No sooner had I blogged my list of the wrongs that need righting in the world of nut allergies, than another one reared its ugly head.
Yesterday, the #TescoMayContainNuts campaign received some fantastic (and much deserved) national media coverage. There were articles in the Daily Mail, The Times, The Guardian, plus discussion on Loose Women and The Wright Stuff (which having watched Loose Women, I haven’t had the energy to view).
My perspective as a mum to a child with a life threatening peanut allergy is that, if there’s a real risk of cross contamination from peanuts or nuts, I would like to know about it. May contain labels therefore serve a useful purpose, provided they ARE genuine. The food allergic community needs to take a stand against blanket, back-covering precautionary labels. The campaign is therefore an extremely worthy cause (and if you haven’t already, then please do sign and share the Petition). It is excellent news that it is being highlighted in the national press and on national television.
That said, some of the coverage does seem to smack of the media not grasping the seriousness of the issues at stake.
The Daily Mail, for example, states “New rules come into effect in December which will make the labelling of possible food allergens compulsory”. However, allergen labelling is already compulsory now. By failing to explain the purpose of “may contain” labels and that the issue relates to accidental cross contamination rather than intentional ingredients, there’s a risk that Joe Public will perceive allergy parents to be asking for labels to make no reference to nuts.
This certainly seems to be a misconception of some of those commenting on the thread. One consistent theme running through the comments was of “moaning” and “whining” mothers, who wanted the labels removed so we could bag some compensation if there ever was a reaction. Another angle was criticism for feeding our children processed junk: why didn’t we just cook fresh food from scratch? However, as the Petition states, may contains have been added to “everything from baked beans to pizza, butternut squash, potatoes, fruit juice and more”. And from the perspective that a severe nut allergy is a disability, would the mother of a child in a wheelchair be told “why can’t you just shop somewhere with a wider door”?
I know I should dismiss some of these folk as trolls or beyond education, however, for me, this highlights the fact that an awful lot of work needs to be done to help those who are fortunate enough to be free of allergies, to understand the potential severity and the impact on the lives of those who are affected.
Which brings me on to Loose Women. The segment started with the presenters having a cackle about “nuts”, before briefly mentioning the Tesco petition and then having a discussion largely dominated by Nadia Sawalha claiming “we’ve lost the plot” and complaining about her local restaurant having to stop serving Nutella pizza.
Whilst Coleen Nolan talked sense when she said:
“If I had a child who suffered from it I wouldn’t think it was an overreaction AT ALL”
the discussion concluded with posing the question whether everyone should “have to compromise their love of nuts”?.
This completely misses the point of the labelling issue at stake. I appreciate that the rules surrounding ingredients and “may contains” are hard enough to decipher for those of use grappling with them on a daily basis. However. surely the tabloids and TV presenters should be aware of the basic gist and be able to convey this to their audience?
Can you imagine such a facile debate taking place about any other life threatening condition?