Standard Pages (they don't change often)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Food can be dangerous

I have a few food allergies, notably to crustaceans, and one experience at our work cafeteria has taught me to avoid eating on the hot line again. I had come up to the "create your own stir fry" line, and informed the cook that I am allergic to shrimp - and she said that isn't a problem, as they have chicken. And then proceeded to cook my stir fry, using the exact same tongs and plate that was used to handle shrimp just seconds before. As I objected, it created a kerfuffle, as the kitchen didn't have spare tongs for this purpose, and the search for a clean pair just held up a busy lunch line.

I have quite a few anecdotes of the sort, together with others where I come back from dining out sick as a dog because of cross contamination of allergens. Many others who suffer sensitivity to even more ubiquitous allergens such as peanuts or wheat will have more horrifying experiences to share. Unfortunately, allergy-sufferers are often thought of more as a nuisance ("you should just carry some medicine with you"), probably because many picky eaters pretend to be allergic to certain foods to provide some medical credence to the pickiness. It's a matter of education, and that's the mission of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN).

And FAAN has a great advocate in their corner: Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai, who has a son with food allergies as well. As chef-owner of Blue Ginger, he implemented allergen-aware policies in his restaurant, and that resulted in an increase in clientele because people felt safer dining there. Through his own lobbying efforts, Massachussetts became the first state with state mandated food safety laws that requires inexpensive and simple awareness measures for the top 8 food allergens. Now FAAN is pushing the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act on the federal level - I encourage everyone to read up on the bills up for discussion for the new Congress, and to contact their representatives. Let's make dining safe for everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment