Monday, October 27, 2008

The funny thing with mice...

If anyone is working on a better mouse trap (and hopefully it's a friendly mousetrap, you know...the kind that keeps the mice happy and alive at least until you can release them far, far away from your own house.) cheese is not the answer.

No, a mouse will pass up forgotten potato chip crumbs and stale fish crackers in favor of ancient, empty plastic easter eggs and plastic, enclosed ant baits. That can't be healthy.

Ew. And you don't want to know.

I wonder if that's stress, too? Or maybe they're just as wary of corn as I am?


Friday, October 03, 2008

Fixing FAAN

On another board, I was asked what my solution is, since I don't think that FAAN is helping. Scratch that, I know that in their good intentions toward the 90% of food related life threatening reactions, they are hurting the rest of us.

This surprises many. Especially the ones who deal with food allergies every day. But it doesn't surprise those of us dealing with corn. Corn is everywhere, it's touted as hypoallergenic, and it doesn't have to be an ingredient in the traditional sense of the word to jump out and attack a sensitive individual. Many sufferers react to food they later find out was wrapped in corn dusted cryovac. The irritated CSRs tell us that these are company standards, federal standards, it's just the way things are. They don't have to tell us that the package has poison in it, just the food. (Sorry, but corn, to many, is poison.)

Maybe the most frustrating thing is that I actually see their point of view. It's just a bit, and of all their customers...just one doesn't matter. The odds are, to them, that one phone call is a fluke anyways. Someone who really doesn't "get" the way things work.

That's why I wish the FAAN were doing things differently.
If I were to design a "better" food labelling program, this is what I'd start:
*Labelling sources for all ingredients where feasible. Vitamins (including excipients), xanthum gum, etc all come from somewhere whether it's petroleum or corn or soy.
*All Customer Service Reps need to be trained minimally in the existence of food allergies and the broad range of reactions. Then they need to be able to access whether or not a product contains any specific ingredients. They can answer yes or no to specific questions without giving away secret recipes. (Asking doctors to call is not acceptable. It seems simple enough, but very few medical personnel have the time or energy to put into researching daily food. Or even meds, for that matter.)
*Source materials for packaging need to be logged as well. There are computer programs to cross reference things, in this day and age it shouldn't be impossible to get a straight answer within 24 hours.
*Allergen and source labeling need to extend to medications. The excipients in different brands of drugs can cause problems and that needs to be addressed.
*Most importantly, education. Any food can cause an adverse reaction. All adverse reactions are undesirable and only an individual can decide for themselves what the acceptable risk is. Therefore, individuals need access to information about their food supply. Period.

I'm not a member of FAAN because only 1 of the several people I've dealt with there have seemed remotely interested in the statistically insignificant allergies. And yet every company I contact seems to send me to FAAN. For the most part, they diplomatically refer me back to the FDA who kindly responds that I may want to contact the FAAN for more info.

I've found that companies are proud to comply with FAAN's top 8 guidelines, and yet get distant and suspicious when they are pressed for more info because those guidelines don't meet my needs. I'm happy with a simple life...but seriously, when apples aren't safe because they're waxed and plain grains of rice are dusted with cornstarch laden vitamins "for the consumers own good" things are getting a bit out of hand, don't you think?

It seems simpler to just disclose. Yeah, there's corn in this. Let me decide, in the end, what kind of risk that means for me.

I'm sure it's stress...

I'm worn out and cranky, that's all. I'm hyper sensitive and hormonal.

I'm embarrassed that my daughter's class needs help making papier mache, and I can't do it. The starch, the flour, the blowing up of balloons...all poison to me. And I'm a stay at home mom, I'm supposed to do these sorts of things. Some parents take time off of work. Hint, hint.

"So, you'll get sick. Big deal, you have time to spend a few days in bed," I hear myself thinking.

The landlord laughs at my complaint that I need a working sink because I can't eat out. Can't.
A stranger overhears my dinner frustration and says "Honey, that's when you pick up the phone and call for pizza." I can't? They wouldn't stand for that. They'd make the dr give them something.

My daughter remembers at 8pm that there's a party tomorrow and of course she's providing the cookies, she's the one with the allergy. Do you know how much it would cost to feed 30 kids store bought allergy free cookies? I turn on the oven.

I find an email in my inbox stating that they've decided to have a pizza party at an afterschool event, and they know that I'll be happy to send a safe alternative for my allergic daughter. I wouldn't want her to "feel left out".

We're invited to a party, don't bring anything! But they forgot the promised fruit plate and veggie tray. Oh well, it happens. We leave early, the kids are hungry.

I overhear a comment that "Those food allergy people need to grow up and learn to cook," in response to some news story. I read comments on boards suggesting that food allergies are in our head and I want to scream. Spike their food with ex-lax, send them to work and then shrug and innocently ask if they've considered stress as the culprit? Or maybe it's just in their head.

And then my mind wanders. I actually think those of us who deal with food allergies might manage stress more efficiently than "normal" people. Because we deal with it daily, a constant knowledge that each bite of dinner is a dance with danger. A kiss can be deadly. A lunch date needs an inordinate amount of planning, analyzing and agonizing. A simple invite to a kid's birthday party can become a feat of ingenuity to spare the host's feelings. And we appear to make it all work seamlessly, magically.

"I'd never manage," someone tells me when I finally break down and vent. But what other choice would they have?