This weekend, my daughter was given a chocolate bar that contained crushed peanuts at, of all places, our local food allergy walk. This may seem odd that a food allergy walk would even have a product with peanuts available. What is even more astonishing is that my nine year old daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and was wearing a large pin that read “Peanuts, I can not eat. Do you have another treat.” (see slideshow at left)
My daughter’s allergy was diagnosed at the doctor’s office from a skin and blood test at the age of 4. Prior to that, she did not eat peanut products since she had a strong adversion to them. Even with her disgust of peanuts, she ate the whole chocolate, nutrition bar without tasting any peanuts! In hindsight, just that fact alone was scary to me. The bar was a gluten free portion control snack given out by a gluten free vendor at the event. This “thinkThin bites” bar was clearly labeled as containing milk, peanuts, and soy. It was is manufactured in a plant that processes eggs and tree nuts. (see slideshow on left) So, how did we miss this warning label?
Parents and children were running around at the event grabbing samples of allergen friendly cookies and bars. There were adults at each sample table there to answer questions about their products. However, there was a gluten-free table that contained items with various allergens. I believe this is where she picked up the offending bar. Gluten-free items are NOT allergy-free. Many gluten-free items contain nuts, eggs, and milk. Even with a warning about my daughter’s allergy printed right on her chest at an event with people highly sensitive to food allergies, she was given an item that contained her allergen! She claims that she asked if she could have the item and was told it was o.k. Ulitmately though, she was responsible for checking the item before eating it no matter what she was told. Food allergic individuals are their own last line of defense.
Being at a food allergy walk can give participants a false sense of security. As adults were talking to vendors, children were grabbing snacks off the tables. Our family tried many items right at the tables, together. My daughter felt safe there and didn’t think twice about eating the chocolate bar once we got to our car. In another setting, she most likely would have asked and checked it herself as what has become her normal routine. I thought she was eating one of the snacks we picked up and checked. I had no idea that she had picked up an unchecked snack. So, when she started complaining of a stomach ache a half hour later, it didn’t immediately occur to me that it could be food allergy related.
Luckily, she had left the wrapper in our van. God was watching over us when I asked to see what item she ate in the car, from the walk. As soon as I read the wrapper, I gave her an Epi-pen injection and we went to the Emergency Room. Neither my daughter nor I has ever had to give or take an epinephrine injection. We were both relieved at how easy it was and how little pain it caused.
The up side to this whole saga is that my daughter is no longer afraid of her Epi-pen. It made her feel instantly better and did not hurt as bad as she anticipated. I feel much more comfortable that she would not hesitate or panic if, God forbid, a similar situation were to occur again. On the other hand, my anxiety levels have reverted back to when she was first diagnosed. I realize that no matter how careful I try to be, her health is ultimately in her hands. As a mother, that is a difficult reality to digest.
Update: Grand Rapids Allergy, whom hosted the walk, is meeting with the vendors to find out why this peanut bar was available. Additionally, they have agreed that no items containing nuts will be allowed at future events.
Daughter update: She was treated and released from the ER without significant issues. She had a bit more stomach cramping that day that resolved itself on it’s own. The following day, she complained of a headache that also resolved itself without medication. She is fine now and we are praising God that we averted disaster!
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