Food Allergy Books for Kids

A great way to raise awareness and educate children about food allergies is to donate a book about food allergies to a local school or public library. FARE has named May 18 as “Learning at Libraries Day,” on our Food Allergy Action Month calendar. This day is a time to encourage your local libraries to stock literature for kids about food allergies – you never know who will check out a book and learn about food allergies for years to come!

Here are a few suggested books to purchase and donate to a library. Or buy two copies and keep one for your family to read at home!

When you purchase one of these three titles, a portion of proceeds is donated to FARE! We hope you’ll choose one of these fun and educational books that also give back!

Nutley the Nut-Free Squirrel

 Nutley_cover

Mangos for Max 

mangos

What Treat Can Ruben Eat? 

ruben

Here are some additional ideas for books to purchase and read or donate to a local library.

If you’re looking for a book to donate that is geared toward teens or adults, consider purchasing one of these reference books:

And remember to start shopping at smile.amazon.com. You can donate a portion of every purchase to FARE when you choose “The Food Allergy Initiative, Inc.” as your charity to support.

Take Action This Week On Behalf of 15 Million with Food Allergies!

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week! We encourage you to take action that will make an impact for those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Earlier this month, we announced the expansion of Food Allergy Awareness Week by declaring the entire month of May as Food Allergy Action Month, publishing a calendar with suggestions on how anyone can take an action each day in a meaningful way. Today, in honor of the 15 million Americans affected by food allergies, FARE is publishing “15 Essential Food Allergy Facts.”

Food Allergy Awareness Week, observed this year May 11-17, was created by FARE in 1998 as a way of bringing widespread attention to a life-altering and potentially life-threatening disease. So far this year, elected officials in 30 states and the District of Columbia have issued proclamations in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, and a resolution has been introduced in Congress. FARE is also spreading the word about its #TealTakeover – a coordinated community and social media campaign that encourages individuals, organizations, schools, and businesses to paint their community teal, the official color of food allergy awareness, in order to spark conversation and inspire action.

“Taking action to raise awareness and garner support for a cure is critically important each and every day,” said John L. Lehr, chief executive officer of FARE. “Taking the time to educate yourself about food allergies – even if they don’t personally affect you – can save a life. That is why we want to spread the word this month with our 15 essential facts that will help improve understanding of food allergies.”

Today at 3:30 p.m. ET, FARE will be hosting an “Ask the Experts” Twitter chat featuring Ruchi Gupta, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Center for Healthcare Studies, and Wayne Shreffler, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and chief of pediatric allergy and immunology and director of the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. Drs. Gupta and Shreffler will answer questions about food allergies during the chat moderated by FARE staff. Twitter users can participate using #FAREChat.

On Wednesday, FARE will host a webinar featuring Mike Spigler, vice president of education at FARE, who will discuss FARE’s educational programs as well as provide a sneak preview of FARE’s upcoming National Food Allergy Conference on June 21-22 in Chicago. This past weekend, FARE sponsored an episode of the competition cooking show Recipe Rehab, featuring a San Diego family managing food allergies.

Throughout the country, food allergy education efforts have intensified this month. FARE is providing a variety of resources to families, individuals and businesses to participate in Food Allergy Action Month in a meaningful way, including an infographic, free posters, shareable graphics, bookmarks and more – all designed to educate others and help demonstrate the broad impact that have food allergies have across the nation.

Visit FARE’s comprehensive online headquarters at www.foodallergyweek.org for more information on how to get involved.

Here are FARE’s 15 Essential Food Allergy Facts:

15  Essential Food Allergy Facts

  1. About 15 million Americans have a food allergy.
  2. A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein as a threat and attacks it.
  3. The top eight food allergens in the United States are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
  4. Even the tiniest amount of an allergen can cause a reaction.
  5. One in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom, has a food allergy.
  6. The number of children with food allergies is on the rise – the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported a 50 percent increase from 1997 to 2011.
  7. Scientists have not yet uncovered the cause for the rise in food allergy.
  8. Food allergy reactions can range from mild to severe. Anaphylaxis, the most severe allergic reaction, is potentially fatal.
  9. Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the United States.
  10. Epinephrine is the only medication that can reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
  11. A food allergy is different from a food intolerance. A food allergy involves the immune system and can cause serious reactions, while an intolerance means having trouble digesting a food.
  12. Food allergies can develop at any age. While many food allergies are outgrown, certain food allergies, such as peanut and tree nut allergy, are typically considered lifelong.
  13. Caring for children with food allergies costs U.S. families more than $24 billion annually.
  14. There is no cure for food allergy.
  15. Teenagers and young adults with food allergies are at the highest risk of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis.

Spotlight on Conference Keynote Speaker Curtis Sittenfeld

sittenfeldWe are delighted to have bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld, who has written about food allergies in The New York Times and Slate Magazine, delivering the keynote at the FARE National Food Allergy Conference on Saturday, June 21. FARE caught up with Curtis to talk about food allergies and what she’s most looking forward to about the conference.

Tell us a little bit about your background, and what your next project is:
I’m a writer—I’ve written many reported articles, including a profile of Michelle Obama for Time magazine and a profile of Mindy Kaling for The New York Times Magazine, as well as personal essays for places such as Real Simple, Allure, and The Atlantic. These days, I’m primarily a novelist and am working on my fifth book. My earlier books include “Prep,” which is about a girl from Indiana who goes to a fancy Massachusetts boarding school; “American Wife,” which is a fictional retelling of the life of Laura Bush; and “Sisterland,” which is about twin sisters, one of whom garners national attention when she makes a prediction that a major earthquake will occur. My next project is a contemporary re-imagining of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” The British division of the publisher HarperCollins initiated a project in which different writers are writing their own versions of Austen’s six novels. When they asked me to be involved, I found the
invitation irresistible. I sometimes joke that I’m basically writing Austen fan fiction.

What’s your food allergy connection?
I have two children, the younger of whom was diagnosed with multiple food allergies just before her first birthday (she is now three). She’s allergic to eggs, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, and, more randomly, flaxseed.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of managing food
allergies?
Hmm, it depends on the day! Being a “food allergy mom” has definitely forced me to plan ahead and also to be vocal if I feel there is a danger to  my daughter (I always try to be polite, but it’s pretty much impossible to pretend to be easygoing). But I’d probably say that I find the anxiety the most challenging—the need to be very alert whenever food is around, and food is
around in most places.

Why did you choose to speak up about food allergies?
For people who haven’t been exposed to them, food allergies and the ways
they affect daily life can be hard to imagine; also, of course, there are some
unfortunate and inaccurate stereotypes about what kind of people have food
allergies. As a writer, I hope that I can get beyond these stereotypes and
convey some of the unique challenges of food allergies in a direct, honest way.

What are you most looking forward to about the FARE National Food Allergy Conference?
I’m really excited to attend various panels and to exchange tips with other
people for handling food allergies. And as a chocolate fiend, I’m hoping that
Enjoy Life will be offering samples!

To see Curtis speak at our National Food Allergy Conference, register today!

Read some of Curtis Sittenfeld’s articles and essays about food allergies:

 

FARE Files Amicus Brief in Food Allergy Discrimination Case

tealgavel200x125A case involving a kindergarten student with a tree nut allergy has the potential to set a precedent for food-allergy-related accommodations in a federal appellate court. FARE, joined by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief Friday in the civil rights case, T.F. vs. Fox Chapel Area School District, in the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court. 

A federal judge previously ruled that the school district did not discriminate against the child in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and that the school offered reasonable accommodations, and had not retaliated against the student’s parents when it filed a truancy petition after the parents withdrew their child from school. Among the accommodations that the school offered was special lunch seating at a nut-free table that was actually a single desk in the cafeteria. 

The amicus brief outlines the critical importance of school-wide food allergy management policies, as well as detailed individualized student accommodation plans that not only note policies, but specifically explain how they will be carried out and by whom. We will keep you posted on the outcome of this case.

Recipe Rehab’s Chef Vikki Krinsky Talks to FARE About Cooking with Food Allergies

RR8525_STILL_08In this weekend’s special food allergy episode of the CBS morning show, “Recipe Rehab,” Chef Vikki Krinsky will attempt to make the Savant family’s carrot cake recipe healthier and safe for two children who have multiple food allergies. She’ll go head-to-head with another chef to see which made-over recipe is the family’s favorite. Check local listings to see when the program is airing in your city.

We recently caught up with Chef Vikki to talk to her about how she became a chef, her experience working with families managing food allergies, and her tips for creating nutritious and delicious meals!

Tell us about yourself and how you became a chef.

I am a private chef in Los Angeles, and my approach and theory is all about balance and portion-based meals that limit certain foods but don’t completely eliminate them. This way of living allows us to maintain a healthy lifestyle while managing our cravings, which we all have!

Formerly an actress, I was discovered at the age of 16 and worked on a couple television series, including “Edgemont” in Canada and Lifetime’s “Wild Card” here in the U.S.

At a pivotal moment in my teenage career, I was told to lose weight. Initially disheartened, I picked myself up and had a revelation – I would put aside acting and focus on educating myself on the benefits of healthy eating. I booked a one-way trip to Europe with a debit card, a week’s worth of clothes, and two books on nutrition. On my second day in Paris, a local chef took me under his wing and within a month I was apprenticing throughout Europe. With a new-found passion and knowledge, I returned to the U.S. in search of a kitchen. Good fortune struck again and I found a part-time job with a private chef service in Beverly Hills. Long nights of self-taught technique and hard work, coupled with great mentors in my life, eventually I learned the art of cooking delicious and nutritious food. I have been working exclusively with Seth MacFarlane for several years and wake up smiling everyday because I love my job!

I am lucky enough to be starring on Everyday Health’s Emmy-nominated show “Recipe Rehab,” where I share my passion by leaning on my own personal experience to improve the health, happiness and body image of my clients with fans every Saturday morning on CBS stations.

Tell us about the experience cooking for the Savant family.

As a nutrition-based chef I really enjoyed working with the Savant family because the challenge in finding alternative ways to create delicious classic favorites is both exciting and satisfying. I see it as a beautiful opportunity to help motivate and encourage others to live a healthier lifestyle through their food choices.

RR8525_STILL_03

When you have a client with a food allergy, how do you make sure they are getting the nutrition they need, while also avoiding the foods to which they’re allergic? What advice do you have for families in avoiding nutritional pitfalls?

There are unlimited ways to get the proper nutrition, but it is very important to educate yourself on how. For me, I enjoy reading an array of articles based on my client’s food allergy, so my wheels are always turning. My advice is to use this opportunity to educate yourself and be creative in the kitchen. Don’t look at it like what you can’t eat but rather what you can and enjoy the creative process.

Preventing cross-contact in the kitchen is crucial to making safe meals. What is the best way to keep your home kitchen safe? 

Honestly, I think it’s a lifelong investment to buy multiple sets of equipment. To be very aware of use in the kitchen and creating food stations can also be very helpful.

Sometimes people with food allergies, especially kids, can get into a rut with eating the same safe foods all the time. What’s a way they can jazz up some of their staple snacks and meals?

A great way to jazz up snacks and meals is by using different techniques. For example: pureeing carrots, steaming carrots, chopping carrots, eating carrots raw. There are a million things to do with carrots; it’s fun coming up with different ways to eat them. Think outside the box! Another great option to jazz up staples is to find alternative ways to play with your food – celery stalks filled with hummus or other vegetable purees, lettuce leaves filled with ground chicken, bell peppers or tomatoes filled with brown rice and crumbled feta cheese. Using vegetables and fruits to fill up with your favorite ingredients can make eating veggies so much more enjoyable!

Thanks to Chef Vikki for this great information, and we look forward to seeing which chef wins the challenge on the show this weekend!

Recipe Rehab Takes on Food Allergies!

FARE is pleased to announce that we’re kicking of Food Allergy Awareness Week with a special food-allergy-friendly episode of the popular CBS morning program Recipe Rehab! In this special episode, sponsored by FARE, the chefs in this cooking competition will take on a double challenge—making a family carrot cake recipe healthier and safe for the Savant family’s two children who have multiple food allergies.

FARE is thrilled to be sponsoring this episode to help increase awareness among the public about the challenges faced by families managing food
allergies. Tune in this Saturday, May 10 or Sunday, May 11 (check local listings) to see which recipe the Savant family chose!

We asked Jen Savant some questions about her family’s experience on the show. Read more of this behind-the-scenes interview!

savantfamily

The Savant Family’s Food Allergy Story

We discovered our oldest daughter had food allergies at a young age. When she was nine months old, she stopped having an appetite, rejected foods, and started to have hives. After her 1st birthday, when she avoided the cake altogether, we started to get a hint that she may be having food allergies.  After her first experience of anaphylaxis and months of food diaries and testing, we discovered food allergies were present.

Along came her brother a few years later and we noticed his food allergies presenting themselves at a very early age as well. Both have experienced anaphylaxis and carry emergency packs wherever they go. They also both have asthma and wear allergy bracelets.

Having two children with severe food allergies is challenging, but with the two of them together, it has become a family lifestyle. We look for the blessings about the food allergy lifestyle and enjoy finding food inspirations to keep them on the track to experiencing “everyday regular food” just like everyone else.

Why did you make the decision to appear on Recipe Rehab? 

The opportunity to have our family appear on Recipe Rehab was a no brainer – to represent the food allergy community and to be inspired by new foods for our family and others like us – awesome! It was a great experience for our family to see that foods and recipes without their allergens present were getting some attention beyond our kitchen! It is often difficult to show up to birthday parties and family holidays without a good dish to share with everyone. To be a part of a food show for our family, well that is just something we couldn’t pass up, largely because we so often pass up a large portion of food experiences. This was a great opportunity for our family. We were honored to be a part of it.

What was it like being on the show?

It was an exciting day at our house being a part of the Recipe Rehab taping process. We definitely didn’t know what to expect but soon after meeting the producers and staff, we were comfortably set to enjoy the day. They were all very nice, respectful, and gracious. Camera crews came in to our kitchen and started to set up the production background- cameras, microphones, lighting, etc.  Instantly, our home became a set. The kids were over the moon excited just to see the course of events that were behind the scenes. We were all prepped with a morning meeting which downloaded us on the upcoming day events. The kids felt like adults and the taping was very fun.

What we enjoyed most was sharing a little bit about ourselves and having fun cooking and baking together with an outcome that the kids could enjoy. The whole process was fun for all of us but also great to share our food allergy story.

What are some of your cooking tips to those new to food allergies?

Obviously, label reading is our number one tip. Once that is underway, knowing the list of food substitutes and keeping your kitchen “safe” is very important. For us, we eliminated the bulk of food allergens from our kitchen, but it is also important to remember cross contact (if that is an issue for you) if there are food allergens nearby. From experience, we now keep sponges, cutting boards, knives, pans etc. allergen-free.  It is a small extra step but one that has proven beneficial in keeping our children safe.

Another tip is that we try to make the baked goods, snacks, etc. that we have to prepare, on one or two days a week only. We don’t want to feel trapped in the kitchen. Getting inspiration from cookbooks and other families managing food allergies keeps us feeling like we experience a variety of foods and have fun creating them. Visiting recipe blogs, magazines, and doing research on new allergy-friendly foods (what is new to the market, etc.) also helps to revitalize our family menus and snack ideas.

Savant Family’s Favorite Food Allergy-Friendly Snacks:

  • Homemade Granola and Granola Bars
  • Homemade Dairy Free “Cheese” crackers
  • Fruit Smoothies (sometimes frozen, to make popsicles)
  • Fresh Fruit (often better received when cut in to fun shapes!)
  • Fruit Leather
  • Homemade Hummus and Vegetables/chips
  • Cereals
  • Kale Chips!
  • Coconut Milk Yogurt
  • Homemade muffins (all sorts!)
  • Crackers with Apples
  • Veggies with homemade “dairy free” ranch dip

Tune in on on Saturday, May 10 to watch the Savant family’s episode!

May is Food Allergy Action Month!

This year FARE is expanding Food Allergy Awareness Week by declaring the entire month of May as Food Allergy Action Month – a time to take action and make an impact on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies. Our goal in expanding to a month-long initiative is to go beyond raising awareness in order to inspire action so that we can improve understanding of the disease, advance the search for a cure, create safer environments and help people live well with food allergies.

We’ve created a custom calendar, marked with one action individuals can take each day to support the food allergy community. Print the Action Calendar or bookmark the webpage and make it your goal to complete as many items as possible!

 

For more information, read our press release on the subject.

Food Allergy Friendly Baseball Games 2014

baseball-gameSpring is here, and so is baseball season. We are encouraged by the number of baseball teams that are actively engaging members of the food allergy community by hosting special “peanut-sensitive” or “peanut-aware” games.

Follow the links for more information about how to purchase tickets and the accommodations available at specific games. We will be updating it with new events as we learn of them.

All season: Florence Freedom (UC Health Stadium, Florence, KY)

April

April 12: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

April 13: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

April 13: Tampa Bay Rays at Cincinatti Reds (Great American Ball Park)

April 18: Philadelphia Phillies at Colorado Rockies (Coors Field)

April 25: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

April 25: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium) - email disabledservices@yankees.com or call: 718.579.4510 for more information

April 26: San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

April 27: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

April 27: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

April 27: Miami Marlins at New York Mets (Citi Field)

May

May 4: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium) - email disabledservices@yankees.com or call: 718.579.4510 for more information

May 11: Colorado Rockies at Cincinnati Reds (Great American Ball Park)

May 18: New York Mets at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

May 21: Mobile Baybears at Tennessee Smokies (Smokies Stadium)

May 22: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

May 25: Colorado Rockies at Atlanta Braves (Turner Field)

May 25: Oakland A’s at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

May 25: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers (Comerica Park)

May 28: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals (Kauffman Stadium)

May 30: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

May 30: New  York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

June

June 1: Delmarva Shorebirds at Lakewood BlueClaws (FirstEnergy Stadium)

June 6: Oakland A’s at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

June 11: Gwinnett Braves at Louisville Bats (Louisville Slugger Field)

June 13: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

June 15: Vermont Lake Monsters at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

June 15: Wisconsin Woodchucks at Madison Mallards (Warner Park)

June 20: Long Island Ducks at Camden Riversharks (Campbell’s Field)

June 20: South Bend Silver Hawks at Lake County Captains (Classic Park)

June 21: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

June 22: Philadelphia Phillies at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

June 22: Tri-City ValleyCats at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

June 23: Chicago Cubs at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

June 23: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants (AT&T Park)

June 24: Mississippi Braves at Birmingham Barons (Regions Field)

June 28: Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

June 29: Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

July

July 1: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (Turner Field)

July 6: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park)

July 17: New Britain Rock Cats at Reading Fightins (First Energy Stadium)

July 19: Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

July 19: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

July 20: New York Mets at San Diego Padres (Petco Park)

July 20: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park)

July 20: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

July 21: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

July 22: New York Mets at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

July 22: Tampa Bay Rays at St. Louis Cardinals (Busch Stadium)

July 27: Brooklyn Cyclones at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

July 27: Portland Seadogs at New Britain Rockcats (New Britain Stadium)

July 29: Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

July 29: Brooklyn Cyclones at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

July 30: Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants (AT&T Park)

August 

August 3: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals (BuschStadium)

August 8: St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

August 8: Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners (Safeco Field)

August 9: Sioux City at St. Paul Saints 

August 10: Williamsport Crosscutters at Lowell Spinners (Lelacheur Park)

August 15: Indianapolis Indians at Louisville Bats (Louisville Slugger Field)

August 17: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals (Nationals Park)

August 19: Toronto Blue Jays at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

August 24: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

August 25: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park)

August 25: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

August 31: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves (Turner Field)

September

September 13: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies (Citizen’s Bank Park)

September 14: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre)

September 16: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers (Miller Park)

Have you heard about other games in your area? Post your comments below.

What’s so funny about anaphylaxis?

By Veronica LaFemina, Vice President of Communications at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

Growing up in a food allergy family, I lived in a world where people barely knew what a food allergy was, let alone that it could be life-threatening. It wasn’t always easy to explain to my friends that they couldn’t bring candy or snacks with peanuts or tree nuts over to my house, but this rule was always met with curiosity and compliance – not eye-rolling or jokes.

Today, as someone whose work is dedicated to increasing awareness of food allergy as a serious, potentially life-threatening and growing public health issue, I know there is still much work to be done, but I am heartened by the significant progress that’s been made in ensuring people with food allergies are safe and included. From advances in research and improved laws and regulations at the federal and state levels to national education initiatives, grassroots advocacy movements and nationwide news coverage – all of these efforts have contributed to greater awareness, empathy and action in support of the food allergy community.

One area that’s lagging behind, though, is the portrayal of food allergies in movies and television. These mediums are so powerful in tackling tough issues, shaping our cultural conversations, and shedding light on societal trends in ways that make us think, discuss, question and laugh.

But when it comes to food allergies, many movies and television shows are still living in the Dark Ages. In the last week alone, at least three primetime television shows included scenes that made light of food allergies.

All too often, food allergies are played for a cheap laugh – they’re the topic of a prank or the target of a joke. Reactions are portrayed unrealistically and in such a way that could cost characters their lives, and characters who don’t have food allergies are disproportionately depicted as people who are strangely excited at the possibility of sending someone to the hospital. These portrayals are not only untrue and hurtful – they are dangerous.

Some will say that the mere presence of food allergies and anaphylaxis in popular culture is a sign that the disease is gaining ground in the national consciousness. It is, and that is important. It’s also true that there are many different ways to broach a topic and bring attention to it, including using humor appropriately to educate and raise awareness.

But as a society, we can do better. And as a community, we can help by pointing people in the right direction.

In that spirit, for the producers and writers of movies and television shows who are interested in including food allergies in their story lines, I’d encourage you to keep the following in mind:

  1. Food allergies can be life-threatening. The most insidious fact about food allergy is that there is no way to know how severe a reaction will be until it happens – which means that every reaction has the potential to lead to a hospital visit, or worse. Today, without a cure or preventive treatments that can reduce the risk of life-threatening reactions, avoiding the food completely is critical (and much harder than it sounds). A person with a diagnosed food allergy should also be prepared for a severe reaction (anaphylaxis). That means having two epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times, and knowing how and when to use them (for young children, it’s important for a responsible adult to carry and know how to use the auto-injector). When a severe reaction does occur, the person must be treated immediately with an epinephrine auto-injector and then 911 should be called to transport them to the hospital for further treatment and observation for at least four hours to ensure the symptoms don’t return.A recent episode of a network television sitcom depicted a character self-injecting epinephrine and then remaining at her desk while co-workers laughed about the incident – in the real world, this scene could have ended in tragedy. To treat it so lightly is irresponsible and could be dangerous. If you’re going to show a reaction, then show what it’s really like – not an unrealistic version that downplays the severity and potential consequences.
  1. 15 million people in the U.S. have food allergies. That’s enough people to be our fifth largest state. Since this is a common disease, it makes sense to incorporate characters with food allergies into your work. But it doesn’t make sense to play into a stale stereotype. Food allergy is an invisible disease that doesn’t discriminate based on race, geography, economic status or any other factor. It affects a diverse array of adults and children throughout the country, disproportionately affects African Americans, and is a reality for professional athletes, scientists, actors, musicians, and even those who live at the White House. When you determine which character will have a food allergy, it’s important to keep these facts in mind.
  1. Food allergy bullying is real and can have dire consequences. Movies and television have taken on the broad topic of bullying and explored the issue in meaningful and poignant ways. So what makes food allergy bullying different? A third of kids with food allergies have been bullied specifically because of them, and half of those kids didn’t tell their parents about it. Watching popular shows model ways in which to bully kids with food allergies is terrifying – for adults and children alike – and for what? A lame filler laugh? If exploring food allergy bullying is important to the story you are trying to tell, avoid showing exactly what happened and be sure to show the consequences the bully faced. Don’t make bullying look cool or even acceptable. You can learn more about this subject via FARE’s “It’s Not a Joke” campaign to address food allergy bullying.
  1. Approach this topic in the same way you would other life-threatening medical conditions. Humor can be excellent for softening difficult scenarios and supporting the healing process. And food allergy certainly isn’t the only disease that movies and television shows poke fun at. But when you’re writing a scene about food allergies, I’d ask you to consider this – would you make the same joke about cancer, or diabetes, or a heart attack? More often than not, the answer will be no. This isn’t about special treatment – it’s about being evaluated by the same standard.

Next Monday, March 31, the food allergy community will remember those individuals who have lost their lives to anaphylaxis, and this spring, we as a community will be promoting events like World Allergy Week and Food Allergy Awareness Week to help increase understanding of and support for our cause. Despite these tragedies and the need for greater understanding, food allergies still face skepticism in a way that other diseases rarely seem to.

We are at a critical time in the national discourse around food allergies. Movies and television shows are in a unique position to shape the cultural conversation about the disease. My hope is that they will continue to include stories about food allergy – because food allergy does touch all of us, and it needs to be better understood – and that they do so in a more realistic and empathetic way.

Veronica LaFemina is Vice President of Communications at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Her father and younger sister have food allergies. You can learn more about food allergies on FARE’s website – www.foodallergy.org.