Category Archives: Food allergies

Episode Two of new Netflix docu-series, Rotten, investigates food allergies

The rising rate of food allergies takes center stage in the episode “The Peanut Problem,” in the new Netflix six-part documentary series, Rotten, which critically examines the food industry. Whether or not you have food allergies or know someone with food allergies, overall the series is a must-see for anyone who cares about the food on your plate or in your kids’ lunch.

An underlying theme emphasized in episode two, “The Peanut Problem,” is frankly, we all have a “duty to care.” Renowned chefs Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Dragon (Boston, Mass.), and  Sam Mason, (Brooklyn, NY) share behind-the-scenes perspectives on the restaurant industry challenges and how they accommodate diners with food allergies. A global issue, the episode gives an example of legal consequences for a UK restaurant owner who failed to disclose ingredient changes.  

The responsibility to care is also explored at the root of the problem – peanuts. Peanuts are considered life-threatening kryptonite to parents like me and allergic kids alike who must manage to avoid peanuts; whether it is ingestion, touch or even airborne. In watching this, you are given a different lens about what the industry and peanut farmers are doing about it.

Overall, there has been exponential growth in the prevalence of food allergies among children, and even adult onset, in the last 20 years. And for reasons still unknown. The segment explores potential answers to the underlying causes of food allergies and the research actively underway to prevent and treat food allergies. Most importantly, it stresses ways to recognize symptoms of a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and how to quickly treat a reaction with epinephrine, through the use of an epi-pen.

Ruchi Gupta, MD, pediatrician and researcher, is among the featured medical experts who give insights into the medical condition, research and her firsthand experience. As she reflects on being a food allergy mom herself she states, “Until you experience it, you really don’t understand it.”  

And this is so true. None of us know what anything is like until we experience it in life. This documentary gives a snapshot to help others understand and hopefully gain a “duty to care.”

If you live in the Chicago area, a screening event that features Dr. Gupta and supporting event sponsors, will take place at Chicago’s Davis Theater on Thurs., Jan. 11, at 6:30 p.m. Click here to register. Check out episode two and the series on Netflix.  


Take direct flights and other travel tips for allergic passengers

SWA heading home bWI

I am a morning person, but my food allergic daughter is far from it. As much as I dread dragging our family through an airport at 6 a.m., some consider this a better option when requesting allergy accommodations. Booking direct flights each way at 6 a.m. is sometimes tough in cost and logistics. However, avoiding the stress logistics of dealing with different flights, crews and fellow passengers on a connecting flight may be worth the cost.  Also keep in mind there is no federal policy to guide airlines on allergy accommodations and every airline allergy policy differs.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when traveling and managing allergies:

There is a greater chance of a cleaner plane first thing in the morning.  Most aircrafts are cleaned at the end of the day. The possibility of peanut dust or other remnants of allergens from earlier flights may be less.  However, be sure to request to pre-board and still clean your seats, trays and other areas with Clorox wipes.

When the flight announces no nuts will be served, there may be less sounds of “sighs” on board at 6 am. Yes, I was surprised when this happened  on one of our flights when my daughter was younger. Also, when you personally ask passengers around you to forego snacks that contain peanuts and tree nuts at 6 am, they may be more willing and if they had morning coffee.

These requests help prevent allergy exposure, causing a potential life-threatening reaction, known as anaphylaxis, which requires emergency administration of epinephrine (epi-pen). And only you can help save an allergic child or yourself if you have allergies. Airline policies vary on whether flight attendants and crews are trained to handle allergic reactions or  able to administer epinephrine without a doctor on the plane.  Depending on the airline and flight crew judgment, a medical emergency landing may be be permitted. So, despite the two epi-pens you will carry on hand close to you during the flight, it seems to me having others skip the peanuts for a few hours is a  better option for everyone.

Since policies clearly differ for every airline, as a starting point when booking flights, check out Allergic Living’s travel chart of airline policies. 

Bring the airline’s policy with you on board your flight. I’ve also found travel reminder tips and other advocacy resources helpful at NoNutTraveler. Keep up with knowing your rights and the advocacy efforts underway by national organizations, such as FARE (Food Allergy and Research Education). Through FARE, you can send a prepared letter to your legislators to support a bill requiring Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine. Also follow recent allergy related litigation and other travel related information through organizations such as the Allergy Law Project.

Be it pet allergies, peanut allergies or other related conditions, always alert the airlines of the necessary accommodations for your disability. Fellow passengers and the flight crew can have empathy and respect in the friendly skies. But not always.

Don’t let recent news headlines of families getting “kicked off the plane” for their food allergies deter your travel dreams or  determination to speak up for safe allergy travel.