the product was now being made on the same processing line as products with peanuts.
Regardless of the catalyst for the change, peanut allergic kids now have one less safe snack.
However, on a positive note, the change helped publicize a potentially life-saving lesson for allergy-aware parents, teachers, friends and family:
ALWAYS CHECK INGREDIENTS—EVEN IF THE PRODUCT HAS ALWAYS BEEN PEANUT-FREE!
Now, if you don’t have a child with a severe allergy, you may not understand how even a small amount of peanut powder is literally a life and death issue.
As a consumer advocate, I knew that the Kellogg’s change was significant and needed to be publicized… but it wasn’t until I read this post from the blog Scary Mommy last night that I truly saw it through the eyes of an allergy-aware parent. Terrifying!!
She read the ingredients on the package of one flavor of cookie and assumed the other flavor (same cookie, same brand) was OK.
I highly recommended EVERY parent read this full blog post:
It’s going to be a long time before I’m over this, if ever, really. I spent the next week feeling like I had post traumatic stress disorder and I was the one that caused the trauma. Don’t tell me I saved his life. Don’t tell me I did the right thing at the right time with the EpiPen and the ambulance. I can’t even hear those words. The truth is that I was tired and I didn’t read the ingredients on a box of cookies and I damn near killed my child. That’s a fact. This is going to take a while.
Source: The Time I Almost Killed My Child • Scary Mommy
As I read her post last night lying next to my own child, I felt this mother’s terror and her guilt. It made me realize that, as a parent of a child without food allergies, I also have a responsibility to be allergy-aware!
Did you know that the allergic reaction can come back—even worse—after the EpiPen wears off? I didn’t. Do you even know how to use an EpiPen? Apparently it’s not as intuitive as you might assume.
My daughter will soon be having playdates and sleepovers, inevitably with kids who have food allergies. It is my responsibility to protect them.
I now more fully realize just how important Marcus’s food allergy awareness campaign is and why it is important that journalists cover things like tiny amounts of peanut power added to one flavor/type of cracker.
From day care teachers to parents of playmates to allergic kids themselves, the Kellogg’s change is a great reminder to check the ingredients every time you purchase (or eat) a product. Even if it’s something you’ve long known to be allergen free, you may have missed the corporate press release that the snack now contains peanut ingredients.